Wednesday 10 November 2010

Thanksgiving Food and Recipes

With Thanksgiving only a fortnight away, it's time to turn our attention to this most American of festivities.

Typically, the foods served at the Thanksgiving meal reflect those of what, traditionally, is known as the 'first Thanksgiving'; the 1621 feast at Plymouth colony that included: turkey, waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Indeed, many of the foods included at that feast (with the notable exception of the seafood) have become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner.

The centrepiece, of course, remains the Turkey and this link: roasting meat, fowl and game will give you a guide for how to roast a whole range of meats successfully.

For many, no Thanksgiving meal is complete without a stuffing (or a 'dressing' as it is commonly known) and below is a recipe for a traditional cornbread stuffing:

Cornbread Stuffing

90g onions, finely chopped
180g celery, chopped (use the leaves and stalks)
200g butter
850g cornbread (either cut into cubes or crumbled by hand)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp dried sage, crumbled (or to taste)
3/4 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped

Melt the butter in a large frying pan, and when hot add the onions and celery and fry gently for about 8 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Add about 1/3 of the cornbread to the pan and sir to coat in the butter before taking off the heat.

Now pour the contents of the pan into a large bowl then stir in the remaining cornbread along with the salt, pepper, sage and thyme. Stir thoroughly to combine then, when ready to roast your turkey use this mixture to stuff the neck and body cavities of the bird. This recipe will provide enough for up to a 7kg bird.

Many creamed vegetable dishes are commonly served and below is a typical example:

Creamed Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Turnips

2 carrots, scraped and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
120ml whole milk
4 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg

Bring a pan of very lightly salted water to a boil, add the carrots, sweet potato and turnip and boil for about 20 minutes, or until all the ingredients are tender. Drain the vegetables in a colander then transfer to a food processor and purée with the milk, dill and butter.

Transfer the resultant mixture into a bowl and season with salt and black pepper. Turn this mixture into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle the nutmeg on top then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170°C and bake for about 15 minutes, or until heated through and golden brown on top.

No thanksgiving meal is complete without a dessert and below is one for a classic Pecan Pie:

Pecan Pie

3 eggs
180ml maple syrup
60ml bourbon, whisky or rum
125g sugar
65g butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g pecan nut halves
1/4 batch foolproof pie crust (enough for a single crust pie)

Prepare the foolproof pie crust according to the recipe then chill in the refrigerator as you prepare the filling.

Lightly whisk the eggs then beat in the maple syrup, bourbon, sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Add the pecan halves and stir to combine. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator then roll out on greaseproof (waxed) paper and use to line the base of a pie plate. Trim any excess pastry then pour in the filling.

Bake on the bottom shelf of an oven pre-heated to 175°C and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving with vanilla ice cream.

You will find hundreds more Classic Thanksgiving recipes by following the link given here.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Halloween and Bonfire Night Recipes

The season of the Celtic New Year is here at last. These days, this season is celebrated with Halloween and Bonfire Night in the UK.

Halloween is October 31st and is the eve of All Hallows, where the veil between the world of man and the world of spirits and goblins is at it's thinnest and various ghouls and ghosties walk abroad.

Bonfire Night is November 5th and commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the United Kingdom's Houses of Parliament, in London. Festivities are centred on the use of fireworks and the lighting of bonfires.

Below are some classic Halloween Recipes:

Shadowy Moon Marshmallow Treats

65g margarine
300g miniature marshmallows

50g miniature chocolate chips
250ml white frosting

Assorted colored gels (orange, yellow, red)

Yellow-coloured sugar

Assorted Halloween sweets (candies)

In large bowl, combine cereal and cookie crumbs then set aside.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat together the margarine and marshmallows until melted, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Pour over the cereal mixture, tossing to coat well. Press the resultant mixture into greased 35cm diameter pizza pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, pressing gently into cereal mixture then set aside.

Frost the top of the prepared mixture with frosting to within 2cm of the edge. Decorate with assorted gels. Sprinkle with yellow colored sugar. Decorate with assorted candies.

Spooky Eyeball Tacos

450g minced (ground beef)

1 package TACO BELL HOME
 ORIGINALS Taco Dinner Kit

Shredded lettuce

Chopped tomatoes

Sour cream

Sliced, pitted, olives

Mix together the meat and seasoning mix. Shape into thirty-six balls and place these in a 33 x 22cm baking dish. Bake at 170—C for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Fill each of the 12 taco shells with 1 meatball, taco sauce, lettuce and tomato then top with 2 additional meatballs dipped in sour cream. Garnish with sliced pitted ripe olives to create "eyes."

