Posts Tagged ‘Potato’

A Hidden Wee Recipe

July 7, 2010

I found the following line tucked away under an entry for ‘How to Use Cold Potatoes‘:

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In Scotland, cold boiled potatoes are frequently squeezed up and mixed with flour or oatmeal, and an excellent cake, or scon, obtained.

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Remembering the time I lived in Scotland when I was younger (hey!  I’m only 33.  Where on earth did ‘when I was younger’ thing spring from??), and Ireland a few years later, I have a soft spot for potato-based food stuffs.  I remember very well the stodgy loveliness of flat, hot potato scones (the type that was kind of like a small thick square pancake), oozing and slippery with melted butter.  Mmm.  Mmmmmm.  Mmmmmmm.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, Mrs Beeton.  Potato scones.  Mmmm.

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This is a fantastic use of a bit of potato.  Sometimes, I get a little bored with the standard potato side-dish fare (mashed, boiled, fried, frittered, roasted – or, my boyfriend’s absolute favourite, fries).  Even though this is a very simple recipe, I was grateful for the opportunity to present something a little different.

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I found that a generous pinch of salt and pepper gave the mix a little more oomph – not too much, but enough to make it a respectable, welcome alternative to the usual potato dishes.

Altogether, they took approximately 10 minutes to cook (5 on either side) and slid with hearty cheerfulness onto our plates.

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My boyfriend wasn’t overly excited (”Meh.  They’re OK”) but I really loved them.  No doubt nostalgia played a part, but still, they were quite fine and tasty to me!

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Potato Scones (Recipe ): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1141

The Bottled Stuff Never Looks Like This

May 14, 2010

I rather like mint sauce, mint jelly and anything else of a minty persuasion (except mint-flavoured toothpaste – I can’t stand that totally fake chemical taste).

So I was rather pleased, as you can imagine, when I came across an entry for ‘Mint Sauce’  in Mrs Beeton’s glorious tome.  At this time of year, when spring is gliding choppily towards summer, fresh flavours and scents serve to remind us that heavenly fine days and drawn-out summer nights are peeking at us from just around the corner.

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INGREDIENTS – 4 dessertspoonfuls of chopped mint, 2 dessertspoonfuls of pounded white sugar, 1/4 pint of vinegar.

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Really, this is more of a mint vinegar than a mint sauce (distinguishable from her separate entry ‘Mint Vinegar’ only by the sugar content).   But the great thing is being able to control the quality and flavour by the type of vinegar used.  For this recipe, I used some delicious organic white balsamic vinegar that I normally keep for salad dressings.

I quartered the quantities for this trial – the mint plant on our balcony is only just beginning to recover from the long winter and it’ll take a few more weeks before it begins bursting into a cheery green overflow of sprigs. To make things less messy, I used a funnel to direct the ingredients into a small bottle.

The directions call for everything to be “put… into a tureen” and stirred.  ‘But… to heat or not to heat?’ I wondered, scanning the instructions for clues.  But as she makes no mention of the stove, I figured it was safe to assume that the sugar would dissolve on its own in the room-temperature vinegar. I guessed correctly.

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“What’s that?” enquired my boyfriend as he stumbled into the kitchen to seek out some hot coffee and peered over my shoulder.

“Mint vinegar… Mrs Beeton’s.”

“Mrs Beeton’s?  Figures.   But why’s it not green?”

The answer to this, I proudly informed him, is that it contained no food colouring.  I still clearly recall the lightning zap of shock that ran through me when one day, a few years ago, I happened to scan the ingredients of my favourite UK brand of mint sauce, only to discover that the green was the product of dye, not mint.  From that moment on, I’ve refused to eat store-bought mint jelly or sauce (and, as I’ve never had the opportunity to try it freshly made, it’s been a long while since I’ve savoured the taste of this marvellous concoction).

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I found that the longer I left it, the more infused and darker the sauce became (12 hours later, it was very nearly completely brown).

