The garden adds to its glories

A new month and in the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, there is the usual delightful introduction written by either Ambrose Heath or Dorothy Cottington Taylor; I rather think Ambrose wrote it – I’ve read other things by him and this seems very much his style!

July is the gardener’s month again; and salads are in greater demand than ever. Weekend cottages and picnics put a strain on the housewife’s ingenuity, but beef and chickens are always ready to be disguised as galantine, and thus find even readier consumers.
The garden adds to its June glories with broad beans (to peel or not to peel, that is the question), early runner beans, globe artichokes for Jerusalem, and last but by no means least, vegetable marrows. This much-maligned vegetable deserves better treatment, certainly not the white and vapid sauce that usually encloses it. What have our cows done that their butter should not enshrine it. We must see it, sharing some of that golden dew with runner beans, which without it lose what slight flavour they possess.
Currants, cherries and raspberries are now added to our fruit; and early apples to give the first taste of joys which will be with the luckier of us until next May – the Englishman’s fruit, just as beef is his meat.

So what does the calendar suggest for July? Hollandaise soup, anyone? Maybe followed by chicken with green peas? And would you like your chicken and peas accompanied by spinach fritters maybe, or devilled potatoes? And to follow maybe the delicious sounding blackcurrant and almond paste tart?

Here is the recipe for the soup, in case you just want a light lunch!

Hollandaise soup

  • 1 cucumber peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 turnip peeled and diced
  • 1 teacup peas
  • 1 oz flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 quart (2 pints) stock
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 oz butter
  • ¼ pint cream or unsweetened evaporated milk (this is a recipe from the early 1930’s – I think I will go with the cream!)
  • salt, pepper, mace
  1. put the vegetables into salted boiling water and “cook lightly” – I guess just for a few minutes!
  2. melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes but do not allow to colour
  3. add stock and seasoning to the butter and flour, stir vigorously and bring to the boil then simmer for fifteen minutes
  4. blend the cream and egg yolks, take the stock from the heat and stir in cream and eggs well, return to the heat and cook very gently for five minutes, DO NOT BOIL!!
  5. add the vegetables and serve

An ingenious salad…

I’ve written a lot about salads, ingenious and otherwise, but in the introduction to June’s selection of recipes from the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, Augustus heath and Mrs D.D. (Dorothy Daisy) Cottington-Taylor, offer six suggestions. There are other recipes too, but the ingenious salad mention comes in the introduction, which I wrote about last year:

A new month and a new set of notes in the 1930’s recipe book issued by the National Mark to promote home-grown fruit, vegetables ans other produce. The book, the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, was written by Ambrose Heath and Dorothy Daisy Cottington-Taylor; I don’t know for certain, but I think Ambrose might have written the texts and Dorothy oversaw the recipes… that is only a guess based on reading other books Ambrose wrote.

June is principally the month for fruits. Strawberries, and gooseberries – is it not these that June evokes? And the rest of the kitchen garden (reflected in our greengrocer’s window) abets her. peas, the first early beans, new potatoes, lettuce.. for these we will willingly sacrifice departing seakale and asparagus.
Chickens continue apace, and ducklings old enough to braise, if only an excuse to accompany them with oranges. Beef we shall begin to think of as cold: the noble derby Round, rosy sirloin or rib, boiled silverside in a symphony of grey and pink. An ingenious salad will absorb the remains.
In half the year our housewife has scarcely sampled half the charms of National Mark. The whole summer plethora of fruit and vegetables is now before her, and she can taste and taste again until the winter months proffer their condolences in cans of what she now enjoys. Summer! The bees are busy collecting National Mark honey that she will eat next winter. Calves are growing into Select, Prime and Good beasts, in English and Scottish meadows. But what is more important is that strawberries are ripening and raspberries, too. Gather ye strawberries while ye may – the delicious and yet most uncertain fruit in England. But even for one dish, summer would have earned its glory!

I love the way these little monthly introductions are written, so expressive! So charming! … and in a sweet way quite hilarious!

