Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve Blizzard!

Above: The view from my parents' front door. We could barely see the house across the street because the snow was blowing around (48 mph winds)! I wonder what our house in Wichita looks like! Speaking of our house, I made a gingerbread version of it (our side of it, at least) and gave it diamond-pane windows, which it really ought to have, if you ask me.
I also decorated a lot of gingerbread men (and ladies, too). My dad and I spent most of the afternoon making and decorating cookies. It's a good thing we didn't have to go anywhere, because the weather has made us pretty much housebound. Paul heard that the governor is having the highways cleared. Hopefully we can get home!

Coming up: Find out what how my Christmas pudding and mincemeat turned out, celebrate Twelfth Night with us, and cross your fingers that my haggis for Burns Night turns out OK.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 22: Mincemeat

Have you ever made an obscene quantity of a food almost everyone you know claims to abhor? Personally, I get a perverse satisfaction out of making things that seem horrific, like pease porridge or anything made with chicken livers. I also recently stirred up six quarts of mincemeat. Expect several mincemeat recipes in a few weeks. If you'd like to scare your holiday guests (and perhaps expand their palettes in the process), here's my mincemeat recipe:

1 pound vegetable shortening, frozen then grated butter or shredded suet
1 pound eating apples (Gala, for example), peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 pound chopped dried dates (they come already chopped in 8-ounce boxes)
1 pound dried currants
1 pound raisins
1 pound golden raisins
1 pound golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons mixed spice
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
juice of lemon and orange plus brandy to equal 1 quart

Mix everything together in a huge bowl (it makes 6 quarts, remember?) and cover. Leave in a cool place for 3 weeks, adding brandy if needed.

In case you don't have a set of kitchen scales, I just might have some extra mincemeat I could send your way...


Last week, I finished all twenty-two hours and twenty-five minutes of The Pallisers (I started it this summer), which ran on Masterpiece Theatre back in the 1970s. Television technology had advanced quite a bit since The First Churchills. Parts of The Pallisers are even filmed outside. It can be slow in places and there were times when I didn't much feel like watching it, but it turned out to be quite pleasant viewing. Only recommended for die-hard fans of Masterpiece Theatre, 19th century British novels or Parliamentary politics. Keep an eye out for Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons (pre-Brideshead, in very similar roles).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 21: Stir-up Sunday

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded..." (Book of Common Prayer)

The last Sunday before Advent (it was November 22nd this year) is called "Stir-up Sunday" because of the previous quote which is from the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer. (I retain the 1549 wording and studiously ignore Rite II wording, created by the American Episcopal church in 1979--I'm a bit of a Luddite.) Fortuitously, the last Sunday before Advent is also a convenient time to stir up Christmas Pudding.

Speaking of Luddism, I'm going to let my pudding "mature" for the next month in my larder (upstairs landing closet, although Delia Smith recommends "under the bed in an unheated bedroom") along with six quarts of mincemeat. You might be terrified about leaving food out for four weeks, but no worries. People have been doing this kind of thing for centuries. Then again, maybe that isn't the best argument. It is important, though, to have a cold house, as in drafty, put-on-another-sweater cold, to best emulate the conditions maturing puddings and mincemeat need to thrive. I like to think of the Balmoral scenes in The Queen when they're all running around in flannel pajamas with hot water bottles in August. That's my kind of climate! I'm quite parsimonious when it comes to turning on the heat, but then again, if I weren't, I wouldn't have anywhere cool enough to be a larder.

If you'd like to mature your own pudding this year, it isn't too late (you should probably go ahead and get it done by next week, though). Here's the recipe I used (adapted from Delia Smith's):

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup (3 oz.) vegetable shortening (or grated suet or grated frozen butter)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (3 oz.) homemade white bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup golden brown sugar, lightly packed
2/3 cup (3 oz.) golden raisins
2/3 cup (3 oz.) raisins
1 1/2 cups (7 oz.) dried currants
1/3 cup candied peel, finely chopped*
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
1-6 ounce Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
4 teaspoons rum
1/4 cup brandy (try to use VSOP at least)
1/4 cup stout (I prefer Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout to the ubiquitous Guinness)
2 eggs, beaten with a fork

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. In a large mixing bowl, combine your preferred fat (shortening, suet or butter) with the flour, baking powder, salt, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Then stir in the dried fruit, candied peel, almonds, apples and zests, mixing until combined. Next, add the liquor and eggs and sir thoroughly. (This is the "stir up" part. Everyone in the household should get a chance to stir the pudding and make a wish.) The batter will be very liquid as far as cake batters go. Cover it and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, grease a 1-quart pudding basin (I got mine from and pile in the batter (it will have firmed up significantly), smoothing out the top. Fill a steamer pot with water almost up to the steamer basket and bring the water up to a boil. Meanwhile, you'll need to cover the pudding basin. Watch this video to learn how. Don't forget the pleat and ignore the part about the water coming up the side of the basin. When the water is up to the boil, add the pudding basin to the steamer basket and put the lid on. You might want to turn the heat down to medium-high. The pudding will steam for 6 hours. Keep an eye on the water level of the steamer and add boiling water (use the tea kettle) as needed. The steamer will boil off water more quickly than you expect!

After six hours, remove the pudding and take off the foil and parchment cover. Let the pudding cool (this will take a while) then recover and move to your larder (or unheated bedroom, I have one of those, too!). Every week until Christmas, feed the pudding one more tablespoon of brandy and replace its cover.