Below is a classic Cottage Pie for Bonfire Night:

Bonfire Shepherd's Pie

450g lean minced (ground) beef
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
350gfrozen mixed vegetables
440g tinned, diced, tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained 

360g beef gravy 

420ml water

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

120ml milk
450g mashed potatoes
60g grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.

Lightly grease a 30cm diameter frying pan and use to cook the beef and onion over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain.

Add the frozen vegetables, tomatoes and gravy to beef mixture. Heat to boiling then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for between 8 and 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, heat water, butter and garlic powder to boiling. Remove from heat and add the milk. Stir in the potatoes and cheese then add the egg and blend thoroughly.

Spoon the beef mixture into ungreased a 20cm square or oval glass baking dish. With large spoon, make 6 mounds of the potato mixture on top of beef mixture to resemble bonfire pyres. Transfer to the oven and bake for between 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are set and mixture is thoroughly heated.

For more Halloween and Bonfire Night recipes see the Hallowen recipes page and the Bonfire Night recipes page.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Cooking with Radish Pods

What to do with Bolted Radishes

Whatever the cause, this year has been a truly terrible one for radishes. Despite planting early, mine decided to bolt almost immediately, generating long stems and almost no root.

Not being one to waste anything in the garden, I went on the look-out for what I might do with my under-whelming plants. I already knew that radish leaves were edible and picked a few off each plant for stir-fried and salads.

Then I stumbled upon a recipe from Mrs Beeton for an Indian Pickle that had radish pods as one of its ingredients (one of my current projects is redacting Mrs Beeton's recipes for the modern cook. So, what was this 'radish pod' referred to.

A quick web search revealed that the pods used were probably 'rat-tailed radishes', a type developed in India for their pods rather than their roots. It also seemed that the flowers and seed pods of all radishes were edible. If I allowed my bolted radishes to flower and be fertilized, then I would have a crop of pods to eat.

It seems that radish pods originally came to Britain from Java in 1815. These are radishes specially bred to produce edible pods (they are also known as aerial radishes, podding radishes, or Java radishes after their place of origin), and in general they do not even have the enlarged taproot one typically associates with radishes. In Germany, a variety named Munchen Bier has both edible pod and root. The large black radish is sliced, buttered and eaten as a snack with dark beer — as are the pods.

Of course, all radish seed pods are edible. Just pick them before they begin to dry and turn brown. What makes Java radishes special is that they are bred to produce large seed pods and these are then harvested and eaten or sold (they are a common feature in Indian markets). They were also used frequently in Victorian cookery for Indian-style pickles and preserves.

The pods are spicy and taste very similar to radish root. However, they mellow significantly upon cooking. As a result, it's best to use them as a flavouring for salads or as a raw garnish to other dishes. They can also be topped and tailed and added raw to soups and they make an excellent pickle. Though the flavour diminishes, they work well in stir-fries as they hold their shape and crispness well.

Below is a classic recipe for a refrigerator radish pod pickle:

Brine-pickled Radish Pods

600ml radish pods, washed and dried
200ml hot water
120ml cider vinegar
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
6 black peppercorns
2 dried red chillies

Combine the water, vinegar, salt and sugar in a large jar. Secure a lid then shake until the sugar and salt are dissolved then set aside.

Pack the radish pods into jars, add the spices then pour over the sugar and salt brine so that the radishes are covered then secure the lid. Place in the refrigerator and leave to mature for at least one week before eating (they will last for a couple of months if kept refrigerated).

These make and excellent snack, can be used as a garnish, can be added to salads and also work well in martinis!

If you would like further recipes using radish pods, why not check out this page of radish pod recipes.

Friday 18 June 2010

Victorian Recipes and Cookbooks

Interest in ancient recipes is growing, and whilst the Celtnet Recipes site caters for recipes from all historical periods it is now tackling an almost forgotten culinary age; the Victorian period. Covering almost 80 years from 1830 to 1910 (marked by the passing of the Reform Act and Queen Victoria’s death) this period saw huge social and domestic changes, with the rise of an increasingly affluent middle class.

These people, typically, had not run a large household before and writers came to occupy this gap in the market, providing recipes and tips on household management. One of the most famous of these authors is Mrs Beeton who began writing for her husband’s periodical, The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine before collating these writings into the archetypical cookery book of the age, her ‘Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management’.

It is also true to say that cooking and cookery became a form of entertainment at the time, with dinners lasting up to five hours and with many courses, some very fancy, being served. To cater for such tastes, clubs hotels and restaurants began hiring a more professional class of chef. As a result, as a chef’s reputation grew they began being hired by higher and higher classes of establishments. This gave rise to what we would consider today to be the ‘celebrity chef’. One of the most notable chefs of the age was Charles Elme Francatelli, at one time chef to Queen Victoria and the Reform Club. He wrote several cook books, the most notable of which being his 1861 volume: ‘The Cook's Guide and Housekeeper's & Butler's Assistant’.