The fresh, sweet tang of this sauce on some hot baby potatoes at lunch-time took me very pleasantly by surprise, especially when dabbed in a splodge of butter.

I’m pretty sure that the way this sauce turns out depends very much on the type of vinegar used.  The white balsamic vinegar works very, very well indeed.

Never – I repeat never – will I consume even a drop of store-bought mint sauce again!

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Mint Sauce (Recipe 469): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/10-chapter10.html#469

Continuing with the French Theme…

May 10, 2010

And by what name is mashed potato known by that fount of the fanciful and practical, Mrs Beeton?

‘Puree de Pommes de Terre (or, Very Thin-Mashed Potatoes)’

Gotta love her.  She can turn the simplest and most unexciting of dishes into a must-tryable delight with a sprinkling of French.

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INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of mashed potatoes allow 1/4 pint of good broth or stock, 2 oz. of butter.

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I don’t know what it is with Mrs Beeton and butter.  Everything seems to require a liberal splodge of deliciously creamy lemon-tinted fat before it can be pronounced worthy of the dinner table.  In the interests of not denting our bathroom scales, I’ve found myself rebelling more and more often by slightly reducing the quantity in many (though not all) Household Management dishes.

The trick with this dish is getting the quantity of liquid just right.  Mrs Beeton seems to indicate that there’s a difference between regular mashed potatoes and this potato puree – namely, that the latter ought to be ”very thin[ly] mashed”.  After boiling the potatoes, the broth is supposed to be added immediately before attacking the white mountain with a masher.

As I began to mash, I couldn’t see any difference in consistency between this and the regular mashed potatoes, so I found myself adding a little more liquid (nearly double to stated quantity, in fact) before I was satisfied it was at least somewhat thinner than regular mashed potatoes.

Even on the plate, there is little visual difference.  The variation lies more in the mouth, with this version’s smoother, more buttery (eek!) taste.

This is a very nice dish, although I can’t see it being too out of the ordinary, aside from the tantalizingly posh title.   But it’s a nicely posh way of impressing dinner guests: “Oh, it’s nothing special, just a little something I whipped up.  Who would like to try the poulet with Puree de Pommes de Terre, accompanied by a swirl of jus?”

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Puree de Pommes de Terre (or, Very Thin-Mashed Potatoes) (Recipe 1146): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1146

Mrs Beeton’s Potato Salad

April 5, 2010

I quite often make a Jamie Oliver potato salad, as it’s an easy dish to make in bulk and include in our ‘lunch boxes’ for work.

As an alternative, I thought I’d give Mrs Beeton’s Potato Salad a try, and see how they compare.

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INGREDIENTS – 10 or 12 cold boiled potatoes, 4 tablespoonfuls of tarragon or plain vinegar, 6 tablespoonfuls of salad-oil, pepper and salt to taste, 1 teaspoonful of minced parsley.

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My boyfriend loves Jamie Oliver’s version (especially when I add a bit of bacon, which doesn’t happen too often).  His salad can be varied a little, so sometimes I add yoghurt (surprisingly, my boyfriend’s favourite), and other times I stick to oil and vinegar.

I didn’t have any tarragon vinegar to hand, so I made a quick substitute using dried tarragon and white balsamic vinegar.  I think I overdid the dried herb, but this didn’t really affect the outcome too much.  I hope.

This is a nice use of left-over potatoes.  My boyfriend, after eating this salad as a side dish, said that he liked it but prefers Jamie Oliver’s version.  I can see the merits of both – Jamie’s has a nice yoghurty creamy finish, whereas Mrs Beeton’s has a mild tarragon flavour and a bit of a tang.  Both are really quite easy to make, too, and, I think, equally delicious.

I think I’ll vary this dish, so that one week I’ll make Jamie Oliver’s in bulk, and the next I’ll make Mrs Beeton’s.

Variety is the spice of life and all that!

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Potato Salad (Recipe 1154): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1154

Did the French Invent ‘German’ Bratkartoffeln First?

