Friday, July 30, 2010

Henry VIII’s Hampton Court and his Chuets (Meat Pies)

For most of us, when we think of a palace we think of this…
and this
... with wild beasties standing guard.

Enormous, grand and crawling with servants. But what of the servants? Where do they work? What do they get up to? Where is Hampton Court's downstairs in their “Upstairs Downstairs” ?

At Hampton Court there is an enormous ‘downstairs” and I have always wanted to explore it as I am a really huge Tudor fan and have been since I was a nipper. It took a mighty army to feed Henry VIII's mighty appetites (as those of you who watch The Tudors know very well).

Hampton Court Kitchen Buildings (positioned in the cool northern reaches of the complex)

are where all the work was done.

Simon Thurley in his book Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History wrote that at one point the ‘downstairs’ occupied 50 rooms staffed by hundreds and contained a cofferer (kitchen accountant), coal house, spicery (spices and fruits) chandler (candles and linen), pastry house (with 4 ovens, the largest of which measured 12’6”), confectionary (for making the kings puddings and housing the only woman that worked in the kitchen, boiling house (with a 75 gallon copper cauldron for soups), flesh larder, wet larder (fish), dry larder (nuts and grains), 3 wine and ale cellars with special security(they drank 300 casks of wine and 600,000 gallons of ale in a year!!!) as well as the great kitchen with ovens, stoves and 5 enormous roasting fireplaces, some with gargantuan spits. In one year during the reign of Elizabeth I, I read they went through 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.

I was taken through Hampton Court ‘downstairs’ and some ‘upstairs’ (in a dream-come-true 5 hour tour) by Marc Meltonville, the Royal Palace’s Food Historian.
Palace's Cold Storage (that was cool in July!) with meat, fish and dairy rooms on the sides
Marc told me that Hampton Court was a food factory. Moving from the raw materials at the gate to each of the various storage areas and/or to the appropriate cooking stations and then up to the Lords above. As many as 600 lived and worked there, and most were staff (there were very few guests, strangely enough) since the people who ran the government also stayed there for some period of the year and moved with the king or took their turn at a shift at a job (many had their own estates to manage so couldn’t work full time). However you slice it, there was a lot of cooking going on.
Meat Prep room (don’t you love the tree trunk chopping block?)
Roasts being readied for the spit on the 500 year old English Elm table
The great fireplace and spit… big enough for a whole cow!
Meat slices (with the hole for the spit) on the ubiquitous pewter plates.
Waiter’s station… to pass the prepared food from the kitchen to be picked up before moving upstairs
Mid-station on the way to the dining room… the ancient oak stairs and tiles are 500 years old and have never been replaced.
The Great Dining Hall with a fire pit in the center of the floor for heat, and tapestries that are worth as much as the crown jewels!
The King’s place setting all in pewter (exact replicas of the originals), although he rarely ate in this room, rather, he dined in his private chambers.

For some reason, in deciding what recipe to share with you from this epic excursion, it was the humble Chuet or chewetty that captured my heart. First, they are adorable in a kind of Sweeney Todd ) , there-will-always-be-an-England way. They are, like Cornish Pasties, a meal in your hand and just plain homey and delicious. I was fascinated by the way they were made (that you can see HERE or HERE). Marc told us that the leftovers from roasts and such were used to make the pies. Considering that the worst thing I ever made was a cousin of this… a Renaissance Veal Pye that was ghastly and virtually inedible, making these was a brave step indeed. But I am not the 21 year old who tackled the veal pye. I am now a seasoned and seasoning veteran. I decided on “collar’d beef” from The Compleat Cook by Robt. May to be my inspiration, keeping the spicing but not adding the preservative element. It was delicious on its own and the mace that had worried me… turned out to be a brilliant addition. I think I was not too far off using it. Although the original would be more like corned beef, there are similar recipes that are not.

*****I have put the original recipes at the end of the post.

You can see the progression of the pie from formation to finish in the photographs I took at Hampton Court:
The large chunks are a little confusing, in most recipes the meat is minced!

