Tag Archives: Hannah Woolley

Gingerbread Part 2: Cooking and the recipe

Well, I finally made gingerbread! There were a number of different recipes to choose from, but I went with good old Hannah Woolley since this recipe included most of the common elements I’d seen in the other recipes. Here it is:

To make Ginger-bread.

Take three stale Manchets grated and sifted, then put to them half an Ounce of Cinnamon, as much Ginger, half an Ounce of Licoras and Aniseeds together, beat all these and searce them, and put them in with half a Pound of fine Sugar, boil all these together with a quart of Claret, stirring them continually till it come to a stiff Paste, then when it is almost cold, mould it on a Table with some searced Spice and Sugar, then bake it in what shape you please.

Hannah Woolley, The Queen-Like Closet (1670)

Not quite the gingerbread we’re use to now eh? Most of the recipes I found involved grated manchets – essentially breadcrumbs – rather than flour. Some used ground almonds but were titled “Almond gingerbread” indicating this is a variant rather than the norm. So, the first step was to find out what a manchet is, and the second step was to make one.

A manchet, it turns out, is a kind of enriched bread – not entirely unlike brioche, although the texture is not really the same. The absolute best place to learn about historical bread is the wonderful blog History of Bread, and this is where I found a recipe for manchet. I made the manchet according to the “Lady of Arundel’s  manchet” recipe as interpreted by History of Bread – I sneaked a taste and then had to resist eating half of it while it was still hot and delicious. It tastes like a hybrid of bread and a cake, the crust was particularly good.

manchet2

I scooped out the inner bread and discarded the crust (well, the bits I didn’t eat). However, my freshly made manchet wasn’t yet suitable for the recipe, so I left it in a bowl covered with a tea towel for a day or so to stale it up a bit.

SAMSUNG

One the manchet was stale I crumbled the bread in a food processor. I know, not a very early modern method, but I was not in the mood for lengthy grating and sieving. Besides, I can tell you with confidence having lived without a food processor for many years and still wanted to eat meatballs that the end result is identical. The last time I resisted the food processor to stay true to original methods I ended up spending literally hours bashing a bag of almonds, and that put me off somewhat! As for quantities, I scaled the other ingredients down by half, which seemed about right when I put them with the manchet-crumbs.

Crumbs created, I moved onto the other ingredients. I did try, but was unable to get hold of liquorice and aniseed so I had to improvise somewhat – I happened to have some liquorice extract in the cupboard and some star anise. I brought the wine slowly to the boil with the star anise so try and get a little bit of aniseed flavour. Once it was boiling gently I removed the anise, added the ginger and cinnamon, then a few drops of liquorice flavour (I did put too much of this in and it tasted more like licorice bread than ginger bread, so be careful if you do this). I added the sugar and stirred until it had dissolved, and then put in the crumbs. The mixture came together quickly, making a sticky, gluey kind of dough. I took it off the heat and left it to cool, once it was cool enough to handle I shaped it into rounds and put it on a baking tray. I then baked it for about half an hour on a medium heat (about 180c). When I removed the gingerbread it was still quite soft in the middle so I put it back for another 15 minutes. It still hadn’t firmed up in the middle, so I decided it was probably meant to be like that.

Gingerbread

This was a particularly enlightening food experiment for me for a number of reasons. I had not expected to find wine and bread/cake crumbs in the recipe, although it’s not unheard of to put breadcrumbs or relatively large volumes of alcohol into baked goods today, it’s still fairly unusual. I had always thought that Early Modern gingerbread would be the biscuit kind rather than the cakey kind – in fact I even said this when I wrote the first post!  This assumption was based on the knowledge that it was often formed into shapes. As it turns out, the weird glue-dough that comes from mixing wine and breadcrumbs is much better for shaping than biscuit dough, you could quite easily make a 3D model. It’s similar in consistency to marchpane, another substance used for modelling food. The dark colour comes from the claret. Taste-wise, this gingerbread is a bit like eating mulled wine cookie dough. It is reminiscent of modern cake gingerbread but sadly not as nice. It’s an interesting taste, probably not one I’d make again. It got a definite thumbs down from my husband too! Onward and upward though, what shall I try next?

