Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Special - The Cocktail Party

The cocktail party was pretty much invented in 1928 - in London, Paris and Washington - but Sydney and Melbourne were soon in the swing; Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher novels are set in 1928; ergo the Christmas Special that rounds off Series 2 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries will have a cocktail party theme. Here's an article from September 1928:

Cocktail Parties

The Vogue in London

"The cocktail party seems to be firmly established with the smart set in London. Where women's committee meetings once assembled and imbibed weak tea afterwards, they are now mediums of the cocktail party, even when held in the morning.

"Certain "art-shows" and mannequin parades are not complete without it. At a recent show of paintings by a Russian with futuristic tendencies, arranged by the famous Sitwell family, green and gold cocktails were handed round.

"For a day the topic in London newspapers was the production of a blue cocktail. Every other color is  possible, and the result of the discussion was the discovery that the only two colouring agents possible were the juice of the gentian (a blue flower which grows on the high Alps) and a French sirop known during the last century but not made now. 

"Some of the newest designs for houses include a cocktail bar in one corner of the lounge. It is usually done in artistically panelled wood, luxuriously fitted with crystal bottles, glasses and shakers. Already a few hostesses have created their own recipes, the details of which are jealously guarded. Salt almonds, potato chips and caviare sandwiches are often served with them.

"A famous dress designer invites one to a dress parade and a cocktail party in the same reach - or an elaborately engraved invitation is sent, entitling you to spend an hour or so in a parchment and gold drawing-room, sipping from gold filigreed glasses, while mannequins parade in lovely clothes.

"At one of these combined functions given recently by Madame Luander and her sister, Lady Glenmorris, mannequins displayed a novelty - the cocktail party frock - designed specially so that it is suitable for both late afternoon and dinner wear. Made in colored lace, the ensemble was particularly charming. In most cases the frock was sleeveless, and had an accompanying short coat of the same material, which could be slipped off to reveal the evening outfit."

To get in the mood, here's a recipe for a Minnehaha Cocktail from Melbourne's Argus in September 1928:

The juice of one-quarter of an orange
1 fluid ounce Dry Gin
1 fluid ounce French Vermouth
1 fluid ounce Italian Vermouth
1 dash of Absinthe

Half fill the cocktail shaker with broken ice; add all ingredients except the Absinthe. Shake well and strain into cocktail glasses – then add the Absinthe.

Note: The original recipe calls for 1/6 of a gill of each spirit. An imperial gill is 5 fluid ounces.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Agneau Roti Provençal, or Roast Lamb Provençal

This is another one of Boulestin's recipes. The lamb is roasted with a clove of garlic inserted near the bone and the flesh larded with a dozen or so anchovies. (If you don't have a larding needle, stab the lamb with a small narrow knife and push the anchovy pieces in.) The quantity of sauce is not huge, but it is very piquant. The lamb should be rare, and rested for 20 minutes. At this stage the pan juices can be poured into a glass and placed in the freezer for a few minutes so the fat can be easily removed. Any juices that run out while resting or carving the lamb can be added to the sauce at the end.

Roast Lamb Provençal

1 leg of lamb
1 clove garlic 
30-40g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped 
2 shallots, finely chopped
plain flour
2-3 gherkins, chopped 
1 dessertspoon tomato puree 
1 cup water, stock or white wine
salt, pepper 

Take a leg of lamb. Insert a small clove of garlic near the bone, and lard with small pieces of anchovy about 3cm long, about a dozen in all. Roast in the ordinary way, basting often. When cooked, remove it, keep it hot and skim the fat from the pan juices.

For the sauce, saute the onion and shallots in butter until they are more melted than fried. Sprinkle with a little flour, cook for one minute more; then add two anchovy fillets, the gherkins, tomato puree, the pan juices and a little water or stock. Cook for two minutes more. The sauce should be highly seasoned and can be strained before serving (though Boulestin doesn't).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Celeriac and Oyster Soup

This is my own recipe. I've made it with homemade fish stock and with vegetable stock but not with just plain water. The homemade fish stock worked best. This makes a thick soup that serves 2-3. For more, just use a larger celeriac (mine was organic and therefore small) and more liquid.

St John Restaurant in Smithfield serves a similar soup garnished with snails.

Celeriac and Oyster Soup

1 small bulb celeriac, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced 
50g butter
3 cups fish or vegetable stock or water
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley
100ml cream or to taste
salt and pepper
6 oysters

On a low heat, saute the onion in butter until soft. Stir in the sliced celeriac and potato; add the fresh herbs; toss until coated; pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the celeriac and potato are soft - about 10 or 15 minutes. Remove the herbs and blend until smooth.

