Tag Archives: nutmeg

Basic White Sauce and Watercress Sauce

Another smashing guest post by Talia – find her first on here and why not peruse her blogs Teafull and The Gibson Girl’s Guide to Glamour?

This was another of my inherited cookbooks — Cooking For One by the team at Better Homes and Gardens.

My grandmother lived on her own from about 1985 when my grandfather died, till around 2010 when some cousins of mine came to dwell in her basement due to financial troubles. Not long after this, she needed professional nurses to come help as her health wasn’t keeping up with her. Family always lived nearby, but she seemed to like being independent; and I can imagine she probably used this cookbook a lot, since dining solo would have been her standard way of life.

This book came extra handy to me on a recent 3 week stay in Scotland. Due to the length of the trip, I made sure I was dwelling in a place with a kitchen so I could cook at “home.” Many inspirations came from this little work. See, while it includes plenty of actual recipes, it also has lots of general suggestions for easy things to eat alone. (Including perhaps some things you wouldn’t *want* anyone else to know you’re eating… there’s a few suggestions that amount to the kind of thing you eat when you’re trying to use up leftovers but you really don’t want to boast you’ve been feeding off of. Example: mushrooms in white sauce as a meal.)

Some suggestions include egg in a basket, croissant sandwiches, an ingredient heavy but still single-serving salad niçoise, the questionable sounding (but probably fashionable today) bacon and peanut butter tostada, and more.

There is one section on how to make (approximate) single-servings of various sauces, and this was one area I gave a try. I made some Basic White Sauce, which then with a few additions becomes Watercress Sauce. Here are both recipes:

Basic White Sauce
1 tbs butter or margarine
1 tbs all-purpose flour
dash salt
dash pepper
1 cup milk
In a small heavy saucepan, melt the margarine or butter. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper till blended. Add milk all at once, Cook and stir over medium heat till mixture is thickened and bubbly, then cook and stir for 1 minute more. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Watercress sauce
Using 1/4 cup Basic White Sauce, stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh watercress, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, and dash ground nutmeg.

I used the finished Watercress Sauce mixed with some canned tuna and some bacon, to make a pretty good little tuna salad. To do it this way, add the whole recipe of watercress sauce to 1 standard sized can of tuna and about 2 strips of bacon, finely crumbled or diced, and mix it all up well. Eat it on crackers or bread or a potato or whatever.

An interesting thing about this little watercress tuna salad recipe, was it ended up being a great lesson to me in how the quality of your ingredients really effect the flavor of your food. See, I made a batch of this one time in Scotland, and one time after I returned home to the US. US has crappy food; it’s all bred to be large, and hold up well to transportation, and to not taste like anything (I assume intentionally for the sake of consistency season to season.) Consequently, the white sauce made with Anchor butter and Scotmid watercress was way tastier than the stuff I had to use in the US. You can also get BRINED tuna in the UK which you pretty much cannot find in the US, so the fish tastes a lot better since it’s been salted through; adding more salt to the recipe just doesn’t get the same result.

All in all it is a pretty fun little cookbook, I hope I’ll get to try some more of the recipes in the future.

Clootie Dumpling

Happy St Stephen’s Day! Actually, I imagine most of you will be reading this in a couple of day’s time when you need a break from your Christmas present books or stumbling here in a couple of months when you are looking for a suitable recipe for ballast-food.

I spent Christmas day with friends this year, a delightful experience, with just a few pangs for family rituals. I brought a contribution to the main course, offered to make custard and in a flurry of last-minute organisation, volunteered to cook clootie dumpling which several of us had missed the opportunity to have when on holiday in Scotland in the summer. On that trip, I had bought Traditional Scotttish Cookery by Margaret Fairlie, first published in 1972 by Hale Books, in Inverness Museum. I’ve tried to find out more about Ms Fairlie, but the internet is only giving me information on the identically named eminent gynaecologist and first woman to hold a professorial chair in Scotland. So if you know any more about Margaret Fairlie, cookbook writer, do comment and let me know.

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Apple Crisp

One of the sweet things about writing this blog is the extent to which my nearest and dearest enable me by reading, taste-testing and buying me new and exciting old books to try. Today’s recipe is taken from Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two:


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Eggs Florentine

Today a guest-post from a loyal reader – thanks, Cluedo!

Oh, the beauty of Eggs Florentine! What’s not to like – the luscious combination of nourishing spinach with the rehabilitative healthiness of eggs, topped of by a vast blob of saturated fat in the form of a rich hollandaise, served on a (buttered) muffin. I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures of this most agreeable of hangover foods, even if it’s only in our mind while we still work up the energy to get out of bed post-alcoholic excess.

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Spinach Pancakes

This was from the Time Life Scandinavian cookbook, and made for the Eurovision party. Being somewhat flustered (NOT drunk) by the time it came to making these, Elly kindly made up the batter for me. I then joined in the process and started to cook these without adding the spinach. Yes, that’s right. I made spinach pancakes without spinach. Happily, it quickly (about 5 minutes) dawned on me that the clue was in the name, and I whacked in a load of defrosted frozen spinach. This made quite a thick batter, but it fried off nicely, into substantial pancakes. I thought they were really nice and would certainly make them again.

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A Cheshire Pork Pie

This recipe is actually one of the very first vintage recipes I attempted, before even this blog existed. It’s from Florence White’s Good Things in England, which has been featured here many times before, and is probably one of my favourite books – not only did it spark my interest in vintage cookery but it also introduced me to the wonderful Persephone Books, who’ve republished it. Briefly, because I’m sure I’m repeating myself, Good Things in England was White’s attempt in the late 1920s to record traditional English recipes that she felt were in danger of being lost – the resulting book is a glorious compendium of regional and ancient recipes, and is a pleasure to read regardless of whether you plan to cook from it.

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Eggs a la Suisse

spineThis comes from the oldest of my cookbooks – a recent score from Help The Aged. It’s C.E Francatelli‘s Cook’s Guide, first published by Richard Bentley of London in 1860 (as far as I can tell), and this edition is from 1864. Part of me is incredulous  that I would find a  145 year old book for £1.50, but it appears I did. It’s a fascinating read, the vast majority of the dishes look like they would be pretty hard to make, for want of obscure or obsolete cuts of meat, brands of seasoning or kitchen equipment.  The end of the book does have a series of adverts, including one for Adams and Son, Kitchen Outfitters of Haymarket, and one for Crosse and Blackwell (‘Purveyors in Ordinary to Her Majesty’), both merchants advertising a staggering array of goods unfamiliar to modern cooks (see Flickr for images from the book).

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Spinach Cannelloni

Here’s one I cooked about a month ago – the stodge was perfect at the time but now it’s salad weather and the idea of a creamy pasta dish is less appealing, so please cast your mind’s back to chillier times in order to give this recipe the attention it deserves.  It’s from The Sainsbury Book of CHEESE -  including Cheesecakes and Fondues by Rhona Newman, first published 1982 (this ed. 1983), so a fairly recent resource, with generally sensible recipes .  The difference between this book and Make A Meal of Cheese from 10 years previous is notable – where MAMOC was cheddar-centric here we have recipes for a range of cheeses (unsurprising really, given the publisher).  There’s still some slightly icky recipes (Sardine Fish Cream?) and some where you feel you’d have liked them to try a bit harder (I’m looking at you Garlic Sausage Spears, aka slice of garlic sausage wrapped round cream cheese on a cocktail stick).

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