When Christmastime arrives, I'm going to re-steam the pudding (for 1 1/2 hours), set it aflame and serve it with brandy butter. You'll have to check back later for all of that.

*I just candied the other half of the lemon and orange, using the Martha Stewart recipe. However, I've found that the peel only needs about 10 minutes of simmering in the syrup rather than an hour. I had an unfortunate incident with burnt orange-flavored caramel once. You'll only need one cup of sugar and one cup of water.


I'll be back with in a few days with my mincemeat recipe (which needs 3 weeks of maturing until Christmas). Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 20: Fawkes-y Food

I know that there are many of my readers who know the historical ins and outs of the Gunpowder Plot, so if your only exposure to Guy Fawkes is through that movie V for Vendetta (I would like to take this time to assert that it is in no way acceptable to blow up a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I direct you to Parliament's overview of the Gunpowder Plot. Since burning effigies was out of the question, Paul and I celebrated the prevention of Jacobean domestic terrorism by (what else?) eating.

Parkin originated in Yorkshire (like Guy Fawkes) and is very closely related to gingerbread, but it has oatmeal in it, because oatmeal was much more readily available in the north of England than wheat flour.


3 ounces golden syrup
1 ounce black treacle
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), if chilled, cut into tablespoons
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a small saucepan on a kitchen scale and pour in 3 ounces golden syrup followed by 1 ounce treacle (or 3 ounces unsulfured molasses--not blackstrap--and 1 ounce corn syrup). Place the pan over low heat and stir in the brown sugar and butter. While the butter melts, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, oats, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. When the butter has melted (mixture will look like Gloppy the Molasses Monster from Candy Land), pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula. Add the milk, egg and baking soda and stir until incorporated. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack and then cut into 18 squares. Cake can be left in an airtight container to "mature" for a few days (or you can just go ahead and eat it). Parkin can also be frozen.

Recipe adapted from British Cookery by Jane Grigson.

Cheater's Bangers and Mash

This is a cheater's recipe because you can use jarred caramelized onions, which means that this meal only takes about half an hour. I like Archer Farms Caramelized Onion Burger Topper, or you can make your own with this recipe.

I picked Bangers and Mash as a Bonfire Night recipe because it's homey and nicely suited to cool weather. Plus, I had already made Parkin and wanted something easy.

Serves 2

4 pork sausages*
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons caramelized onions

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cream

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the sausages and sear on all sides. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook the sausages until they are no longer pink inside (25 to 30 minutes).

While the sausages are cooking, boil the potatoes in salted water until very tender (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Return the potatoes to the cooking pot and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add the butter and cream and stir to combine. If needed, add some of the cooking water in small increments. Season potatoes to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

When the sausages are ready, remove them to a plate, turn the heat up to high and deglaze the pan with the beef stock. When the beef stock comes to a simmer, stir in the caramelized onions and cook until reduced to your liking. Plate up the potatoes and sausages and cover with gravy. Enjoy!

Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food.

*I actually use Archer Farms Bratwursts, because they aren't really brats; they're oversized breakfast sausages, which is perfect. They are, however, very salty, so the gravy doesn't need to be salted.


In other news, I have book and DVD recommendations:

I just finished the eighth Stephanie Plum novel and have laughed my way through all eight (laughing-out-loud, don't read in front of others because they'll think I'm crazy). Stephanie Plum is a layed-off lingerie buyer who, out of desperation, becomes a very incompetent bounty hunter. The books are quick-paced light reading that I wholeheartedly recommend. The first book in the series is One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. Paul is even reading them now.

I also just finished watching the first season of Lark Rise to Candleford from Netflix. Part Little House on the Prairie, part Anne of Green Gables, the series is sweet and wholesome without being preachy or saccharine. Plus, for all of you who love Pride and Prejudice, Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet) plays the local postmistress. Great to watch while knitting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 19: Frozen Dinners

Beef Shepherd's Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Makes three 2-person servings

For the filling:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound ground beef
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound carrots (about 4 medium), scraped and chopped into medallions
1 1/4 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

For the topping:
3 pounds potatoes
1/4 cup butter
2 ounces cheddar, grated (approximately 3/4 cup)

  • Heat the butter over medium heat until it foams and add the onion. Saute until softened, but not browned.
  • Turn heat to medium-high, add the ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up large chunks of meat as you go.
  • Add the tomatoes, carrots, stock, Worcestershire sauce, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the potato topping:
  • Peel the potatoes and chop them into approximately 1-inch pieces.
  • Boil in salted water for 20-25 minutes, until very soft and starting to break down.
  • Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and beat with electric beaters. Beat in the butter and cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • When the filling is ready, add the frozen peas and divide between three 8" x 4" tin foil disposable loaf pans (the ones with plastic lids). Top with potato filling and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.
  • Cover each of the loaf pans with plastic wrap then their lids. Cool completely in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer.
  • When you're ready to cook one, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours. Then, remove the lid and plastic wrap and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set the timer for an hour. The pie should be completely heated through and the potato topping should be starting to brown. Enjoy!
  • If you'd like to skip all the freezing and fix the entire pie at once, preheat the oven to 350 degrees then bake the assembled pie (in a 9"x13" casserole) for 30 to 40 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Tea & Sympathy.

