Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Z is for Zdena ...

Zdena that follower of Bacchus, the wine god, would not have been left out of any frivolities or ABCings ...
Zdena in all her glory!

... she, like her new mistress, loves life too much ... sent over by Lenny as a companion to Hardwick, Muddy Hippo and Rocky, and who now lives with this blog’s owner after her mother died ...

The beautiful black and white zebra arrived needing a name ... what quoth this blog owner shall that zany zebra be called ... a search was conducted ...

... ah ah ... the name to suit the owner, completely satisfying the last letter of the alphabet Aspects of British Cookery challenge, flew up out of the magic that is the www .... "Zdena"...

Hardwick, Muddy Hippo and Zdena
... how appropriate that she is a follower of the wine god Bacchus ... Zdena on being named, very quickly caught up with the 21st century ...

... dying her hair bright red, painting her toes (and hooves in the process) and then completely shocking her mistress with two heart tattoos on her cheeks ... to round her image off – she wears a red bow ...

Here's to you all ... 
She is one pretty smart Zebra ... on top of that her mistress rather likes her name Zdena ...

.... the short and sweet end to a wonderful A – Z ... please join us for a delicious glass of wine, cider, mead or .... drink of your choice ... 

... Zdena and I will join you with a toast to Arlee Bird, who started this razzamatazz, and his wonderful co-hosts for keeping us on track, and to you all who so generously comment ... cheers and thank you!

That is Z for Zdena from Aspects of British Cookery ...

To all newcomers ... this is Lenny - he blogs and frequents bloggers when he feels inspired, at the moment he seems to be stuck with lots of school work -as he says yuck!!!!  This is my blog post about the Valentine prezzies he sent over --- very lucky me!!  You can see from the post what a brilliant character he is ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 29 April 2013

Y is for Ypocras ...

This interesting medieval spiced wine is mentioned by an old steward of a castle who laments that lords and ladies do not drink and dine in Hall as their fathers did, but have hot wines and small meals carried up to their bedrooms!
Ypocras sleeve

Ypocras a drink made from wine mixed with sugar and spices, warmed ... then strained off through the Hippocratic sleeve (originally devised by the 5th century BC Greek physician Hippocrates to filter water).

Only 4 sleeves
to sieve the
spiced wine

Spiced wine was popular in the Roman Empire as seen in the writings of Pliny the Elder and Apicius, and came to Europe from the Orient following the Crusades (1095 - 1291) – the drink becoming extremely popular and was regarded as having various medicinal or even aphrodisiac properties.

During the 13th century, the city of Montpellier had a reputation for trading spiced wines with England – we needed some spicing up, obviously! 
Ypocras - bottles for sale.
Aux Delices Franco Begles: 
Vin Apperitif from Distilleriedes
Terres Rouge Turenne

Since about 1390 the recipes for piment (a variant of the early spiced wine) have been called ipocras or Ypocras.

Hattonchatel - c/o FX Cuisine

Ypocras is still produced in the Ariege and Haute Loire areas of France, though in very small quantities.  It may be used for either drinking, when it is served chilled before meals, or as an ingredient in sauces ...

... it is enjoying a rejuvenation being served in numerous medieval feasts all over Europe ... while providing a basis for other more modern day drinks, such as Sangria.

An English text specifies that sugar was uniquely for the lords and honey was for the people ... how times have changed!

This is how they make Ypocras today at Hattonchatel Castle, France – FXCuisine ... the 14th century recipe says “Passee your wyne throu a Socke nine tymes untilled clear” ... 2 pages of detailed instructions, with photos, are given!

That is Y for Ypocras from Aspects of British Cookery

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X is for Xinomavro grape ...

... the “sour black” principal red wine grape (vitis vinifera) of the uplands of Northern Greece ...
Xinomavro grapes

The importance of viticulture in ancient Greek society ensured the spread of the wine industry into Europe and across the English Channel ...

The Greek historian Thucydides (c 460 – c 395BC) quoted that: “the peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine” ... I’m sure the same thing happened to the Celts and the English ...
Terra Cotta relief showing Satyrs
expressing the juice from trodden
grapes in wicker mats
(Ancient Greece: eighth century to
circa six hundred AD)

For most of Rome’s winemaking history, Greek wine was still the most highly prized ... but by the 2nd century BC grand cru vineyards were established, with Pliny the Elder writing extensively about these first growths of Rome.

