Tag Archives: Gervase Markham

Salads: “Cooking” and a recipe of sorts

SAMSUNG

Please forgive the sizeable gap between the first post on salads and this one, it’s been a busy January. Anyway, I have finally made an early modern salad, and as you can see from the picture above, it’s a rather magnificent looking thing. Here’s another photo of it pulled apart a bit. 

SAMSUNG

And here is the recipe I used, from Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (1631):

The compound Sallet.

To compound an excellent Sallat, and which indeed is vsuall at great feasts, and vppon Princes tables: Take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding Knife cut them grossely; then take as many Raisins of the Sunne cleane washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs thred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olyues, and as many Currants as of all the rest cleane washt: a good handfull of the small tender leaues of Red Sage and Spinage: mixe all these well together with good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottome of a great dish; then put vnto them Vinegar and Oyle, and scrape more Sugar ouer all: then take Orenges and Lemons, and paring away the outward piles, cut them into thinne slices, then with those slices couer the Sallet all ouer; which done, take the fine thinne leafe of the red Coleflower, and with them couer the Orenges and Lemons all ouer; then ouer chose red leaues lay another course of old Olyues, and the slices of wel pickled Cucumbers, together with the very inward heart of your Cabbage lefee cut into slces; then adone the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet with mo slices of Lemons and Orenges, and so serue it vp.

It seems odd to provide a recipe since it’s so straightforward and there’s no cooking involved so I won’t, but see the bottom of the post for a loose ingredients list. First, I’ll just go through some of the ingredients. Some are obvious – olives, capers (delicious!), currants and the like – but others a little less so. I couldn’t locate either red “coleflower” aka cauliflower or red sage, so I had to make do with their white/green alternatives. I used the outer leaves of the cauliflower rather than the florets, as instructed. This seemed a bit odd at first, but I suppose that raw cabbage is found in coleslaw, so it’s not too unusual. Pickled cucumbers are of course gherkins – another favourite of mine. The sliced lemons were a very unusual addition, I am not really used to actually eating lemons, just flavouring things with their juice. When combined with some of the sweeter flavours like the currants or indeed oranges, however, it lost it’s sharp edge and was a lot more palatable then I expected. 

When I first read the recipe I thought this recipe sounded pretty unpleasant and rather odd. Once I actually made it, however, I found it had a lot more in common with modern salads than I expected. The oil and vinegar dressing for one thing, is something we still use today. The combination of sweet, pickled and savoury was unexpectedly good, and it certainly lived up to it’s name of a “compound salad”.

If you do fancy making one, here are the ingredients in handy list form (no quantities though, just go by what you like – though I do encourage you to try the things you think sound a bit odd):

A compound salad

Blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Raisins

Figs, fresh or dried (I used dried but fresh would be lovely I think), roughly chopped

Capers

Olives

Currents

Whole sage leaves

Spinach leaves

Sugar (a tablespoon or so)

Vinegar (1/2 tablespoon)

Oil (1/2 tablespoon)

Orange and lemon, peel cut off and cut into thin slices

Outer leaves of cauliflower, sliced

Cabbage hearts, sliced

Gherkins, sliced

Arrange in layers as described above, mix together, or construct in any other way you see fit. Go on, try something new (well, old I suppose) and brighten up your January!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipe

Salads

8070448172_0d5be3a5d5

“Lettuce “Concept” ” by photofarmer. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 2.0)

Happy New Year everyone! Christmas, with all its delightful foods, is over, and now it’s January, the month when many people resolve to change their eating habits – ranging from a new year’s resolution to eat a bit more healthily, to those bizarre faddish diets peddled by the likes of Heat magazine. As one of my main research interests is cultural attitudes to food, I inevitably end up thinking about these annual rituals of consumption we have created, and wonder what that says about our culture. There seems to be a strange pattern of indulgence and shame around food at Christmas and new year – we’re encouraged to treat ourselves, and then in January we have to atone for our sins of consumption.  At this time of the year, food is represented as able to influence our emotional state and change our lives – Christmas food is a treat and a comfort, it inspires nostalgia, but salad will make us feel better about our bodies and ourselves, it is full of promise and hope for the future (especially if you are a woman).

