The English Housewife

Gervais Markham

edited by Michael R. Best

 

It’s a nifty book. While quite modern for my own purposes, it’s a solid bridge to understanding historic mindset for the modern person.

Containing all kinds of guides and instructions for the typical housewife, advice ranging from how to cure internal bleeding to how to dye cloth, it also has a section on cooking. The whole book is geared towards the Rennaisance equivalent of a ranch or farmstead.

 

Many seasonings and flavors considered old fashioned at the time are here, though there are some hints of dietary changes.

The recipe I worked with from this book is “Another of Liver” page 72-73.

It asks the cook to “boil a liver til it be hard as a stone,” and then to grate it on a bread-grater.

This wasn’t a shocking idea at the time, grated, cooked liver was used as a thickener in several recipes I have run into.

After the liver is cooked, cooled, cleaned and grated, it’s to be mixed with the thickest, best cream you can get, 6 egg yolks, bread crumbs, seasonings, suet, dried fruit, and “a good store of sugar.”

 

all of the ingredients in a container to be mixed and placed in a "form"

cooled, grated, and being mixed

After being put into “forms”, it’s to be boiled. I used cheesecloth and a string, and suspended it on a makeshift support to keep it off the bottom of the pot. In doing some more reading, it seems that flouring the cheesecloth would have been wise as well.

I boiled it like a Christmas pudding, and when set, followed the next set of directions.

 

a cheesecloth bag in a pot of boiling water, resting on chopsticks

makeshift forms

The recipe calls for the pudding to be boiled as “before showed”, which called for checking recipes number 32 and 33 on the previous pages.

These both called for the now-boiled pudding to be removed from the forms, and to be toasted before a fire.

Not having a spit, I toasted the pudding in a pan with a butane flame.

 

a freeform craggy mass, toasted to varying shades of brown.

after toasting

 

I like liver, but this one was challenging. It is just too sweet and too greasy to be enjoyable either as a sliced protein or a spread pate.

I ate some, but… not much of it.

The texture is  very fine, and the basic seasonings are lovely, but the huge quantity of fruit, sugar, and fat take this to a place that is we call “dessert.”

 

I have made a “to my taste” version in the past, which is more of a tarte. I use no suet, lots less sugar, and more pepper.

When made in a bain-marie in tartlets, or in small tart-shells, baked, it can come across as more of a pate variant, there is always some in the house.

 

Ratings;

+ clear window into the historic palate

– commonly unpopular main ingredient.

– Very rich, very sweet.

– very fiddly, labor intensive.

– can be adapted into something modernly palatable, but then it’s modern, and

not very helpful in sharing the historic perspective.


I would very definitely make this for a small group of 12-20, as part of a larger menu.

It is interesting, it is evocative, and it is informative.

 

 

The book calls for either breast of veal or mutton. About the only thing they have in common besides being ruminents is size, not texture, not flavor. I do plan to try the mutton variant some time.

(inspiration recipe in previous post)

 

veal which has been roasted, trimmed of fat, and cut to about 1.5 inch cube, ready to be cooked.

Cooled, cut, and ready to go

I had two chunks of veal breast, and only used one for last week’s post.

The other one was dinner tonight. This one called for verjus and pepper rather than mustard.

 

I cooked the onions rather longer, as I had more time to tend them, and added black pepper with the onions as well as with the meat. Next time, more black pepper. I used about two teaspoons of fresh-ground tellicherry peppercorns.

onions in a pan, cooked through

one of my favorite things

Salt went in with the onions, and verjus was used to deglaze the pan several times.
Instead of being earthy as the mustard iteration was, this was sharp and sweet. It was similar, of course, but different enough to stand alone.

Notes on verjus;

It’s the juice of unripe grapes. It can also be unripe other fruits, at need. I use pears for my home-made version.

It’s available as “sour grape juice’ through Middle Eastern markets.

Verjus is modernly prized as a way to add a grape-based acid to dishes without clashing with wine.

White balsamic vinegar is grape juice blended with white vinegar, and while similar in some respects, it’s different enough to not work as a good substitute.

Both versions are very pleasant, though different. I’ll make them again.

 

verjus being poured out of the wine bottle into the pan, by being poured over a spoon to prevent splashing

I used the spatula to prevent splashes. This verjus is quite mild.

Recipe:

  • One breast of veal
  • 2-4 medium onions,
  • 3 TBS olive oil to fry the onions in
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 c verjus

Ratings;

As with the other version of this recipe,

 

+   It’s hard to mess this up.
–    It’s also plain ol’ meat, with no fillers or ways to stretch it.
–    Needs a large enough sautee area to get the crust, and a cook with a good sense of “crisp” versus “burning.”
-/+  Needs a fair lot of onions, which can be precooked in a crockpot. The onions need a lot of time.
++   Delicious, if you like that sort of thing!
 The difference is that this calls for verjus, a somewhat expensive ingredient, and has a sharper tone, which would pair differently with the other dishes in a given course.

Back to Martino. It wasn’t a conscious decision to get hung on this book, it just fits the bill for so much of what we eat in winter.

“The Art of Cooking; The First Modern Cookery Book’

“the eminent Maestro Martino of Como”

as translated by Jeremy Parzen.