 

Want to try it yourself? Here’s a recipe.

Ginger-bread

1 manchet, staled and made into crumbs. You can find the recipe here

1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger, aniseed and liquorice (see above for possible substitutions)

450ml claret

150g sugar

Bring the wine to the boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolves. Add the manchet crumbs with the spices. Stir until a paste comes together, then leave to cool while you preheat the oven to 180. When the mixture is cool, mould with your hands into whatever shape you would like, then place on a greased tray and bake for 45 minutes. Cool slightly, then eat (they are much better warm).

 

 

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Christmas Special: Minced Pies

I once knew a chap who absolutely hated mince pies. To be honest they are not my favourite Christmas fare, but they are quite nice in the right context (hot, topped with some thick brandy cream and served with a glass of mulled wine of the side, ideally). Anyway, this fellow loathed them. The reason for this was the first time he was offered one, as a child of about 11 I believe, he had never heard of the things before. Nevertheless, he accepted, assuming it was just a small version of a hot minced beef pie. However, when he bit into what he expected to be a meaty treat, he found instead some very unexpected sugary fruit. The experience of getting such intense sweetness when he expected savoury put him off the things for life.

It is fairly common knowledge, I think, that mince pies at one point back in the mists of time actually did contain real meat (and no, I don’t just mean beef suet). It’s the kind of fact that comes up in Christmas quizzes and the like around this time of year. The name “mincemeat” is apparently a remnant from the days when there would be some meat in there. The taste would probably not have been much less surprising to a modern day eater expecting a standard meat pie though, for as we shall see in the recipe (coming soon in the next post!) there was indeed plenty we would recognise in early modern minced pies. In looking for recipes, I found quite a number. Not all contained beef mince, however – I found a recipe for “Minced Pye of Eggs” in one of the ever helpful Hannah Woolley’s cookbooks (The compleat servant-maid, 1677) containing hard boiled eggs along with suet, dried fruit, sugar, caraway seeds,orange peel and a few other sweet things. Mounsieur Marnette’s The perfect cook (1656) features recipes for Italian style minced pies (featuring veal, partidge, chesnuts, currants, sugar, sweet-breads and many more ingredients), Spanish minced pies (including capon, pork, mutton, kidney, bacon, suet, leeks, salt and sweet spices), several kinds of fish-based minced pies,  and “Princesse” pies (containing roast or boiled meat, beef marrow and sweetbreads). The most popular ingredient, however, did seem to be beef, or more specifically neat’s tongue (ox tongue). The aforementioned Hannah Woolley cookbook has tongue as the primary ingredient for “An excellent Minc’d pie”, as does The accomplished ladies rich closet of rarities (J.S., 1687). I didn’t go for the tongue when I tried it as I already had some beef leftover from cooking the hash of raw beef.

So, we have many recipes for mince or minced pies, but were they considered Christmas fare? It seems not exclusively so – one of Martnette’s fish pies for example specifically excludes butter so that it can be made and eaten during Lent. However, the phrase “a mince pie at Christmas” comes up in a number of texts, and minced pies are included – alongside a large number of other foods, mind you – on a Christmas menu in Robert May’s The Accomplist Cook (1660). Here’s the menu in full – it’s length is certainly not uncharacteristic for the feasts and banquets of the upper classes during the period:

A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day, and how to set the Meat in order. Oysters

  • 1 A coller of Brawn.
  • 2 Stewed Broth of Mutton Marrow bones.
  • 3 A grand Sallet.
  • 4 A pottage of Caponets.
  • 5 A Breast of Veal in Stoffado.
  • 6 A boild Partridge.
  • 7 A Chine of Beef, or Surloin roste.
  • 8 Minced Pies.
  • 9 A Jegote of Mutton with Anchove sauce.
  • 10 A made dish of Sweetbread.
  • 11 A Swan roste.
  • 12 A Pasty of Venison.
  • 13 A Kid with a Pudding in his Belly.
  • 14 A Steak Pie.
  • 15 A hanch of Venison rosted.
  • 16 A Turkey roste and stuck with Cloves.
  • 17 A made dish of Chickens in Puff-paste.
  • 18 Two Brangeese rosted, one larded.
  • 19 Two large Capons one larded.
  • 20 A Custard.

