Wednesday 28 February 2024

Another Load of Old Tripe

In between role playing The Lady with the Lamp, and Mrs Mopp I have been out in the woodland working hard.  Recently, the weather has been so wet that the annual tidy has been much delayed, brambles have run rampant in parts, branches have fallen and need to be gathered, sawn into logettes, or turned into woodchip for the pathways.  Some jobs are still outstanding because we need to replace the wonderful machine which does all that munching and crunching.

Jobs done, as far as possible,  I was at a loose end and somehow found myself sorting through my collection of old recipe books, trying to decide whether I could move any of them on to a new home.  I tried, truly I tried.

This was taken from my old blog and is
from quite a number of years ago.

As I flicked through I was surprised by the sheer number of bookmarks I had placed in a number of them and I found myself going back down a rabbit hole which I  had abandoned a few years ago.  

They marked pages of recipes for mock dishes, also known as camouflage cooking.  The art of cooking something to either look like, or taste similar to, another dish.  

I totally understand doing that during times of rationing, or through lack of funds, when resourceful cooks did their best to use what little was available and try to make it appealing/palatable.  Yes, if I was that way inclined I would also enjoy doing it simply for the challenge, unfortunately I have to scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush instead...

I must admit that I am more perplexed by why anyone would want to disguise a good thick steak by soaking it in wine and vinegar for a couple of days before cooking and presenting it as venison.  More cachet to being able to serve venison to your guests, perhaps? 

Why would anyone make mock brains, tripe, or brawn?  I suppose a hundred or so years ago these were eaten more broadly.  I have never knowingly tried brains but I do remember trying tripe (disgusting) and also brawn (meaty bits in jelly and equally disgusting).  When I was young I was quite unable to bring myself to eat mussels or cockles and wouldn't entertain the idea of those awful chewy whelks.  These days I love both the cockles and mussels but still can't bring myself to try whelks. I have digressed.  Sorry.

Mock Brawn

Boil a pair of neats feet very tender, take the meat off and have ready a piece of belly pork, salted.  Boil, take out the bones and roll the feet and pork together.  Roll very tight and tie, boil until very tender.  Keep in a sousing liquid for half an hour.  Strain and let it get cold.

Mock Caviare

Bone a few anchovies, chop them and pound them in a mortar with some dried parsley, a clove of garlic, a little cayenne, salt, lemon juice and a very little salad oil.  Serve on toasted bread or biscuits.

or you may prefer it this way:

Cook one cod's roe in boiling salted water for three-quarters of an hour, drain well and when cold put in a bowl with lemon juice and olive oil.  Beat to a creamy consistency. Add mustard and a dash of cayenne or a little paprika.

Mock Olives  

Plan ahead and pick green plums, before the stone has formed, brine them for three days, drain.  Boil vinegar seasoned with allspice, mace, mustard seed, bay leaves, an onion, grated horse-radish and salt, for a few minutes.  Strain, and when cold pour over the plums packed in jars.  Cover well and keep in a dark, dry place for three months before using.

Search long enough and you can find a 'mock' recipe for almost anything: Scallops, Whitebait, Lobster, Rabbit, Sweetbreads, or Turkey.  Mock Chop Suey, anyone?  Mock Almonds, made from stale bread, Mock Mince Pies, even Mock Apple Pies.  

Wash that lot down with Mock Port, Mock Champagne Punch or even a Mock Whisky.

The mind boggles.  

Was anyone fooled by them?  If the dishes were really delicious, surely it would be better to celebrate that and give them a name of their own?  Ah, but then I wouldn't have had all this fun looking for recipes easily identifiable by the word 'Mock'.

Now, excuse me while I go and find some Mock Devonshire Cream to have with my Mock Lemon Pie.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

I Have Had Better Days

 It began badly with Sparky-cat vomiting on my feet.  Luckily, said feet were naked and were planted quite firmly on the tiles of the conservatory.   The floor was a doddle to clean, the feet a little trickier.

My concern was not for feet or floor, rather for Sparky.  She settled down to sleep for a couple of hours, which allowed us to get the two grandchildren off to catch the school bus.

Grandson was returning to school after having the sickness bug that is apparently circulating at the moment.  Granddaughter was fine, but grumpy.  

All was well until suddenly Sparky appeared and vomited again - at precisely that moment the phone went to say that Granddaughter had been sick at school and would need to be collected and cared for.

She is now tucked up in her bed, bucket at the ready, water to hand.

Sparky has taken herself off somewhere and can't be found.   I wonder whether this is it for her and if so, she has chosen to do things her own way.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Aspiration v Reality

Given my fairly large collection of old cookery books it would not be unreasonable to think that I was a good cook or, at the very least, had an interest in food.    My mother was a really good cook.  Big hearty meals, very much in the style of the picture above (Darling Buds of May).

Unfortunately for my family my interest is based more in the history contained within my old books.

Of course I tried to feed them well and have always cooked nourishing food for them.  Indeed, I still cook for two of my grandchildren each day.

In my head I have produced food as above but I fear that the reality was rather more:

and these days, now that it is often just the two of us:

Sunday 18 February 2024

An Abundance of Wild Garlic

 I took a good walk around Owl Wood today, mainly to check to see whether I could find any Jackdaws.  I am happy to say there is no sign of them - so far.