Chuets remind me of a crenelated magna tourris or castle keep. Appropriate somehow, don’t you think?
Chuets (Meat Pies) 2-4

Filling for the Chuet.

1½ pounds of collar’d beef 
3 T suet, chopped
4 prunes, chopped
4 dates, chopped
1/3 c raisins, chopped 
1/3 c currents
big pinch of saffron
2T verjus or wine vinegar
S & P to taste

Mince these together then moisten with some of the juices from cooking the meat (I used the food processor to mince/pulse this all together) and allow to sit for an hour so the dried fruits can soak up the juices.

Wine Spiced Beef inspired by Collar’d Beef

1 ¾ pound stew beef 
½ bottle red wine
2 T Suet
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
½ t cloves
1 t mace
2 t pepper
3 anchovies
2 T fresh marjoram
2 T fresh thyme
sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
¼ c verjus or wine vinegar

Marinate the meat in the wine for a day. Remove the meat, reserving the wine. Preheat your oven to 275º Heat the suet and brown the meat. Remove from the pan and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the herbs and spices and wine and vinegar and put in a covered Dutch oven for 2 ½ hours or until tender. 

Remove stems and bay leaves.


1½  c white flour + 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
4 oz Suet (chopped) * I rendered my suet, but original recipes use it au naturel
salt to taste

Combine flour, suet and pulse in a food processor till it is like very rough meal (or grate the suet and blend gently with the flours), add ½ c or so of water as you would any pie crust to have just enough to bring the dough together, make into a flattened round and chill for an hour.
Chuet, Serves 4-8
Preheat oven to 425ºTake the dough and make 4 circles, 2 large and 2 small for the top for a large chuet, or 4 and 4 for a large muffin size. Make a freehand crust (see the videos). Fill with a good handful of the meat mixture and draw together like a purse, pressing the folds together to make a cup. Cut off the excess just slightly above the meat. Wet the small circle of dough and press onto the sides forming a lid, making the ruffled edge as you go. Make a hole in the top for steam. Cook for 15 minutes at 425º then cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t burn and lower temperature to 325º for an hour. Each pie serves 1 large appetite or 2 smaller ones and can be served warm or cold.
You can gild the lily by brushing the tops with butter and rosewater and a few grains of demerara sugar.

Collar’d Beef from The Compleat Cook, 1658

Take the thinnest end of a coast of beef, boyl it and lay it in Pump-water, and a little salt, three dayes shifting it once every day, and the last day put a pint of Claret Wine to it, and when you take it out of the water, let it lye two or three hours a drayning, then cut it almost to the end in three slices, then bruise a little *Cochinell and a very little **Allum, and mingle it with the Claret-wine, and colour the meat all over with it, then take a dozen of Anchoves, wash them and bone them, and lay them into the Beef, and season it with Cloves, Mace, and Pepper, and two handfuls of salt, and a little sweet Marjoram and Tyme and when you make it up, roul the innermost slice first, and the other two upon it, being very wel seasoned every where, and bind it hard with Tape, then put it into a stone-pot, something bigger then the Coller, and pour upon it a pint of Claret-wine, and halfe a pint of wine-vinegar, a sprig of Rosemary, and a few Bay-leave and bake it very well; before it is quite cold, take it out of the Pot, and you may keep it dry as long as you please.
*cochinell is cochineal, an insect derived red dye from the New World that is still used today ( yes, red bugs in your food!)
**alum is hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate used in pickling as a preservative

To make Pyes from A Proper New Book of Cookery, 1575

Pyes of Mutton or biefe, must be fine minced and seasoned with Pepper
and salte, and a lyttle Saffron to colour it, suet or marrow a good quantytye a
lyttle vyneger, prunes, great raisings and dates, take the fatteste of the broth
of poudred biefe…

How to make Chuets from A Book of Cookrye, 1591

Take Veale and perboyle it and chop it very fine, take beefe Suet and mince it fine, then take Prunes, Dates and Corance, wash them very clean and put them into your meat, then take Cloves, Mace, and pepper to season your meat withal and a little quantity of salt, vergious and Sugar, two ounces of biskets, and as many of Carowaies, this is the seasoning of your meat, then take fine flowre, yolkes of Egs, and butter, a little quantitye of rosewater and sugar, then make little coffins for your Chewets and let them bake a quarter of an houre, then wet them over with butter, then strewe on Sugar and wet the Sugar with a little Rosewater, and set them into the Oven again, then take and serve five in a dish.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blackberry Apple Salad and a Giveaway!!

