Eels Landaises

Today I am delighted to publish this guest post from ace food eater and writer Kake, who has been writing a series on London Road, Croydon which you can enjoy here. The link to this post is here.

While trawling through the archives at the Croydon Local Studies Library recently, I made a delightful discovery that immediately brought the Vintage Cookbook Trials to mind. I had actually been looking for information on Jay’s Furnishing Stores, a chain of hire-purchase furniture shops that operated in the UK during the 20th century — but to my surprise, nestled among the cuttings of newspaper adverts offering “guaranteed delivery” and “the Best Terms in the World” was a small booklet entitled “20 Ways of Cooking Fish”.

Published by Jay’s at an unspecified date (though an anonymous hand has written “prob 1932” on the back), this booklet contains recipes written by a Monsieur X M Boulestin, billed as “The Worlds [sic] Greatest Cookery Expert”. [Editor's note: He definitely knew what to do with potatoes.] The rather tenuous connection between furniture sales and fish is supported by a short statement on the front cover: “Our object has always been a double one – to supply the Best Value in Fine Furniture and to ensure a Happy Home to each of our customers – by freedom from worry – Every housewife knows what part cooking plays in making a happy home.

Flipping through the recipes, I was briefly tempted by Cod Normande (featuring cider, parsley, shallots, and mushrooms) and Skate with Caper Sauce (which involves cooking the skate along with some of its liver plus cloves, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and vinegar). However I thought the cod dish might be a bit boring, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get skate liver; indeed, I hadn’t previously known they even had livers. So I eventually settled on Eels Landaises, a lightly stewed dish of eels with red wine and prunes.

eels-landaises-ingredientsThe author states that this recipe comes from “the Landes”, which Wikipedia tells me might refer to several places in France, but I suspect the most likely is the département of Landes itself, particularly as Wikipedia also tells me that M Boulestin had his own holiday home there. I found some interesting pages online while investigating further: Landais Folklore discusses the customs and geography of the area, and Landais Gastronomy discusses the food, mentioning eels among other things.

Take two or three moderate-sized eels

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The Bakers’ ABC: Z is for Zea

An old name for spelt, which is identical with beer barley or beer corn, or German wheat, much grown in Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, &c., and used for malting.

From The Baker’s ABC by John Kirkland, formerly Head Teacher of National School of Baking, published 1927 by Gresham

Boeuf en Daube (Braised beef)

Standeasy cookbook special occasions front cover

One of the great things about this blog are the books people give me – this gem, purchased somewhere in south London, is a stone-cold classic.  Spiral-bound  like a desktop calendar and part of the ‘Standeasy Cookbook’ series, Special Occasions was published in 1979 by Bay Books, edited by Vivian Allwood, with the home economist Ann Page-Wood. You can tell it’s a late 70s cookbook, because two out of the 48 recipes contain tragically misplaced grapes. As you can see – it’s still fully operational:

Standeasy cookbook special occasions still standing

Nestled between the recipes for vermouth fish loaf and guinea fowl madelaine however, there are some tasty dishes – dinner party standards like devils on horseback and duck a l’orange and from this range, I chose the boeuf en daube after a craving for beef stew persisted after eating an excellent boeuf carbonnade (made by someone else).

boeuf en daube recipe

I cooked a much smaller portion than listed in the recipe. used some excellent stewing steak from Marsh produce (currently selling through Harringay market) and instead of belly pork, I used a thick rasher of back bacon. I also added  larger quantities vegetables than listed and left the meat to marinate for longer (two days, in fact!). Also, as I added just a couple of dried mushrooms for flavour (and picked them

Results
It may not be lovely looking, but it was easily the best stew I’ve ever made. Whether it was the extra veg or the extra marinating time, the sauce was smooth and delicious with tender (somewhat irregular…) pieces of meat and vegetables. Highly recommended (as long as you add an extra leek).

boeuf en daube

Daube’d by Elly

The Bakers’ ABC: Y is for Yorkshire pudding

A baked, very light, pudding, made from a batter consisting of flour, eggs, and milk, beaten with a whisk. It is served with roast meat. In restaurants of the cheap sort, small puddings of the same nature, baked in the oven, in small pans, well greased, with a few currants sprinkled in the pan before the batter is poured in, are called ‘fritters’ [and sound absolutely delicious. Why don‘t cheap restaurants sell these anymore?].  These have a ready sale. In the oven they swell up, then collapse. They are crisp at the sides, and soft at the bottom part.