This is the period in which cooking and cookery became engrained in society’s psyche. So much so that in his encyclopaedia of every day things, the ‘Dictionary of Daily Wants’ Robert Kemp Philp devotes considerable space to foodstuffs and the manner of their preparation.

Below you will find two classic recipes, the first from Mrs Beeton and the next from Francatelli. Both are given in their original forms, followed by a modern redaction.

Red Mullet

Original Recipe:

285. INGREDIENTS.—Oiled paper, thickening of butter and flour, 1/2 teaspoonful of anchovy sauce, 1 glass of sherry; cayenne and salt to taste.

Mode.—Clean the fish, take out the gills, but leave the inside, fold in oiled paper, and bake them gently. When done, take the liquor that flows from the fish, add a thickening of butter kneaded with flour; put in the other ingredients, and let it boil for 2 minutes. Serve the sauce in a tureen, and the fish, either with or without the paper cases.
Time.—About 25 minutes.
Average cost, 1s. each.
Seasonable at any time, but more plentiful in summer.

Note.—Red mullet may be broiled, and should be folded in oiled paper, the same as in the preceding recipe, and seasoned with pepper and salt. They may be served without sauce; but if any is required, use melted butter, Italian or anchovy sauce. They should never be plain boiled.

Modern Redaction:

1 red mullet
1 tbsp flour mixed to a paste with 1 tbsp butter
baking parchment, oiled
1/2 tsp anchovy sauce
150ml dry sherry
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

Clean and scale the fish then remove the gills. Grease a sheet of baking parchment then fold the fish inside, place on a baking tray and transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until done (when the flesh flakes easily with a fork).

When ready, pour the liquid from the fish into a pan (set the fish aside to keep warm) then add the flour and butter mix a little at a time, whisking to combine, then stir in the sherry, anchovy sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Serve the fish in its paper parcel accompanied by the sauce.

Pheasant à la Gitana
Pheasant, Gypsy Fashion

Original Recipe:


Truss a pheasant as for boiling, put it in a stewpan with half a pound of streaky bacon cut into squares of about an inch; add an ounce of butter and a clove of garlic; fry all together over the fire, until the pheasant has become equally browned all over; then pour off all grease, add two Portugal onions, and four ripe tomatas, sliced thin, and two glasses of sherry; put the lid on, and set the stewpan to stew gently over a slow fire for about three-quarters of an hour, gently shaking the pheasant round occasionally; just before dishing up, add a teaspoonful of sweet red Spanish pepper.
Note.—All kinds of game and poultry, or indeed all kinds of meat, or firm-fleshed fish, are most excellent when dressed à la Gitana, or gipsy fashion.

Modern Redaction:

1 dressed pheasant, trussed for boiling
225g streaky bacon, cut into 2.5cm squares
30g butter
1 garlic cloves, sliced
2 white onions, thinly sliced
4 rip tomatoes, thinly sliced
300ml sherry
1 tsp paprika

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the pheasant, bacon and garlic and fry over medium heat, turning the pheasant over until it is evenly browned all over. Pour off all the fat from the pan then add the onions and tomatoes.

Pour in the sherry, secure a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, or until the pheasant is tender. Occasionally stir or shake the pan during the cooking time to ensure the contents do not catch and burn.

Just before serving, stir in the paprika then transfer the pheasant to a serving dish, pour over the sauce and serve.

For many more Victorian recipes, please visit the Celtnet Victorian Recipes page, or any of the individual pages devoted to Mrs Beeton and Francatelli on the site.

UPDATE! The complete text of Francatelli's Cook's Guide has been edited and published!

This recipe and over 1000 other recipes published in Francatelli's 1661 'The Cook's Guide and Housekeeper's and Butler's Assistant' has been published in eBook format. The complete text and all images from Francatelli's book has been re-edited and made available with an introduction and new biography. You also get essential Victorian recipes for basic pastries and store sauces that are needed to re-create Francatelli's recipes but which Francatelli himself did not publish.

In addition over 100 of Francatelli's recipes, including all the Reform Club recipes have been redacted and published as a separate chapter so that a modern cook can copy them. Using these recipes and the additional Victorian recipes provided you can re-create all of Francatelli's dishes from scratch.

So why not re-create a Victorian dinner party, or a Victorian Christmas meal as described by Francatelli himself in his Bills of Fare? Learn why Francatelli is one of the most well respected of the Victorian cookery writers and get a copy of his book for yourself today.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Cocktails with Wild Food

Of course, flavouring alcohols with wild foods, herbs and fruit (typically, gin, vodka and brandy) is a well known process, with Sloe Gin being the best know example. Other examples are plum brandies, Whitethorn Schnapps and Beech Leaf Noyau, amongst many others.