I was fascinated when reading the little playlet/dialogue that I posted recently to find that the idea of having special, indulgent foods that are only eaten at Christmas was not a modern thing at all. Of course I know that eating particular foods to celebrate a particular festival or event was as old as the hills, but it was the idea of indulgence that interested me -the sweet treats of plum pudding and mince pie at Christmas were welcome over the Christmas period, but deemed not appropriate for the rest of the year, apparently because of their sweetness.

Having said all of that, I am in fact doing a post on salad. This is partly inspired by the aforementioned January custom, and partly by a suggestion from my friend Lana who has been researching some early modern cookbooks recently and came across some recipes. It is timely for me as well, since I have recently been eating a lot more vegetables over the last few weeks, for reasons that have nothing to do with the season or any sudden urge to diet, and everything to do with the fact that I got this as a Christmas present.

Anyway, we begin our journey into the world of salad with these lines from Samuel Daniel’s The Queen’s Arcadia (1607):

I will attend thy flockes better then she, 

And dresse thy Bower more sweete, more daintily,

And cheerish thee with Salets, and with Fruites, 

And all fresh dainties as the season sutes;

Salads, perhaps more than any other dish, are strongly associated with the seasons. Even today, with most vegetables available all year round, you will still find recipes for “winter salads” made of roasted root vegetables and “summer salads” with fresh green vegetables. The seasonality of salads is, you might expect, much more evident in early modern cookery. Seasonal salads were certainly on the menu, winter salads were often made entirely of preserved and pickled vegetables:

Ant.But how shall wee dispose of them?

Lou.Wee’d best
Barrell them vp and send them for new England.
Ant.A pox there’s fooles enow already there.
Let’s pickle them for winter Sallads.

Admittedly, the characters in Peter Hausted’s The Rival Friends (1632) are not actually discussing vegetables but some people they are considering murdering, but I still think it illustrates the point.

This leads us to ask, what exactly is a salad? Even today, I think there is probably some confusion over the term. I generally think of leafy green vegetables as the basis for a salad, perhaps with other ingredients and/or a dressing. Salads can mean a lot of things, they can be raw or cooked, elaborate or simple. They are usually, I think, made of separate ingredients tossed together. The term is certainly murky. The OED gives us the following definition:

A cold dish of herbs or vegetables (e.g. lettuce, endive), usually uncooked and chopped up or sliced, to which is often added sliced hard-boiled egg, cold meat, fish, etc., the whole being seasoned with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.

It also refers to an earlier, broader, definition of herbs, pickles, cucumbers and the like which were eaten with roast meat.

There certainly seems to have been a lot of variety in the kinds of salads served up at an early modern feast. Gervase Markham, in The English Housewife (1631), gives us recipes for simple salads, compound salads, boiled salads, preserved salads, compound preserved salads and, most intriguingly, “sallats for shew only”. These are made as follows:

Now for Sallets for shew only, and the adorning and setting out of a table with numbers of dishes, they be those which are made of Carret rootes of sundrye colours well boiled, and cut out into many shapes and proportions, as some into knots, some in the manner of Scutchions and Armes, some like Birds, and some like wild Beasts, according to the Art and cunning of the Workman; and these for the most part are seasoned with Vinegar, Oyle, and a little Pepper. A world of other Sallets there are, which time and experience may bring to our Hous wifes eye, but the composition of them, and the seruing of them differeth nothing from these already rehearsed.

It reminds me of those carved raw root vegetables you sometimes see in Chinese restaurants. You might get a swede carved into an elaborate rose, and there is a place I sometimes go to that has thick carrots carved into miniature Venus de Milos that they put on the plate when you order a mixed starter for a large group.