The snowdrops are out in glorious abundance, the primroses and daffodils are almost good to go and everywhere is coming back to life.  

There were two wonderful surprises.

Wild Garlic

Masses of wonderful wild garlic.  Each year it spreads a little further.

Primroses and Wild Garlic in Pet Cemetery - Toby I and Toby II

So do the violets.  At first I couldn't see any, then I found one shyly peeping out from near the trunk of a tree.   Once I had found one I seemed to get my eye in, and found lots of them.

It is time to pull out the hedgerow recipe books to make a start on using some of those lovely garlicky leaves.  Wild garlic bread, scones, pesto, perhaps I could infuse some oil and, of course, it can be added to the soups I make.  That should keep me happily occupied for a while.

Thursday 15 February 2024

A New Build, No Planning Permission Necessary

 Due to historical reasons, the outer doors in Parsonage Cottage are all located at the furthest end of the house from the drive and barn area.  It is a long house.   This was not a problem when we had the dogs, they could hear the crunch of gravel which heralded any arrival and would let me know that someone was out there.

Because I was expecting a large box of bulbs to be delivered I had switched the security camera on to the kitchen television so that I could go down to collect them.  The delivery man wasn't there but one of the 'owl men' was.  He had just arrived and was about to ring for the gate key to Owl Wood.

Time for the annual brush up and check on the box itself.  This was good news because we had just been making plans to repair the old owl box, a little trickier now that we are in our dotage.

Even better news, he had made a new box and they wanted to install it today.

The deed has been done and I took a quick snap, of course!

I hear the Tawny Owls each night, they are pretty vocal in the surrounding barley field.  A wonderful night sound.

Fingers crossed that this new house does what the old box has failed to do for the last few years.  

I know that Jackdaws need a nest, too, but not this box and not this year.  I may have to keep a close eye and chase them away if I see signs of Jackdaws gathering sticks and twigs. 

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Hebridean Cookbook

 In the late '60's my father was posted to RAF Stornoway in the Western Isles/Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  .  We had previously spent three years in Hong Kong, followed by postings to Rutland and then the Wirral so we were quite used to packing up and moving to somewhere new.  The whole family moved - well, all except my older brother who remained at university in England.

I was 14 years old and happily settled at my all girls' school but the idea of moving to an island in the wilds of Scotland held a certain appeal.  The wilder the better, I thought.

Of course our new life was not quite as I had imagined.  

It was infinitely better, especially once we left the comfortable, but very ordinary,  rental in Stornoway and moved into a pretty basic croft house out in the country.  It would be fair to say that it was probably rather less wonderful for my parents, but I loved it. 

My younger brother attended the tiny school in the neighbouring village, up the hill.  Morning and afternoon I had a ten mile journey into Stornoway on a school service mini-bus.  It would be true to say I dislike almost everything about that school.  Several male teachers were more than happy to wield a thick and heavy tawse for even minor misdemeanours.  The French, French teacher was a demon for that.

Luckily, I loved living out in our tiny village of half a dozen crofts, helping (or more likely hindering) the old couple next door.   John and Marion very kindly allowed me to tag along as they tended their 'beasts'.  They kept a few head of cattle and a flock of sheep and they let me help with all the chores - milking, driving the cattle to the pasture, injecting or dipping the sheep.  Thrilling stuff.

The stove in our kitchen was fuelled by peat.  This had to be cut, dried, gathered in and then stacked in similar fashion to an old fashioned haystack.  The villagers introduced us to these chores and showed us which peat banks we could cut.  Jolly hard work but fun.

All these years later, whenever I consult the Hebridean Cookbook I am immediately transported back to the islands.  I bought the book years ago, mainly because I knew my mother would have loved it.  She was a big fan of Lillian Beckwith's books and had been since before we moved up to the islands.

Compared to the cookbooks of today, this is a very simple production, no big glossy food-porn photographs, just amusing illustrations of some island characters.  Each chapter begins with a little anecdote about Lillian Beckwith's experiences in her Hebridean home followed by recipes.

The Meat, Poultry and Game Section starts with the tale of 'Donald Bhan's Bad Cow, Recipes for'.  Apparently Donald's cow (dubbed 'bad' because of persistent fence-breaking) strayed too near the edge of a cliff and fell to its death.  The meat could not be wasted, so Donald and his friends decided to butcher the carcass and sell the meat to the islanders.  

Lillian Beckwith paid five shillings and ended up with over 30lbs of meat which she had to cook or preserve before it spoiled, electricity and refrigeration having not yet reached the islands.

Should you happen to have a brace of cormorants either hanging around, or buried in the traditional way, you could follow her instructions for Cormorant Casserole.  

As you would expect, there are lots of fish recipes - many mackerel recipes, or you could try Cod Liver Pie.  The very name makes me feel ill with past memories of that spoonful of that golden glistening horror which haunted my childhood.  Definitely not a recipe that I will be trying out.

There are cakes with amusing titles like 'Undressed Bride's Cake? Or you could try Zebra Pudding which, unlike the refined modern versions, calls for only four ingredients and is a substantial steamed pudding.  Meringues and souffles also feature, so something for everyone.

Part story book, part recipes, amusingly illustrated, the whole comes together and makes an entertaining read with some very useful recipes to boot.