An annual event in our kitchen

This is becoming an annual event… The 1936 National Mark Calendar of Cooking, has a recipe forMadeleines in its October suggestions. My beautiful daughter is Madeleine, so this is exactly the right thing to make for her…

  • 4 oz flour
  • 2 eggs
  • seedless raspberry jam
  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • dessicated coconut
  • glacé cherries and angelica for decoration
  1. butter 10-12 thimble-shaped moulds
  2. beat butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy
  3. fold beaten eggs one by one into mixture
  4. lightly fold in flour
  5. three-quarter fill each mould
  6. bake for 20 mins at 200ºC, 400ºF, gas mark 6 (this seems a little hot to me… but I’ll follow the recipe!)
  7. take out of tins, cool upside down on a baking tray
  8. it may be necessary to trim the bottoms so they all stand firm and are the same
  9. when still warm brush with raspberry jam, roll in the coconut, and decorate with a sliver of cherry and angelica cut to look like leaves

Queen’s pudding, Eve’s pudding, Queen Mab’s pudding?

It’s autumn, and for people who like puddings this is definitely pudding season! Here is something i wrote last year about Eve’s pudding:

Eve’s pudding… I somehow get it confused with queen of puddings or queen’s pudding… one is fruit and sponge and one is meringue and fruit… isn’t it? or am I in a total muddle? Consulting my trusty National Mark Calendar of Cooking for October, I see Eve’s pudding is the one with the sponge… so Queen’s pudding is the one with meringue… but when I look it up I find it also has sponge…

I don’t remember my mum making either, but I do remember eating one of these puddings and it wasn’t very nice, slimy with wet stuff at the bottom and the meringue chewy in a not nice way…

Eve’s pudding, apparently sometimes called Mother Eve’s pudding is at least two hundred years old, but I’m sure as with so many of these old traditional recipes, people have been making a version of it forever. “Oh we have a surfeit for fruit, surely we’re not having fruit pie again? Oh look we also have some eggs, why don’t we make a cake and put it with the fruit?!” Eliza Acton has a recipe for Queen Mab’s pudding, but it is not at all the same – it sounds a delicious and very rich cream and egg custard dessert flavoured with dried cherries, preserved ginger and its syrup, pistachio nuts, and a sauce of strawberries and raspberries or plums and pineapple…

Back to Eve’s pudding, which would have had a suet sponge before the invention of baking powder, and was a simplified version of the Duke of Cumberland’s pudding… here is the National Mark recipe:

Eve’s pudding

  • 1 lb of apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • small piece of butter

for the mixture:

  • 4 oz flour (self-raising or add ½ tsp baking powder)
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 egg
  • a little milk
  1. cook the apples in a little water, with the sugar, butter, zest and juice of lemon, and put into a pie dish
  2. cream butter and sugar
  3. beat in the egg and fold in the flour
  4. add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff
  5. pour mixture onto apples and bake in a moderate oven for 45 mins-1 hour (don’t undercook)

Cold feet require hot soup to enliven them

Yesterday, on the first day of October, I share an introduction to the month in terms of cooking from the 1930’s book The National Mark Calendar of Cooking. The authors were Ambrose Heath and Dorothy Daisy Cottington-Taylor; I don’t know if they wrote the whole book collaboratively or if one (probably Mrs. C.-T.) produced the recipes, and the other (probably Mr. H.) wrote the introductions and other remarks.

Ambrose Heath was born Francis Gerald Miller and was a journalist and cookery writer, who probably thought being Frank Miller was a bit ordinary, and so changed his name! His father was also Francis,  his mother was Rose… his brother was Wilfred… his sister was Margaret and his grandfather had been the British Consul in St Vincent Cope West Ireland . By the age of twenty Francis was already a journalist… I don’t know when he changed his name though. Ambrose seems a bit of a character so I think that he must have written the monthly introductions…

Look at this:

Ducks and geese and chickens make fine fare, and the day of the grilled steak and chop has arrived. The gurgling stew which helped so much in the summertime is needed now in earnest, and cold feet require hot soup to enliven them!