Sometimes when the temperature hits 100º I long for a salad. Even history buffs like to take a break from antique cookbooks and dig into something crisp and delicious. On my England trip, one of the things I saw a lot was the combination of apples and blackberries. They go together beautifully. I have been making a blackberry apple pie for years and love the flavors together. But there will be no baking for me today, not in this weather.

Thanks to the wonders of science, we know that humans have been eating blackberries for at least 2500 years since there were blackberries in the stomach contents of the Iron Age “Haraldskaer Woman” found in a bog in Denmark in 1835 (and checked into with modern technology a few years ago). There’s your history!

Blackberries are a member of the Rubus genus, that is part of the Rosaceae family making it a relative of raspberries and roses… but you knew that, didn’t you? Although Oregon is the largest producer in the US, I got some local beauties in NYC this weekend. I just love them!

Since I had received a lovely selection of salad dressings from Girard’s, I decided to turn my fruit into a fruit salad to try one of the dressings. It was delicious.

The apple poppy seed dressing was a natural with the fruit. It is sweet with a subtle tang that went well with the salad and best of all it was ready in minutes.


What do you put together when you are sweltering? Let me know and I will give away 3 sets of these lovely dressings (Apple Poppyseed, Champagne, Balsamic and Peach Mimosa) to 3 lucky readers thanks to the nice folks at Girard’s. I will announce the winners next week and they will send you your prize!! How cool is that?

Apple Blackberry Avocado Salad For 2

½ an Apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1 c Blackberries
½ Avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
½ c Pistachios
1 Shallot, sliced thinly
4 c Arugula
½ Lemon, juiced
Girard’s Poppy seed Dressing to your taste.

Toss the apple and avocado with the lemon juice. Put the arugula in a bowl or plate. Arrange the avocado and apple slices and toss the blackberries, pistachios and shallot around the top.
Pour dressing over the top. Toss and serve!

I have just broken 50 posts and 100 followers... thanks to all of you for making this so much fun!!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bibury, Swans and Cotswold Dumplings

Arlington Row, 14th c.
When I was researching where to go on my road trip in England, I fell truly madly deeply in love with images from the medieval village of Bibury. I read that William Morris (famous decorative artist of the 19th century and prime mover in the Arts and Crafts movement) had said that the village was the most beautiful in England and worked to preserve its beauty.

