Not sure I quite fancy this!

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking was written in the early 1930’s and the edition I have is from 1936. As you might imagine it is a season recipe book, following the months and the fresh produce available. I have tried many of the recipes and enjoyed nearly all of them. However… there are a few which just sound too unusual and not to modern tastes…

For example, I love Brussels sprouts, and all the new and different recipes I have tried for them, from salads to stir fries I have enjoyed. The National Mark cookery book has Brussels sprouts au gratin, yes, very nice, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, yes especially nice at Christmas time, and Brussels sprouts purée in the March list of recipes which actually seems to be Brussels sprouts soup… I’m not too sure…

Here it is:

Brussels sprouts purée

  • sprouts
  • 1 oz flour
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1¼ pints of milk and water
  • pepper and salt
  • fried bread or toast diced
  1. fry the onion in the butter but do not let it brown
  2. add the flour, cook for a few minutes then add the milk and water and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. prepare and sieve the sprouts (I guess that means cook and sieve them,  or use left over already cooked sprouts)
  4. add to the soup and season
  5. serve very hot with the toast or fried bread
  6. spinach soup can be made in exactly the same way

There is rather a nice little note ‘with the aid of National Mark canned vegetables, a variety of soups can be prepared all the year round in little more than ten minutes should an emergency arise.’

My featured image is of delicious Brussels sprouts with chorizo and black pudding! … and here is the recipe:


Kangaroo soup

We were passing a butcher’s which sells unusual meats and we went in to see if they had any wallaby. Yes, I know they are cute etc, but so are lambs, anyway… while we were away I had wallaby several times and it was absolutely delicious. The butcher had none, but he did have kangaroo, so we bought a couple of streaks.

I cooked them very simply, on a griddle with butter and olive oil, I didn’t marinade them or treat them with anything, I just fried them. While they were resting and the vegetables were finishing cooking (roast potatoes, carrots, peas, cauliflower, sprouts) I made a sort of sauce/gravy with the juices plus port and cherry jam and a little chicken stock… and it was mighty fine, I can tell you!

Today for lunch I made some soup with the remaining sauce/gravy; it seemed a little sweet now it was on its own, so I added some more stock, a little horseradish, a little Worcestershire sauce and the tiniest splash of nam pla (fish sauce) I also added some tiny shell pasta and chopped up a couple of the left over roast potatoes. My husband had the carrots and peas in his bowl, I had the sprouts and cauliflower… and we decided it was a very good soup!

I guess a lot of people might have thrown those oddments away, but we had a lovely lunch – and it felt as if it was free because it was leftovers!

The Emulsifying Machine

I was very fortunate to be given a wonderful old book, The Constance Spry Cookery Book for my birthday present. it was first published in 1956 by which time she was seventy years old; she died just four years later. I’m sure this edition of her recipes included many which she had written before, but is described as “one of the best known cookery books of all time. It is one of the kitchen bibles, worshipped by millions”. It was co-written by Rosemary Hume, and it is still published and on the shelves today… however my birthday gift is sixty-one years old! (Rosemary Hume was twenty years younger than Constance, born in 1907 and dying in 1984)

The emulsifying machine is a blender – one of the stand-bys of kitchen equipment now, but obviously quite a new thing in the 1950’s. It is described as ‘a small but not inexpensive piece of electrical equipment… this invaluable appliance.’ It is recommended that the accompanying instruction booklet should be consulted and read with care… I’m afraid I sometimes neglect to do this with something new, I should take Constance’s advice, it’s much easier in the long run! The only slight thing I would say in my defence, often these days the instructions are minimal, sometimes pictorial, sometimes not there at all as the designer thinks its use should be intuitive!

There are some good suggestions, from Constance, soups and sauces, cocktails and sorbets and this suggestion for newly wed wives: “I think it should come early on the list of wedding presents even for the bride who hopes and believes she will find a good cook...” I can’t imagine that was the case for many post war households, to have a cook!