For those of you who followed my Ice Age posts, just before the A – Z, may remember I mentioned Pompeii ... here the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius had a devastating effect on one of the most important wine centres of Roman viticulture – that of Pompeii and its surrounds.

The Romans took their knowledge with them across the Channel with vines being established up and down England ... as the temperature at that time in history was warm enough to ripen the grapes.
Van Gogh's still life with
apples, pears, lemons and
grapes; (1887)  Art Institute
of Chicago

Rome’s influence on Britain is not so much viticultural as it is cultural – throughout modern history the British have played a key role through trade in shaping the world of wine.

Evidence of Vitus Vinifera vines (Xinomavro) being grown in the British Isles is known ... and may well have been grown here during another warm period, the Hoxnian Stage, about 440,000 years ago ...

That is X for Xinomavro grape from Aspects of British Cookery

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 26 April 2013

W is for Worcester Sauce ...

Worcestershire Sauce came into existence at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837), when a barrel of vinegar and spices made up for a customer to an Indian recipe was left forgotten for some years in a chemist’s cellar in Worcester.

1900 advertisement for
Lea and Perrins' Sauce -
the original Worcestershire

The shop’s name was Lea & Perrins.

During a subsequent ‘spring-cleaning’ it was about to be thrown out – when prudence suggested it should first be tasted.  Thus was born what is probably the world’s best known and most ubiquitous bottled sauce, one which has become a standard in the British kitchen cupboard.

It is used in many dishes ranging from soups and sauces to salad dressings, and small quantities are a ‘chef’s secret’ in many recipes.

Lea and Perrins' premises

American Trade Card
for the sauce, about 1870
- 1900, showing the
orange brand label
We always had a bottle at home – a staple of our family’s store cupboard ... and was sprinkled on ... added to ... or splished over ...

·        Cheese on toast
·        Meatloaf or meat balls
·        Cauliflower cheese
·        Baked beans on toast
·        Spaghetti bolognaise
·        Avocado pear half ... coated with the sauce
·        Oysters – sprinkle with said sauce

 I used it yesterday in some salad dressing I made up ... 

That is W for Worcester Sauce – part of the ABC series on Aspects of British Cookery.

I hadn't realised they seem to have found the original recipe .. see The Mail On-Line's article from 2009 here ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 25 April 2013

V is for Vegetables ...

In the 2nd half of the 18th century Rev. Gilbert White in “The Natural History of Selborne” made note of the increased consumption of vegetables by ordinary country people in the south of England.
Cauliflower, tomato, turnips, beans et al

To which he recorded ‘that potatoes had only been added during the reign of George III (1738 – 1820).

Green-stalls in cities now support multitudes in comfortable state, while gardeners get fortunes!!’

In Elizabeth I’s reign 1588 was the year that the first recorded Brussels sprout was used as a trimming ...  (I love me my sprouts!)

New potatoes
Yet vegetables, known as “worts”, were recorded in the 12th century ... a meat roll:  “Boyl a Flank with worts” ... a deboned mutton flank, flavoured with salt and pepper, and powdered spice – lightly roll and leave to ‘marinade’.

Next day take young turnips, parsnips and young onions as needed... cut them small, pressing over the meat, sprinkle with thyme, parsley, and a suspicion of rosemary or mint.   Tie rolled flank, place in a cloth and simmer gently in the bone broth.

Green Space Landscape - vegetable plot

To serve unroll, spread with vegetables, and extra cabbage lightly stewed in butter and milk ... pour over some of the juices, then serve with thick breads and the remainder  ‘gravy’.

Leafy greens and vegetables
Hedgeroll is another early version of serving vegetables ... young vegetables rolled into a thin pastry crust ...

The word had been around for a long time in the sense of 'animal, vegetable and mineral', but not until the mid 1700s did it come to be used in this new specific way, to describe ‘herbs and roots grown for food’.

Green herbs, for the service of man ... the simplers had experimented with tasting, the gardeners started to grow them, and poor man needed to eat – greens became acceptable on the meal table.

A selection of colourful vegetables

None more so now in the 21st century ... as we realise the importance of fresh vegetables – both raw and cooked as delicious dishes in their own right ...

That is V for Vegetables from Aspects of British Cookery

Green Space Landscape – vegetable plot ... grow your own

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Utensils ...

