Red herrings

In my old recipe book, Modern Cookery, by Eliza Acton, first published in 1845, I was surprised to find two recipes for red herrings! I didn’t know there were any such things – not that the herrings were red, I think it is just a name for the dish, but I thought it was just an idiom!

Red herrings are kippers, of course, or as Miss Acton tells us, Yarmouth bloaters. Kippers are smoked herring… I love them, their flavour is incomparable, mind you, herring is a favourite fish of mine anyway!

Red herrings, á la dauphin

Take off the heads, open the backs of the fish, and remove the back-bones: soak the herrings, should they be very dry, for two or three hours in warm milk and water, drain and wipe them. Dissolve a slice of fresh butter and mix it with the beaten yolks of a couple of eggs and some savoury herbs minced small: dip the fish into these, and spread them thickly with fine breadcrumbs; broil them of a light brown, over a moderate fire, and serve them on hot buttered toasts, sprinkled with a little cayenne.

As I was reading this recipe I was thinking about what it must have been like for Eliza to cook these fish. I am sure that smoked herrings were much drier and more heavily smoked than they are now because they had to be preserved without refrigeration, or any other modern way. Once they were drained, they would have been wiped with a cloth… we would use a piece of kitchen towel. We don’t tend to differentiate between herbs… so which ones would be savoury? These days in England, we don’t really use the word ‘broil’, we only come across it in American recipes, or receipts, as Eliza says. We have cookers, we don’t cook over a fire, and the ‘toasts’ must either have been made using a toasting fork or on a sort of griddle. For all those who think spicy food is a modern thing, the English have always ‘liked it hot’ – mustard, horse-radish, and as her, cayenne pepper!


Two weeks ago

Two weeks ago today, after the most traumatic start to a day I’ve had for a long time, we managed to get on our flight to Reykjavik… two weeks ago right now we were relaxing, probably with a hot drink and a snack since we had missed our breakfast.

For some reason our alarm didn’t go off; this has never happened before and we woke at 6:15, gates closing at the airport – which is about 35 minutes away, at 7:00… somehow we made it… we didn’t park in our reserved prepaid parking place, we parked in short stay, ran, literally ran through passport control, security checks, and through the duty-free area to the gate where we had to pay for our luggage to be put on the plane… but, but we made it!

Stepping off the plane in Keflavik airport, I breathed in the beautiful Icelandic air and my chest seemed to expand and my mind relaxed and   was filled with excitement and optimism for the days ahead!

we had the most fabulous time! I am so in love with Iceland I want to go back again and again and again! Next time… and there definitely will be a next time… next time we will set about ten alarm clocks, and may even stay p all night because I never want to go through an airport dash like that again!!

DSCF7771Fresh Icelandic water!

More from the family cook book

This is the time of year that when you come inside after being out and about, when you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee, you really fancy a piece of cake to go with it. I actually don’t often make cakes these days, perpetually thinking about calories! However, this recipe is from my cousin, and every year when we go on the family holiday and we each bring a home-made cake, this is what she brings! Not only is it very delicious and more-ish, it is easy to make!

Diana’s date and walnut loaf

  • 4 oz chopped dates
  • 4 oz caster sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it, or add 1 tsp of vanilla essence)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 level tsp bicarb
  • 2 oz margarine cut into small chunks
  • 6 fl oz boiling water
  •  1 beaten egg
  • 2 oz chopped walnuts
  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  1. put dates, sugar, salt, bicarb, and margarine in a bowl, pour on boiling water and mix very well to melt margarine… let it cool
  2. when it is cool enough, add all other ingredients and mix well to a better like consistency
  3. pour mixture into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin
  4. bake in the centre of the oven, gas mark 3, for about 1½ hours until firm and cool in the tin

This is lovely sliced and spread with butter, it keeps well and is great for picnics, packed lunches or any other occasion!!

When was it published?

One of the delights of buying old second-hand books is the occasional surprise in the way of a newspaper cutting, jotted notes in th margin, a dedication in the front cover…

I have an old cookery book, written by Eliza Acton; she was born in 1799 and died in 1859 and her book ‘Modern Cookery’ was first published in 1845… mine isn’t as old as that, and I haven’t been yet able to pinpoint when my edition was published. However one oft he previous owners of the book, Emma Glover added a date by her name March/4, ’99… meaning 1899! Another owner was Kitty Violet Skelding, who was born in 1898 and had the book on the 21st June, 1933.

I don’t know how long Kitty had it for, but there was a political cartoon by Theodore Major cut out and popped between the pages. I can’t at the moment date the cartoon, or the election it refers to, but on the back of the cutting are some sports reports, so maybe with a little luck and perseverance, I might find the date of the rugby game between Oxford University and Leicester; ‘Playing delightful rugby with a succession of brilliant passing movements, Oxford University with two England selectors looking on, beat Leicester by a goal…’ the report continues ‘But Leicester rallied splendidly. Their forwards who had been strangely lethargic, suddenly roused themselves…” The horse race where Shaef, Armoured Knight and Possibly all competed. ‘However, the  grey cracked along over the last three fences to pass the entire field’ the correspondent reports.


Changing times

Dublin (52)Site-seeing round Dublin, the past is always there, lurking behind the modern. The traditional is side by side with innovation,  the Irish and the import… I couldn’t help but smile at the juxtaposition of Peadar Kearney’s Pub beside the Korean restaurant.

In case you are wondering who Peadar Keanrey was, Peadar Ó Cearnaígh was an Irish Republican who wrote many rebel songs, including Amhrán na bhFiann which is now the Irish national anthem.

The Hai Lan Korean Restaurant serves such delicacies as sea eel rice, sake salmon, vegetable bibimbap and miso soup and the famous kimchi… I think I might want to visit next time I’m in Dublin!

Visiting Tower Bridge

I was born and brought up in Cambridge, which is not that far away from London; although we don not go up to ‘the Smoke’ often, we did go there as children. My dad had taken photos since he was a boy, although we don’t’ have that many of them; he was interested in recording things, people, events, occasions and so when we went away or on holiday we would have a few black and white photos to record the occasion. He had a camera when he went to war, and we have many photos of his travels to Italy, Greece and North Africa, and a few of parachutists floating down from the sky… he was a paratrooper so I guess he landed, took out his camera and took some photos.

We recently went to London, to see the poppy field at the Tower, and we then walked into the city. We walked along the embankment towards Tower Bridge, and I spotted the old canons… it took me back to my childhood when we went to see the sights… Children these days aren’t allowed to pose like this!



Nano struggle

All seemed well when I undertook this year’s national Novel writing Month challenge. I was all set to head towards the goal of 50,000 words in November. I didn’t expect to be on such a roll as I was last November, I guessed it would be harder… but I was quietly confident.

I hadn’t got such a clear idea this time, and I did get off to a slow start… which was foolish, because thirty days is only thirty days. Then it occurred to me I was going to Iceland for five days, plus a day trip to London… it would be fine, I’d take my tablet and write while travelling, I’d keep up…

My tablet isn’t working… My brain isn’t doing too well either! So back from Iceland and only ten days to go.. it’ll be fine…

So, it’s the evening of the 28th, I have such a lot to do… I am not at all sure I am going to make it. I suppose I could just write rubbish to get the word count up, but what on earth would be the point of that? No I have to stay true to my writing and do it properly.

I’m going to be having a couple of late nights!