Do you remember Calandrino from Philip Massinger’s The Great Duke of Florence, who made an appearance in the post on custards? There we saw custards, cakes and the like associated with the court, while “plain Sallads” were for the countryside. I recently came across this rather interesting passage in Thomas Dekker’s Northward Hoe (1607) which situates the salad eaters not only in the country, but also in a particular region:

looke you Sir, the Northerne man loues white-meates, the Southery man Sallades, the Essex man a Calfe, the Kentishman a Wag-taile, the Lancashire man an Egg-pie, the Welshman Leekes and Cheese, and your Londoners rawe Mutton, so Father god-boy, I was borne in London

Having lived my entire life on the South coast, I suppose this means I shall enjoy the cookery part of my adventures in early modern salads. Stay tuned for some recipes coming up in a week or so!

Leave a comment

Filed under History and background

Beef

A Victorian cow butchery diagram. Click the picture to go to Miss Mary’s Victorian and Vintage Archive, where I found the picture

Hello hello! I have not disappeared off the face of the blogosphere, I have just been working very hard finishing a chapter which is now done – hooray! Raise a glass of buttered beer! It is the season for trying that recipe actually, I highly recommend making a thermos of it and heading out for a lovely walk in the woods. Try it – it’s the new mulled wine!

Speaking of beer, contrary to the title, this post is not just about beef, it is really about the phrase “Beef, bread and beer” (though the order of the foodstuffs varies, as you’ll see in the first quote) which I first noted in the background post on beer itself. As I said in that post, the phrase appears to denote hospitality in William Kemp’s A Knack to Know a Knave (1594):

My father in his lyfe time gave hospitality to all strangers, and Distressed traueillers, his table was neuer emptie of bread, beefe And beere

I’ve since spotted this in number of other places, so I thought it might be worth investigating:

Then no more ado, but I pray thee go with me abord,
Thou shalt be sure to haue poore Mariners cheare:
Harme shalt thou haue none, I promise thee at a word,
Thou shalt be sure to haue bread, beefe, and beare.

Robert Wilson, The Pedlers Prophecie, 1595

As well as finding it in plays, like the two examples above, it turns up in other kinds of writing. A 1606 pamphlet recounting the entertainments put on by Robert Cecil at Theobalds for the visiting King of Denmark points out that the host’s hospitality extended to all those who might require it, not just his noble guests. The town had apparently become so busy with people flocking to see the royal visit that there was not enough room at the inn, as it were, for everyone:

there was not lodging to bee had for many commers thether, not victualls for their moneyes, wherof many of good sort complained, & might haue fasted, had they not beene prouided for in that honorable house. Such was the bountie of this Noble Earle in his large allowance to all Officers for that time, that Beefe, Breade, Beere, Wine, and other Vyandes, was not denyed to any that were either acquainted in the house with the Officers, or anye their friends which wold seek it, as many found to their great comfort and honor of the honorable Patrone of that house.

H.R., The most royall and honourable entertainement, of the famous and renowmed king, Christiern the fourth, King of Denmarke. 1606

Beef, bread and beer, while still associated firmly with hospitality, does seem to be at the “basics” end of the hospitality scale, something for the common folk perhaps. Here’s another example:

And where the Porters lodge, did yeelde beefe, bread and beere,
The Kitchen, Haul, & Parlor to, now wantes it twice a yeere:
Now Seruingmen may sing, adue you golden dayes,
Meere miserie hath taken place, where plentie purchast prayse.