A wooden spoon – I bet we all have one of those in our kitchens ... I’ve a few ancient ones, ones I inherited from my mother ... and a few I brought back from Africa ... where - I wonder at the selection and woods used.
Barn the Spoon
c/o Spitalfields Life

Bee Wilson asks look closer – feel the grain; is it a workmanlike beech factory spoon, or a denser wood whittled by an artisan ... is it round, or oval, short or long, cupped or flat ... childlike or preserving pan size ... and so the questions go on.

Got the piece of bent wood -
now to craft the spoon
Countless decisions – economic and social as well as those pertaining to design and applied engineering - will have gone into our utensil objects over the centuries.

The wooden spoon is a quiet ensemble player in so many meals we take for granted ...  it was traditionally given as the booby prize ... yet we prize our wooden spoons – and it has many advantages.

Alder Wood spoon with
incised band decoration,
of the style used in
Shakespeare's time -
held at the London Museum
We eat with our utensils ... spoons, forks and knives, or our fingers and hands ...

Barn the Spoon is the craftsman par excellence ... “What I’m famous for is making straight spoons from straight branches, but what I am best at is making bent spoons from bent branches” ....

... “the beauty of making a bent spoon from a bent branch is that the grain of the wood runs into the bowl and makes it a lot stronger than a straight spoon from a straight branch”...

The Gentle Author's
spoon created from
bent wood by
Barn the Spoon
An excellent post extolling the virtues of a true artisan, who has that critical connection with the tools of his trade – essentially bent wood.

Over the centuries humans have used knives, pronged implements and scooped out wood for spoons ... some are beautiful, some sensuous in their feel, some are designed to perfection ... in fact so is The Gentle Author’s spoon ... also note where the reminiscences of medieval stone vaulting appear in the spoon (see article posted for full description)  ...

Utensils of all sorts have stood the test of time, probably more so than the many high-tech gadgets that have superseded the ‘umble wooden spoon’  ... those early wooden utensils were tools to eat with, to last millennia in design ... not be discarded by the next geeky thought ...

That is U for Utensils from Aspects of British Cookery

Barn The Spoon c/o Spitalfields Life ... at the Cemetery with Barn the Spoon

Consider The Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen – by Bee Wilson ... a book I was given, which I thought would make an interesting read ... jottings extracted from her introduction ...

Please see my first commenter - Bob Scotney .. and my reply to him re the wooden spoon booby prize ... many thanks!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T is for Treacle Tart ...

George Orwell wrote some essays expounding his reasons that British cookery ain’t half good ... it makes interesting reading – but as it’s under copyright I will only use snippets.
Treacle Tart - now how good does that look!

Orwell describes puddings as one of the ‘greatest British glories of British cookery’ ... certainly Treacle Tart was a favourite in our family ... which Orwell tells us is a delicious dish.

Tate and Lyle's Golden syrup
My mother used to make our pastry – she was a mighty fine cook – with treacle tart becoming one of our favourites.    Treacle to us is the lighter version – the golden syrup type ... not the thick molasses, that some families call Treacle.

Orwell gives a recipe ... these will vary slightly depending on the depth of the filling – more breadcrumbs, the gooey stickiness of the tart – more golden syrup, a touch of ginger as he mentions/or some lemon juice to counter the sweet golden syrup.
The early cream settling
plant was near our
grandmother's house!

I totally agree with Orwell – this is one delicious warm tart ... especially served with cold pouring cream, or preferably Cornish clotted cream ...

A very good Easter Sunday lunch dish – especially as I write this the day before Easter ... and it’s still very cold and unspring like ...

So good on Orwell and his Treacle Tart ...

That is T for Treacle Tart from Aspects of British Cookery

Orwell’sEssays and Other Works – Treacle Tart ... to find reference to the desserts, scroll down approximately half way ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 22 April 2013

S is for Scouse ...

Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew ... derived from lobscouse a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, which became popular in seaports such as Liverpool – giving us the term ‘scouser’ for someone from the Liverpool/Merseyside region.
Ship's Scouse

Lobscouse derived from the Norwegian lapskaus and Danish labskovs is a word for a meat stew, while the people who commonly ate “scouse” were the local dockers, families and sailors – who became known as  “scousers”.

Ship's Biscuit
Nineteenth century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions and pepper with ship’s biscuit used to thicken the dish..  There are many varieties now ...  in St Helens the dish is often called “lobbies” and uses corned beef as the meat; in Wigan “lobbies” is often made using tinned stewing steak; or there’s “blind Scouse “– made without meat!