March 27, 2010

It became quickly apparent as soon as the slices of potato were merrily bubbling in a pool of hot oil that something was up with these ‘French-fashion potatoes’.

In my head, I could hear my boyfriend gleefully exclaiming something like, ‘Oh boy, oh boy, Bratkartoffeln?  Something fried?  Oil?  Fat?  Yippee!’.

The poor lad.  It’s tough knowing that I’m continually denying him some of his life’s keenest pleasures – oil, fat, cream, butter, overdoses of sugar and salt, and so forth.  But, as it was a Friday night, I thought well, he deserves a little treat tonight.  Perhaps not the sort of little treat he’d have in mind if I asked him for ideas but, nevertheless, a welcome treat all the same.

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INGREDIENTS – Potatoes, hot butter or clarified dripping, salt.

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The only thing is, this recipe strongly smacks of being eerily similar to a modern German side dish known as Bratkartoffeln (friend potato slices).  My boyfriend loves them, representing, as they do, fat levels suitable for those who really want to have a heart attack at some point in their life.  I don’t mind ‘borrowing’ a few from his plate on occasion if we’re having a bite to eat somewhere, but I can’t say they’re the healthiest side dish to be found in Germany.  Yet they’re very popular, and it’s hard to associate Bratkartoffeln with any other country.  But, it seems, those French got in there first.  Although, the Germans do have a lot more recipes and uses for this dish.

As far as simplicity goes, this one is a non-brainer.  Simply add some hot fat into the frying pan (I usually keep a bottle of sunflower oil for this purpose), heat it up until it begins to crackle, toss in the potatoes, turn them as soon as they begin to brown and get slightly crisp, do the same to the other side, remove and drain (‘Don’t drain them!  They need oil’! my boyfriend would cry, if I had of allowed him into the kitchen at this stage), and serve.

This won’t be making it onto our plates again on a regular basis.  But, as an occasional treat for a poor fat-starved boyfriend, I’ll bear the dish in mind.

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French-Fashion Fried Potatoes:  (Recipe 1142): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1142

A Simple Use for Cold Potatoes

March 27, 2010

Following a horrifyingly high electricity / gas ‘corrected’ bill from our provider (who, it seems, heartily took the recently harsh winter into account when re-calculating people’s ‘average’ electricity consumption, and used this as the basis of the revised fixed monthly payment – meaning that we got a 110% increase to our monthly estimate), I’m on an energy-saving mission.

Off goes the 6-8 hour a day PC use in our household.  Out goes cooking every day.  Out goes the heating switch, unless vital.  Showers are being shortened.  Appliances are being unplugged unless in use.  Our cats are becoming readily-available sources of warmth (they seem rather startled but pleased at the sudden increase of permitted lap sittage).  My boyfriend’s face is getting longer and longer as I come up with more energy saving ideas.  I’m beginning to feel rather Victorian already.

In keeping with this new approach to energy efficiency, I managed to have 5 different dishes going simultaneously in the oven last night.  And I even used the residual heat once the oven was switched off to dry some old bread for use as breadcrumbs.

To use up some cold potatoes, I, rather conveniently, found a recipe for ‘How to use cold potatoes’ in Household Management.

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INGREDIENTS – The remains of cold potatoes; to every lb. allow 2 tablespoonfuls of flour, 2 ditto of minced onions, 1 oz. of butter, milk.

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It’s a quick and simple recipe.  Simply mash the potatoes, add the other ingredients, and pop the mix into some small pie moulds and slide them in the oven.  In 25 minutes, little potato pies are ready for consumption.

”Bit bland, isn’t it though?” commented my ever-so-slightly disappointed boyfriend as he reached for the salt.

True, I silently admitted.  Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, a dash of salt and pepper in the mix before baking it is highly recommended, to make it more appealing.

But, as far as economy and simplicity go, this recipe is absolutely perfect.

Now, where are those cats…?

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Cold Potato Recipe (Recipe 1141): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1141

Day 45: A Bit on the Side

January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

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With the gluttony of the festive season now happily / sadly over, I figure it’s about time I get back to ‘normal’ cooking instead of making do with Christmas and New Year leftovers (there’s only so much one can take of shortbread, stuffing and wine).

However, ‘normal’ cooking doesn’t mean ‘pedestrian’ cooking.  One of my New Year’s resolutions was to try and continue to be a little bit different with the food I’m serving – Mrs Beeton and Household Management will play a big part in that as we head into 2010.  Almost anything can be prepared with a bit of extra pizzazz.

Tonight I tried out two simple side dishes that were probably inspired by Isabella Beeton’s time living in Germany – German-style carrots and German-style potatoes.

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German-Style Carrots

8 large carrots, sliced in rings

75 g butter

A large pinch of grated nutmeg

1 tablespoonful of parsley, finely chopped

1 dessertspoonful of onion, finely chopped

600 ml of vegetable stock

1 tablespoonful of flour

Salt to taste

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  1. Put the butter in a pan. When it is melted, add the carrots, salt, nutmeg, parsley and onion
  2. Constantly stir the carrots over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes
  3. Pour in the stock and simmer gently until carrots are nearly tender
  4. In a separate pan, add a small piece of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour and stir over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned
  5. Add the liquid from the carrots and heat until boiling
  6. Pour the liquid over the carrots and simmer until tender. Serve hot.

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German-Style Potatoes

8 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise

75 g butter

2 tablespoonfuls of flour

1/2 pint of vegetable stock

2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar

1 bay leaf

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  1. Put the butter and flour in a pan and stir on a low heat until the butter is lightly browned
  2. Add the stock and vinegar
  3. Lay the potatoes in the liquid and simmer gently until tender (10 – 15 minutes)
  4. Remove bay leaf and serve hot

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The original potato recipe calls for a laurel leaf – a bay leaf is a good substitute.

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Both these side dishes got my boyfriend quite enthusiastic (”Really good”).  I’m not sure if that’s because my birthday is coming up and he’s trying to be extra nice, or if he really likes them, but indications point towards the latter.  The carrots were surprisingly good – the initial ingredients and quantities seemed a little blasé, but everything worked very well together.

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German-style Carrots Recipe and German-Style Potatoes Recipe: (Recipe numbers 1101 and 1143 respectively): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html

Day 39: Some Vegetable Soup Please, My Good Man

December 27, 2009

After Christmas comes the traditional I-never-want-to-cook-or-eat-again lull.

It usually passes after a few days, but until then it can be a bit of a challenge to motivate myself into going anywhere near the kitchen.

However, the shops aren’t open until tomorrow and I need to come up with some ways to use up the left-overs and anything else sitting there in the fridge (aside from giving them to our greediest cat, who should have been called Hoover, in my opinion.  She’ll eat pretty much anything).

In the fruit & vegetable drawer I have:  parsley, 1 kilo of bananas, potatoes, onions, carrots, beans, broccoli, the end of a courgette. lemons and clementines.  Plus a small handful of sorry-looking mushrooms.

A soup would seem the most obvious use of some, if not, most, of these ingredients.  The first two recipes I spotted as I skimmed through Household Management are perhaps not the most enticing:

LEEK SOUP:  Ingredients – A sheep’s head…

KALE BROSE (a Scotch Recipe): Ingredients – Half an ox-head or cow-heel

or even

SOUP A LA SOLFERINO (Sardinian Recipe): Ingredients – 4 eggs, 1/2 pint of cream…

After the overwhelming richness of Christmas fare, now’s not the time for culinary extravagance.

Eventually I find a recipe that suits most purposes – Vegetable Soup (Version 3).


INGREDIENTS – 6 potatoes, 4 turnips, or 2 if very large; 2 carrots, 2 onions; if obtainable, 2 mushrooms; 1 head of celery, 1 large slice of bread, 1 small saltspoonful of salt, 1/4 saltspoonful of ground black pepper, 2 teaspoonfuls of Harvey’s sauce, 6 quarts of water.