From The Baker’s ABC by John Kirkland, formerly Head Teacher of National School of Baking, published 1927 by Gresham

Oeufs Mollet or Soft Boiled Eggs Mornay

Another book bought on last year’s Highland trip was Lady Barnett’s Cookbook Lady Barnett's Cookbook front coverby Isobel Barnett, a successful, educated middle class woman who married a successful middle class, educated man who was knighted and whose title was used by his spouse to further her career. Yes, this is a celebrity cookbook, 1960s-style.While the airbrushed version of her life appears on the dust jacket in CV form (click on image to enlarge). The internet tells a story which induced my co-bloggeuse to exclaim ‘Oh, she’s tragic!’  (though far more sympathetic than Premiership footballer who pinch supermarket doughnuts).

Lady Barnett's Cookbook back cover CVThis book is something of a mixed bag. It’s a guide to entertaining for people who already have a large encyclopedia-type cookbook and are now seeking to bless others with their efforts. I wonder how much it owes to the personal tastes of its author and her guests? Some dishes seem like a genuine treat, others are more along jelly, cream and bananas lines. (Actually, what am I talking about? If someone served me jelly, cream and bananas, I would probably kiss them.)

soft eggs oeufs mollet recipe 1soft eggs oeufs mollet recipe 2

soft eggs mornay oeufs mollet bechamel spinach recipe

(The ‘more out-of-the-ordinary’ way of using them ‘a l’Indienne’ i.e with curry sauce. No.)

According to my (admittedly limp) grasp of food hygiene, eggs should either be hot or cold, so please don’t keep them in warm, salted water. Salmonella is a real downer, or so I’ve heard.

soft eggs oeufs mollet mornay

This dish may seem like something one might put together from bits found at the back of the fridge (a couple of eggs, a bit of bechamel, some greens where it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit old because they’re going to be wilted, chopped and covered in hot cheese) but it results in something filthily delicious and incredibly filling. I had it as was, but you might want a triangle or two of crisp toast on the side. Recommended now the nights are miserable.

soft eggs oeufs mollet mornay with bechamel sauce

Mollet’ed by Elly

ETA: I have just only just realised that I could see her in her prime – voila! A clip of What’s my Line from 1955. Enjoy!

The Bakers’ ABC: W is for Whortleberry

A wild berry which grows on short stems, with egg-shaped short stalk leaves. When ripe the berries are round and black, with a bluish bloom. The plant belongs to the cranberry family. It is common on heaths in most parts of the British Isles, except in the south-east. Has a pleasant flavour, is juicy, and much appreciated in tarts and preserves. In the north of England this fruit is called a ‘bilberry’ and in Scotland ‘blaeberry’.

From The Baker’s ABC by John Kirkland, formerly Head Teacher of National School of Baking, published 1927 by Gresham

The Bakers’ ABC: V is for Vauxhall slice

A slice of ham cut extremely thin, to increase yield to the seller. The name was given because of the association of very thin slices with the catering at the Vauxhall gardens in London. It seems that in the Gardens there was a restaurant which acquired a reputation for its “plate of ham”. The ham had to cover the plate, and was, of course, extremely thin.

There was a tale told of a chef who applied for an advertised situation with one of the Vauxhall caterers, and gave as one of this qualifications that he could carve a ham so that the slices would cover an acre. He was rejected. The requirements were that the slices from a ham must be thin enough to cover two acres, The term Vauxhall slice came to be used for any thin piece of meat.

From The Baker’s ABC by John Kirkland, formerly Head Teacher of National School of Baking, published 1927 by Gresham