Isn’t it great?! ‘The day of the grilled steak and chop…’, ‘the gurgling stew… ‘, ‘cold feet require hot soup to enliven them!’

So here is something for your cold feet… Nothing could be better if you are chilly than borscht! Here are sixteen interesting facts about the famous Ukrainian beetroot soup:

In Ukraine, borscht has always been the symbol of a strong united family: all the ingredients come together melding and blending until they become one delicious flavoursome thing!

  1. Traditionally borscht was made for a wake, to send the dear departed to heaven!
  2. There are over 70 actual recipes for borscht – in actual fact there must a million more, as I am sure every family has their own traditional one. The most extravagant one is “Borscht Kiev”. The stock is made from beef, lamb and pork, and bread kvass (rye bread beer) is added
  3. In the region of Chernigov region, borscht is made with what is described as mushroom “ears” … which I think maybe mushroom filled pasta which look like little ears! (please tell me if I am wrong!)
  4. In the region of Zhytomyr there are two sorts of borscht one which I think is made with dry (or maybe stale) bread and mushrooms, the other with fruit.
  5. Funnily enough, there is one region which has no traditional borscht – Transcarpathia.
  6. The Galicians used to make a brilliantly red soup, just using roast beetroot, and with extra colour from cherry juice.
  7. Jewish Ukrainians used chicken stock with added sweetness (sugar or honey I guess!)
  8. There is a Moscow style borscht made with bouillon of beef and smoked meat, and then served with slices of sausage.
  9. The classic Ukrainian borscht has fresh pork fat, studded with cloves of garlic, salt and greens added once the pot has been taken off the heat, and then left to infuse,
  10. In the olden days, to add a pleasing sourness to the soup, sour milk, cabbage, berries or unripe apples were added. These days, tomatoes are more likely to give acidity – a change dating from the end of the nineteenth beginning of the twentieth century when tomatoes were imported from the USA
  11. In the UK we might use the price of a loaf of bread/pint of milk/pint of beer as a comparative price index; in Ukraine it is the borscht index – how much it costs to make the traditional soup!
  12. Famous borscht fans include Nikolai Gogol, Empress Catherine II and Anna Pavlova (although she is better known in the west for the meringue than the beetroot soup!)
  13. Borschiv in the Ternopil region has a soup festival every autumn! Sadly you have missed it this year, it was held on September 6th!
  14. ‘The borscht belt’ covers the areas where borscht is traditionally cooked – from south-eastern Poland through Ukraine, to Belarus and to the Russian regions around the Volga and the Dnieper.
  15. The Borshchovoe Range of mountains is in Transbaikalia… sadly it is named after the village of Borshchivka which is near the north-western foot of the range, not the soup.



Breakfasts become a matter of consequence

October 1st, and I am going to be cheeky and repost something I wrote last year…

The National Mark, an agency set up by the Ministering of Agriculture at the beginning of the 1930’s to set a standard for food; it so annoys me when British food and cooking is denigrated – British people have always enjoyed producing and cooking good food in interesting and different ways, The war years and the rationing had a huge impact which continued into the 1950’s; but whatever the standards in restaurants and cafés, I’m sure home-cooked food was as good as anywhere else in the world. Many families had vegetable gardens, and allotments, not just to save money but to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables of the season and to experiment with different and unusual varieties

Ambrose Heath (1891-1969) and Dorothy Daisy Cottington-Taylor (1891-1944) who wrote the little recipe book have an introduction to each month; elegantly written and a real insight to home cooking in the 1930’s.

October dives still further into winter, and breakfasts become a matter of consequence. Eggs must once more be studied – and mushrooms. Closer acquaintance with the various cuts of beef is recommended too. The garden still bears up, though there are almost daily secessions. Peas have left us long since, and runner beans are almost done – quite if Jack Frost is about. But parsnips will be all the better for his touch, and so will celery. Cauliflower is a newcomer and usually plentiful and so is red cabbage, a fine vegetable when eaten hot in some way as described elsewhere in these pages; but the vegetable marrows have by now been ‘jammed.’