 

 Tonight it was A Gallimaufry, page 120. And it was delicious.
Take a mutton breast, or veal breast, cooked, or even half-cooked, then take some finely chopped onions that have been fried slowly in rendered lard, then take the meat, and cut it into small pieces the size of walnuts; then add all these things together in the pan and fry with a bit of strong mustard or a good quantity of pepper and verjus.
 Take veal. OK, I had two breasts thereof in the freezer, right in front, begging not to get freezerburnt.
 Roast it til done, or even half done. Fun! I don’t spit roast, I have a modern oven, but high heat and some salt makes for a nice crusty roast with a juicy pink interior.
a knife beginning to separate meat from rib-bones of a well-roasted piece of meat

I did let it cool some.

 Cut the meat into chunks the size of walnuts. I trimmed fat at this point. Veal breast has fat in similar layout to streaky bacon, so it was fairly simple to trim.
 Sautee some onions til brown in lard. well… I used olive oil. Philosophy aside, I simply have preferences.
 Add mustard. Yup, I used commercial. I like Zatarains, you can use what you like or make a great one with minimal effort.
 Cook mustard and onions together, I added salt, then tossed in the meat and let it cook to completion.
cubes of meat sauteeing with onions and mustard in a shallow pan

It's almost there, just needs a little more sear.

 It got earthy and deep, rich and hearty. The crusty surface, the juices cooked in with the mustard and sweet onions, the whole package was top-notch. It got eaten before final photos could be taken.
 I plan to make it again in a night or two with the rest of the meat and the alternate instructions, which call for “pepper”. hmm.. might have to do batches with each of several peppers.
 Recipe:
1 breast of veal
2 TBS olive oil (it calls for lard)
2-4 medium onions
1/4-1/2 cup of prepared mustard
Salt, unless you roasted the veal in salt. Don’t overdo, the mustard has plenty of flavor.
Ratings;
+ It’s hard to mess this up.
-It’s also plain ol’ meat, with no fillers or ways to stretch it.
-Needs a large enough sautee area to get the crust, and a cook with a good sense of “crisp” versus “burning.”
-/+Needs a fair lot of onions, which can be precooked in a crockpot. The onions need a lot of time.
+ Minimal fuss or experience needed to make it come out well.
++Delicious, if you like that sort of thing!
I call it a winner, but quite expensive. Tough meats won’t work, but if you can find a deal on veal, it is worthwhile.
 Pork cushion would also be a good choice

cooked portions of meat in a bowl, ready to be served

“Neapolitan Recipe Collection”

as translated by Terence Scully;

Recipe 50

Florentine-Style Meat in a Baking Dish: Get veal or another meat with the bone, cut it into the pieces as small as a fist, and put them into a baking dish with a little water, a beaker of wine and another of good verjuice; if you master likes, add in a few slices of onion or, should he not like onions, use parsley, the root that is along with raisins, dried prunes, and salt; cover the meat by no more than a finger of water, and set it in the oven; when it looks half done, add a few cloves, a good lot of cinnamon, pepper and a good lot of saffron let it taste of pepper; when it is half cooked, turn it over; then take it out onto a plate with the spices and sugar on top, or else leave it in the baking dish. You can do the same with fish that is, grey mullet or eels cut into pieces four fingers in width, washed well and put into a baking dish with a little oil. Note that you can make these things sweet or tart according to our master’s taste..

It’s winter. It’s cold, I want to make hearty food. There are beef short ribs in the fridge. It looks like a plan.

cut the meat into approximately 4 ounce chunks, and poured an equal proportion of wine, verjus, and water over them. I shaved an onion into the pot, put in a good handful of black raisins, and seasoned the pot with about a half-teaspoon of salt.

 

meat, sliced onions, and raisins in a wine-based cooking liquid, in a large pot.

all of the ingredients ready to go

After 45 minutes I put in the called for spices, and let it go for another 15 or 20 minutes.

It’s a bit of a pot roast with overtones of sauerbraten. We are not complaining.

cooked portions of meat in a bowl, ready to be served

The final product, waiting for sauce and vegetables.

This is a regular dish on our table, it only needs about 5 minutes of attention at the beginning, and two in the middle of cooking. It needs no fancy slicing for service, as it is already in portion controlled pieces.

I appreciate the ease with which I can adapt this balance from sharp to sweet by using more or fewer raisins and /or prunes. It’s good comforting food which succeeds best when a cheap rough cut of beef is used, though the original suggests many alternative proteins.

I used;

1c Commercial verjus

1c California red Zinfandel

1c water

2 lbs short ribs

1/4c black raisins

A cinnamon stick, crushed (canela)

a healthy pinch of pepper

4 whole cloves,

a pinch of Kosher salt

RATINGS:

+ Cheap cuts of meat work well.

+ Simple seasonings.

+ One burner, no complex methods.

+ reminiscent of Sauerbraten, so not a challenge to the timid palate.

+/- Calls for verjus (but there are reasonable substitutions available).

+ Pairs nicely with a variety of sauces and vegetable options

All in all, there is nothing about this presentation I do not enjoy, and nothing I cannot recommend.

It’s a clear winner.