We don't have a microwave (did you know that 90% of American households have one?), so I like to make things in individual portions that can just be cooked rather than reheated. Food tends to taste better that way, too. I don't even miss having a microwave (the kitchen is way too small for one); plus, I learned how to make Kettle Corn on the stove, which was awesome. Anyhow, Shepherd's Pie keeps well and the "disposable" loaf pans can be washed and reused (or recycled). They're just flimsy and have to be pushed back into shape!

In other news, you might have noticed that Saturday was Halloween. Paul and I were invited to a party (thanks to Russ for having us Sooners over), so we had to dress up. If you've been wondering, "Where's Waldo?", he's right here:

This photo makes me laugh. I made the pompom! We were going to dye a shirt, but it came out too purple and we had to make an emergency trip to the mall. We finally found Waldo's polo at Abercrombie & Fitch, where Paul claims he was traumatized.

"What was your costume, Lauren?" you might ask. I was a witch, which isn't terribly creative, but it sure was easy on a week's notice. Plus, I found a great hat and stripy tights, so I was happy.

In case you were wondering, Halloween was originally Samhain, a Celtic festival celebrating the last harvest of the year when the people of each village would slaughter cattle for the winter and throw the bones onto large fires ("bone fire" became "bonfire", the OED says so). Speaking of bonfires, Guy Fawkes Day is Thursday. We decided that burning the Pope in effigy was morally unpalatable, but we did laugh about putting little red shoes on him. Plus, Paul says we can't have a bonfire even though the neighbor lights things on fire in the backyard all the time. Alas, our Bonfire Night celebrations will be lacking a key element this year! Maybe I can scrounge up some Guy Fawkes-appropriate food?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 18: Dinner Party

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot nine days old.

You'll have to excuse the super-dark photo. I forgot to take photos before everything got to the table and we don't have any light (except a desk lamp) in our living room. Clockwise from top left: Pease Porridge (hot), Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings. Those headless bodies behind the food are Giancarlo and Denisse. I'd like to thank them as well as David, Kelly, Tyrone and Sean for being very cheerful guinea pigs. Paul and I ended up with a 4-pound arm roast (from our eighth of a cow) we knew we couldn't possibly finish by ourselves, so we invited a bunch of people over and fed them something we weren't sure was going to work out. By the way, this is not recommended by any entertaining expert! Thankfully, our guests were good sports and brave eaters. Here are the recipes:

Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings

Serves 8

4-pound arm roast, covered in kosher salt a few hours before boiling
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme
6 cloves

1 pound of boiler onions (or pearl or cippolini onions), peeled*
1 1/2 pounds carrots, scraped and quartered (as above)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons chives, minced

  1. Place the beef in a large (5- to 6-quart) stock pot or stove-safe casserole and add enough water to cover the beef by at least half an inch. Add the peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley, thyme and cloves. It's a good idea to tie all this up in cheesecloth so it doesn't have to be strained out later.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off foam and scum. When it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Add the onions and carrots and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
  4. While the onions and carrots are cooking, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and make the dumplings.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour in milk, as needed, to form mixture into a ball then mix in the chives.
  6. When the onions and carrots are finished, remove them, along with the beef, from the pot with a slotted spoon. Place in an ovenproof dish and put it in the oven.
  7. Increase the heat of the burner to high to bring the remaining stock to a boil.
  8. Drop the dumpling mixture by the tablespoonful into the stock and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. They will rise to the surface.
  9. When the dumplings are finished, arrange the beef, carrots, onions and dumplings on a serving platter and serve, at once, with the gravy and a bowl of horseradish sauce.
This recipe is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of the British Isles, as well as this recipe from The Independent, and this recipe from the Lark Rise Cookbook.

Horseradish Sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Beat the cream to stiff peaks then stir in the lemon juice and the prepared horseradish. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge.

This recipe is adapted from Jane Grigson's British Cookery.

Pease Porridge

Serves 8-12

1 pound split peas
1 quart water
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a stock pot, bring the water to a boil then slowly add the peas (so that the water continues to boil). Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, or until water is absorbed and peas are totally mushy. At this point, the mushy peas can be refrigerated for later.

Just before serving, heat the peas in a saucepan over low heat and stir in the butter, salt and pepper. Continue stirring over low heat until the porridge is heated through. Serve at once.

This recipe is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of the British Isles.

English White Bread

Treacle Pudding

Makes 1 10-inch bundt cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until just combined.

Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Pour the golden syrup into the bottom of the pan then top with the cake batter, smoothing out the top. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (do not test all the way to the syrup). Remove the cake from the oven and cool for a couple minutes before turning it out onto a cake plate.

n.b. I may use cake flour the next time I make this instead of all-purpose for a lighter cake.

This recipe is adapted from Tea & Sympathy.


I'd also like to thank Jamin, John and Vince for inviting me and Paul over for pumpkin carving (and tacos). The fruit (ha ha) of our labor is in the above photograph.
*When I make this for just me and Paul, I simply peel a medium-sized white or yellow onion and add it in with the carrots for flavor. Paul likes the flavor of onions, but doesn't like to eat them whole.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick Check-in

Just thought I'd stop by and show off my newest estate sale find--Liberty Blue dinner plates, cups and saucers. Liberty Blue is Staffordshire pottery that features scenes from the American Revolution. Talk about Anglo-American relations! The dinner plate (above) has Liberty Hall in Philadelphia on it while the cup has the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the saucer has a picture of the Old North Church. This website has more information about the pattern. I must say that I wish our grocery store would give away anything half as nice as Staffordshire pottery!

Here's Perfect Steamed Broccoli again along with Cheesy Chops & Chips, one of the easiest and most delicious ways to cook pork chops ever.

