Sunday 5 August 2018

Stunning Cookery!

I feel I should be doing this post in high heels, trotting around my tasteful kitchen, making saucy puns about basting and the size of my copper pans, but sadly the medium of print doesn't lend itself to all those shenanigans.  Mores the pity.  Anyway, today's post is about a very special cook book...

Now, you will obviously remember from this post about Ruth Herbert (left) that in later years, she published a cook book.  I have been after a copy ever since, but thanks to, you can download it for free!  This I joyfully did, and here are three recipes, tried and tested, for your amusement...

At the beginning of the St James' Cookery Book, there is a salutary lesson for all mistresses of houses, with regards to their servants.  I'm sure this is something you all can identify with, having large houses and a number of staff yourselves (cough, cough), so I will repeat it here.  'One hard and fast rule should be made in every house,' begins Ruth, 'that whatever comes into the house belongs to the master and mistress.'  Now, this all sounds straightforward, but it is very specifically one thing that Miss Herbert, now Mrs Rochfort, is thinking - 'I hold that a servant looking upon her perquisites is dishonest.'  Did you realise that if you are not careful, your servants would be out there flogging your dripping on the streets? Yes!  It is indeed a problem of our times that our servants sell our dripping and pocket the money!  The horror.   I'll just let you recover from the trauma of that revelation, I'm going to get one with my first recipe...

Steamed Bread
I do love a bit of bread, which explains why I am made for distance rather than speed, shall we say.  Flicking through the bread recipes, my eye was caught by Steamed Bread, which is apparently a thing.  Ruth says that 'Bread can be steamed successfully according to the directions given for steamed puddings', and not wishing to appear rude, I thought I would give it a go.  She didn't give exact measurements for the recipe (as with many old cook books, there is an assumption that your cook would know already) and so I did a Google search.  There is a South African Bread, Isonka Samanzi, which is steamed bread so I took quantities from that.

 You will need -

Four and a half cups of bread flour
500ml of warm water
7g or one sachet of dried yeast
10g of salt
Squeeze of honey or a pinch of sugar

1. Place the yeast into a glass and add the honey/sugar in with it and a bit of the water.  Wait until it goes a bit foamy.

2. Put flour, salt, foamy yeast and rest of the water into a mixing bowl and mix, then knead as you would with normal bread.  When you have kneaded it enough (or have a machine to do it for you) then it should be stretchy and not too sticky.  If you are struggling, add a tad more flour.

3. You will need a pudding basin of some description that you will be boiling your bread in.  I use a pyrex bowl, greased with butter.  Pop your dough into the bowl and cover with a cloth for around an hour.

4. Get a pan big enough to fit your bowl in and cover it.  Half fill it with boiling water so it will be halfway up the sides of your bowl when you pop it in.

5. Put a piece of greased and pleated tin foil over the top of the bowl with the dough in it.  Tie string around to hold it in place and make a handle to help with lifting the bowl in and out of the water.  Note: Never trust just the handle to hold the bowl as there is a lot of water and oil involved, things become slippy. I lift with the handle but get a big spoon or something under the bowl as quick as possible to provide support.

6. Place the covered bowl into the pan and put the lid on the pan.  Check it in about half an hour to make sure the water level is fine.  It should take over an hour to cook through. I did mine for an hour and a half. Remember to lift with the extra support when getting it out of the pan.

7. Turn the bread out onto a plate and scoff when cool enough.

Ruth says that if you want a brown crust then the loaf can be put 'in a sharp oven for a few minutes'. Righty-o then Ruth, I shall do that.  To the sharp oven!

Ta da!
It is delicious and everso moist, but it depends if that is what you are looking for in your bread.  It has a very chewy texture and toasts well.  I recommend giving it a go because it really isn't that hard, or too much of a faff and it's not like any other bread you've had, that's for sure.  Right, on with the next recipe...


As the name implies, this is a sort of Eastern Europe thing.  Ruth lists these under 'Entrees' (la de dah) and seemed the most straight-forward and didn't involve deviled brains, which is what I look for in a starter.  Anyway, here we go...

1. Mince up some cold chicken, parsley and, I quote, a 'tolerably sized' mushroom.  You heard me.

2. Fry off a small onion, also minced up finely.  Mix with the chicken and tolerable mushroom.

3. Now, Ruth says to moisten everything with some gravy 'from which you have taken all the fat'. Add salt and pepper.  I think what you are aiming for is damp but able to squeeze together for the next bit.

4. Ruth says to cut some slices of fat bacon very thin.  I just used streaky and hoped for the best.  You are looking to make parcels, so I cut a streak in half, rolled a small amount of filling one way then rolled it the other to seal.  Don't make them too big.

5.  Leave the parcels on one side and make up the batter.  We will be using French batter.  Oo la la!

6. To make the batter, say 'bonjour!' to three tablespoons of plain flour.  To that add a little 'salad oil', which I'm guessing is anything other than lard, and a little water.  Whisk the whites of two eggs and add the flour mixture to make the batter.

7. Dig the parcels into the mixture and shallow fry (or deep fry, I won't judge you), turning over until they are all crispy and golden.

These were...interesting... I think if I were to do them again I would change my herb from parsley to something a little more exciting but essentially you are eating battered bacon which is delicious but a little goes a long way.  Eat with salad and pretend that makes it okay.

On to pudding!

Our sweet course is 'Greek Pudding', a title that intrigued me so I grabbed my frying pan (because apparently if we are not boiling stuff, we have to fry it) and whipped up the following...

Greek Pudding

1. Take some slices of French roll -  for this I used those little brioche rolls, just cut in half, but I think any soft, enriched bread is good - and steep them for a short time in milk.  I did mine until they were soggy but not too soggy that they fell apart.

2. Whilst things are steeping, boil a quarter cup of sugar with enough water to cover it, so it makes a fairly thick syrup.

3. Whisk up some egg yolks - I used an egg per roll - and dip the soggy brioche in it before frying off in some butter.

4. You want your brioche to be brown on both sides, so keep turning it and don't have your heat too high.

5. When brown and a little crisp, lift on to a waiting plate, sprinkle over a little cinnamon and drizzle with syrup. 

Then scoff.

These are heaven.  You have a sort of soft, light pancake taste with a hint of cinnamon and the sugar.  I was dubious but they would make a marvellous breakfast on a very special occasion, or a pudding on a cold and miserable night.

They may not look beautiful but they taste divine!

So those are my picks from the St James' Cookery Book, but there are many more that look delicious and unusual.  Download it for free and experiment for yourselves.

Ruth turned at the familiar 'ping!' of the microwave...
Thank you Ruth for having such an interesting and varied career!