Here is a rather strange recipe…

Cold tomato and pineapple soup

  • ½lb chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • small cup of tinned tomatoes
  • coconut water, or 1 cup of coconut milk
  • small cup of water
  • seasoning
  1. half fill the emulsifying machine goblet with the ingredients
  2. switch to half and run for two minutes
  3. repeat with the rest of the ingredients
  4. adjust the seasoning and serve chilled

It might taste all right on a hot day, but I am not totally convinced, and less convinced by the recipe for Potage Bruxelles – Brussels sprout soup… I think I’ll give that a miss…



Leek and potato soup with vegetables


This is so warming for a cold and miserable day… I actually made it from leftover vegetables, but the basis was leeks and potatoes.

This is my recipe:

  • butter
  • 3 leeks, sliced thinly
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into small pieces
  • 2 small onions,  sliced thinly
  • two sticks of celery,  cut into small pieces
  • 6 small-medium potatoes,  cut into small pieces
  • stock (I used chicken) – about 1½ pints but adjust for your preferred thickness
  • a couple of ounces of Polish chopped pork
  • cream, chilli sauce and celery leaves to garnish
  1. melt the butter (I used about 2 ounces but use more or less or use oil of choice)
  2. add all the vegetables except the potatoes, stir well to cover in butter/oil, put the lid on and leave to cook gently until soft and tender
  3. add the potatoes, stir well, and add stock
  4. leave to cook until the spuds are done (about 25 minutes for my potatoes)
  5. blend or rub through a sieve or both
  6. add teh chopped pork pulled into small pieces (miss it out or  add cooked bacon/chorizo pieces, lardons, anythig you fancy)
  7. add more liquid if necessary, stock/water/milk
  8. serve with cream and chilli sauce twizzled on top and chopped celery leaves

Cauliflower soup

I don’t have a recipe for cauliflower soup that I have actually tried, although there was a very nice one I saw today with apple,which is what made me think about it.

My dad grew cauliflowers so it was a regular vegetable on our lunch and dinner plates; we always had it with a plain white sauce, with plenty of white pepper in it. I don’t know if cheeses sauce was something my parents didn’t like, whether it was something they never had at home, or whether adding cheese to a sauce was a bit extravagant if you were on a low income. I always liked cauliflower with white sauce, so that was ok, and when I came across cauliflower served naked – cooked but without a sauce, I thought it was very strange and it took me a while to like it. I thought the idea of raw cauliflower was even stranger and it took mean even longer to like it! I don’t actually remember when I first came across cauliflower cheese, or cauliflower with cheese sauce, I guess it was when I was a student and we would just have cauliflower and cheese… the cheapest we could get! Now I like cauliflower in every way it can be cooked, raw, roasted, boiled, curried, with or without sauce of a variety of flavours… I love it!

But cauliflower soup… My mum only made chicken soup when we were young – I don’t think it’s part of her Jewish heritage, I think it’s just the only soup she made – out of left over roast chicken! Maybe we weren’t great soup drinkers, occasionally Heinz tomato soup, or my mum’s favourite mulligatawny, but that was about it.

So, cauliflower soup; many years ago in Manchester there was an organisation called the North West Arts Association; I can’t actually remember much about it, drama, theatre, exhibitions, music, poetry readings etc… it was a very vibrant arts scene then. There was a café in, I think King’s Street, which was to do with NWAA and I loved going there. I remember it being downstairs, quite small, with jewellery, ceramics and other crafts for sale, newspapers of all sorts, except for the Tory press, leaflets, posters, jazzy music, interesting people, strange things on the menu which I had never heard of… The walls may have been green, or they may not,, and there may have been pillars and wooden posts holding up the ceiling, or there may not, but there was always something to look at, something to read,something tempting to buy – new earrings maybe, good coffee, weird tea before weird tea became fashionable…

I usually just had coffee, and sometimes a cake… but I soon discovered passion cake which became my absolute favourite, which I could never ever resist. I have never found a recipe which is exactly like the NWAA passion cake – the nearest I have found is carrot cake, which is why I adore carrot cake to this day. It was soft and obviously made with brown sugar and maybe brown flower, with chopped walnuts, and maybe dried fruit, and maybe carrot, and with the most delectable frosting I have ever had!