Next time, I'll post some of my own recipes. Paul and I have some friends coming over for a Traditional British Food dinner party. On the menu: Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings, Pease Pudding, English White Bread, and Treacle Pudding.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


In the 2000 census, 23.9% of Americans self-identified as having either British or Irish ancestry (it was 67.5% in 1790). That's over 67 million people! To put that into perspective, the 2001 census showed the population of the United Kingdom to be almost 59 million while the Republic of Ireland's 2006 census showed just over 4 million people. All this means that there are more people in the United States claiming British/Irish ancestry than there are people in Britain and Ireland.

Despite being the largest single ethnic group (if we combine all the British Isles ethnic groups), British food (I'm including Irish in this, as well. My apologies to any Sinn Fein supporters out there.) is as rare as hen's teeth. Part of this is many traditional American dishes (apple pie, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, etc.) are either the same as many British dishes or are closely related. Thus, here in America, many yummy British meals are "American." Another problem is the global reputation of British food. If it's as nasty as everyone says, why would we want to eat it? Much better to just go get Italian, Thai or Mexican food.

Don't get me wrong. I love international cuisine. I just think that it's time to resuscitate British cooking in America. It shouldn't be about green beer on St. Patrick's Day and a turkey leg at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire. Brew yourself a cup of tea, seek out lamb chops and a tin of golden syrup, and join me on my journey to bring a precious few blog readers in contact with my culinary patrimony.

I'd like to apologize for being AWOL the last couple of months. I guess now you know I'm still alive. August is such a nasty month that it takes me all of September to recuperate. Thankfully, October is here and it's finally sweater weather. I'll be here weekly (hopefully more, but now I'm only a part-time lady of leisure) with more recipes. Here's a menu I've put together from BBC Good Food that uses those lamb chops you're going to find. Lamb is super-tasty (if you cook it more than medium-rare I will hunt you down and take away your cooking rights) and not very commonly used in the United States (outside Middle Eastern cuisine). I'm sure you'll love it.

Lamb with Rosemary Butter Beans
Perfect Steamed Broccoli (contrary to what the recipe states, butter is not optional)

Enjoy! See you back here next week!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 17: High Tea

I'm really not a big fan of sandwiches, but sometimes nothing else will do--especially if it's too hot to make anything else. So, last week, I cobbled together a few things and called it high tea (and ate a piece of Victoria Sandwich afterward). The hard-boiled eggs were going to be topped with caviar, but the caviar was growing mold. Probably best to leave it out, then. Not really the worst of my recent kitchen disasters, though. I have now ruined four batches of ice cream in a row and have decided to be a coward and not attempt any more. At least for several months.

Back to the sandwiches. On the left we have Feta and Roasted Pepper and, on the right, Shrimp Salad. Both of these recipes have been adapted from BBC Good Food (love that website).

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches

10 slices white bread*
2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a small mixing bowl, combine the spread ingredients. You can make this in advance and keep in the fridge. We actually consumed most of ours on Ritz crackers. The spread will keep at least a week. We finished it, so I don't know how long it will actually last.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a good layer of spread on 5 of the slices of bread then top with the chopped roasted red peppers. Add the top slice of bread and cut into triangles (we just cut them in two, but for a party, four triangles would probably be preferable).

Shrimp Salad Sandwiches

10 slices wheat bread*
5 crunchy lettuce leaves
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, chopped

For the lazy aioli:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Zest of 1 lemon
Dash of garlic powder

Combine the aioli ingredients in a small bowl. This can be done in advance and kept in the fridge.

To make the sandwiches, place a lettuce leaf on 5 of the slices of bread and top with the shrimp that has been combined with the aioli. Top with the other slice of bread and cut into desired size/shape. Paul and I were a little frightened of this sandwich, but it turned out to be very tasty.

*I just keep the spread and aioli in the fridge and make enough sandwiches only for a particular night. Also, make sure this is real, yummy bread.

Coming Soon:

My write-up on Simnel Cake and impressions on Anthony Andrews as Ivanhoe.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 16: Victorian Baking

I love cake, but I don't make layer cakes very often because they require multiple bowls and a lot of dish washing. I hate dish washing! One of the things that attracted me to the idea of making a Victoria Sandwich was that it only requires one bowl. Also, it's filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream. According to this website, the cake was named after Queen Victoria because it was one of her favorites. I think it's going to become one of my favorites, as well, even though it cost more than the 1s/3d Mrs Beeton cites. It is, however, relatively inexpensive compared to other layer cakes (no frosting).

This recipe is a combination of several others: Nigella Lawson's from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, this recipe from BBC Good Food, and this one as well. As usual, I have converted the recipes from self-rising flour to normal flour. One note, be sure to use cake flour, not all-purpose. It makes for a much lighter cake. Also, plan on making the strawberry filling in advance so it has time to cool.

Victoria Sandwich

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

6 ounces (approx. 1 cup) strawberries, halved if large
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar then mix in the eggs, one at a time, accompanied by 1 tablespoon of the flour each, adding the vanilla extract along with the last egg. Beat in the last of the flour along with the baking powder and salt until just incorporated. Mix in the milk, a tablespoon or two at a time. You may not need all the milk. The batter is ready when it is a "soft dropping consistency."

Divide between the two prepared tins and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack in their tins for 10 minutes then turn out and leave to cool completely.

