Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A droolworthy feast, but just imagine the heartburn

"Here I am, Aunt Kate!" cried Gabriel, with sudden animation, "ready to carve a flock of geese, if necessary."

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl full of chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery stalks. In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes.

Gabriel took his seat boldly at the head of the table and, having looked to the edge of the carver, plunged his fork firmly into the goose. He felt quite at ease now for he was an expert carver and liked nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table.

"Miss Furlong, what shall I send you?" he asked. "A wing or a slice of the breast?"

"Just a small slice of the breast."

"Miss Higgins, what for you?"

"O, anything at all, Mr. Conroy."

While Gabriel and Miss Daly exchanged plates of goose and plates of ham and spiced beef Lily went from guest to guest with a dish of hot floury potatoes wrapped in a white napkin. This was Mary Jane's idea and she had also suggested apple sauce for the goose but Aunt Kate had said that plain roast goose without any apple sauce had always been good enough for her and she hoped she might never eat worse. Mary Jane waited on her pupils and saw that they got the best slices and Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia opened and carried across from the piano bottles of stout and ale for the gentlemen and bottles of minerals for the ladies. There was a great deal of confusion and laughter and noise, the noise of orders and counter-orders, of knives and forks, of corks and glass-stoppers. Gabriel began to carve second helpings as soon as he had finished the first round without serving himself. Everyone protested loudly so that he compromised by taking a long draught of stout for he had found the carving hot work. Mary Jane settled down quietly to her supper but Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia were still toddling round the table, walking on each other's heels, getting in each other's way and giving each other unheeded orders. Mr. Browne begged of them to sit down and eat their suppers and so did Gabriel but they said there was time enough, so that, at last, Freddy Malins stood up and, capturing Aunt Kate, plumped her down on her chair amid general laughter.
From "The Dead" by James Joyce

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What a lovely picnic!

... he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes. Thus laden, he returned with all speed, and blushed for pleasure at the old seaman's commendations of his taste and judgment, as together they unpacked the basket and laid out the contents on the grass by the roadside.
From The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

1940s party food

I read Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald some time last year and noted down some food quotations from the book to post on my book blog, but then I though they would be better suited to this blog. Here are some of her hilarious descriptions of 1940s party food. I can’t imagine any of it being good. Edibility may have been an optional extra in some cases.

…I looked and looked at my salad trying to guess what it was. When it could not be avoided any longer I took a bite and it was tuna fish and marshmallows and walnuts and pimento (just for the pretty colour, our hostess explained later when she was giving up the recipe) and chunks of pure white lettuce and boiled dressing. I almost gagged, both Anne and Joan nudged me and giggled, but most of the other ladies shrieked ‘delicious!’ ‘heavenly!’ and ‘so different!’ (‘different’ was quite right) and so the beaming hostess gave us the recipe…

It was at another baby shower that I first encountered a ring mould of mushroom soup, hardboiled eggs, canned shrimps (that special brand that taste like Lysol) and lime Jello, the centre heaped with chopped sweet pickles, the whole topped with a mustardy-sweet salad dressing.

An evening party during elections produced casual refreshments of large, cold, slightly sweet hamburger buns spread with relish, sweet salad dressing, dried beef and cheese, then whisked under the broiler just long enough to make the cheese gummy and the relish warm.

At another shower (wedding I believe) we were served tuna fish chow mein with rancid noodles. A garden club meeting, creamed tuna fish and peanuts over canned asparagus. A hospital group dredged up a salad of elbow macaroni, pineapple chunks, Spanish peanuts, chopped cabbage, chopped marshmallows, ripe olives and salad dressing.