But this of course is nothing to do with cauliflower soup. I didn’t often have a proper lunch there, an occasional barm cake, a flattish bread roll with cheese or ham and salad… But once I must have been hungry, or it might have been cold and there was cauliflower soup with blue cheese. Ugh and double yuk! I thought but someone in front of me had it, and my spirit of adventure arose and I decided I would have some too. I did not regret it!

Even those of us who love cauliflower have to admit it can smell pretty ghastly, and if over cooked actually smells quite vile… this cauliflower soup smelt lovely, and it was lovely indeed. At that time in my life putting cheese in soup also seemed odd… but it was really delicious, and subtle.

So have I ever made cauliflower soup? Once,I’m the only one who likes cauliflower anyway, and it is really difficult to make a bowl of soup for one – it’s the type of soup you couldn’t make lots of and freeze and eat on another day… But maybe I will have a go…

Here is a link to the blog which inspired my wander down a culinary memory lane… nice photos too:


Garbure… sounds good to me!

Looking through an old French recipe book I have, I came across a recipe for something called garbure. I’ve had this book for years, and read and used it many times, but I’d never noticed this before – it sounded such a strange name, I wondered if it was French – but of course it is, and when I looked it up I found it is a speciality from Gascony.

I’m sure every Gasconne grand-mère has a recipe for it, each with her own little touch and way of making it, but basically it is a soupy stew made from ham, or slat pork, or both and vegetables and sometimes beans. It is the sort of dish which might vary according to what is growing in the garden or available in the market; apparently,, although the recipe i have doesn’t include it, bread and cheese are traditionally added. There is another lovely tradition with it, the chabrot; when you have eaten all the meat and vegetables, and all that is left is delicious soupy-gravy, you pour half a glass of red wine into your bowl and finish it all off! I say yes to chabrot!

Before I share my old recipe, here are some comments I came across about it:

  • The key to the rich flavour is  smoked ham hock or a smoked pork shank. The soup-stew is so thick with beans, leeks, root vegetables, and cabbage that you can almost eat it with a fork.
  • There are many variations, depending on the season and vegetables available – and what part of South-West France you are in. They all have one thing in common, when you serve this rich thick soup, the ladle stands up in it on its own.
  • Loaded with root vegetables and sweet Savoy cabbage, this robust white bean soup  is enriched with smoky bacon and duck confit.
  •  the daily dish for Gascony peasants, it following the pace of the seasons; it was prepared early in the morning, and  cooked slowly during the whole day while they  worked outside. Everyday they added more vegetables or meat what was left.

As you can see, recipes vary in whether the meat should be smoked or unsmoked, and whether duck, confit or not, should be added and even whether beans should be included. It seems the general principle is something porky, something salty or smokey, whatever vegetables you like, beans if you like, and anything else at all!


  • 3 oz dried haricot beans, boiled for 2 mins then left to soak for 1 hour, drain and keep liquor
  • 1 lb lean salt pork – blanched then cooked for 1 hour in ¾ pint water, drained and dried
  • 1 optional ham bone
  • 1½ lbs cabbage, shredded (my family don’t like cabbage so I would miss it out)
  • 2 medium turnips cut in small pieces
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1½ onions thickly sliced
  • 1 thickly sliced leek
  • garlic to taste
  • bouquet garni
  • ½lb uncooked garlic sausage, pricked
  • 3 potatoes cut in chunks
  • seasoning to taste
  • croûtes – enough slices of French bread for everyone to have two (or more if you like) toasted in a low oven for 15 mins, brush each side with olive oil and toast for another fifteen minutes – rub with garlic. You can also sprinkle with cheese and let it melt in the oven for a couple more minutes if you want
  1. make up bean liquor to 2½ pints with water
  2. in a big enough pan put water and everything except the sausage and potatoes
  3. bring to the boil and simmer, for an hour – or as long as you want, checking from time to time that there is enough liquid
  4. 45 mins before you want to serve, add the sausage and potatoes
  5. take out the ham bone and bouquet garni and check for seasoning
  6. my recipe says serve the meat separately and the soup poured over a croûte in bowls, I think it would be nicer altogether and to float the croûtes on top
  7. don’t forget the chabrot!

