Christmas party and Apple Meringue

It’s our family Christmas party tonight…

The National Mark, introduced in the late 1920’s, aimed to improve the quality of food, by regulating it; to help people become better and more creative cooks, while still being careful and economical, using locally grown produce, a Calendar of Recipes was produced in a little booklet.

At the beginning of each month’s recipes was a list of vegetables in season and obviously these would have been things families would eat. Much on the list is exactly what we would find in our greengrocer’s today, such as broccoli, celery, leeks and parsnips, but there are some items which I’m not sure would be in every fruit and vegetable department:

  • chicory
  • horseradish
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • mustard and cress (this seems to have gone completely out of favour)

As well as the foods, there are eleven recipes to go with them each month, and December obviously features turkey ‘and its Accompaniments’ including a recipe for chestnut stuffing, an idea of how to use up leftovers and Christmas cake. I was interested to see that included in the recipes is one for Brussels sprouts with chestnuts… and this is a recipe written over eighty years ago; it only seems recently that all the TV chefs were cooking this, and I read a comment recently that nearly all the chestnuts sold are cooked with Brussels sprouts… well, the National Mark was certainly ahead of the game!

As we come up to Christmas, there are loads of get-togethers and parties, and next week our book club are having a gathering; I am making a dessert and I think I will use this National Mark recipe:

Apple Meringue

  • 1½lb apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz butter
  • 3-4 oz sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • mace
  1. peel, core and slice the apples, simmer in a little water with the sugar
  2. when cooked, beat to a smooth paste adding the yolks of the eggs and the other ingredients
  3. put in small oven-proof dishes, or a single larger dish
  4. beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in the remaining sugar
  5. put the meringue on the puddings 9 the recipe suggest decorating at this stage with angelica or glacé cherries but I won’t)
  6. bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown

December and the last month of the calendar!

I shared this last year – and as it is the first day of December, it’s timely to share it again:

The little National Mark booklet, published in the early 1930’s follows the year with recipes and suggestions of what to cook with the seasonal produce available. In December, the cookery booklet applauds the ‘hostess-housewife’ in what we would think is a very dated way, but it was of its time and is rightly celebrating the very hard work that most housewives undertook every day, without our wonderful technological gadgets and aids, and in many if not most cases without the help of the husband.

Here are the words of wisdom from Ambrose Heath and Mrs D.D. Cottingon Taylor, and I love the surreal image of the housewife enthroned upon her kitchen table!:

December and the last month of the calendar! Of all the months this is the one when Cook holds sway. and some sign of greediness may be permitted. The hostess-housewife girds herself for the fray of entertaining friends and relatives and with a determined mein prepares her Christmas kitchen battery. Pardonable that she should feel a kindly rivalry towards those who will receive her hospitality. She naturally wants her entertaining to be the best, for she is a proud woman. Amid the congratulations of her guests – enthroned on the kitchen table with her rolling-pin sceptre-like in one hand and the National Mark Book in the other – she will reveal her secret : National Mark! A happy Christmas! Tired out but happy in her triumph, the crockery washed, the children packed to bed, the guests all gone, she reaps the reward of her labour and her enterprise. And in the morning she will awake to another day, the same as so many before but, after the twelve months’ experience easier and happier… Hurrah for National mark! And a Happy New Year!

A simple homely dish

November from the National Mark Calendar of Cooking – I shared this a couple of years ago:

The 1930’s National Mark recipe book has some recipes which we could find today in any modern recipe book, which again proves that British cooking doesn’t deserve the reputation it had. I dare-say after the war there were many cafés and restaurants which served sub-standard food, and there were plenty of good reasons for that. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants today where the food is ordinary or poor – but that doesn’t mean British cooking as a whole is poor… but I’d better get off my pet hobby-horse and get back to the November recipes from the National Mark Calendar of Cooking.