The second course for the same Mess. Oranges and Lemons.

    • 1 A young Lamb or Kid.
    • 2 Two couple of Rabits, two larded.
    • 3 A Pig soust with Tongues.
    • 4 Three Ducks, one larded.
    • 5 Three Pheasants, 1 larded.
    • 6 A Swan Pie.
    • 7 Three brace of Partridge, three larded.
    • 8 Made dish in puff-paste.
    • 9 Bolonia Sausage, and Anchove, Mushrooms, and Caviare, and pickled Oysters in a dish.
    • 10 Six Teels, three larded.
    • 11 A Gammon of Westfalia Bacon.
    • 12 Ten Plovers, five larded.
    • 13 A Quince Pie, or Warden Pie.
    • 14 Six Woodcocks, 3 larded.
    • 15 A standing Tart in puffpaste, preserved fruits, Pippins, &c.
    • 16 A dish of Larks.
    • 17 Six dried Neats Tongues.
    • 18 Sturgeon.
    • 19 Powdered Geese.

Jellyes

And you thought your Christmas dinner was extravagant! It’s interesting to see turkey on the menu, along with goose and swan, the latter of which we don’t eat at all any more. I thought this had something to do with them being owned by the Queen, I did a bit of googling but didn’t find anything definitive. Anyway, they were apparently still eating them in the 17th century. Turkeys, however, we are often told are a recent introduction as a Christmas dinner, but this seems to contradict that. Turkeys are relative newcomers to these shores, having been brought here from America in the mid-16th century. By the time of this menu they had been available to eat for around 100 years. But this huge menu doesn’t prove much about mince pies being Christmassy, so to make my case I have for your delectation a short interlude of sorts included in a festive pamphlet entitled Mother Shipton’s Christmas Carols with her Merry Neighbours (1668). The eponymous (and no doubt fictitious)  Mother Shipton also includes a dialogue between roast beef, mince-pie, and plumb pottage contending for superiority (remind you of anything?), complete with terrible food-based puns. I shall be back with a recipe for mince pies very soon, but in the meantime I present to you this jolly interlude that I have transcribed it myself from a scan on EEBO:

Here followeth a Dialogue Between Roast Beef, Mince-pie, and Plumb-pottage, contending for superiority with the verdict of Strong beer, their moderator there on

Strong B. Now Gentlemen this is the time and this the place you have appointed for your disputation : and having chosen me for your Moderator. I advise you (and good counsel too I hold it) to do nothing rashly, but first lets drink

All. We relish it

They drink

Strong B. And now having liquored your lips, pipe on and spare not

Plumb-pot. Why then Mr. Beer craving your good attention, I declare and hope to prove it is my property to preceed, Mr. Mince-pie and Roast beef, and ought in any sound opinion to be the first dish on the Table, and my plea for it is Ancient Custome, which I hope may suffice without any further reasons

Mince-pie. Pish, never tell me of your Reasons: your Reasons are not in Date and therefore starj nought, and as for Custome, I say ’tis more Customary to prefer Pye before Pottage, ergo your Custome is not worth a Cucumber

Roast B. Nay then Gentlemen room for Horns, though I have been silent all this while, don’t you think to rule the Roast

Mr Beef, consider I am Beef, a good substantial food: a dish for a Prince, and indeed (as ’tis Recorded) the King of meats

Plumb-P. Gravely spoken

Strong B. In truth so it is, and I think it fit to exalt the Horn

R.B. And not without cause considering the Dignity his Royal Majesty King James was pleased to confer on me, when one day coming down into his Kitchin, I gave him such satisfaction that he daign’d me with the Honour of Knighthood, with the title of Sir Loine, and therefore claim precedency before these mincing Mimicks

