Sunday Sweets

Sundays are days usually given to rest but as you have seen I do at times go to Riversdale and cook.  Being a part of the Riverdsdale Kitchen Guild has let me meet some fellow historic cooks, one of those is Katy of whom I have talk about in previous missives.  We decided to meet together this Sunday, at her house, to do some experimental cooking.  One of the things I love about Katy is that she is eager to try all kinds of culinary stuff but it seems her passion at this time is sweets.  Besides loving food, Katy has another interest that I too enjoy and that interest is gardening but more specifically, herbs.  This year in her garden, she planted from seed the herb Angelica.  I grew it once in a pot on my patio but it did not return, come to find out if you let it flower and seed, it will not return…mental note for next time.

Anyway, the Angelica grew well and we wanted to try candying it.  There are many 18th and 19th c. receipts for candying or preserving Angelic so we tried one that is in The Italian Confectioner (1829).  We started by cutting the pieces into approximate 4″ in length.  Then following the receipt we boiled the pieces in salt water for a few minutes.  Once boiled you remove from the water, shock in cold water and peel.  Peeling was not easy so we did a few and left the thinner pieces unpeeled.  We noticed that peeled you could see the ridges better. 045

Once this was completed, the angelic is then to be boiled in a syrup of equal parts water and sugar.  Now we first tried what the receipt said to do and that was the equal parts water/sugar should weigh the same amount as the angelica.  Following the receipt we found that there just wasn’t enough to completely cover the Angelica so we doubled the syrup.  We boiled it for approximately 8 minutes then turned off the heat and allowed it to steep.  At this point you are to leave it alone then in 12 hours remove from syrup, reheat the syrup allowing to boil a few moments then pour back over the Angelica.  Since we did not have the time to complete the rest together, we decided to split the amount in half and complete the rest apart.


I had to wait till the next morning to reheat the syrup and pour back over the Angelica pieces.  Then 12 hours later I took half of the Angelica and rolled it in sugar then placed it in a 175 degree oven and let it dry for several hours.  They came out beautifully.  I took one piece for my family and I try.  Not to bad, if I say so myself.  It was very sweet with a hint of mint like liquorish.   The other half of the Angelica I left in the syrup.  The pieces look great but for some reason the syrup crystallized at the bottom of the container.  There may be a scientific reason I am unaware of but what is interesting is that the Angelica pieces have not seemed to crystallize.  In addition to comfits, I can now add candied Angelica to the list of sweets I have made.  Give it a try if you find yourself with a lot of Angelica growing in your yard.


Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 9:24 pm  Comments (1)  

Folklife Festival

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Having grown up in the Washington D.C. area is wonderful.  I know that many people think that of the area they are brought up in, but DC is an experience that I am not sure others would understand.  You may be able to tell me if there are other cities that offer an upbringing where there are so many free museums and events to attend, not to mention getting to meet and know people from different nationalities.  The free museums make up the  Smithsonian.  Events are many but I want to share with you an event I had never been to before even though it has been happening for many years.  The event is the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival.  A friend had placed some pictures on line of him and his family attending the event and they looked like they were having so much fun I wanted to look into it.  When I went to the web site I found that the Wales exhibit had cooking shows!  I went down to the Mall with my family on Wednesday of this past week.  I walked straight to the tent that would have the cooking.  The first show had already started.  It was on Baking by chef Angela Gray.  She baked a savory and a sweet.  The sweet was a Rhubarb, strawberry and Caerphilly Crumble (scroll down for Angela’s receipt).  It smelled wonderful.  A couple of things that I learned from her one is that our butter here in America is a lighter butter then what the Welsh have on their tables.  That was such a helpful thing because I don’t know how many times I have made a receipts from England that turn out so dry I thought I had overworked the batter, now I know to add more butter.  The second, although, not as much of a surprise to me but she mentioned that the honey she used is much thicker then what she was given to use in the show.  I had noticed that some honeys I have purchased have had not only the difference in flavour but the consistency has always varied.   Her savory was an oggy made two different ways.  Although it is a pasty made in Cornwall, hers differed in that it did not use chunks but chopped up and variation in the vegetables used.  I wish I had written it down but I thought it was in the receipt book that she and the other chefs had collaborated in.  Alas, it wasn’t in it and I can not find it on the Internet.  But she did show two ways that her family serves it.  The first uses a lighter paste that is fried once stuffed with the filling and the second was the traditional way of the paste stuffed and folded in half then baked.