The recipe book, written by Ambrose Heath and Mrs D.D. Cottington Taylor, is already looking forward to Christmas because there is a pudding recipe included (flour, eggs, beef suet, breadcrumbs, raisins, currants, sultanas, sweet almonds, mixed peel, dark brown sugar, nutmeg, mixed spice, zest and juice of a lemon and brandy) and mincemeat ( apples, carrots, beef suet, mixed peel, currants, raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries, Demerara sugar, almonds, mixed spice, brandy or raisin wine)

  • leek and potato soup
  • braised beef
  • onions stuffed with beef and mushrooms
  • bubble and squeak – a good tip!
  • egg and potato casserole
  • red cabbage
  • apples with chocolate
  • fruit milk pudding
  • cheese bread
  • stuffed celery

The soup sounds quite luxurious with eggs, cream and butter added towards the end, once it has been blended and sieved; the braise beef is prepared in an economical but creative way – the meat cut into slices but not quite cut right through so it has the appearance of a book and between the ‘pages’ is a stuffing of liver, onion and breadcrumbs, tied round to secure it and simmered in stock with herbs and added vegetables. There are two recipes for red cabbage, one from Limousin in France with added chestnuts and pork fat, and the other as a casserole with onions and spices and vinegar and sugar to give a sweet and sour slant.

The apple dessert has the cooked fruit filled with a chocolate sauce and covered in meringue which is baked in the oven until golden; the fruit milk pudding seems the most dated of recipes, but I guess it could be reworked to make something more current but with a retro style it is a dish with fruit in the bottom (the recipe calls for canned fruit, but I think we would use fresh!) covered with tapioca simmered in milk and with egg yolk and sugar added when it is cooked, then a meringue topping added and put back into the oven to brown.

The cheese bread is a simple homely dish, of bread soaked in milk and gently fried in butter with a cheesy topping, and the stuffed celery is celery stuffed with Stilton…

Pears, that loveliest of all,

It’s chutney/jam/pickling time of year! Here is something i wrote last year about delicious sounding pickled pears:

I came across a recipe for pickled pears in the September section of the National Mark Calendar of Cooking: in the introduction to the month, Ambrose Heath and/or Dorothy Cottington Taylor write “Long evenings and idle dinner-time propel us towards dessert, and before the cobnuts we shall sample an apple or perhaps one of the first pears; for apples, say a Worcester Pearmain, with its crisp sweet flesh; for pears, that loveliest of all, Doyenne do Comice.” We don’t have a pear tree but we do have an apple tree; it bears plenty of fruit but for some reason they are not very sweet. we don’t often have desserts, only when we have friends round, and i did try drying the apples in rings and although they taste quite nice and last for a long time, we don’t eat many of them either.

So I wonder if I could pickle them? there is the recipe I found for pickled pears, which sounds rather nice.

Pickled pears

  • 6 lbs pears/apples cored and cut in equal sized pieces ( (a) it doesn’t specify whether they should be peeled – use your own judgement, (b) if you use apples choose ones which will remain firm in cooking, (c) the quantities are rather large so half or reduce by a third and use your own judgment on the amount of spices – I think in general we like stronger flavoured things than nearly ninety years ago; I would still use all the lemon zest and juice)
  • 4½ lbs sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 pieces of root ginger
  • ½ oz cloves
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • vanilla pod
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 pints of vinegar (I guess in the 1930’s when this book was written it would be malt vinegar – I think I would use cider or white wine vinegar)
  1. crush the ginger and tie it with the other spices in a muslin
  2. put vinegar, sugar and spices in a pan and bring to the boil
  3. add the fruit and cook slowly until tender
  4. remove the spice bag and pack the fruit into jars
  5. if the liquid seems very thin, boil quickly for a few minutes once the fruit has been removed until it becomes syrupy then pour into the jars
  6. cover and seal
  7. there is no mention on whether they should be left to mature or eaten straight away – trial and error I guess!

Not sure about these August recipes

I’;m looking at my little 1936 National Mark Calendar of Cooking; as the name suggests, this little recipe book offers seasonal dishes throughout the year, making use of whatever produce is available and at is best this month.

So this month there is a delicious selection of fresh fruit – including blackcurrant, cherries, gooseberries, loganberries, plums and red currants – our seasons have so changed in eighty years that the cherries and currants are all gone now, and vegetables including artichokes, beans of various sorts, beetroot, cucumbers and tomatoes.

There are two tomato recipes… and I really don’t think I would like either… maybe it’s just me, or maybe tastes have changed dramatically since 1936.

