From this point on, for the most part I will be focusing more on individual recipes and less on giant epic meals, though I do have some planned for the holidays. I have been and am going to be doing a lot of pickling from now through September, including genuine Mango Chetney (Caution: Chetney contains no mangos. Do not taunt happy fun chetney.).
I. Pickled Eggs
Because my house needs to have more of the atmosphere of a ye olde pub, I decided to pickle eggs. The jar can sit on a shelf with some relics from the Crusades, and the shelf can sit next to a giant taxidermied black bear.
The pickling spice was black peppercorns, Jamaica pepper (a.k.a allspice), and fresh ginger in vinegar.
You simmer this for ten minutes. I chose white wine vinegar, as I have been for my projects lately, because I feel like it is pretty middle of the road as far as vinegars go–about as close to “neutral” as you are going to get. White vinegar always seems too harsh for anything except cleaning the floor and dying eggs, and anything else has too much character.
I put the eggs into a jar and then you put the pickling juice over them. Easy!
I will come see you again in a month, girls. Wikipedia says that “pickled eggs have been linked to unpleasant smelling intestinal gas.” I enjoy the fact that this is mentioned under the subheading, “Uses.” Beeton says,”A store of pickled eggs will be found very useful and ornamental in serving with many first and second course dishes.” Indeed, a few recipes suggest garnishing with hardboiled eggs. This should work as well.
II. A Simple Supper
Last night I quick-fried flounder fillets and they were completely scrumptious. I have been wanting to make more fish recipes, and I hit on the recipe for fried flounder as something that was both “in season” (I know seasonality is practically moot now, and indeed the fillets arrived frozen, but Beeton says they were in season from August to November), and something I have never tried. I have fried fish many, many times in panko and “ordinary” crumb, and in corn and wheat flours.
What made this slightly different is that the recipe called for garnishing with fried parsley. Were the Victorians even cooking PARSLEY inappropriately? You bet your hook-and-eye boots they were.
A casual look reveals something that looks like ordinary parsley, but it had a nice snap and green flavor. I love parsley, but I find it overpowering at times. Frying it really mellowed the flavor. A recipe is hardly needed–make oil hot, gently set parsley in, and remove with a slotted spoon. Beeton called for quickly drying them fireside so I popped them into a warmed oven on a paper towel-covered plate to let them drain and stay crisp.
And it worked very well with the texture of the flounders.
I served it with a simple cucumber dish which is titled “To Dress Cucumbers.” I think it’s funny that so many dishes are listed as “To Cook X” or “To Make X.” When people ask what they are eating, it makes things somewhat unwieldy. “What’s this? It’s To Cook Carrots in the German Way.” If anything else, I suspect it just reveals the diversity of Beeton’s sources and her haste in the editing process. I have been staring at this book for so long I can sometimes guess if she stole a particular recipe from Eliza Acton or M. Ude.
The salad was VERY simple, featuring cucumbers, salad oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. A good pairing with the fried fish.
III. Anchovy Redux
Last time I posted I was pretty excited about anchovy butter. I did it again:
I think you can see little fish-bits, maybe? They are very finely minced. I spread the butter on toast.
And broiled them for a couple of minutes.
This is really an excellent alternative to garlic bread. I served these with a tomato-heavy salad with vinaigrette, but I could see these with meat or a bolognese. I rewrote the recipe, below. Obviously, it is easy to divide this recipe. I used one American stick of unsalted butter (4 oz.) and mixed in two anchovies.
Anchovy Butter [1637.]
To every lb. of room-temperature unsalted butter allow 6 jarred anchovies
1 small bunch of parsley, finely minced
a pinch of salt if desired
Mode.—Finely chop anchovies and mix well all ingredients, and make the butter into pats immediately. This makes a pretty dish, if fancifully moulded, for breakfast or supper.
Sufficient to make 2 dishes, with 4 pats each.
Seasonable at any time; delicious on corn on the cob, spread on good bread and then broiled or toasted, chicken, or mild fish.
I am going out of town this weekend. When I return, I will write about my recent adventures with booze and cordials.