Gervase Markham, A health to the gentlemanly profession of seruingmen, 1598

This is part of a song reported by Markham (it’s not clear whether he wrote the song or has just heard it), and, like much of the text, it laments the “decay of hospitality”, blaming it on, amongst other things, excessive spending on such luxuries as “costly and fashionate Apparrel”. The honest and dedicated servingmen, unlike their selfish employers, apparently regret this change as much as Markham. Beef, bread and beer seems to stand for a kind of honest generosity, something basic and fueling, down to earth, and available for everyone – officers, servingmen and visitors alike.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their apparent status as the staples of a good diet, beef, bread and beer also turn up in several travel narratives. I found a few examples, but here’s my favourite, the seafarer Luke Foxe describing the provisions for his expedition to investigate the North-West Passage:

I was Victualed compleatly for 18 Moneths, that whether the Baker, Brewer, Butcher, and other, were Mr. of their Arts or professionsor no I know not, but this I am sure of, I had excellent fat Beefe, strong Beere, good wheaten Bread, good Iseland Ling, Butter and Cheese of the best, admirable Sacke and Aqua-vita, Pease, Oat-meale, Wheat-meale, Oyle, Spice, Suger, Fruit and Rice; with Chyrurgerie, as Sirrups, lulips, condits, treSingle illegible letterhissis, antidotes, balsoms, gummes, vnguents, implaisters, oyles, potions, suppositors, and purging Pils, and if I had wanted Instruments my Chyrurgion had enough.

Luke Foxe, North-West Fox, 1635

Note how, while Foxe describes a number of other provisions, he foregrounds beef, beer and bread and his cooks are “the Baker, Brewer, Butcher, and other” – clearly the three Bs are considered the essentials. However, those travelling on other ships, perhaps those without master bakers on board, would have to make do with the slightly less appealing beef, biscuit and beer, which is mentioned in a few texts including Richard Hakluyt’s The principal nauigations, voyages, traffiques and discoueries of the English nation made by sea or ouer-land (1599-1600).

The earliest example of the phrase I have found (and of course please note that this is by no means an exhaustive study, just a brief lurk around EEBO on a wintery Friday afternoon!) comes from Holinshed’s Chronicle (first published in 1577):

for they were woont to haue banketing at euerie station, a thing commonlie practised by the religious in old time, wherewith to linke in the commons vnto them, whom anie man may lead whither he will by the bellie, or as Latimer said, with beefe, bread and beere

As you can see, that this clearly points to an earlier usage, but I’m really not sure who the Latimer in question is. I thought it might be Hugh Latimer, but a cursory EEBO search of his works turned up nothing that looks remotely like the phrase.

So, it seems like beef, when accompanied by bread and beer, was the food of the traveling worker – a hospitable welcome for those touring about great houses with their employers and a staple on the high seas for the adventuring seafarer. Beer was a very common drink in early modern England, it was drunk by all at any hour of the day, with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Servants and other workers were often provided with beer as part of their payment, particularly in country houses which often had their own breweries. If beer was a part of everyday life, then I suppose this little phrase suggests that beef and bread were too. It seems to me that “beef, bread and beer” is the early modern equivalent of the 20th century’s “meat and two veg”, representing a balanced meal in the eyes of the consumers of the time. In fact, the combination is still alive and well today as a trip down to your local chain pub will no doubt attest – I refer to the ubiquitous “burger and a pint” deals that can be found on many a high street!

I’m currently trawling through the early modern cookbooks for a good beef recipe to try out soon, I will keep you posted and hopefully have a follow up post within a week or two. After that, I think it will be time to get Christmassy.

Leave a comment

Filed under History and background

Custards: Part 2 – Cooking, no recipe….yet

As I explained in part 1,  an early modern custard is a baked pastry case filled with custard. The recipe I used from Gervase Markham’s Countrey Contentments, or The English Huswife (1623) specifies a pastry recipe from elsewhere in the text – it’s a puff pastry recipe that looks a little more complicated than the last one I tried. Here’s the pastry recipe:

Now for the making of puffe-past of the best kind, you shall take the finest wheat flowre after it hath been a little bak’t in a pot in the ouen, and blend it well with egges whites and yelkes altogether, then after the past is well kneaded, roule out a part thereof as thin as you please, and then spread cold sweet butter ouer the same, then vpon the same butter role another leafe of the paste as before; and spread it with butter also; and thus role leafe vpon leafe with butter betweene till it be as thick as you thinke good: and with it either couer any bak’t meate, or make pastie for Venison, Florentine, Tart or what dish else you please and so bake it: there be some that to this past vse sugar, but it is certaine it will hinder the rising thereof; and therefore when your puft past is bak’t, you shall dissolue sugar into Rose-water, and drop it into the paste as much as it will by any meanes receiue, and then set it a little while in the ouen after and it will be sweet enough.