P.P. But pray Beef, was you ever in this jovial time of Christmas prefer’d before me

Mince P. Or even gave that pleasing satisfaction or delight to Ladies, or any sort of Persons as I have done

R.B. Mr Sweet tooth hold you your prating I always had the upper hand of you

M.P. Tell not me of upper hand nor underhand I say I am a dish full of dainty

Roast B. Yes for old women that have no teeth: besides you come but once a yea, but I am in season at all times. You but please Children and Fools, but I am in repute with all sots of what quality soever

Plumb P. Pray Gentlemen let me speak

Roast B. Prethee what can’st say? nothing: but mutter as if you had plums in your mouth, why thou art nothing of thy self, whence art though deriv’d or what’s thy pedegree? nothing by a little water, and fitting for nothing but to cleanse the dishes after me, were it not for the goodness of Beef that gives the being by its favor

Strong B. Mince pie, me thinks thou should’st bear up man, slid for all their talking thou makst their teeth water sometimes at thee

Roast B. And we are much obliged

Mince P. You are a stinking peice of Beef to abuse me so, I make you rotten?

Roast B. Yes sweet Sir, that you do

Mince P. Tough Sir but I do not

Strong B. Nay lets have no quarrelling good, Mr Beef, pray Mr Pye

Roast B. Slid tempt me a little more, I shall fall foul on you

Mince P. If you doe, I’m sure you, you’ll shew foul play and bite me, but Ile maintain my honour in spight of they teeth

Roast B. Let me come at him Ile crumble him Ile warrant you

Strong B. Nay good Beef be not so hot, Let him alone a little till he is colder then you may fasten on him at more advantage

Mince P. I shall pull down his fat sides no doubt

Strong B. Come Gentlemen i’m sorry to see you at violence, pray let me moderate the business between you, why should friends fall our? Come what say ye will you all stand to my award

All. With all our hearts? Eloquent Strong-Beer!

Strong B. Then first for you Mr Plumb Pottage: Since it hath been so long a Custome for you to be first ushered to the Table, we shall continue it still to you during the time of Christmas, so that you do not take it ill, that some at other times make use of you last of all, as is sometime necessary to fill up the chinks, And for you Mr Mince-pye, for the time of Christmas also are to be the Senior in all mens mouths, but ever after to disappear and vanish. As the Prince at Lincolns Inn was cominus factoreum for twelve days but afterwards shrunk into his former peasantry for ever after So must you yeild the preheminence to Mr Roast Beef as royal for all the year after. What say ye, are ye all satisfied!

All. O very well, very well! Rhetorical Strong Beer!

Strong B. Come on then, then lets end all differences in a cup of Strong Bub, and spend the time in singing and carouzing a health to all that love Plumb-Pottage, Mince pye, Roast Beef and Strong Beer.

The Song

Of lusty brown Beer I joy for to hear

But a pox of your White-wine and Claret

I hate for to hear

Of such pittiful geer

For a barrel-ful’s not worth a Carret

Then bub with good courage

‘Tis season’d with Burrage

Their’s nothing more wholesome and merry

Though our cloathes be but thin

It warms me within

And makes us sing he down a derry

There’s nothing above it

He’s a food does not love it

At Christmas it maketh good cheer

Nay more to invite you

And still to delight you

‘Tis as plentiful all the whole year!

I hope you enjoyed that. Don’t say I never give you anything! Merry Christmas everyone!

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Comfits Part 2: Cooking

So far I’ve made two attempts at making caraway comfits, one a total disaster, the other a partial success. I  think I have worked out what went wrong so I will make one more attempt, but I won’t be able to do that for a while, so I thought I’d post my progress so far now.

Here’s the recipe I’m using. It’s from The Queen-like closet by Hannah Woolley (1670):

Take to every two pounds of Sugar one quarter of a pound of Spices or Seeds, or such like.

If it be Aniseeds, two pounds of Sugar to half a pound of Aniseeds, will be enough.