Bless him. He encouraged others in his Arts & Crafts circle to relocate to the Cotswolds and in so doing probably saved many villages from the ravages of progress and commerce.
Bibury is no “Ye Olde” copy. It is the real deal. Built on a Roman village, its church has existed since 750AD and it thrived as a horseracing center and wool market in the 17th century.
We arrived early Sunday night and it appeared most of the foreign interlopers had cleared out of town. It was still. The light shone all golden, reflected by the warm yellow Cotswold stone into the sweet air. I have to admit, I was too in love with this little town to take all the pictures I should have. The 14th century Arlington Row (formerly a monastery’s wool store) is everything you think of when you imagine an ancient English village. Best of all there is nearly nothing to remind you of the world outside. No advertising, no garish signs… just inns and restaurants and tiny shops with subtle signage.
Swans glided languorously in the clear waters of the River Coln. Idyllic. Transporting. Watching them, I remembered reading years ago about the curious swan laws in Britain and the wonderfully drawn Swan Rolls (thank you, World of Interiors !). I looked it up to refresh my memory when I got back. Nearly all swans belong to the Monarch. Through some quirk of law, only the Queen and Charlotte Townsend, daughter of the deceased 9th viscount of Galway (one of the richest people in England), are allowed to own swans, the rest are licensed from the crown. Swan licenses are granted and regulated by the 1482 Act for Swans and enforced by the Monarch’s Swan Master. There is an incredible document called the Broadland Swan Roll from the late 15th century that lists swans with brands on their beaks to distinguish them. There are 5 of them, each measuring 4 ½” by 13’. I had seen it years ago and had a heck of a time digging it up but… eureka it was found. Although there are others, this is the most famous. I wondered if this black beauty was listed somewhere.
We were thirsty after a trip from Oxford (my first driving in the UK for many a year was a tad stressful). Beside the swan’s river was a 17th c. coaching inn, aptly named The Swan Hotel where we dropped by for some local cider.
We stayed at the magnificent 1633 manor, Bibury Court, a Jacobean mansion built by Thomas Sackville where the 6 acre grounds were lovely and dotted with local sheep (little lawnmowers as an English friend once described them), and the rooms superb (hello 4 posters and fine sheets) as was the divine breakfast. After dorm rooms at Oxford, Bibury Court was really luxurious and the perfect place to land on the first night of a journey. Although I had read about a few other lovely places in Bibery, when we drove through the enormous gates and down an elegant drive that turned to reveal the great house, we decided to look no farther. It was perfect!!
What should I share with you??? Trying to come up with traditional Cotswold cuisine was not so easy. There is the famous Plowman’s lunch of cheese, bread, butter and pickles… but that is best done there with the real local Ingredients. I had an amazing English breakfast of eggs, black pudding, sausage and bacon with tomatoes and mushrooms in Chipping Campden but that isn’t really a dish either. There are the puddings (the famous Pudding Club is in the Cotswolds), of course, but after Eton Mess, I thought something savory. After a little digging I came up with Cotswold Dumplings. Fried little cheese balls, they are often plopped on stews or served with a vegetable puree... tomato or such. The recipe is courtesy of Celtnet.
I know, I know, you’re going to be like me and say ‘ugh suet, gross’. No No NO!!!
I was so wrong. This grass-fed stuff is sweet and good. The dumplings are like airy donuts with a crunchy exterior, and remember, it was beef fat that made McDonald's fries so great!
I dipped them in quince jam but applesauce would also be great. Dr. Lostpast thought that they were best dunked in ketchup… and they were great that way. Bottom line… addictively delicious.
Cotswold Dumpling
½ cup *self-raising flour (140g) (*for substitution ½ c flour, ¾ t baking powder, pinch salt)
2 tablespoons grated *suet (60g) (vegetarians can use grated frozen butter)
1 tablespoon grated cheese (30 g) (I used Neal’s Yard Cheddar from a small English producer) I think it would be great with double the cheese.
Enough water to mix
Breadcrumbs from 3 slices of bread, toasted with salt and pepper and thyme to taste
fat for frying
salt and pepper to taste
Add the flour, suet and cheese to a bowl. Mix together then season with the salt and black pepper. Add enough water to form a slightly sticky dough. These are usually made into just over 2 tbsp sized balls - six or eight rounds. I made them into 10 tablespoon size balls, rolled them in water then in the breadcrumbs and repeated it. Fry in oil at 350º till puffed and golden.
*I got my suet from Grazin Angus Acres. Grass-fed makes all the difference in suet, it smells sweetly!

Stop over to my post on Cherry Pie at Blog Critics It made FOODBUZZ top 9 yesterday!!!

Although I would love to take the credit, the first 3 pictures are what made me want to go to Bibury, they were not taken by me but by wonderful photographers!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dorothy L. Sayers, Oxford & Eton Mess