... others of us put jam on first then cream

… strawberries and a cream tea…


Cordials… invigorating effect on the heart…

I have most of my cookery books old and new beside me here while I’m writing… If I get stuck with my plot, or my characters, or just in general, I’ll spend a little time distracting myself with recipes and articles about food and drink. The other day I wrote about the curious ingredients Ambrose Heath used in his wine-making recipes, in his little pocket-sized book, unambiguously called, Homemade Wines and Liqueurs. it was published in 1956 – which seems to have been a very good year for recipe book publications!

The little book, and its companion books, were published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd, a successful company founded in 1912, which published among other book, many of P. G. Wodehouse’s novels.  Herbert George Jenkins the owner was born in 1876;  he was a British writer but died very young at the age of forty-seven. he wrote comic books about a Mr Joseph Bindle, and detective stories ‘starring’ Malcolm Sage. He also wrote non-fiction, including a biography of George Borrow and  William Blake.

Back to cordials, which Ambrose Heath supposed to be so invigorating for the heart… I guess we tend to think of cordials as fruit syrups which are diluted with water, lemonade or soda; for Mr Heath, they were a basic ingredient infused in brandy.

I expected them to be fruits, and indeed some were,

  • blackberry (sounds wonderful)
  • black currant (ditto)
  • cranberry (and I thought cranberries were recent arrivals from America)
  • damson (lovely!)
  • gooseberry (interesting)
  • plum
  • raspberry

There was Highland cordial –  whisky flavoured with white currants, lemon rind and ginger essence, and then a selection which sounded more like cough mixtures:

  • aniseed
  • caraway
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • ginger

I don’t think I will be trying to make any of them… in my experience such things don’t taste nearly as nice as expected! I was intrigued though, that in this section was a recipe for Athol Brose, which I thought was a dessert:

  • 1 lb runny honey
  • 1½ pint whisky
  • 1 cup water
  1. mix the honey and water, stirring with a silver spoon (what else??!!)
  2. gradually stir in the whisky, stirring rapidly until a froth rises
  3. bottle and keep tightly corked


Coltsfoot, comfrey, and gorse… but wine?

I have a very small, pocket-sized book called Home-Made Wines and Liqueurs: How to Make Them, by Ambrose Heath. He was a prolific cookery book writer, editor and journalist, born in 1891 and dying in 1969. The book was one of a series by various authors, and included Ice Cream Dishes, Cocktail Snacks and Canapes, Dishes Without Meat and Biscuits and American Cookies.

Many of the wine and liqueur recipes are from fruit and vegetables, as you might expect, especially from a book published in 1953, not long after the war, when people were using what they readily had to make things they otherwise could not get. So, apples, apricots and blackberries, and well-known other ingredients such as dandelion and cowslip – and even such things as beetroot and carrot… But coltsfoot (“this well-known picturesque if pernicious weed (tussilago farfara) whose bright yellow-rayed flowers appear before the leaves in early spring”) comfrey (“this unusual wine made from the roots of wild comfrey (symphytum officianale) which is commonly found in watery places and on the banks of rivers and streams”) and gorse (ulex, furze or whin) – isn’t that rather prickly?

Hedgerow wine sounds delicious, but mangold? I think mangold is what I know as manglewurzel which is a type of beet most commonly used for animal feed, but also edible for humans – but there is another mangold which is a type of chard – I cannot imagine using that to make wine! Other roots with recipes, turnip wine, parsnip wine and potato wine – tomato? I don’ think so ,not for me thanks… Sage wine? Sounds utterly disgusting! Red clover wine?

Imagine picking two quarts of red clover blossoms – a quart is two pints or nearly five cups… Come to think of it, imagine picking two quarts of flowers from the prickly gorse! There is no mention of the quantity of coltsfoot, but another recipe I came across says five litres of the little things – where would you find that quantity? And as for the roots of the comfrey you have dug up from the banks of your local stream, according to Mr Heath you need four or five roots cut into pieces four or five inches long – not very exact!

Here is a link to the coltsfoot wine recipe:

Why are leeks always braised?

The title of this post is a bit deceptive… because the braising of leeks isn’t my query but something from eighty years ago in the National Mark Calendar of Cooking. Apparently, a French friend visiting either Ambrose Heath or Mrs Cottington Taylor, the authors of the book, enquired why leeks are always braised in England. I hadn’t realised they were – but maybe that was the case in the 1930’s. Braising seems a sensible way to cook a vegetable and retain all its flavour, slowly in a little butter, lid on the pan so it steams slightly. Mr Heath or Mrs C.T. recommend cooking the leeks in salted water, or in stock, and then serving them in cheese, tomato or caper sauce – a caper sauce which is bechamel with chopped capers.