The second chef, Hazel Thomas, made two traditional foods in Wales; Cawl and Pice ar y maen (Welsh Cakes). I sat mesmerized that I cooked Cawl without even knowing it.  I had taken the left over lamb from Sunday’s cooking and added it to a pot of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and cabbage with broth.  Mine only differed from Hazel’s in that I had added the left over peas…I mean I had to use it up didn’t I.  After her demonstration I talked to her and told what I had just done the night before without realizing I had made Cawl.  She laughed and said that probably every nation makes it.  Both she and Angela were a joy to watch.  But the next chef was so different…

The third show that I sat through featured Anthony Evans.  Gareth Johns was a commentator for Anthony’s show.  To let you all know, Anthony is a young chef who is a hunter but a conservationist.  I know to some that may sound like an oxymoron but really true hunters want people to hunt only what they will eat and not hunt for sport.  I agree the whole way, I want there to be wild game for my children’s children, so only take what you eat and leave the rest for the next person.  Anyway the other thing that he strongly believes in and I myself have said in my presentations is that our children need to know where their food comes from. It may be squeamish to some but it will give people pause for thought before wasting food.  We are so separated from where our food comes from that many children only think food originates at the store (now before anyone gets made at me, I don’t believe all children think this but I do think many are of this mind). Enough of that…back to Anthony’s demonstration…Here he walks out holding a recently killed pheasant, feathers and all.  He says that he could pluck it clean but it would take a long time so he is going to skin it.  At this point those of you who have heard of skinned peacocks in  medieval cooking may have been excited like I was but alas, he was not talking of that kind of skinning.  He said for those that are squeamish to turn away.  Then he sat the pheasant on the ground, placed a foot on each wing, then with hands on the legs of the bird he pulled and lo and behold that bird pulled clean apart showing a completely clean breast.  He twisted off the legs and there he had the breast of the pheasant which is really where all the meat is.  He took the meat and made strips dipped in flour then egg, then bread crumbs and fried.  He served it with a compote of cherries and berries.

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Gareth John’s a chef who leads the Slow Food movement in Wales, added much to Anthony’s demonstration giving definitions and answering questions.  I met up with Gareth afterwards and he loved the fact that I teach and cook over an open fire.  I wish I had gotten to talk more but the next demonstration was next, not to mention that my mother and I were starving.  I left the cooking tent to go get lunch.  I decided to have Glamorgan sausage.  It was delicious!

I wanted to sit and listen to the rest of the presenters but I did want to spend some time with my son.  I did get to see bits of the other presenters.  To see the other here is an article in the Washington Post: Welsh Rare Bits at the Folklife Festival.  Like I said I did buy the companion cook book and I look forward to trying some Welsh food and I definitely anticipate what next year’s Folklife Festival brings.

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 8:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Another Sunday cooking

This past Sunday I did get to cook with my friend Katy at Riversdale.  With all this rain and cool weather it seems as if the produce at the Mansion is less or later in ripening then in past years.  We try, as all the other cooks at the mansion, to use what is produced in the garden.  I planned to make a tart or pie with the raspberries and Currants growing there.  Unfortunately, there were many Currants but few fully ripe raspberries so I picked enough to fill one jelly glass.  I cooked the fruit with an equal amount of sugar and a tiny bit of water.  I let it cook till bubbling then pulled it off the fire and allowed to cool enough before putting it in the jelly glass, which my son had bought me for Christmas.  I hope he is glad that it has finally been used and besides it does look nice on a table.

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The garden also has a lot of sorrel.  So in our menu we decided to make a sauce of sorrel and bitter orange juice for fish.  We planked a blue fish stuffed with lemon thyme and set it on the side of the fire to cook.  Blue fish is an oily fish so it roasts quite well.  The oranges we used for the sauce were some left over blood oranges that were quite tart. To make the sauce, the sorrel was chopped up and mixed with the juice of the blood oranges.  Because the juice was so tart we added a little sugar.  What a delightful sauce for the fish. I really want to try different sauces and this was different than anything I had had before.  But, I liked it.

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As for the rest of the menu, I brought any produce needed from home.  So here was the menu for the day:

Lamb roast

Blue fish with Sorrel and orange sauce

Potato Balls

Green Peas A LA Bougeoise

Squash soup

The Lamb was slowly roasted in a tin kitchen, or what you might deem a reflective oven.  We stuffed it with rosemary and placed it on the spit.  It was quite tender.  The peas first cooked in butter.  Then with onions and cabbage added, the peas were cooked in a ceramic pot.  I was thinking that the cabbages would cook down and release their water creating a sauce in the pot but after an hour of cooking over the coals found that they cooked but did not release enough water.  Flavourful though the peas were, it was different in that is there ended up being no liquid in the pot with them.  The potatoes were cooked, mashed with butter, a tiny bit of cream, and two eggs, formed into balls and cooked in a small biscuit oven.  They came out lovely.  Since we ran out of time I took the remainder home and cooked the lot in a casserole which work just as well as making them into balls.

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The last thing I want to talk about, which ironically was the first thing made, is the soup.  Although I found no receipt to follow for squash soup in the in the 18th C., I have found one in the late 19th C.  We took a butternut squash and cut it into chunks along with carrots and potatoes.  While doing that we fried some onions in the boiler with butter.  Once both parts were completed, we added them together in said boiler with enough broth to cover and some thyme.  Boiled until all was soft and then mashed the heck out of it with salt and pepper.

cookery 033The Day was grand and we completed all that we had planned save the Tart but the preserves was a good back up.  A few people stopped in to see what we were making-we always hope for more but are grateful for those who do support the kitchen guild.  I felt quite proud that Katy and I were able to get all done.

Published in: on July 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment