The English Housewife
Gervase Markham pp 76-77
This loosely written recipe calls for “a neck of veal, or a leg, or marrow bones of beef, or a pullet, or mutton.”
Versatility is good.
(oops! No final picture! We ate it!)
It’s a simple meat-in-a-pot affair, poached, skimmed well (albumen, the white to brown frothy stuff, is a form of protein which is unappealing) and thickened by pressing trimmed, broth-soaked bread through a sieve.
Then fruits and spices are added, the dish can be optionally colored with turnsole or sanders (a red food dye made from the wood of a tree), and served on by first putting sippets, soup-toasts, then layering on the broth, meat, “and the fruit uppermost.”
We had very nice shoulder of mutton, everything called for except currants, and a bitter cold day which needed soup.
After trimming and rinsing the meat into the pot and simmering in plainb water for about an hour, I took some of the hot broth and started soaking the sliced, staled bread. The recipe called for de-crusting the loaves, I should have obeyed. I figured a modern baguette would have a more tender crust than a manchet. Oops.
After pressing the bread in to the pot to add starch for body, I added the fruits and spices and let it cook a while longer.
Not being interested in adding sanders to the whole dish, I did a side-by-side to show the difference between plain and enhanced. Interestingly, the sanders somewhat emulsified the broth.
We agreed that the quantities of fruit called for made the dish excessively sweet. This is a situation I have run into frequently, with a single ingredient having quantities and none of the others being specified. It makes sense to me that these are “key” ingredients, suggesting proportions for other items, and that the recipes are intended to serve rather more than two people.
When I make this again, I will use 1/8 (modern) fruit per pound of meat, a proportion which I am comfortable with.
3 lbs mutton (or something)
6 oz prunes
6 oz raisins
3 oz currents (subbed with more raisins)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mace blades
3 whole cloves, cracked
+ almost any protein
+ simple stovetop, minimal fuss
+ inexpensive common ingredients (mace is cheap in Indian markets)
+reasonably quick to cook.
– not obvious use of bread product, needs clear gluten warning.
– cloyingly sweet as written
– don’t leave spices loose as I did, put them in cheesecloth. Someone will be unhappy.
– the resulting broth is not an ingredient. It’s a final product, which will not be easy to cannibalise for future recipes.
In spite of the “more minuses than pluses,” the pluses are of greater value, in my mind.
This simple dish takes one burner, three separate moments of attention, and has a very limited ingredient list.
It would be very nice on a cold winters’ day to tide one over ’til dinner.
I’m making it again this week, just way lighter on the fruit.