Next time the family are home I might try this!

I am sure a Nottingham jar would be just the sort of thing to use to cook it!

Celery soup

I was born and brought up in Cambridge, and every autumn we would look forward to the new celery, brought in from the fens with black peaty soil still attached to it. The stems would be pure white, not creamy or green, but white. The leaves, they would be green, the outer ones touch and almost leathery and a dark colour, but the inner ones would be bright and fresh and vivid, more like new spring leaves. The smell would be peppery and sweet and tempting, and once washed, the stalks, particularly the inner ones would be sweet and nutty with just a pepperiness in the back ground. The nearer you got to the heat of it, the whiter and sweeter the stalks. I don’t remember having it cooked as a vegetable, but the outside stalks were chopped up for stews or soup, but not to make actual celery soup.

When we moved to the west country, my parents often returned to Cambridge, and if they went back before Christmas they would bring a boot full of celery as gifts for their friends. You would open the boot and be enveloped in the wonderful smell. once they were taken out, my dad would clean the boot of all the bits of black soil and broken and snapped-off stalks and detached leaves. All the bits of celery he would wash and put into whatever he was cooking, particularly lamb or mutton stew.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Celery (Apium graveolens), a marshland plant variety in the family Apiaceae, has been cultivated as a vegetable since antiquity. Depending on location and cultivar, either its stalks, leaves, or hypocotyl are eaten and used in cooking’ … hypocotyl? It’s another word for stalk or stem… so a little tautology in the definition, I think!

According to one web-site – and I’m sure some of these are controversial, so take them as you would a nice crisp white celery stick, with a pinch of salt:

  • Celery only has 10 calories per large stalk
  • Celery may reduce inflammation so eat celery if you have joint pains, lung infections, asthma, or acne
  • Celery contains minerals including magnesium which can soothe the nervous system and help combat insomnia, and sodium
  • Celery regulates the body’s alkaline balance
  • Celery aids digestion; it has high water content and can also act as a diuretic
  • Celery contains Vitamin A; apparently it’s good for the eyes, lowers cholesterol, lowers blood pressure.
  • Celery may boost your libido
  • Celery may combat cancer

I’m not sure I believe all of that, but if you want to see more, here’s the link:

Having written about celery I think we may need to buy some when we go out shopping this afternoon… However, I doubt we will find what I have described above. We are more likely to find bright green (not white) celery, with a pungent, bitter taste, no nuttiness, little sweetness, and with very little actual celery flavour; Spanish farmers are great and they grow great crops, but the variety of celery they produce is not at all to my taste… I guess it’s better than nothing, and will help my diet, and if it’s really bitter, then I can always take the National Mark’s October recipe for celery soup:

Celery soup

  • 1 large head of celery, washed and chopped into equal sized pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1½ oz butter
  • 1 oz flour
  • 1 pint milk
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ pint boiling water
  • dice of toast
  1. boil the celery and onion until tender then rub through a sieve (or blend)
  2. melt the butter, stir in the flour, cook for a minute or so
  3. add the milk and bring to the boil, stirring vigorously
  4. add the celery and season to taste
  5. boil for eight minutes
  6. serve with the dice of toast

The recipe doesn’t mention what should happen to the water used for cooking the onion and celery but I would add it, and more butter and flour if it seems too thin – or cream! I would garnish with chopped celery leaves – the bright green ones from the middle