Melt your Sugar in this manner; put in three Pounds of sugar into the Bason, and one Pint of water, stir it well till it be wet, then melt it very well and boil it very softly until it will stream from the Ladle like Turpentine, and not drop, then let it seeth no more, but keep it upon warm Embers, that it may run from the Ladle upon the seeds.

Move the seeds in the hanging Bason so fast as you can or may, and with one hand, east on half a Ladle full at a time of the hot sugar, and rub the seeds with your other hand a pretty while, for that will make them take the sugar the better; and dry them well after every Coat.

Do thus at every Coat, not only in moving the Bason, but also with stirring of the Comfits with the one hand, and drying the same, in evrey hour you may make three pounds of Comfits; as the Comfits do increase in bigness, so you may take more Sugar in your Ladle to cast on:

Not having a hanging basin at my disposal, I went for a frying pan over a low heat. I first melted the sugar and water, as instructed. One jar of caraway seeds is approximately 38g, and the 2 pounds of sugar to ever quarter pound of seeds means that we need to have 8 times 40g (unless my maths is even worse than I think it is) – so we’re looking at 304g, or just 300g really unless you have very specific scales.

Once the sugar was melted I took it off the heat. It needed to be returned there a few times during the cooking as it started to solidify somewhat. I heated the caraway seeds in a frying pan on the lowest heat possible. I took about a third of a ladle-full of the sugar syrup and added it to the seeds, stirring it with a fish-slice type spatula.

This seemed to work well, when they were fully coated they were cool enough to touch so I started rubbing the sugar syrup in a bit. If you do this you MUST make sure that it is not too hot, that you have the pan on the lowest possible setting and that the sugar syrup has coated the seeds. Your lowest setting might be different to mine and it might not be cool enough, so BE VERY CAREFUL! I don’t want anybody burning themselves with molten sugar.

Anyway, after the syrup has been absorbed I dried the seeds off a bit, then added some more and repeated the process.

Things were going well. Unfortunately, this was about to change. On the next round of sugar syrup, I accidentally put too much in. You’ll be able to tell if this has happened when it doesn’t get absorbed right away. The drying took a lot longer, I couldn’t do any rubbing in, and the sugar began to crystalize on its own without attaching itself to the seeds.

I ended up with this:

Not exactly what I had in mind. And after such a promising start too! The “comfits” were all stuck together and not very well coated. Having said that, they did taste rather nice.

It was still better than my first attempt, where I stupidly added loads of the sugar syrup and had the heat far too high, and consequently ended up with a big sticky brown mess that was very difficult to clean out of the pan.

I think I’m going to have to make another attempt at this soon, and I’ll be trying the custards again too since they didn’t work too well either. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed…!

Ps. I know this post is a little late – I was on holiday last week and didn’t get a chance to post before I went.

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Easter Special: Part 2 – Eggs in Green Sauce: Cooking and the Recipe

The recipes I found for green sauce seemed to vary wildly between sources, but the one I went for was from the ever reliable Hannah Woolley in The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight (1675). I’d hoped to use a a recipe from the Elizabethan period to match the source for the Easter banquet (see part 1), I found a few but they all involved ingredients I couldn’t get hold of. Sorrel is usually the herb involved in the sauce, this proved a little tricky to find in itself – thankfully a very kind person donated some from her garden – thank you Maggie! Now, without further ado, here is my Easter recipe – eggs in green sauce:

To make Green Sauce.

Take a good handful of Sorrel, beat it in a Mortar with Pippins pared, and quar|tered, with a little Vinegar and Sugar; put it into Saucers.

First, I hard-boiled the eggs.

Then I washed the sorrel, and put it with a pealed and quartered apple with 1 teaspoon each sugar and vinegar.

I then began to squash and pound it in a pestle and mortar.

I pounded it for about 10 minutes, until it began to turn into a green pulp.

I hard boiled the eggs, then pealed and sliced them and put the green sauce on top.