I have made puff pastry before, and this recipe is quite similar to a modern one with the rolling and buttering of the pastry. Modern recipes don’t use egg though, as far as I recall. The warming of the flour seems odd – I looked this up on trusty old Google and found a few references to it in bread making but I’m not sure what it’s for. I did it anyway, who knows, it might make for delicious pastry.

I started with one beaten egg and then added flour until it came together as a dough. It was about 200g flour.

I then kneeded the dough and split it into 5 pieces. I rolled out the first piece as thin as I could get it and then spread butter on it. Obviously the butter would not have been fridge cold, what with fridges still being a good few hundred years away at the time of printing, so I took it out of the fridge about an hour before I needed it and let it come to room temperature.

Butter would have likely been kept with other perishables in a cool part of the kitchen, or in an earthenware pot kept in water. You can find out more about the history of butter, if you are so inclined, at this page: Butter Through the Ages. By the late17th century some kitchens had ice-houses – underground structures packed with snow and ice during the winter. Being underground meant they were cool enough to keep the ice frozen, and foods cold, throughout the year. Petworth House, where my PhD research is based, has an ice-house, although I believe it dates from a later period.

Anyway, back to the cooking. I used room temperature butter and spread it on the pastry. I then added another later on top and rolled it out again. I repeated this until all of the pastry was used.

Once the pastry was made I cut a diamond shape, then cut a long piece for the sides and stuck it down to the flat piece with an egg yolk, as recommended in the custard recipe. I baked the pastry case, or coffin, in the oven until it started to crisp up. I then mixed 1 tbsp sugar with a few drops of rosewater and a little water, then drizzled this over the pastry, base, returning it to the oven once again.

To bake an excellent Custard or Dowset; you shall take good store of Single illegible lettergges, and putting away one quarter of the whites, beate them exceeding well in a bason, and then mixe with them the sweetest and thickest creame you can get, for if it be any thing thinne, the Custard will be wheyish; then season it with salt, sugar, cinamon, cloues, mace, and a little Nutmegge; which done raise your coffins of good tough wheate paste, being the second sort before spoke of, and if you please raise it in pretty workes, or angular formes, which you may doe by fixing the vp|per part of the crust to the nether with the yelks of egges: then when the coffins are ready, strow the bottomes a good thicknesse ouer with Currants and Sugar; then Single illegible letteret them into the Ouen, and fill them vp with the confecti|on before blended, and so drawing them, adorne all the toppes with Carraway Cumfets, and the slices of Dates prickt right vp, and so serue them vp to the table.

For my custard, I took 4 eggs yolks and 3 egg whites and beat them together. I then added about 250ml double cream. You might have noticed that cream and butter are often referred to as sweet – this does not mean they are sugared but that they are fresh. I added a tiny pinch of salt and ground cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg. I covered the bottom with currants and sugar, then poured the custard over the top and baked it in the oven until the custard was set. I took it out and stuck in some dates.

The custard did leak out quite a bit through the sides, and as the tarts were fairly shallow the currants were still visible as the custard set around them. The taste, particularly of the pastry, was very tasty indeed, but the custard didn’t really set properly, instead it was quite puffed up and fluffy, not set and creamy as I had hoped. I had to guess the measurements for the cream as one wasn’t given in the recipe – I think I might have to look up modern day custard tart recipes for some guidance on getting the quantities right. I won’t post a recipe yet as I don’t feel I’ve perfected it – but this is one I’ll definitely be having another   go at to get it right.

Also, I did have a go at caraway comfits, but that didn’t go very well either! I think I know where I went wrong though so next time I should be able to get them right.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking