Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 1928 Sunday Dinner

You've known me for a while and you know I love an awesomely-illustrated vintage cookbook. Well, The Book of Unusual Cookery is tops. It's got Sunday dinners for every week of the year plus some "fine old time" recipes. Naturally, I couldn't wait to cook something from it. This is one hefty dinner and there's such a lot of tomato. Thankfully, I thought everything was yummy. To make things easier, I just used my usual roast chicken and potatoes recipe. The Tomato Aspic, Pineapple Ice and Prune Cake have to be made in advance and most of the Rice and Tomato Soup can be made early. 

Prune Cake

Prune Cake

2 cups prunes
3/4 cup softened butter (6 ounces)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated, yolks lightly beaten and whites beaten to stiff peaks
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9" springform tins and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside. 

Cover the prunes in boiling water and leave to soak several hours or overnight. Drain them, then slice (I usually use kitchen shears).

Cream the butter and sugar then add the egg yolks (slightly beaten). Add the flour in a few additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the other dry ingredients with the first addition of flour. Use enough buttermilk to get the batter thin enough to fold in the prunes and the egg whites.

Divide batter between prepared tins and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and cake is fairly firm to the touch. Cool in the tins for about 15 minutes then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Cream Icing Without Eggs

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream

Sift powdered sugar into a large bowl and beat in the vanilla extract and cream. Add enough cream to make the icing spreadable. This is enough icing to cover the tops of both 9" layers--double it to cover the entire cake.

Left: Pineapple Ice / Top Right: Rice and Tomato Soup / Bottom Right: Tomato Aspic

Pineapple Ice

1 lemon
1 orange
1 lb pineapple (I used a pre-cored pineapple from the grocery store)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 egg white, stiffly beaten

Juice the lemon and the orange and then scrape the inside of the orange to add the pulp (but not the pith). Shred the pineapple with two forks and add the lemon juice and orange juice and pulp. Set aside.

Put the sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over high heat. Stir just until sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring and boil 5 minutes. Stir into pineapple/lemon/orange mixture, then freeze in a 6-cup capacity container.

When mixture is half-frozen, stir and fold in the egg white. Leave to freeze completely.

10-12 servings

Tomato Aspic

1 quart canned tomatoes
1 cup water
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
pinch of mace
3 tablespoons granulated gelatin (or 3 packets)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Add everything but gelatin, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Stir in gelatin while soup is still hot. Cool a bit and strain into a large mixing bowl and add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Divide between jelly molds (or pour into one large mold) and chill until set.

Serves 4 to 6

Adapted from "Jellied Mock Bouillon" in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, 1936 edition

Rice and Tomato Soup

2 quarts canned tomatoes
1 small onion, roughly chopped
Bay leaf
6 cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 quart boiling water

In a large stock pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly, press through a sieve and store in the refrigerator until needed.

To serve:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups rice, cooked (or about 4 cups cooked rice)
Parsley, minced

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until flour starts to bubble. Gradually stir in the tomato soup. When all the soup is mixed in, add the cooked rice, turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Keep stirring. Boil 1 minute then divide soup between bowls and garnish with parsley.

8 servings

Rice and Tomato Soup

Throughout the 1920s the convention for Sundays was to have a large "dinner" in the middle of the day and eat a lighter "supper" in the evening. All of the cookbooks and magazines I have for this period follow the Breakfast/Dinner/Supper pattern for Sunday and the Breakfast/Luncheon/Dinner pattern for the rest of the week. So, rather than "dressing for dinner" on Sundays, most women would have worn smart day clothes like these from the February 1928 issue of L'Officiel:

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  1. I must ask, what does a prune cake taste like?

    I love vintage stuff, especially the '20s, but tomato aspic creeps me out...

    1. Prune cake just tastes like a moist fruit cake with icing. It's a deeply-flavored damp cake. Very nice way to get your fiber!

      Aspic is totally not creepy. I promise.

  2. I love the idea of a prune cake! I love anything even vaguely plum flavoured and have used prunes in baking before for their awesome squidginess (they are actually pretty good in chocolate brownies!)

    1. I've never put them in brownies, but I am a big fan of prunes, too.

  3. Tomato aspic tastes like wiggly ketchup.
    At least mine did. Did you like yours?

    1. Mine didn't taste like ketchup. It was very much like a Bloody Mary or a can of V8.

    2. I liked it--good thing, too, because I ended up having to eat all of them.

  4. Creamed carrots...that's a first for me! Hm.

    I have to say, the tomato aspic sounds quite tasty. And your describing it as like a bloody mary makes think...add some horseradish and vodka and make bloody mary jello shots! Ha! Seriously, everyone mocks the jello/aspic dishes of the past (and some *do* sound revolting), but I kind of like the idea. Especially on a hot evening.

    Love the fashion illustrations!

  5. Enjoyed the "smart day clothes" fashions. They do look quite smart! I think the tomato aspic looks so pretty - but I'm still a little uncertain. The only aspic I ever had was nasty! Did you end up eating all of them because Paul didn't like it? He seems to like everthing now!

  6. Mm yum! That plum cake looks delicious! x

  7. I MUST make the prune cake ~ I've wanted to make prune cake for ages!

  8. Now I want some prune cake with pineapple ice on the side. Very intrigued by the tomato aspic. Loving those 20s fashion illustrations.

  9. We're missing a great deal of ritual and community with the demise of Sunday dinners. Sigh.

    Lauren, your prune cake looks moist and luscious. Prunes do not get much respect here. Shame. The French know how great they are for desserts.


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