Tag Archives: herbs

Beef: Cooking “a hash of raw beef”

I have actually made two early modern beef recipes today, but you’ll have to wait to see what the second one is. Here’s a clue: it’s appropriate for the time of year. The background and recipe posts for that will be appearing very soon, but for now, here is the conclusion to my recent post on beef.

The recipe book I used for this recipe was Robert May’s The Accomplist Cook (1660) . It contains a section entitled “A hundred and twelve ways for the dressing of beef”. A hundred and twelve! I really had the pick of the bunch there! As the beef I was planning on using was a some ready diced rump steak I was already using for dinner and  for the aforementioned mysterious other recipe, I couldn’t really do one of the roast recipes, and because I only had a little to use I decided not to make a stew. I should also mention that amongst the beef recipes there were many recipes for offal – things like ox cheeks but also, to my surprise, recipes for cooking udders! I have never heard of eating udders before, I must say, but I’m not quite brave enough to try that! Besides, I do like to focus on ingredients that are easy to source so others can try them out should they want to.

Anyway, I opted eventually for a recipe entitled “A hash of raw beef”. The beef is not raw in the finished product, I hasten to add, this is not a steak tartare kind of recipe (which I have still never tried, though I think I’d probably like it as I am very keen on rare or even blue steak). I think the reason that the recipe specifies that it is raw is that hashs are usually made with meat that has already been cooked. A hash, which I will do a proper background post on at some time, is basically a mixture of finely chopped ingredients cooked together. Think hash browns, or corned beef hash. We often have the latter  for tea in my house, it’s one of my favourite comfort foods.

Without further ado then, let’s get on to the cooking. I haven’t done a recipe this time because I’m not sure this is the sort of thing people will be wanting to cook – it wasn’t bad at all, not by a long shot, but it’s probably not the sort of thing I’d recommend. Also, there were no quantities given at all, so a recipe would be purely my interpretation. If you really want to make it, I’m sure you can work it out from the recipe here:

To make a hash of raw Beef.

MInce it very small with some beef-suet, or lard, and some sweet herbs, some beaten cloves and mace, pepper, nutmeg, and a whole onion or two, stew all to|gether in a pipkin, with some blanched chesnuts, strong broth, and some claret; let it stew softly the space of three hours, that it may be very tender, then blow off the fat, dish it, and serve it on sippets, garnish it with barberries, grapes, or gooseberries.

I got back from the supermarket, having happily found all the ingredients I needed there. Or so I thought. I soon realised I’d forgotten the chestnuts, so I hurried up to the  greengrocers in the hope that they would have some. They did, hooray! Usually I would have bought ready cooked ones, but they were fresh, and after a little digging around on the internet I discovered I could boil them. I cut a slit in the shell and then boiled them for 10 minutes or so, until they became soft.


My beef was already cut up, but I cut it smaller. My knives are not as sharp as I’d like so I cheated and used kitchen scissors. I was only planning on making a single serving so I didn’t use much.


I then added all the other ingredients. I used a thick slice of onion, chopped, a pinch of all the spices, a tablespoon full of suet, and a glug or two each of stock and red wine. I chopped up the chestnuts (though I bought 4 I probably only used about 1 and a half). For the herbs I used taraggon, because it’s one of my favourites. Then I put the whole lot in a small saucepan and cooked it over a very low heat.


The recipe stated 3 hours, but after 2 mine was becoming rather dry, and as I had only a small amount of the beef I thought that a shorter cooking time would suffice. Once it was ready, I made some sippets (see this recipe for instructions on what they are and how to make them (it’s very easy!)) and put the hash on top of it.


I know it doesn’t look that great but it was, as I said, not bad at all. I must say I am becoming very familiar with the flavours of mace and cloves! I no longer really associate the flavours of these spices with sweetness, admittedly I have always used them a little in savoury cooking – nutmeg with spinach, for example – but they are much more pronounced in these dishes. They really do bring out the rich flavours of the meat. The depth of flavour in this is rather lovely, benefiting from the long, slow cooking, and the sauce was very rich and thick, I think the suet and chestnuts acted as thickening agents. Not one of my best experiments, I suppose, but certainly not one of the worst. I suspect that a hash like this wouldn’t have been part of the “beef, bread and beer” that I talked about in my last post, that would more likely be roast beef or a stew. A hash was a more luxurious dish, it would have been served as part of a feast. But as I said, more on that another time…


I shall be back very soon with a seasonal special, so watch this space!