I quite enjoyed this dish, the green sauce is sharp and sweet and quite tasty. My mum tried them too and said they were rather nice. It would make a nice addition to an Easter buffet. It’s also very easy to make if you don’t mind a bit of work with the pestle and mortar. It is worth seeking out sorrel for this – it’s an underrated herb/vegetable in my opinion.

Eggs in Green Sauce

3 Eggs (hardboiled)

1tsp sugar

1tsp white wine vinegar

1 handful sorrel (you could use spinach or watercress if you don’t have sorrel, but try to seek it out if possible)

1 apple, pealed and cored

Put the sugar, vinegar, sorrel and apple in a pestle and mortar and pound until the mixture turns into a pulp. Put the eggs on a dish and dollop the sauce on top.

So there you have it – festive eggs! Happy Easter everyone!

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Shrove Tuesday special – Pancakes Part 2: Cooking and the recipe

Today’s pancake recipe, like last week’s Valentine’s Day asparagus and chicken, comes from Hannah Woolley. Perhaps I should start doing whole posts about some of the more prolific Early Modern food writers? Something to think about. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

To make good Pancakes

Take twenty Eggs with half the Whites, and beat them well and mix them with fine flower and beaten Spice, a little Salt, Sack, Ale, and a little Yeast, do not make your Batter too thin, then beat it well, and let it stand a little while to rise, then fry them with sweet lard or with Butter, and serve them in with the Iuice of Orange and Sugar.

From The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery, 1670

I didn’t think I’d need 20 eggs worth of pancakes, so I scaled the recipe down to 4 eggs. There were a couple of other pancake related recipes in the book, including one for making “Pancakes so crisp as you may set them upright”, which involves boiling them in lard (deep frying I suppose) until they “look as yellow as gold”. Don’t think I fancy that one myself! There is also a recipe for a “Sussex pancake” which caught my eye, which is just pastry made with “hot liquor” rolled thin and fried, served with spices and sugar.

So, I decided to go with the “good Pancakes”.

First, I put the yeast granules in some warm water with sugar, as instructed on the pack. If you are using dried yeast, you’ll need to reactivate it. Follow the instructions on the packet, although you will probably have to scale them down somewhat. My packet gave instructions for activating the yeast in 1/4 pint water, I didn’t want that much so had to use guesswork. I used about 1/4 teaspoon of yeast with the same amount of sugar dissolved in about 1/3 espresso cup full of warm water. Once this started to froth I mixed it with 5 heaped tbsp plain flour, 4 egg yolks, 2 egg whites, 1 tbsp sherry (this is the “sack” – see the posset post for more information on this), 2 tbsp ale (I used Old Peculiar), a tiny pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

I then left it for about half an hour to “rise”, although it didn’t do much in the way of rising really. Lots of bubbles appeared on top though.

Then I melted some butter in a pan and added a ladle full of the batter. I cooked it for a minute or two on one side until mostly set on top.

Then I turned it over and fried on the other side.

It puffed and curled up quite a lot, when I took it out of the pan it stayed curled up at the edges, but the puffed up pancake sank as soon as it was on the plate. I sprinkled over orange juice, sugar and some orange zest as well.

The pancake was different to the milk, eggs and flour version I’m used to. It was thicker and tougher, although not in an unpleasant way. The spices and orange were a tasty addition too. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out:

Good pancakes 

Makes about 4 small thick pancakes

5 heaped tablespoons plain flour

4 egg whites

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp sherry

2 tbsp ale

1/2 tsp mixed spice

A very small pinch of salt

Small amount of yeast, fresh or dried (prepared as directed on the packet – see above for what to do with dried yeast)

Sugar

1 orange

Whisk the egg whites and yolks together, then add the flour, sherry, ale, spice, salt and yeast. Leave to stand for half an hour or so.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan and add a ladle full of batter when it is hot. Cook until the top has mostly solidified, checking the underneath to make sure it isn’t burning. Turn over when bubbles start to appear and pop on the surface of the pancake. It will start to curl up a lot once you have turned it over and will only need about 30 seconds more until it is cooked through. Slide onto a plate and add sugar and orange juice, and a little grated zest for colour if you like.