Ducks and geese and chickens make fine fare, and the day of the grilled steak and chop has arrived. The gurgling stew which helped so much in the summertime is needed now in earnest, and cold feet require hot soup to enliven them!

Evenings out, friends to dine, a snack after the theatres or the pictures: these arouse the housewife’s interest in good food again. Something very attractive, something unusual, something savoury, something deliciously appetising! She knows by now that her National Mark can be relied on.

By the way, the elegant little wood cut illustrations were done by Blair Hughes-Stanton, (1902-1981).

Once we came to eat it, it was very nice… but…

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking was published in 1936, but I still use it – and maybe many other people do too! I came across it in a second-hand book shop, it was only about £5 but worth every penny.

I have shared his introduction to September recipes before, but her it is again:

September brings cooler and more autumnal weather. Darker and damper evenings impel the production of the soup index once more, and we can look a roast joint in the face again with equanimity, if not definite approval. The happy housewife’s list of vegetables grows. Brussels sprouts are now included and endive – a pleasant and unusual salad.

Chickens are much larger, almost monsters now; and with Michaelmas day, the goose comes into his prime. Grapes hang luscious in the greenhouses, tomatoes on their vines. 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 – names to conjure with. Hungrier and less difficult to please, the mere man relapses into his autumnal habits, and the housewife knows her task will be less exacting for the next six months!

A couple of years ago, inspired by the reference to pears, and loving ginger, I had a go at making a pear and ginger cake… and this is what happened

It was a very funny mixture; first of all there was only a very small amount of plain flour (plus baking powder) and a large amount of ground almonds, secondly, although I had followed the recipe precisely and with the correct sized tin, there was hardly enough mixture to cover the halves of pear. I cooked it for the correct amount of time (50-70 minutes – and then I cooked it for an extra 15) but when I turned it out and turned it over, there was an actual puddle of wet, yes wet mixture in the middle, which you may just be able to see in the picture. I put it back in the oven upside down so the pears were on top for another 15 minutes and it was just about cooked – yes I know ginger cake should be gooey – but not runny!

However… once we came to eat it, yes it was very nice… but I still am not sure the recipe is quite correct! I’ll investigate and try again because it does look lovely with the halves of pear showing, golden and yummy!

Simply watercress, even more simply pears

When my husband and I first got together we each had a stash of cookery books, which eventually became a single stash. A book he often used – and in fact I don’t know where it is now, was called something like ‘Four Ingredient Meals’ – and that is what the recipes were, all made with just four ingredients. I’m sure a lot of us cook like that anyway – ‘oh what do I have, spring onions,prawns and eggs… so omelette with spring onions, prawns and eggs‘… So when we see actual recipes which are simple and yet interesting, it’s a gift! I notice that Jamie Oliver’s most recent book is ‘5 Ingredients – Quick & Easy Food’ so he’s thinking along the same lines!

In my little 1936 National Mark Calendar of Cooking, there is a September recipe for watercress soup – I love watercress, it’s full of iron, so I will probably love the soup!

Watercress Soup

  • floury potatoes
  • watercress
  • cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • lemon juice

(OK, so it’s five ingredients!)

  1. boil the potatoes
  2. when nearly done add the watercress leaves
  3. when the potatoes are cooked, rub them and the watercress through a sieve (these days you can just blitz or blend them)
  4. return o the pan with a little extra water if needed, but do not boil
  5. blend the cream and egg and add to the soup off the heat and stir very well
  6. season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste

Maybe if this is just a light lunch, after the soup and crusty bread and butter, how about an even simpler three ingredient dessert:

Pears with butter

  • pears, peeled, cored, sliced
  • butter
  • sugar
  1. layer the pear slices in a buttered dish with more butter and sugar between the layers
  2. top with dots of butter and sugar, brown in the oven

Delicious served with cream!

You may wonder why i have sheep as my featured image, well, very near where these sheep are there is a little stream which runs into the sea and growing in it is watercress!

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!