To make the filling:
This is basically home-made strawberry jam. If you want to use store-bought jam (just get something decent, please, like Bonne Maman or Tiptree), you'll need approximately 2 cups.

Stirring frequently, heat the strawberries and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves into the strawberries. When this happens, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil the mixture without stirring for two minutes then remove the pan from the heat and pour the goo into a pyrex container and refrigerate. It is best to make this before starting on the cake so it has enough time to cool completely. It will set up in the fridge and become strawberry preserves.

When the cake is completely cooled, place one layer on the cake plate and cover with the strawberry preserves. Then, pile on the whipped cream and top with the other layer. You can keep the cake (covered, naturally) in the fridge for a couple of days.

Serves 10-12 (I actually make half a cake with just one layer since it's just the two of us. The other cake will keep in the freezer for up to three months, or you can simply halve the cake recipe.)

I've talked before about the gin and tonic being my favorite drink (besides champagne), so I thought I'd provide a recipe.

Best Gin and Tonic

Serves 2

juice from 1 lime
2 jiggers gin
1 10-ounce bottle tonic water

Fill two highball glasses around 2/3-full with ice. Divide the lime juice evenly between the two glasses then pour 1 jigger of gin into each glass. Top off with the tonic water, divided between the two glasses. Add straws and enjoy.
On the reading front, I finished Ivanhoe. Yes, it's predictable. Yes, it's kind of silly, but it is so very readable. Plus, the copy I have has a great frontispiece.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 15: Pastry and Prerogative

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see an old lady upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.

I was very lucky and got to spend some time with Rebecca Friday-before-last (I've been absent a while, haven't I?) since she was passing through Wichita. She told me how she's been up to her ears in Bate's Case. Attention, dear reader: it's time to get out your copy of The Stuart Constitution. (It just occured to me that quite a few of my readers probably do have a copy lying around somewhere.) Anyhow, we'll just say it all started with currants. In honor of Rebecca's increased knowledge of import duties and absolutism:

Bate's Case Banbury Cakes**

Yields 8

1 pound puff pastry, thawed
Egg white, beaten
3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 ounces dried currants (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup candied lemon peel, finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons mixed spice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon white rum

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Measure all the filling ingredients into the pan with the cooled butter (I'm trying to save you some dish washing) and stir together. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry. It should be so very thin that you're afraid it's going to tear, but not so thin that it actually does tear. Cut out eight 6-inch circles (or something like a circle) and place a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the middle of each circle. Fold the pastry over the filling and seal with the tines of a fork. With a sharp knife, make three slashes in the center of the pastry. Brush each pastry with egg white and sprinkle sugar over the tops.

Carefully transfer the pastries to a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for twenty minutes. Check the heat after ten minutes and turn the heat down (or even off), if necessary, to prevent the pastry from over-browning. When the pastry has browned and the sugar has formed a crisp coating, the Banbury Cakes are finished and just need to be cooled on a wire rack before enjoying.

I've finished The Portrait of a Lady and I don't know whether I liked it or not. I was reading like a crazy woman for the first few chapters and then I lost interest for a bit and had to make myself read and then I finished up the last dozen chapters in record time because I wanted to know what would happen. I thought the book would have gone in a very different direction than it did. There was also a space of time while I was reading the middle portion of the book that I didn't care about a single character. That being said, I was really struck with the enormous, and yet petty, cruelty of two of the main characters (I won't name names, just in case you haven't read it). I'm glad I read the book, I just don't think I'll ever want to read it again.

I've moved on to reading Ivanhoe. At the risk of losing any remaining literary credibility, I must admit to really liking Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes it's nice to read something easy and entertaining. Plus, I can't read any more Jane Austen at present. Out of the complete works, I got through Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and then gave up (oh and I read Northanger Abbey last summer). I read part of Mansfield Park and just didn't want to go on. I wasn't interested in any of the characters or the plot or anything. Aside from Pride and Prejudice, I haven't been that impressed. So, that's why you haven't heard anything more about the book club that I was supposed to attend. That, and I was afraid of becoming an unfortunate-looking, obese, lonely, crazy-cat-lady-trying-to-find-Mr.-Darcy like a good number of the other participants. It was just too bleak.

*Blanche Fisher Wright, The Real Mother Goose (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992), 20.

**Yes, it is very strange that something that is so obviously a pastry should be called a cake. In Good Things in England, the 1615 recipe for Banbury Cakes is very similar to Hot Cross Buns, but the 1929 recipe ("A Modern Recipe") is almost exactly the same as the one from Jane Grigson's British Cookery, upon which my recipe is based. I'd love to know how Banbury Cakes evolved from buns to pies.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today's weather is absolutely disgusting. It feels like the inside of a botanical garden. Needless to say, it has ceased to be the weather for pot pies and roasts. I always turn to Italian food in warmer weather, so that's what I have for you, dear reader, today. You'll recall I have a copy of TimeLife's The Cooking of the British Isles. I got recipes for the following dishes from The Cooking of Italy.

First, we have Ragu Bolognese, which, unlike most bologneses here in America, is not tomato sauce-based and doesn't have any garlic in it. I started out with a saute of ham, onions, celery, and carrots, then added browned ground beef and pork. This combination is simmered in beef stock with a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. Finally, about ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, I put in chopped, sauteed chicken livers, which make the bolognese very very rich. I'm not quite sure why people are so squeamish about chicken livers. In the near future, they'll probably start breeding chickens that don't have any livers or gizzards--just huge boneless, skinless breasts and nothing else. Forget people being squeamish of livers! Why are people so afraid of dark meat and crackly skin and everything that tastes so good?