I could go on and on ad nauseam and not even scratch the surface of the desserts which veer towards you ‘just take a devil’s food cake, make a filling of whipped cream, peanut brittle, chocolate chips and custard … and freeze’. I don’t know what is happening to the women of America but it ought to be stopped.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A sauce I'd like to try:

His specialty, Meyer's Superior Cocktail Dip, is made with dry Chinese mustard moistened to the proper consistency with Tabasco sauce. The unsuspecting have been known to leap four feet straight up into the air after scooping up a tiny portion on a potato chip. Strong men have come down running and gone right through the wall when they missed the open doorway.

Travis McGee, speaking of his friend Meyer, from The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald.

Here's a possible recipe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Julie & Julia

Last night I rented and watched the movie Julie & Julia. For those not familiar with it, it is a biographical film of cookbook author and TV cook Julia Child, and of blogger Julie Powell, who rose to fame in the blogging world when she cooked every single recipe from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and wrote a deservedly popular blog about it.

Unfortunately the two biographies were not created equal. Julia Child’s life in France and the writing of the cookbook she co-authored and that made her famous is contrasted with Julie Powell’s life in New York in the naughties and her struggle to find herself. It is possible to make an ordinary life interesting, but the film manages to make Powell’s story so utterly dull and uninteresting by comparison with Child's that I wanted to shout every time the film cut from Child to Powell.

Why couldn’t they just have made a biopic about Julia Child? Lord knows she deserves a full 2 hours to herself. With her war-time career, the romance with her husband, interesting characters, plenty of food porn, an interesting setting and era and Meryl Streep in the lead role it could and probably would, have been a hit. As it stands, the only way I will watch it again is with my finger on the fast forward button to get past the Julia Powell scenes.

P.S. Look for the occasional foodie movie review on this blog in the future.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hungarian goulash

I first tasted real goulash at a restaurant in the Czech capital, Prague (we have something called gúllas in Iceland, but it's really more like a version of ragout). My parents, with whom I was travelling, ordered something safe and generic (fried chicken if I recall rightly), but I was feeling adventurous and ordered the goulash. I was rewarded by a big smile from the waiter who was clearly delighted that the tourist had ordered something unexpected. The stew was excellent, and the dumplings were good, but lay heavy in my belly afterwards. Goulash may have originated in Hungary, but the Czechs have made it their own.

Flash forward several years:

One weekend not so long ago stewing beef was on discount at a local supermarket and I brought home a tray of it. I decided I wanted to make goulash, but for various reasons, mostly to do with unobtainable ingredients and/or the sheer number of ingredients in the recipes, I chose not to use one from Hungarian Cuisine, but instead went for one of my big mixed-cuisine cookbooks, namely The Spice Cookbook, which I have already reviewed and posted several recipes from. In it I found this excellent and simple recipe for goulash, (which I have altered a little bit):

Round 1:
1 kg. (2 lbs) stewing beef
2 tbs. shortening (an absolutely authentic recipe would use lard)
2 medium-sized yellow onions, thinly sliced

Round 2:
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. Hungarian paprika powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne-pepper
1 cup water

Round 3:
3 average-sized potatoes, cut into eights
1/3 cup green capsicum (bell pepper), chopped into small pieces (about 1 cm, 2/5 inch)

Round 4.
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika powder

Trim any fat off the meat and cut it into even-sized cubes, about 2,5 cm (1 inch) square. Melt half the shortening in a deep frying pan or saucepan and brown the meat on all sides. Remove from the pan, add the remaining shortening and gently fry the onions over low heat until golden. Return the meat to the pan and add the Round 2 ingredients.

Simmer under a lid for 90 minutes or until the meat is almost tender enough to eat (will take less time if you use a nice, tender cut). Add the Round 3 ingredients and continue simmering under a lid for 30 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Add the remaining paprika. Adjust flavour with salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve warm with rice or Hungarian bread dumplings, and a salad.

  • Good enough that I wrote it into my recipe notebook where I put recipes I have tested that have turned out good enough for me to make them again.
  • Works with lamb as well, but not as flavourful. I would use lamb or mutton shanks rather than cutlet meat if I try it again with lamb.