It's not that I didn't cook this weekend, I was in a bit of a rush so it had to be something very quick or something very slow. I decided to return to Cholent which I cooked a few short weeks ago and cook it over a long time. As a technique cooking slowly, depending on what you're cooking, guarantees a richness in flavour.
Brown Windsor Soup
As I am currently in an historic frame of mind I decided to have a look into the past for a recipe and came up with something that was Queen Victoria's favourites.
In fact the recipe is not unlike the Cholent I've been eating all weekend.
2 tbsp butter
1/4lb stewing beef
1/4lb lamb or mutton
1 pint of beef stock
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
2 tbsp flour
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper to taste
1/4tsp chilli powder
1/2 cup of cooked rice (optional)
1/4 cup Madeira wine (optional)
A very straight forward recipe where you begin by coating the beef and lamb in seasoned flour and browning it in the melted butter then throw everything else in, cover and simmer until the meat is tender. Stir in the rice and Madeira, if you're using them, about twenty minutes from the end. Serve piping hot with crusty bread.
I haven't tried the recipe but it strikes me as being a little bland. Worcestershire sauce may perk it up a little, I'm sure some folk would include a stick of celery (yack!!!!) and I would always fry the onion in butter and garlic. The above recipe is a framework and the more adventurous chef may tweak it to suit their own taste.
I am considering writing a novel with a historic bent and so need to research everyday life in the thirteenth and possibly the early twentieth century. The latter should be somewhat easier as there is a plethora of inter- and post-war material to delve into, but as someone who likes a challenge, I begin in medieval times.
It would seem that the base for much food was bread which was baked beneath the embers of a fire and without yeast. This produced a fairly thin and well baked loaf that was then used to cut up and serve the rest of the food. As the juices from the meal soaked into the bread it to was eaten.
People preferred white bread but it tended to be the rich who could afford it and so ordinary folk made bread from rye and barley. If there was a poor harvest then the grain could be replaced by peas, beans and even acorns. The bread tended to be dark in colour and coarse.
Vegetables weren't seen by ordinary people as a major part of their diet but they ate quite a lot of potage. This is a sort of soup/stew made from oats and whatever vegetables the people grew round their cottages. Turnips, peas, beans and parsnips were often used although leek potage was a great favourite.
Pigs were favoured creatures and provided the majority of the protein that people ate in medieval times. It was logical as the animals ate acorns, which were free and available in the forests, so pigs were cheap to rear and could be slaughtered all year round.
Peasants also ate mutton and lamb although the animals were thin and the meat wasn't highly valued. They did use the blood, milk, animal fat, onions and oatmeal to make black pudding.
Game such as deer, boar, rabbits and hares were the property of the lords and squires and the local people weren't permitted to hunt them and so never appeared on menus outside of baronial halls and castles. It was ever thus!
I hope the above gives the reader a sample of life and food 700 -800 years ago.