At the same time we were working on the bolognese, Paul and I made thirty-two meatballs, most of which went into the freezer, along with a majority of the bolognese and the tomato sauce (We made double recipes of bolognese and meatballs and a triple recipe of tomato sauce.) The only thing I changed in the meatball recipe was to use ground pork instead of Italian sausage. I don't really like Italian sausage--I think it's all that fennel. I dislike pretty much anything that is redolent of licorice (anyone want three-quarters of a bottle of Pernod?). Anyhow, the meatballs turned out really well and they weren't at all difficult to make.

In other news, I picked up another Back Bay edition of Evelyn Waugh at Book-a-Holic. I love the covers for the Back Bay editions. (You can look at the covers online, here. My copies below.)

To overcome the mediocrity of the 2008 Brideshead Revisited, I had to rent the 1981 miniseries again. Much better. Speaking of Granada television productions, it took me two weeks but I finished the 5-disc Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (mostly while walking on the treadmill, have to have some reason to exercise). I also saw a preview for the Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes that's coming out in December. I remain skeptical.

Trailer for Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes:

Trailer for Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes:

Why is he so dingy? And what's up with the designer stubble?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 14: Fluff

I've spent the last week making light and airy desserts. It all started with this:
We had a lot of squeezed-out lemons left after all those white ladies. So, I decided to make my own candied lemon peel. I used this Martha Stewart recipe but just got the zest off the rest of the lemon with a vegetable peeler and I skipped step 4 since I'm going to use the peel for baking. The by-product of candied peel-making is the simple syrup in which the candied peels reside. It's chock-full of lemon essential oils. It had to be utilized!

First, I made syllabubs, based on this recipe. According to Fresh From the Past, Charles II, during his frequent walks in St. James's Park, liked to stop for a syllabub and even kept cows in the park to be sure that the treats would be super-fresh.* I thought it was very strange at first for my dessert to taste like the wine from dinner, but I got used to it and the texture of the syllabub is really fun and foamy.

Lemon Syllabub

Serves 4

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lemon syrup (see above)
1/4 cup dry white wine

Beat the cream and lemon syrup to soft peaks. Stir in the wine and serve in individual glasses.

The next dessert is really just a deconstructed strawberry fool. I like to float whipped cream on top of things and leave the mixing-up to the individual. I think the only thing that might improve upon this dessert is to add some Cointreau to the berries.

Post-Modern Strawberry Fool

Serves 4

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen (thawed, if frozen)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lemon syrup (you could substitute granulated sugar and add some lemon juice or zest to the strawberries)

Puree the strawberries and divide the puree into individual glasses. Beat the cream and syrup to stiff peaks and pile on top of the strawberry puree.

In other news, I watched the new Brideshead Revisited and had to wonder, what was the point? It was pretty and all but it took a lot of liberties with the book (it turned the whole thing into a Charles/Julia love story) and I don't think poor Aloysius was even referred to by name in the whole film! I think I'll stick to the 1981 adaptation (which has an excellent cast: Jeremy Irons, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and my favorite Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Andrews).

*Sandra Sherman, Fresh From the Past: Recipes and Revelations from Moll Flanders' Kitchen (Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), 337.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 13: Just Desserts

This recipe is adapted from The Cooking of the British Isles. The original recipe called for currants, but I still had most of a box of golden raisins. I also subbed mixed spice for the cinnamon in the original recipe. Get the recipe for mixed spice here and the recipe for short crust pastry here.

Apple Dumplings

Serves 6

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
6 cooking apples
Short crust pastry
6 teaspoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, raisins, and mixed spice. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry (you may need to do this one half at a time) to an eighth-inch thickness. Cut 8-inch rounds in the pastry. Set these on baking sheets and place in the refrigerator.

Peel and core the apples, then place each on a pastry round. Fill the cavities of the apples with the raisin mixture, then enclose the apples in pastry by bringing the edges of the pastry rounds up to meet at the top of the apple. Pinch the ends of the pastry together.

Place the dumplings, seam side up, on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Then, moisten the tops of the dumplings with a pastry brush dipped in water. Sprinkle each dumpling with 1 teaspoon of sugar and return them to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the pastry becomes a golden brown.

Slice-n-Bake Jumbles

1/2 pound (1 cup) butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour 1 cup at a time, then add the baking powder and salt. Fold in the oats, pecans, and coconut.

Tear off a large piece of parchment paper (approximately 15" x 25"). Roll the cookie dough in the parchment to make a cylinder three inches in diameter. Twist or fold over the ends to close and refrigerate for several hours (dough will keep in the freezer for three months).

To bake cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, slice off as many 1/4-inch thick cookies as desired, and place on a cookie sheet lined in parchment. Be sure to give the dough room to expand. Bake the cookies for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges start getting brown. Cool for around 5 minutes before eating.

This recipe was adapted from "Freezer Biscuits" from BBC Good Food.


In other news, I finished Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers. It's the third Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I read the two that were published before it and I keep liking them better and better. I'm going to have to follow Rebecca's example, though, and budget my reading of them because there are only eleven books and a few short stories and Dorothy L. Sayers died in 1957, so she unfortunately won't be writing any more.