Liverpool montage
Liverpool became a melting pot of nationalities through its early origins as a major port for immigrants to the Americas, to Asia, emigrants from Scandinavia and northern Europe ... while in those early days the sailors were grateful for any hot meal ...

... the scouse accent was primarily confined to the north west until the 1950s when slum clearances resulted in population migration ... spreading the dialect far and wide;  inhabitants of Liverpool are called Liverpudlians, but are more often described by the colloquialism “Scousers”.

A slightly more upmarket version of
ship's scouse
Scouse Stew is a ‘delicacy’ to try when you visit the urban areas of Merseyside – but particularly is offered in the port-side cafes.

That is S for Scouse ... a meat stew – a mixed pot ...

Life at Sea in the age of sail - Royal Museums, Greenwich ...
            ... what food was on board ship.

(PS I know the top picture looks revolting ... but remember this was served at sea centuries ago .. and in fact this kind of stew with very scraggy neck-lamb, or probably sheep, is delicious - slow cooked for a few hours ... and if on land, served with green leeks!  So it doesn't look appetising, but is just what the 'tars' (sailors) needed to set them up for the working days).

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

R is for Rowan Jelly ...

The Rowan or Mountain Ash is found throughout Europe, while two related species are found in North America ...

Rowan Jellies

The red berries begin to ripen in August – although too tart and bitter to eat ... they do make a fine jelly – either alone or with an equal quantity of apples – and the jelly is renowned for its traditional accompaniment to venison, roast lamb. 

The stunning red berries are packed with vitamin A and C; while it is a very good store cupboard ingredient – as the jelly can be eaten at breakfast on toast or with a croissant, with cold meats at lunch, or with a game roast in the evenings.

Clusters of berries and jelly pot
After a good walk out foraging and collecting berries, there are few better ways to relax than sitting listening to music while taking the berries off their stalks with a foraging fork .... 

... the jelly bag being left to drip ... so those little red jewels can be transformed into jars of scarlet  goodness.

Rowan berries were also a popular ingredient in country wines, and Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary that he found ale brewed with rowan berries the best he had ever tasted.

While searching for a little more information on the Rowan ... I came across a wonderful greetings card showing the Rowan Tree ... with lovely words describing it and its uses ... Bird Catcher, Whispering Tree,  Dowsing Rods ... etc

I bought a few of her cards ... as I think they are delightful ..

That is R for Rowan jelly part of the Aspects of British Cookery series ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 19 April 2013

Q is for Queen’s hot favourite ...

... the Queen’s sauce – now that’s an interesting thought ... yet that bravura of exports is a favourite of the British Royal Family, so much so that it has been given a royal warrant by the Queen.

Tabasco - the Queen's hot favourite ... 

It’s an incongruous thought, a bottle of Tabasco on the sideboards at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral ... and now probably Highgrove et al ...

It is a definingly definite American sauce – but one that reaches the cockles of many a Britisher’s heart ... be it in the family, or as slyly dropped into a dish to spice it up a little by the chef  - that secret ingredient, not admitted to.

The Buffet by Jean-Louis Forain
(1852 - 1931)
The word sauce is a French word taken from the Latin ‘salsa’, meaning salted ... this is appropriate for Tabasco sauce – as an ancestral McIlhenny living on Avery Island in the deep bayous of Louisiana mashed those early peppers.

Avery Island sits on one of the biggest salt mines in America – so what better way to flavour this mish-mashed potpourri of Tabasco peppers than a pinch of salt, natural vinegar – said pulp left to mature in old white oak whisky barrels for up to three years.

In 1868 find some discarded cologne bottles – fill with McIlhenny sauce – on successful approval of peppery sauce by family and friends, order more cologne bottles – expand business for next 140+ years ... McIlhenny’s name will live on as the royal Tabasco producer.

That is Q for Queen’s hot favourite our Tabasco sauce – part of the ABC series on Aspects of British Cookery.

On Avery Island – studio album by American indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel (cover see left)

Susan Scheid from Prufrock's Dilemma - an intellectual take on music, poetry and literary thoughts - a great informative blog to learn from ... Susan and a friend used to post at a now inactive blog called Raining Acorns (love the name!) where she mentioned she'd visited the bird sanctuary at Avery Island ... an added resource for us.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories