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:
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).
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
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).
Daube’d by Elly
I was recently given copy of Jane Grigson’s English Food, as regular readers will know I have a very high opinion of both her recipes and her writing (the interspersing of history and personal anecdotes is much imitated but never matched). English Food was first published 1974, but I have the 1992 edition, which contains both a new introduction by her daughter Sophie Grigson, as well as a caustic introduction from the 1978 edition, in which she rails against the loss of cooking skills, bland convenience food and patronising food writers.
Omelettes were one of the first things I learned to make and of course all my early attempts were horrific. Now I can make them (the way I like them) on autopilot, likwise frittata, tortilla and even occasionally pajeon.
“One cannot help wondering if an English salad is the results of ignorance or the aim of curiously perverted taste…. The French I am told, have many failings, but they can make wine, coffee and salads.”
Thus aphorises X Marcel Boulestin at the start of the salad chapter in Simple French Cooking for English Homes (of which Quadrille were kind enough to send us a copy). The book is a brisk but thorough canter through French home, as opposed to restaurant cooking, meaning it is full of recipes which are damn French but mostly require about 6 ingredients and are compatible with full-time employment. There are sections on sauces, soups, meat, vegetables and a few puddings (on obtient du pain dans les boulangeries, oui?), as well as hilariously didactic final chapter on wine. Salads includes details on the best way to mix dressing as well as recipes of of raw and cooked vegetables, fish and beef.
This is from the I’M IN THE MOOD FOR cookbook published in 1982 by Wear-ever Aluminum. Whilst it concludes in all cases that you are in the mood for food, it does helpfully divide the recipes into occasions such as Rainy Afternoons (Cheese Popcorn), The Pleasure of Your Own Company (Lemon Soup), and Romantic Notions (Stir-fried Cucumbers). I’ve chosen a recipe from the Winding Down section, which seems to link relaxation with violently attacking some meat.
Now, given the disaster that was the Smoked Haddock Fluffy Omelette you’d think I’d not attempt another souffle style omelette and that’s where you’d be wrong. I really do not learn from my mistakes. This one is from the rather charming 1975 Cassell’s Country Cookbooks – The Cotswolds. Having grown up near the Cotswolds I have absolutely no idea what the cuisine is like there, so snapped this book up and have learned all sorts of interesting things which perhaps I should have already known – each chapter is loosely themed and has a bit of an amble around local history and folklore before tying this in with regional recipes. It’s really nicely done. I’d been reading it on the train home from work, and figured I may as well cook from it, so found something simple and bought the ingredients. I did actually note the beating egg whites thing, but also noted that it doesn’t call for a grill so I reckoned on things working out. I really cannot emphasise enough how little I learn from my mistakes. What was I thinking? Very little, evidently.
This is from The Book of Egg Cookery, a 1969 delight of egg based craziness. It really goes into quite a lot of depth about eggs generally, starting with What is an egg? (‘an egg is an ellipsoid which is, funnily enough, something that is egg-shaped’) and moves on through nutrition and various modes of preparation, and also includes egg-related ‘did you knows?’ such as:
The original word for egg was ey. That romantic spot, an eagle’s eyrie, is simply an eggery; no more romantic than a carry-cot, really
If you’re superstitious, always smash egg shells – so that witches may not go to sea in them.
Another dish for Eurovision party, this time representing Turkey with the cunningly titled Turkish Cooking by Irfan Orga (Andre Deutsch, 1958).
Following on from the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo from Cooking the Mexican Way from a couple of weeks back, here’s the rice dish that the book suggests serving with the prawns. I did just this, for dinner the other night, once more the prawns were delicious, and a lovely dinner was had (that’s a bit of a spoiler as to how this recipe turned out). Here’s the recipe:
Mexican food. Not something I’ve been very bothered about ever. I’m given to understand that decent Mexican food is hard to come by in London, and indeed, I think I’ve only been to one Mexican restaurant here, where it was all nice but nothing special. Things like burritos, fajitas and what’s the other one, tortillas have never done much for me either. Perfectly nice, but I’ve never craved them. Couple this, let’s call it cuisine indifference with a 1983 Sainsbury’s recipe book and you might forgive me for not expecting much from this dish. Plus it seemed too simple to be that good. All I can say, is, wow, was I glad to be proved wrong.