I've started The Portrait of a Lady and am about a third of the way in. I've never read it before and I haven't seen the movie, so it's all new to me. Don't worry--I know not to expect a happy ending. I've become more and more able to accept that in my reading, though. I don't know if it was all those years of French literature or just growing up. Maybe a little of both! Anyhow, I must continue on my endeavor to be well-read.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 12: Inspired by Traditional British Ingredients

Today, I'm highlighting three dishes that, while not traditional British food, use ingredients that are commonly found in British cooking. First up, we have a risotto (one of my favorite Italian dishes) full of green peas. According to Colin Spencer, green peas became very fashionable in England in the seventeenth century, along with artichokes, asparagus, cauliflowers, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, and spinach.* I can't imagine cooking without six of my favorite vegetables (everything on that list except cauliflower and cucumber). Many food historians trace our current tastes to the early modern period when cream, butter, and flour roux were taking over from the medieval sweet/sour sauces. Having looked through many medieval recipes, I must say I'd prefer eating in the seventeenth century to eating in the thirteenth century.

My second recipe uses another of the fashionable vegetables, the artichoke, which is combined with cheddar cheese and bacon (very British) to make the best quiche I've ever tasted. To finish up, I decided to mash up Heath bars ("finest quality English toffee," says the label, although I'm sure there is better out there) and put them on top of vanilla ice cream. I have to admit it's a really lazy dessert, but I love toffee, so it makes me happy.

The recipes:

Green Pea Risotto

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 cups hot chicken stock
1 pound frozen peas
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet until foaming, add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until softened, add garlic, stir around then add rice and cook for about a minute.

Pour in the wine, let it boil for one minute then turn the heat down to medium and add the stock, a ladle at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding more. Stir continuously.

When all the stock has been added, keep stirring for about 5 minutes and then add the peas and cook, still stirring, until the peas are cooked and the rice is creamy and fluffy yet still al dente. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Adapted from this recipe.

Artichoke, Bacon, and Cheddar Quiche

Serves 6

1/2 recipe short crust pastry
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon, cut into 3/4"-wide pieces
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup (lightly packed) flat-leaf parsley, minced
14-ounce can artichoke hearts (not marinated), rinsed and drained
3 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (a little more than 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to an 1/8-inch thickness. Fit it in a 10" tart pan. Dock and then blind bake the pastry (be sure to put the tart pan on a baking sheet) for 15 minutes. Then, remove the pie weights, brush pastry with a bit of the beaten egg and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

While the pastry is baking, heat the oil over medium-high in a frying pan and cook the bacon until it just starts to brown. Set aside.

Beat the cream into the beaten eggs, add garlic and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

Arrange artichokes and bacon in the tart shell and cover with cheddar. Pour the egg mixture over and return tart pan to oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a sharp knife stuck into the center of the quiche causes no liquid to come to the surface. Cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from this recipe.

Lazy Toffee Ice Cream

Serves 1

1 scoop vanilla ice cream (I was really lazy and didn't make my own but used Haagen-Dazs, which, at least, doesn't have crazy chemicals in it)
3 Heath miniatures (21g total), beat with a mallet
1 very English bowl

*Colin Spencer, British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 140.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 11: Version 2.0

For today's post, I've made different recipes than ones I've already posted for soda bread and cock-a-leekie soup. I think both new recipes turned out really well. The new soda bread is made with both white flour and whole wheat flour, which adds to the depth of flavor. It turned out really well, but it is a little more work than the first soda bread recipe. I adapted the recipe from the one on Rachel Allen's website (original recipe here). Rachel Allen has a television show called Bake. You can watch clips at this website.

Brown Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups whole wheat flour (King Arthur Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flour)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small cubes
1 egg
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Pour into the well in the flour mixture. Combine, adding more buttermilk, as needed. You'll want just enough buttermilk so the mixture comes together and is soft, not moist.

On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a round 1 1/2" tall. Cut an "X" in the top with a razor blade or very sharp knife and place dough on a baking sheet.

Bake bread in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 400 and cook for another 30 minutes. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a cooling rack.


My final version 2.0 recipe for today is a lazy version of "Cockaleekie" (don't know why hyphens are sometimes used and sometimes not) from The Cooking of the British Isles. This variation of the soup is lighter than the previous one. It is also lacking in prunes and beef stock. But it does have barley.

Quick Cock-a-Leekie II

Serves 8

2 quarts chicken stock
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and soaked
4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

In a large stock pot, bring the stock and leeks to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the chicken and barley. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the salt. Divide into bowls and top with the parsley.

This is easily refrigerated or frozen. Leave out the parsley to store and then add it just before serving.
"...Sir John's satisfaction in society was much more real...He was a blessing to all the juvenile part of the neighborhood, for in summer he was forever forming parties to eat cold ham and chicken out of doors..."
- Sense and Sensibility, Volume I, Chapter VII

Paul and I put together a nice cold dinner of chicken, the potato salad from last post, and kidney bean salad (just kidney beans in a garlicky vinaigrette). The soda bread, however, wasn't cold. (It had just come out of the oven.) I have to say, it was really nice just pulling things out of the fridge and putting them on a plate and calling it dinner!

Finally, since Rebecca has bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I just wanted to offer some of my own wisdom on the subject. First tip: the vegetables don't usually need as much time to cook as the recipes state, so just check them every so often until they're fork-tender (in the cast of root vegetables) or with a bit of snap left in them (green vegetables). Second tip: there are a lot of steps in the recipes. I probably skip at least one step in almost every recipe. For example, I skip the buttered parchment paper on the chicken escalopes and just put the lid on the pan. Chances are, if it seems extraneous, it probably is. That being said, I have enjoyed many successful meals thanks to Julia Child. Just remember it's not absolute! Rebecca- best of luck and I hope you'll let me know how it goes.

