So what does Modern Cookery (published in the 1930’s but no doubt written in the 20’s) have to say about dishes for December?
What shall we have for Christmas? Mistletoe with gay orange and scarlet winter fruits cleverly arranged in a bowl, and scarlet candles in green glass holders.
grape fruit or Jaffa oranges
roast turkey and bread sauce
For six people allow half a grape fruit for each person or, if you prefer it, serve half a large Jaffa orange prepared in the same way as the grape fruit.
Cut the fruit in halves crosswise, remove the centre pith and pips, then divide each section by cutting along each side of the dividing membranes.
Cut round the edge of the fruit to loosen it from the pith and rind, sprinkle with castor sugar and serve with a crystallised cherry in the middle.
Special grape fruit knives may be obtained for preparing the fruit; these are quite inexpensive and have stainless steel blades.
There follows the instructions for roasting a turkey, with stuffing ( breadcrumbs, suet, dripping, parsley, mixed herbs, seasoning, eggs, milk, lemon) and sausage meat
Serve with slightly thickened gravy, bread sauce and brown crumbs. A piece of oiled bacon or rolls of bacon should accompany the bird.
There are instructions for the bacon rolls, bread sauce (milk, onion, cloves, butter, seasoning, breadcrumbs) brown crumbs (breadcrumbs fried in butter served on a lace paper) and gravy:
THE GRAVY – the stock used for this should be made from the giblets.
Wash them thoroughly in cold water and cook them gently for three to four hours, adding a flavouring of onion, herbs and two or three cloves. Thicken this gravy with a little flour and boil it up in the tin in which the turkey was cooked, after pouring off the dripping. Add browning and seasoning to taste and strain the gravy before serving it.
The sprouts are cooked as you would imagine, and then comes a very long-winded way of making potato balls – I think I would jut have roasties!
2 lbs potatoes, 2 eggs, salt and pepper, a lump of butter, i level teaspoon of chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, deep fat
Method – peel the potatoes and boil them in slated water until tender; Drain them and rub them through a sieve..
Separate the eggs, beat up the yolks and add them to the potatoes with the butter, parsley and seasoning. Leave the potato to cool. Divide into small portions and shape it into balls. Brush them with the whites of egg and coat them with breadcrumbs. Put them into a frying basket and fry in deep fat until golden brown.
Drain them and serve.
The recipe for Christmas pudding is what you might expect – raisins, suet, breadcrumbs, flour, candied peel, currants, sultanas, sugar, almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, eggs, rum, milk, all mixed together and , left to stand for twelve hours before being steamed for six hours.
Hard sauce is what I know as rum or brandy butter – except that in this recipe it is merely flavoured with the spirits rather than featuring them! An alternative to rum or brandy is vanilla.
The savour of cheese eggs again seems a lot of trouble for nothing much. The eggs are hard-boiled, the yolks removed, mashed and mixed with a melted mixture f cheese and butter; it’s rubbed through a sieve and piped into the empty halves of egg white.
Stand each half-egg (cutting a small slice from the base of the white so they stand firmly) on a slice of tomato and garnish with a little mustard and cress.
I suppose this could serve as an actual Christmas Day menu, but maybe it is more refined for guests! I was interested to see that grapefruit is two words, and struck by the amount of breadcrumbs used! Breadcrumbs in the stuffing, in the brown crumbs, round the potato balls, in the pudding… I also think if you boiled giblets for four hours there would be no taste left at all!
All the same, this is so similr to what we do today, ninety years ago – plus ça change!