Everyone who has seen the spellbinding film Amadeus must at some time have pondered thisquestion: how do you know which cultural artefacts from your time will survive for centuries to come, and which will sink into the mists of obscurity? In the film, we see the parallel stories of approximate contemporaries Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, both of whom were successful composers in the 18th century. But how many people can name or hum a single tune by Salieri today? By contrast, almost every person in the Western world can recognise at least one tune by Mozart (even if it is just his variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!). And yet, at the time, the chances of their music going down in history seemed about equal – whch just goes to show you never can tell.
The same is true of foodstuffs. Anybody know what Nesselrode pudding is? Anybody?? The interwebs will reliably tell you that it was the most famous iced dessert of the 19th century, a time when iced puddings were still a huge novelty reserved mostly for the very wealthy. Surely such a rare and precious recipe would be assured of going down in the history books? Apparently not – it died out pretty comprehensively and very few people today have the faintest idea what it was. And a similar fate befell other seemingly unforgettable favourites such as:
- carp pie (whole carp stuffed with bread, bacon, anchovy, eggs and nutmeg and baked into a pie – a popular Elizabethan dish);
- green pudding (another popular boiled Elizabethan pudding coloured green with spinach juice); and
- trayne roste (another 15th century dessert where small pieces of dried fruit and almonds are threaded with a needle onto a thread which is wound around a spit, basted with a sweet wine batter spiced with saffron, cloves and ginger; and then roasted over an open fire).
And then there are the ones that stood the test of time – the Mozarts of the culinary world:
- the French favourite cassoulet (a rich stew of beans, pork, sausages and duck) is generally considered to have originated in Castelnaudary during The Hundred Years War (14th-15th Century) – and it’s still going strong today.
- favourite English dessert standby, the trifle (a dessert made of custard, fruit sponge cake and jelly) has been appearing on our tables since the 17th century
- the Scots have been tucking into haggis (a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart liver and lungs; minced onion, oatmeal, suet and spices, stuffed into an animal’s stomach and simmered for hours) since the 1400s.
Another one of these time-machine dishes is the fricassee a dish which has been appearing on tables and baffling spelling bee competitors since the 15th century. A fricassee is defined as a method of cooking meat in which the meat is cut up, sauteed, braised, and served with its sauce (differing from a stew in that the liquid is not added right from the start). The word itself dates back to at least the 15th century and is French of uncertain etymology; the theory, though, is that it is a compound of the French frire (to fry) and casser or quasser (to break into pieces). You can make almost anything into a fricassee, including poultry, fish, meat or vegetables and it is said that US President Abraham Lincoln Lincoln was partial to a chicken fricassee made with nutmeg, mace and a gravy of chicken drippings. My fricassee was born out of the need to make a dish that was satisfying enough for dinner yet simple enough to let the flavour of the chanterelles shine through – and it performed its task admirably! Because the meat and onions are not browned or camamelised, you really taste the unadulterated flavour of the chicken and of the mushrooms. And once you taste it, it’s not hard to see how this simple, flavourful recipe has stood the test of time while the spinach-coloured pudding fell by the wayside!
- 100-150g fresh chanterelle mushrooms
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 large shallots, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp butter (or use oil instead for a lower fat option)
- 50ml dry white wine
- 200ml hot chicken stock
- 50ml double cream
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Carefully wash the chanterelles - it can be really hard to get the grit out of the "gills". Do not soak them as they will absorb the water like sponges - just rinse carefully under a running tap and dry on paper towels. Roughly chop the larger mushrooms.
- Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and when it is bubbling, add the onions, garlic and chicken cubes. Sautee over medium heat for about 5 minutes until there is no more pink visible on the surface of the chicken cubes and the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the mushrooms and sautee briefly until they are coated in butter and beginning to soften.
- Turn up the heat a little and add the wine, scraping up anything that may be sticking to the pan. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and some of the liquid has cooked off.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and thyme and rest for seasoning, adding salt and pepepr to taste. Return to the stove on low heat to heat through (you can also thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch/cornflour mixed with water if you like).
- Serve on a bed of brown rice with vegetables on the side (nutty oven-roasted cauliflower in my case).
And in other news…
My latest article to appear in Crush Magazine (p34-35) is all about visiting the Vaucluse region of Provence – have a look at the gorgeous layout of my words and pictures that they have produced!
Also – this week we mark another milestone in our Plate to Page story. We’ve been working on our sparkly new website behind the scenes and putting together a brand new workshop for 2013. We’ve worked hard and there were many frustrations, highs and lows but in the end we rocked it. The Plate to Page website is looking hot – isn’t it?
We’re absolutely thrilled about our fourth workshop taking place in May 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. Mark those calendars! From 10th – 13th May 2013 we’re taking the From Plate to Page workshop to the beautiful rolling green hills of County Meath, Ireland. You’ll find all the details to the workshop in our Ireland announcement page. And if you’re wondering whether the workshop is right for you, just read what our past participants have said about our workshops!