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Easter Special: Part 1 – Eggs in Green Sauce: History and Background

362 by Jaypeg used under a Creative Commons License – Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This week I’m looking at eggs, or more specifically, Easter eggs. I have previously written a little bit about eggs in general, you can read the post here.

Of course, eggs are associated with Easter today, and it seems that they were in the Early Modern period too. Eggs, amongst other things, were forbidden during lent. Once Easter arrived, they were back on the menu. Easter eggs appear in a proverb, recorded by John Ray in A collection of English proverbs (1678), “I’ll warrant you for an Egg at Easter” – the sense of the proverb (as far as I can tell) is something like “as sure as eggs at Easter”. James Shirley appears to have been particularly fond of a related egg-based saying – he uses the phrase “not worth an egg at Easter” in at least two plays, The Example (1637) and Love’s Cruelty (1640). Incidentally, both of those plays, and several others by Shirley, as in the Petworth collection. . One of these will likely be making an appearance soon on my other blog. Clearly, eggs were considered a common food at Easter time.

Thomas Dawson’s The second part of the good hus-wiues iewell (1597) offers some advice on the foods to be eaten at Easter-time. Here is what he has to say:

Fyrst on that day yee shall serue a calfe sodden and blessed, and sodden egs with greene sauce, and set them before the most principall estate, and that Lorde because of his high estate, shal depart them al about him, then serue potage as worts, roots or browes, wt béefe, mutton, or veale, & capons that be coloured with saffron, and baked meats: and the second course, Jussel with mamony, & rosted endoured, & pigions with bake meates, as tarts chewets, and flaunes, and other, after the disposition of the cookes: and at supper time diuers sauces of mutton or veale in broth, after the ordinance of the steward and than chickins with bakon, veale, rost pigions or lamb, & kid rost, with the heade and the purtenance of Lambe and pigges féet, with vineger and parcely theron, and a tansie fryed, and other bake meates

Quite a feast! Sadly I will only be cooking one of these foods this year, however. For my Easter dish I will be cooking “sodden egs with greene sauce”. “Sodden” means boiled, rather than “wet” or “soaking” as it does today. According to the OED it is the strong past participle of “seethe”, suddenly the phrase “seething with anger” makes sense now I know it means “boiling”.

There seem to be as many different ways of making green sauce as there are cookbooks – it is a herb based sauce, usually made with sorrel, along the lines of pesto, mint sauce, or salsa verde. Henry Butts’ 1599 regimen Dyets Dry Dinner  describes some of the properties of green sauce – “Eaten with flesh (as mustard) exciteth appetite: commendeth meates to the Palate: helpes concoction: breaketh fleame in the stomack”. Butts also gives a “Story for Table-talke” (table talk being a kind of anecdote or other interesting information told at dinner) relating to green sauce:

This kinde of Sauce, I neuer tasted my selfe: yet am bold to communicate and commend it to my friends, as I find it described by the Italian Freitagio. The Italian (as all the world knowes) is most exquisite in the composition of all sorts of Condiments, they being indeede the better part of his Diet. All kind of Greene-sauce, is questionlesse best in season, while herbs retain their full strength and perfect vigour.

I’ll be cooking the eggs in green sauce later today and will post the recipe shortly after.

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Stuffed Eggs: Part 2

Well, first a bit of an explanation. I promised this recipe several months ago, but I’ve had a bit of an unexpected (but lovely) career change recently. I’ve just started a full time DPhil in Early Modern Literature, but the whole process from writing a proposal to actually starting all happened in the space of about 2 months. As it all came about rather suddenly I pretty much had to drop everything to get things sorted out. Anyway, I’m back again (again), with the long overdue conclusion to the stuffed eggs post!