P.S. Here's a list of the recipes I've blogged about from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 10: Provisions

I can't believe this is already my tenth Traditional British Food post! I'm quite proud of myself. Well, Paul and I spent a really busy weekend in Oklahoma City* and, while we were there, I picked up everything in the photo above at Canterbury UK Imports. Everything but the toast rack (no more soggy toast!) has a Royal Warrant, as does my tea (Twinings) and my gin (Tanqueray). I just love seeing the royal coat of arms on my food...

In knitting news, I've finished another piece of my sweater. This is the bottom portion of the front of the sweater:

I made cock-a-leekie (chicken and leek) soup for lunch last week. There are so many different recipes I'll have to try. This one is adapted from Jane Grigson's British Cookery. I'll bet you didn't think I'd find another recipe for chicken and prunes so quickly! Mwah ha ha!

Quick Cock-a-Leekie

Serves 10

5 cups beef stock
5 cups homemade chicken stock
2-3 pounds leeks (about 3 large), white and green parts only, thinly sliced and soaked
5 cups cooked, shredded chicken
salt and pepper
20 pitted prunes, julienned

In a large pot, bring the beef and chicken stocks and leeks almost to a boil then back the heat off to a simmer, add the chicken and salt and pepper (to taste) and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Divide into bowls and top with the prunes.

This soup can easily be stored in refrigerator or freezer. Leave out the prunes and then add them just before serving.
In other (non-British) cooking, Paul wanted to make some Knackwurst, so he boiled them up and I made French potato salad (Pommes de terre à l'huile from Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

*If you're in Oklahoma City, you should check out the "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" exhibit at the Oklahoma Museum of History. My friend Kristyn worked her butt off putting it together and gave me a guided tour Saturday (thanks Kristyn!). The exhibit is all about Rock and Roll in Oklahoma (lots of stuff I didn't know). The website is here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 9: Easier Than Pie

Blackberry-and-Apple Pie is easier than pie because it's actually a cobbler. Because it lacks a bottom crust, I had a lot less work to do (no extra rolling, fitting to the pan, or the dreaded blind baking). Adrian Bailey tells us, "Like all English fruit pies, blackberry-and-apple has no pastry bottom and is very moist; it is eaten with a dessert spoon rather than a fork."*

Serves 8
1 pound Granny Smith apples (or other tart cooking apple), peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup sugar, divided (see method)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pint blackberries, washed and drained
Short crust pastry**

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over low heat then add the apples and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Toss to coat and warm for about 5 minutes then take off the heat to cool.

Place the blackberries in an even layer on the bottom of a pie plate (I used the 9-1/2" Pyrex pie plate). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar then top with the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8" thick and a rough circle. Cut two strips (12" long and 1/2" wide) from the outer edge of the dough, moisten the edge of the pie plate with cold water and press the strips of dough around the edge. Moisten the top of the strips, lay the rest of the dough over and press in place. Trim pastry so overhang is only 1/2" beyond the pie plate then roll the edges under and press down with the tines of a fork to secure the pastry on top of the pie plate. Cut three 1-inch long slits about half an inch apart in the center of the pie (see photo below).

Brush the top of the pie with cold water and sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sugar over the pie. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

(Adapted from Recipes: The Cooking of the British Isles by Adrian Bailey)

It was 92 degrees Sunday. Generally, I loathe hot weather, but it brings one consolation: the return of gin to our refrigerator. The colder months are the time for whiskies, ports, and cognacs, but summertime is gin & tonic time. The G&T has to be the best thing to come out of the British colonization of India. G&Ts are my absolute favorite cocktail, but there is a close second--the White Lady. Named for supernatural apparitions (it does glow), the White Lady cocktail was invented in London at either Ciro's or the Savoy some time in the 1920s and was a favorite drink of both Laurel and Hardy. (I've committed the cardinal sin of relying of Wikipedia for this information. If anyone has any legitimate facts on the origin of this drink, let me know.)

Serves 2
2 jiggers gin (I use Tanqueray)
1 jigger orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
1 jigger lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients and shake until chilled. Pour into two chilled (small) cocktail glasses or champagne coupes. You don't have to use the brands I've suggested, but I am going to be insistent about the quality of the components. Cheap gin or triple sec (or, God forbid, both) would be like expecting to see a funny movie and having to watch one starring Will Ferrell instead.

Speaking of movies, in the film version of Have His Carcase (that's "carcass" to you and me) Lord Peter Wimsey sits down to enjoy a White Lady cocktail prepared by his loyal butler, Bunter, before rushing out to assist Harriet Vane, who has discovered a corpse on the beach. I was watching this movie while knitting (very pleasant knitting movie it is, too) and decided to get some Cointreau. Anyhow, all three Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries, which are based on the books Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night, are enjoyable to watch, even the second time after I already know whodunit.

Another enjoyable interwar British mystery novel is Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady (originally published here as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery). I finished it last week and then watched the movie version from Netflix, also while knitting.

Hopefully, I'll have more to show of my knitting soon. I'm about four inches into the front of the sweater now. I have to finish because there are so many other sweaters to knit!

*Recipes: The Cooking of the British Isles, p.78
** I use the Martha Stewart pate brisee recipe (available here), which makes 2 crusts, you'll only need one for this recipe. I happened to have one in the freezer, which is really convenient.