Mum’s cookery book is 40 years old. It was given to her as an engagement present in 1968. ‘Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Book’ is about the size of a telephone directory. If it ever had a sleeve, it was lost long ago. The cover is cardboard, scuffed and stained, bound with duct tape. It smells old and rare. Few of the leaves are still attached to the spine. You can tell which are Mum’s favourite receipes, because those pages are wrinkled with age and water damage, often spotted with grease, egg, bits of bacon, seventies spinach. The cakes and muffins sections occasionally feature smudged batter samples.
This book is AMAZING. It features old-fashioned recipes, such as angels on horseback, vol-au-vents, pickled just-about-anything, bubble & squeak, colonial goose, steak & kidney pudding, rabbit stew, toad in the hole, jugged hare. It has stomach-curling recipes such as boiled ox tongue, brains in black butter sauce, pork trotters, calf’s foot jelly, stuffed sheep’s heart, pickled pig’s head, pigeon casserole. I can’t remember some of these dishes, but the names make my mouth water: bramble jelly, blancmange, jam roly-poly, pavlova, lemon merangue pie, gingerbread men, drop scones, gooseberry fool, rock buns, toffee apples, spotted dick, sherry trifle, crab apple jelly, burnt orange wine, mulled ale, barley water, gingerbeer, cowslip wine, sloe gin.
If ever you’re stuck with a couple of pickled sheep’s eyeballs, half a grouse and some leftover burgundy, I guarantee you’ll find a delicious recipe in this book which cooks to ambrosial perfection every time. For those who haven’t graduated to the pickled eyeball stage, the book even tells you how to boil an egg. Seriously. I suppose if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Here, in case you were stuck, is how to boil an egg:-
Eggs should be simmered rather than boiled. Put them into boiling water, using a spoon, lower the heat and cook for 3 minutes for a light set and up to 4½ minutes for a firmer set. Alternatively, put them in cold water and bring slowly to the boil – they will then be lightly set. The water in each case should be just sufficient to cover the eggs. Fresh eggs tend to take a little longer to cook than those which are a few days old.
Put the eggs into boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook for 10 – 12 minutes. Hard-boiled eggs should be placed at once under running cold water and left until they are cold; this prevents a discoloured rim forming round the outside of the yolk and enables the shell to be easily removed. Crack the shell all round by tapping on a firm surface, then peel it off.
Place the eggs in boiling water, cover, remove from the heat and keep in a warm place for 8 – 10 minutes; they will then be lightly set.
Ever since I took up cooking, I have campaigned for Mum to give up The Book, but she flatly refuses. She has foiled two attempts to smuggle The Book out of the house under a sweater. I think she’s being selfish. She hardly needs it any more; she can cook. And she only uses about 5 recipes (soda bread, braic, scones, apple tart, boiled <insert carcass of choice>, steamed <insert vegetable of choice, as long as it’s carrot or broccoli>).
For those of you who are keen chefs, here are a couple of recipes you don’t see around every day . . . which is a tragedy.
4 eggs, hard-boiled (see above) & shelled
2 level t seasoned flour
1 kg sausages-meat or skinless sausages
1 egg, beaten
Dust the eggs with the seasoned flour. Add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce to the sausage-meat and divide it into 4 equal portions. Form each quarter into a flat cake and work it round an egg, making it as even as possible to keep the egg a good shape and making sure ther are no cracks in the sausage-meat. Brush with beaten egg and toss in breadcrumbs. Heat the fat until it will brown a cube of bread in 40-50 seconds. (As the sausage-meat is raw, it is essential that the frying should not be hurried unduly, so the fat must not be too hot.) Fry the eggs for about 7-8 minutes. When they are golden-brown on the outside, remove them from the fat and drain on crumpled kitchen paper.
Cut the eggs in half lengthways, garnish each half with a small piece of parsley and serve either hot with tomato sauce or cold with a green salad
Bread and butter pudding
3-4 thin slices of bread and butter
1-2 oz currants or sultanas
½ oz caster sugar
¾ pints milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the bread and butter into strips and arrange, buttered side up, in layers in a greased ovenproof dish, sprinkling the layers with the fruit and sugar. Heat the milk, but do not allow it to boil. Whisk the eggs lightly and pour the milk on to them, stirring all the time. Strain the mixture over the bread, sprinkle some nutmeg on top and let the pudding stand for ¼ hour. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until set and lightly browned
Pears in port wine
4 large ripe pears
¼ pint port
¼ pint water
3 oz sugar
Rind of 1 lemon
2 T red-currant jelly (or to taste)
Peel pears, cut in quarters lengthwise and remove the cores. Make a syrup from the port, water , sugar and lemon rind. Add the pears and simmer gently until tender. Remove the fruit, add the red-currant jelly to the syrup and boil rapidly until it is well reduced. Place 4 pear quarters in each glass and strain the syrup over. Allow to cool and serve with cream
3 oz self-raising flour
A pinch salt
3 oz fresh breadcrumbs
3 oz shredded suet
2 oz caster sugar
6 oz currants
4-6 T milk (approx)
Put the steamer or large saucepan on to boil. Mix together the flour, salt, breadcrumbs, suet, sugar and currants in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add enough milk to give a fairly soft dough. Form into a roll on a well-floured board, wrap loosely in greased greaseproof paper and then in foil, sealing the ends well. Steam over rapidly boiling water for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Unwrap the pudding, put in a hot dish and serve with custard or with a white sauce flavoured with cinnamon or grated lemon rind