Stuffed eggs have always been a favourite of mine, and I’d seen several recipes, and this one looked the nicest. In the book, it is presented as a garnish, but I ate it as a snack and it was very tasty as such. This recipe comes from Monsieur Marnett’s 1656 text, The Perfect Cook, subtitled The French Pastry Cook:

The manner to make hard stuffed Eggs into the form of Pudding

Take sweet Herbs, as Lettice, Purselen, Burrage, Sorrel, Parsley, or Chervel, and a little Time, take out the stalks from the said herbs, and if you will have your stuft eggs to bee high rellished, put the more Parsley into them, or the more Chervel, and a few Leeks or Onions, your said herbs being thus well picked and washed, cause them to bee minced, and season them with salt, with a little beaten Cloves, or Pepper; so likewise may you mince joyntly with your said herbs some Muscharoons well washed and picked, which have been formerly seasoned and boyled, and some persons do also add thereunto some Cheese grated or scraped very small, pour all this said mixture into a skillet, and cause it to be fryed with brown butter, or with any other suet, or with oyle, in case you have it.
And when this your said mixture is half fried, some do add thereunto some few Currans, and Pineapple Kernels, which is only to bee done at your own pleasure, being otherwise not requisite, and it will suffice only to season them with salt, and when this your said stuft mixture is fryed, you must put unto them some hard yolks of Egges cut in small peeces, and give them a turn or two in the panne over the fire, after which dish them up, and garnish the said dish on the top and sides with hard Egges cut in twain.
Sometimes you may take out the yolks of your said Egges, and mingle them with your minced stuft ingredients, & when your said Pudding is fryed, you may fill the white of your Eggs therewith before you pour it upon the rest of your pudding, and sometimes instead of ranging of the white of your Egges about your pudding, you may garnish it with some sippets, or with small cakes of paste fryed in butter, and after all you may grate upon the whole a little Nutmeg, or crust of white bread.

I began, as instructed by boiling the eggs. The recipe also called for boiled mushrooms, so I popped a portabello mushroom in there with the eggs for a while.

Next, I chopped up the leek and parsley as small as possible. The smaller the better for this I think, you could use a food processor but that’s not really in the spirit as I like to avoid it where possible.

Unfortunately I could not lay my hands on any of the other herbs suggested in the recipe. My greengrocer only tends to stock two types of herb at a time for some reason, and all they had this time was large bunches of parsley. When I went in yesterday they had tarragon, which would probably have been nicer. I chopped up the mushrooms and mixed them with the leeks and herbs, together with a pinch of pepper and a little grated cheese (I used Sussex Charmer, which is currently my favourite hard cheese). It seemed slightly unnecessary to add the cheese this early on, but I did it anyway.

I then proceeded to melt about 1 1/2tbsp butter in a frying pan until it bubbled and turned brown. Learning from my mistakes with the beans, I used actual butter, and I didn’t go overboard. To be honest, I probably still used a bit too much though, but that is something I generally have a tendency to do, it seems. I fried the leek and mushroom mixture for a few minutes before adding the pine nuts, aka pineapple kernels.

I had a quick look at the OED, and sure enough pineapple kernels are indeed the seeds of pinecones. I imagine they do not come from the Mediterranean stone pine as they do today, but I think this will be near enough. Then I cut the eggs in half, took out the yolks, and crumbled them into the mixture. After frying for another minute or two I put the mixture into the egg whites.

So here’s my version of the recipe:

Stuffed Eggs

3 eggs
1 leek
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 mushroom
1 small bunch parsley (and/or tarragon)
About 25g grated hard cheese of your choice

Put the eggs into boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Add the mushroom and boil for a further 4 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

Chop the leek, parsley and/or tarragon, and mushroom. Put into a bowl with the cheese and add a pince of pepper.

Put the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook until melted and beginning to brown. Add the leek and mushroom mixture and fry for about 5 minutes, until the leek is soft and translucent. Add the pine nuts, and cook for a another 2 minutes. While the mixture is frying, cut the eggs in half lengthways and remove the yolks. Mash them up with the back of a spoon and add to the mixture in the frying pan. Stir to combine, and then leave to cool slightly. Arrange the mixture in the eggs, and serve either hot or cold.

Next time, I am hoping to do something with quinces, since I’ve seen some in my local greengrocers and they look very tempting.

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