I didn’t have  any turnip or celery to hand, so I added 1 extra carrot and onion.  As for ‘Harvey’s sauce’, a little research revealed that it is a (by the looks of it) rather strong-tasting condiment used to enhance the base flavour of whatever you’re cooking.  As a very approximate substitute, I also added a marinade of a little mixed garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and paprika to the final soup.

You’re supposed to cook it for 3 hours, but my hungry stomach just couldn’t wait that long.  After 2 hours, I took it off the stove and blended it quickly before serving it up for a simple lunch. Very nice.

Vegetable Soup recipe: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/06-chapter6.html (Recipe 159)

Harvey’s Sauce recipe: http://thefoody.com/mrsbpreserve/harveyssauce.html

Day 29: Head Fakery at the Dinner Table

December 16, 2009

Tonight is Vegetarian Night (sorry, ‘’Meat Reduced Night”).

Or, it was supposed to be.

With heavily-sighed reluctance, my boyfriend recently agreed to eat two meat-free meals per week,  so we can eat the same main dish together sometimes.  I use ‘’meat reduced’’ rather than ‘’vegetarian’’ as a bit of a head-fake term.  Not that it fools him much.

I had it all planned out – stuffed Butternut Squash, roast veg and a mushroom sauce on the side.  Usually, if he doesn’t get too involved in the preparation (cue locked kitchen door and refusal to answer any statement starting with ‘What is that…?’ or ‘’Are you going to do it like that?”), then he’ll give most things a try.

Then came the proverbial spanner.

“I’ll be home soon – I finished an hour early,’’ came his unexpected call.

Scheiße (shit).

I was pretty ravenous already and knew he would be too.  Unless I came up with something quickly, I could see myself being persuaded to order a pizza.

I lunged for Household Management and began panic-scanning the soup recipes.

Potato Soup (Version 1)

INGREDIENTS – 4 lbs. of mealy potatoes, boiled or steamed very dry, pepper and salt to taste, 2 quarts of stock (from recipe no. 105).


Luckily I’d sent him on a detour to the local building centre to buy a new kitchen tap and to check out some shelves, gaining me some valuable minutes to get the soup on and rescue  Meat Reduced Night.

Naturally, that ol’ spanner hadn’t yet finished clunking round the works.

B: “Just calling to check how much I should spend on the shelf.”

Me: (gasping slightly as I dashed about the kitchen) “Happy to leave that up to you,” (chopping frantically at the potatoes and shooing away our greedy black cat)

B: “€15 or €17…?” he pressed.

Me: “The cheaper the better.  Up to you.  See you soon!”

Hang up the phone.  Push cat off bench.  Attempt to fill saucepan with water.  Forget tap is broken.  Water sprays out, drenching my face and top.  Cue swearing.  Phone rings.

B: “Wasn’t there something else I was supposed to get?”

Me: “No no,” I trilled with false calm, “I think that’s everything.”

2 minutes later, I got him off the topics of shelf pros and cons and off the phone.

Hasten to finish soup and get the main course on.  Shove cat off bench again.  Open cupboard to get something.  Half the contents crash out.  Cue more swearing.  Forget tap is broken. Again. Water sprays out, drenching my face and top.  Again. Cue swearing.  Again.

Just as his keys were inserted into the key hole, the soup was miraculously done.

Taking inspiration from one of the soup variations listed under the first recipe, I tossed in a piece of wholegrain bread to bulk the soup up and give it a healthy boost.  I told him about it but didn’t give specifics. Another bit of head-fakery on my part, as my boyfriend despises non-white bread (‘’fruity bread’’).  Well, he never asked me what type of bread I put in…

We enjoyed the soup.  Simple and (barring distractions) super quick.  I added some oregano and a dash of cream to finish it off before serving.

As for my boyfriend’s reaction to the main dish, well, you probably don’t want to know.

Potato Soup Recipes: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/06-chapter6.html (Recipe 145 – 47)