University College (Building dates from 1634)
As I spend my first hours in England, I am really channeling Constance Spry as I walk the hallowed streets of Oxford. University College, founded by King Alfred in AD 872, should qualify as hallowed.
It is England, with a noble, lavender scented beauty everywhere. If only stone could speak, what a tale it could tell!
In “Garden Notebook” in 1940, Constance Spry wrote “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess, and flowers and plants can in their judicious use contribute in a high degree to the elegance and graciousness of life.”
I just love that sentiment, don’t you? It’s not about the money, but about using what is around us (and what we have) to fill our lives with graciousness (a word that is not used often enough these days). This is a sublime spirit to cultivate and you feel it everywhere here in the great wild gardens and time-softened stone architecture of Oxford.
My first snack was at The Grand Café on High Street. It proudly announces it was the first coffee house in England (the first coffee was drunk in England at Balliol College just a few years earlier) that uses house-made cage-free egg mayonnaise for its wonderful little sandwiches. All the sandwiches on the menu, like smoked salmon, cucumber and watercress reminded me of many of of Spry’s efforts in THE CONSTANCE SPRY COOKERY BOOK. Her savory Éclairs with Deviled Chicken, bacon and watercress are bite-sized lovelies that go down far too easily (I can attest to this because my household did a lot of sampling with these babies) not unlike the sandwiches at The Grand.
I did use a different recipe for the pate a choux than Spry used after the first batch came out a little flat. I went to Michael Ruhlman who has the same recipe I’ve used for years but with simple instructions (and even a video) as well as a love song to the pastry. They really are fabulous. This makes enough for a few leftovers that I stuffed with chocolate ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and had instant profiteroles. You can make them and freeze them and then heat them up in minutes. I pop them in the toaster oven and they are good as new. That way they are always ready for a savory or sweet filling for last minute guests and quick desserts.
2 poached chicken breasts (you could use the equivalent amount of left-over chicken)
2 T butter
Devil Sauce 2*** (around ½ of the recipe)
½ C cream (a little more if you like it moister)
1 T curry paste (powder?)
1 t. Dijon Mustard
2 t dry English mustard
Take chicken and chop into bite size pieces then toss with melted butter and run under broiler for a few minutes then toss with Devil sauce 2. Allow chicken to rest overnight. Combine other ingredients and heat gently and toss with chicken
Serve in choux puffs with chopped bacon and watercress.
Devil Sauce 2 ***
3 T worchestershire
2 T mushroom Ketchup (if you don’t have it… toss in a few mushrooms and a T of soy sauce with a pinch of allspice and mace)
1 T tarragon vinegar
1 T chopped onion
2-3 slices lemon
1 clove garlic
1 c strong stock
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Combine and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the lemon slices and the bay leaf and blend.
1/2 c water
4 T butter
½ c flour, sifted
½ t salt
Heat oven to 425º. Boil water and butter, add flour all at once and beat until smooth then allow to cool. Put into a bowl and using a standing or hand beater, add the eggs by degrees to the flour, waiting till one is incorporated before adding the next. The paste should be smooth and shiny.
Put on baking sheet either golf-ball size or pipe as éclair shapes (Savory éclairs were called Carolines during the Edwardian age). Then bake 10 minutes at 425º and lower heat to 350º and bake 20 more minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and pierce with knife to release steam.
Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!