Tomato Ice

This is rather good as a first course, or as a soft cocktail.

  • tomatoes
  • cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  1. make a purée of some raw tomatoes by rubbing them through a coarse sieve
  2. strain through a fine sieve
  3. season with salt, pepper and cayenne
  4. freeze to what is technically known as ‘a mush’

‘A mush’ – I find a lot of humour in this little book. I’m not sure, I haven’t been able to find out, but I feel that the writer – from the two authors Ambrose heath and Dorothy Cottington-Taylor,  is Mr Heath. However, I really don’t find tomato mush appealing as either a first course or a soft cocktail – whatever the alcohol added!

Tomato jelly salad

  1. ¾ lb tomatoes
  2. ½ an onion, sliced
  3. 1 lettuce
  4. a little diced celery when in season
  5. ½ tsp sugar
  6. celery salt
  7. bayleaf
  8. 2 cloves
  9. salt
  10. ¼ pint hot water
  11. ½ oz gelatine
  12. mayonnaise
  • stew the tomatoes with the onions, celery, sugar, cloves, bayleaf, celery salt
  • rub through a seive
  • dissolve the gelatine in water and add to the tomato purée
  • when almost cold, pour into small, wetted, individual moulds
  • when set, turn out and serve on lettuce leaves
  • garnish with a tsp of mayonnaise

Of course, these days we can have almost whatever we want whatever the season; so if we wanted tomatoes or celery at any time at all, they would always be available! No, tomato jelly woudl not appeal – not so much the flavour, more the texture would be strange!


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

A breath of spring with rhubarb

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking was published in the early 1930’s, and was intended to promote local and national produce, and to make the most of the seasons best; there are two authors, Ambrose Heath a cookery writer, and Dorothy Daisy Cottington Taylor. I am not sure whether Mr Heath did the introductions and additional comments and Mrs C-T did the recipes, or whether they collaborated… maybe they didn’t even have much to do with each other, being given a brief and told to write and work to it. Maybe she chose and provided the recipes which he then write about, or maybe they were both presented with recipes and had to decide on them… it’s all lost in the intervening years of great British cooking – apart from a little ten-year intermission during and after the war.

Her is their introduction to February; it’s written in such a heart and cheery manner, and having read other books by Ambrose Heath, I am inclined to think this is his work:

February marks the new year in steady progress. The housewife ha had her first trial of National Mark and is beginning to taste some of the joys of her new adventure. If she is wise, she will start to experiment a little, and learn that to buy (and properly deal with) a boiling fowl is not so extravagant as it may sound. She will find too, that the rather dull days of late winter and be enlivened by summer sunshine stored in National Mark tins, and a dish of green peas or some delicious summer fruit will evoke memories – possibly of those very gardens and orchards where they were grown.
Healthy appetites will need more nourishment in this inclement weather and consideration of the cheaper cuts of National Mark beef will teach her how to save and serve good food as well.
A breath of spring comes with the first appearance of those slim pink sticks of rhubarb, and she can still count on a good supply of apples for dessert or cooking. A good time to pore over a cookery book, with one’s toes to the fire and half an eye on the clock.

What an evocative picture is painted; a 1930’s house with a coal fire, no double glazing but thick curtains, probably no central heating, polished floor boards, natural fabrics and woods, a radio playing – only one channel available, what was known as the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme didn’t stat until the 1940’s.

There was no frozen foods, so dried or tinned goods would have served; chickens which now are the cheapest meat available were more of a luxury, only less you reared your own; an ‘old boiling fowl’ would have been what was most cheap then and would have had to have been cooked for a long time, boiling, as described in one of February’s recipes.

I really feel as if this was Ambrose Heath describing the recipe for chicken – “a rather amusing way of presenting a boiled fowl!” :

Boiled Fowl with Spinach

  • boiling fowl – boiled and cut in pieces
  • butter
  • spinach
  • white sauce
  • egg – hard-boiled, kept hot, cut into rings
  1. fry the chicken in a little butter
  2. drain, arrange on a plate and pour over the white sauce, flavoured and coloured with the spinach (the spinach is boiled nad passed through a sieve)
  3. garnish with slices of egg

So how amusing, colouring white sauce green!! Hahahaha!