These flavoured alcohols make an excellent base for Martini-style cocktails and a good example is this one for a Sloetini:


75ml Sloe Gin
15ml dry vermouth
1/2 tsp simple syrup
ice cubes

Oriange Twist

Add cracked ice cubes to a cocktail shaker then pour in the Sloe Gin, dry vermouth and simple syrup then shake until chilled before straining into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and serve immediately.

You can also use wild foods directly to make purées that can be used to flavour cocktails. An interesting example of this is the Nettletini, made with nettle purée:


60ml Gin
45ml nettle purée
15ml sweet vermouth
1/2 tsp simple syrup
1 tsp lime juice
ice cubes

Lime Twist

Add cracked ice cubes to a cocktail shaker then pour in the Gin, nettle purée, sweet vermouth, simple syrup and lime juice then shake until chilled before straining into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist and serve immediately.

For more information on making flavoured alcohols see the Celtnet Guide to Wild Foods. The same site also provides a list of hundreds of cocktails both alcoholic and non-alcoholic on its cocktails and long drinks recipes page.

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Dandelion Fritters and Wild Foods

I've recently moved house and only now am I getting a chance to explore my surroundings. However, a quick stroll along the local river revealed drifts of ramsons (wild garlic), carpets of ground elder and stands of Japanese knotweed. With dandelions coming into bloom and both hazel and whitethorn buds opening into leaf there is plenty for the wild forager to gather and consume. And that's not even mentioning the classic seasonal stand-by of young nettle leaves.

From a local field, yesterday, I was able to gather enough dandelion flowers for some savoury dandelion flower fritters:

Savoury Dandelion Petal Fritters

When fried, dandelion flowers are truly delicious and have a delicate honeyed flavour. For this recipe take the entire flowers home then strip off the petals just before you are going to use them.

petals stripped from 40 to 50 fully-open dandelion flower heads
1 large egg
250ml milk
150g plain flour
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
50g butter, for frying

Clean the dandelion flowers (do not wash, as this will remove the flavour). Whisk the egg lightly in a bowl then beat in the milk, salt and flour to form a batter. Add the herbs and season to taste then set the batter aside for 20 minutes for the flavours to infuse. When ready to cook, strip the flowers from the dandelion flower heads and whisk into the batter.

Heat half the butter in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat and when foaming drop the batter by the tablespoon and cook small fritters. Continue adding tablespoons of batter until you can fit no more into the pan (but be careful they do not touch). Check the first ones every now an then until they are cooked golden brown on the base. At this point flip the fritters over and brown then on the other side. When cooked a golden brown on both sides remove from the pan, drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil then transfer to a plate and keep warm as you fry the remaining batter.

Serve as a starter or snack accompanied by a sweet chilli or soy sauce based dipping sauce.

For more wild food based recipes see the Celtnet guide to wild foods and if you would like more flower recipes then please see the flower-based recipes pages.

Happy foraging and cooking!

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

Monday 4 January 2010

Rack of Lamb for Valentine's

Today's recipe is a classic rack of lamb for Valentine's day:

Rack of Lamb with Olive Crust

The French-trimmed rack of lamb is a traditional Valentine's day dish and here it's classically roasted with an olive crust.

1 rack of lamb (7 bones each) — this yields 2 generous portions
100g butter
1 tsp olive oil
100g olives, pitted
1 sprig of basil
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
100g dry breadcrumbs
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves
1 carrot, cut into chunks
3 celery sticks, cut into chunks
1 bayleaf
1 sprig of thyme
750ml lamb stock (or chicken stock)

Begin with the crust: Combine the olives, basil, breadcrumbs an parsley in a blender and reduce to fine crumbs. Season to taste with salt and black pepper then set aside. Melt 50g of the butter in a small saucepan and heat until foaming then add the lemon juice. Take off the heat and stir into the olive and brad mix then set aside to cool.

Add 25g of butter and the olive oil to a roasting thin. Heat on the hob then season the lamb rack and place in the roasting tin and fry until well coloured (about 3 minutes per side). Add the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, bayleaf and celery to the roasting tin then turn the meat over so the curved side is uppermost. Spread the crust over the top of the meat then arrange the rack on top of the vegetables. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 15 minutes.

When done, remove the rack of lamb, cover with foil and set aside to rest. Place the roasting tin with the vegetables on top of the hob. Add the stock and allow to boil until the volume has reduced by 1/3 then pass through a sieve, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the liquid to a pan then bring to a boil and reduce for 5 minutes before whisking in the remaining 25g of butter to thicken.

Halve the rack of lamb and arrange on serving plates. Accompany with potatoes, spring vegetables and the sauce.

This recipe is brought to you by the Celtnet Recipes for Special Occasions page.
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