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Valentine’s Special – Asparagus Part 2: Cooking and the recipe

Here’s the recipe I used for my special Valentine’s Day chicken and asparagus. It’s from Hannah Woolley’s 1675  The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery.

To boyl a Capon with Asparagus

Boyl your Capon, or Chicken in fair water, and some salt, then put in their bellies a little Mace, chopped Parsley, and sweet Butter; being boyled, serve them on Sippets, and put a little of the Broath on them: Then have a bundle or two of Asparagus boyled, put in beaten butter, and serve it on your Capon, or Chicken.

A capon, incidentally, is a castrated rooster. They are not readily available in the UK, but if you are particularly keen to try one there are some places online you can find them, such as here: http://www.keevilandkeevil.co.uk/christmas/free-range-corn-fed-capon/. According to that website, it is actually illegal to produce them in this country. I never knew that – you learn something new every day!

Not having access to a capon, I started with a small chicken (free-range and corn-fed). The recipe is a little confusing with regard to when you stuff the chickens, I opted to do this before cooking. I mixed 3 heaped teaspoons of butter with a teaspoon of mace and a chopped bunch of parsley.

I then put this into the cavity of the chicken. The chicken was trussed with a piece of elastic, so I just took this off and then put it back when I was done stuffing it. I then put the chicken in my largest saucepan. It was a bit of a tight fit and the lid only just squeezed on. I added as much cold water as possible and a few grinds of the salt mill. Then I put the lid on and brought the pan to the boil. Once it boiled, I turned it down to a low simmer and I let the chicken cook for an hour, periodically turning the chicken over as it came of the water at the top a little.

Once the chicken was almost ready it was time to make the sippets and cook the asparagus. Sippets are similar to croutons, but they are fried in butter rather than baked as croutons usually are. The asparagus just needed blanching for 5 minutes in a pan of boiling water, then after draining I added a knob of butter to the pan and left it to melt (off the heat). I then melted even more butter (it’s a pretty butter heavy dish as you might have gathered), a couple of teaspoons worth, in a frying pan. I tore up 2 large thick slices of day old bread (actually same-day bread that had been left out for a few hours) and fried them for a few minutes on each side in the butter.

I put the sippets at the bottom of a large shallow bowl (a pasta bowl), then sliced off a chicken breast and laid that on top. I took about two tablespoons of the cooking liquid and drizzled this over the top, then finished with the asparagus.

I would certainly recommend cooking this, it was very tasty indeed. The boiled chicken, which was really poached as it was cooked on a lower heat, was very tender and full of flavour.  If you fancy cooking up this for Valentine’s Day or otherwise, you can find the recipe below. The will serve two people generously with leftovers if you have a small chicken. For a more filling meal, I’d suggest cooking some potatoes and carrots with the chicken.

Boiled chicken with asparagus

1 small chicken

1 bunch parsley

1 bundle asparagus

About 50g butter

2 slices thick, crusty bread (crusts removed), preferably slightly stale

Salt

1 tsp mace

Chop the parsley into small pieces and mix with the mace and just under half the butter. Put this butter mixture into the chicken cavity, then put the chicken into a large saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and fill the saucepan with cold water until the chicken is just covered. Cook uncovered until the water comes to the boil, then turn down the heat and put the lid on. Cook for another 50 minutes or so, remove from the saucepan to check that the juices are running clear. If not, return to the pot until ready.

When the chicken is ready, remove from the pan at put on a carving board. Melt half of the remaining butter in a frying pan and fry the bread for a few minutes on either side until it starts to brown. Meanwhile, bring another pan of water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain, then return to the pan with the remaining butter, leave off the heat with a lid on so that the butter melts and coats the asparagus. Carve the chicken, removing the skin.

Divide the sippets (the bread) between two wide, shallow bowls or plates, then top with some of the carved chicken. Put half the asparagus on top of each, then drizzle over a few tablespoons of the buttery cooking liquid from the chicken.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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