In the same section of the little book, the April section there is a recipe for creamed broccoli, which I initially thought sounded unpleasant, a sort of broccoli purée, but in actual fact it is briefly cooked broccoli and sliced onion, layered with cheese sauce in a pie dish, topped with breadcrumbs and grated cheese, then browned under the grill… this sounds quite tasty! Better than boiled leeks!

Monday rissoles

Here is a little more from the National mark Calendar of Cooking… I wrote this a while ago, reflecting on what happened to the left over Sunday roast…

When we were young, we had the traditional roast joint on Sunday; we weren’t served  great slabs of it but beautifully thinly carved slices. Thin slices were more economical, and there were always plenty of home-grown vegetables and lashings of gravy ( my dad’s phrase – except he would have called it ‘gyppo’, a word I think he picked up in the army) and there was always dessert to follow, home-made by mum or very occasionally ice-cream. We didn’t have a fridge at that time, and nor did most people, let alone a freezer, so the block of ice-cream would have been bought at the newsagent, and kept wrapped in newspaper in the coolest place there was.

Left over meat was used throughout the week… we only had a small joint, so maybe we would get two extra meals from it, a shepherd’s or cottage pie, cold with jacket potatoes, or my favourite, made into rissoles… My mum’s rissoles were made from minced cold beef, left over cooked carrots, onion, and a dash of tomato ketchup; the mixture was formed into patties, dipped in seasoned flour and fried – they would have been fried in dripping because we didn’t have cooking oil in those days.

In the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, there is an April recipe which sounds very similar except it has the addition of potato and bacon and is seasoned with nutmeg as well as salt and pepper… sounds delicious! They are called beef cakes, not rissoles, and this is what the authors of the little book, Ambrose Heath and Mrs D.D. Cottington Taylor says about them: When the piece of cold bacon shows signs of becoming all fat, bear these little beef cakes in mind. I think by bacon they might mean a boiled or roast ham joint.

  • ¾ lb cold roast beef, minced
  • ¼ lb fat boiled bacon, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • onion, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, baked in their jackets and the insides removed
  • butter
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley
  • tomato sauce to serve
  1. fry the onion in butter but don’t let brown
  2. mix the minced meats, mashed potato, seasonings and onion
  3. add the egg and make into ten little flat round cakes
  4. fry and brown on both sides in butter and serve with tomato sauce

I like the recipe, but I think I would perhaps coat in seasoned flour like my mum did with her rissoles… although, I guess burgers aren’t floured before cooking!

The frivolous croquettes

Continuing yesterday’s them of the National mark Calendar of Cooking…

A new month, and forget about April Fools, and think about the year turning and days becoming warmer, and all sorts of new seasonal vegetables appearing in abundance. here is what the National Mark Calendar of Cooking has to say for April:

April is Spring’s harbinger, if only the first brave spears of asparagus tell us so. Chickens are now growing lustily, tell us still more, and ducklings quack-quacking on the village pond re-echo the welcome sounds of other Springs. We can eat a little more easily, and with the lengthening days demand a lighter fare. And elegant, too, for are not the manifestations of warmer days appearing in the greengrocer’s as those little bunches of radishes to make our salads so much gayer?
April is a good month to furbish up potato cookery. The humble boiled or mashed or fried, the greedy baked or roast, the frivolous croquettes and fritters – these all pall at last. It is still two months to the crop of new ones and meanwhile there are quite three hundred different ways to choose from. The old potato is a bore – let’s wake him up: and induce him to make friends with other vegetables!
Summer is still tantalizingly far away but we still have our canned sunshine, and why not a pie? Potatoes and pies. An apple pie too: for Bramleys are still about. Two good resolutions for a good month!

I don’t know whether Ambrose heath wrote these little introductions, or whether it was his co-author Dorothy Daisy Cottington Taylor… but aren’t they fun! I have never come across the verb ‘furbish’ before, and never heard croquette potatoes described as frivolous… but I shall think of it next time I see them on a menu!