When I was a teenager I loved Dorothy Sayers detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. I derived a vicarious pleasure from his fictional lifestyle. At that age it was the bridge between the wholly imaginary fairytales of childhood and the delicious real and imagined pleasures of adulthood. Even the author basked in the glow of her character. Sayers’ biographer, Barbara Reynolds, quotes Sayers in How I Came to Invent the Character of Lord Peter Wimsey:
“Lord Peter's large income... I deliberately gave him... After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubuson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.”
One would imagine the Wimsey family at a house like Longleat
Lord Peter was a man possessed of a spectacular level of refinement that reached its highest pitch in the 1928 short story The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste (Lord Peter : The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories). This tale led me down the path to exploring wine and food more than any other I can think of. Although my mother and grandmother were good cooks that enjoyed entertaining well, I did not come from a background of rarified tastes and spectacular cellars. I had never cooked in my life. At 15 I was not allowed wine. This was my introduction. I aspired to this lifestyle.
The point of the story is that 2 men, claiming to be Wimsey, show up at an appointment to obtain a poison gas formula. There is a duel of the palate that ensues to discover who is the real Wimsey. “It is not a matter of common notoriety that Lord Peter has a palate for wine almost unequalled in Europe?”, says the Comte de Rueil who devises the contest, “The bet which you won from Mr Frederick Arbuthnot at the Egoists’Club when he challenged you to name the vintage years of seventeen wines blindfold, received its due prominence in the Evening Wire”.
The two men are given wines and asked to determine their appellation, name of the producer and vintage year whilst dining on oysters, consommé marmite, poulet and confitures
After reading the story (which I know now is silly fun and rather a send-up of the Wimsey character) I felt compelled to read up on the wines that were discussed (no easy feat then, I had to go to the library!!). I read about the Chablis Moutonne (1916), Chateau Yquem (1911), Chevalier-Montrachet (1911) and Napoleon brandy and then took to trying as many as I could when I was able. I must say I have had all of them now… not of the same extraordinary age, of course, but certainly I’ve tried some at 15-20 years old which is what these would have been in 1928—even sampled brandy which was over a 100 (and held a bottle of 1811 from Josephine’s cellar but sadly was not allowed to taste it -- drat).
Dorothy L. Sayers
Why all this about Sayers??? The author of this story, Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) is connected to Oxford, you see. She was born in Oxford and her father was the Chaplin of Christ Church and she went to Somerville College in 1912.
Lord Peter Wimsey (his appearance was based on Balliol’s Roy Ridley and Sayers felt he was a combination of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster) and his lady friend Harriet Vane were both at Oxford (Lord Peter at Balliol and Harriet at the fictional Shrewbury—based surely on Sayer’s Somerville which was the first college for women at Oxford).
Balliol College (building 1868)
Balliol detail
Lord Peter first appeared in Whose Body (1923) and Vane showed up in Strong Poison on trial for murder (1930). Gaudy Night (1935), set in Oxford, has Harriet solving a mystery there with Lord Peter helping on the sidelines (and at last having his proposal of marriage accepted by Vane!).
Balliol Dining Hall exterior
Since I was attending the Oxford Food Symposium, I thought I’d share one of the dishes with you. It was an Eton Mess (Wimsey did attend Eton before Balliol~!). It is a splendid and simple dessert that was traditionally served at the cricket game between Eton and Winchester, Wikipedia tells me. It has had the name since the 19th century and was originally made only with strawberries or bananas with ice cream or cream. The meringue was a later addition. The version we had was with mixed berries and an almond meringue. It was decadent in the extreme. Antony Worral Thompson’s recipe is simple and perfect
Eton Mess
1 box strawberries(or mixed berries)
a dash of sugar
a dash of port
meringues, broken up**
cream, softly whipped
Mash some of the strawberries with a little sugar and port, toss in the rest of the berries and fold in broken meringues and softly whipped cream.
**Meringues from Kala Englnd, BBC Food
2 egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar
½ cup natural golden caster sugar
2.5ml/½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
. Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas½.
. Butter a baking sheet and dust with flour. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
. Beat in 1 tbsp sugar until the mixture holds long stiff peaks when the beater is lifted. Fold in the remaining sugar, hazelnuts and vanilla. Pipe or spread the meringue into 6 forms (circles, squares-whatever you prefer) onto a baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the meringues are firm to the touch.
Transfer the meringues to a rack and allow to cool

Eton Mess as served at Oxford Food Symposium