Re-heat the soup, stir in cream, season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top each bowl with 2-3 oysters (squeezing a bit of lemon over the oysters first, if desired). Some finely chopped dill would have added to the visual appeal.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Boeuf Provençal

This is Boulestin's recipe for Braised Beef with White Wine and Olives from around 1910, so it's a fair bet that up-market gentlemen's clubs would have had something like it on the menu. I'm using King Island Beef from Coles which is allegedly pasture-grazed and hormone-free but not, it seems, from King Island. Kangaroo steak would possibly be better, and cheaper. I used French picholine olives which are easier to stone than green Sicilian olives. 

Boulestin does not give precise quantities, so these are my own.

Boeuf Provençal

750g beef, cut into medium-size squares
2 rashers bacon
2 onions, peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons plain flour
bouquet (a few thyme springs, parsley, a few bay leaves)
salt and pepper
1 cup white wine
2-3 ripe tomatoes
12 green olives

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until fairly hot; add the beef; stirring all the while, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the onions, sprinkle with flour. After a few minutes put in the bouquet and a cup of white wine and a cup of water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook on a low heat for an hour or two until almost tender.

Meanwhile, peel and quarter the tomatoes; cut the bacon into small pieces and boil for a few minutes; stone the olives. 

When the beef is almost tender, remove the pieces and place them in another saucepan with the tomatoes, bacon and olives. Pass the liquid in which the beef has cooked through a fine strainer (removing the thyme, parsley and bay leaves), pour this over the beef and simmer for a further 30 minutes on a low heat, shaking the pan occasionally. 

Serve with steamed potatoes and a green vegetable. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Series 2 Episode 1 - Murder Most Scandalous

The first episode of Series 2 screens on Friday 6 September, so it's time to restock the 1920s pantry shelf and find suitable recipes for a three-course 1920's dinner, ideally from the Melbourne's Argus newspaper.

Like two episodes in Series 1, Murder Most Scandalous does not seem to be based on any of Kerry Greenwood's novels. The Australian Television Information Archive gives this plot outline:

"When Jack's ex-father-in-law, Deputy Commissioner George Sanders, is implicated in the brutal murder of a prostitute, Jack is determined to clear his name. Despite strict instructions from Jack not to meddle in his case, Phryne decides to perfect her 'fan dance' in order to go undercover at the gentleman's club of the notorious Madam Lyon."

With no novel for inspiration, I'll assume that Madam Lyon is French, her establishment up-market and her clientele upper class. Oyster soup will feature, followed by a beef dish and an old-fashioned strawberry dessert.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Winter Fruit Salad and Ice Cream

Fruit salad and ice cream makes at least one appearance at Phryne's St Kilda home, in Queen of the Flowers. Phryne has a refrigerator, but most homes wouldn't have - not in 1928 anyway. This recipe from Vesta's Women to Women pages in the Argus (28 March 1928) mentions neither ice cream nor whipped cream. Most of the fruits are winter fruits.

"The most satisfactory fruit salad is made with pineapple, bananas and pears as a basis.  For six people a moderately large pineapple would be needed, with four good-sized bananas and four pears. 

Cut up the bananas and put them into the bottom of the dish, then cut up the pears into fairly small pieces and add them. Pare the pineapple, remove all pits and either shred it finely with two forks, discarding the core, or grate it. Pile it on top of the pears. Sprinkle from half a cupful to three quartets of a cupful of sugar over the pineapple, add the juice of one lemon and about half a cupful of water. Cover over and let stand for two or three hours. 

Before using, stir the contents of the bowl up in order to mix well. Other fruits may be added when they are in season. Strawberries make a delicious addition, so does passion-fruit. Peaches also blend well with the salad, and when there are no other fruits in season a little preserved ginger may be used with the foundation fruits. Apples are rather too film to be suitable for use in the salad. Rockmelons and raspberries are too strongly flavoured."

My winter fruit salad also had a basis of pineapple, bananas and pears. Pineapple isn't in season so I used tinned slices, an apple, kiwifruit and passionfruit. I think Vesta is right about the apple - it was a bit too crisp. Strawberries would have been better. I skipped the sugar, lemon juice and water. Preserved ginger sounds like an interesting twist.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lamb and Pearl Barley Soup

Barley soup appears in a couple of Kerry Greenwood novels, but none featuring Phryne. It's the sort of hearty winter meal that would appeal more to workers like Cec or Bert than a lady. 

This recipe is adapted from one published in the Argus on 18 February 1931 as a "meatless" Lenten Dish. I've added a raw lamb bone for flavour (a shoulder, from which I cut most of the meat for a navarin of lamb later) but the soup is probably still good without it. Cutting the vegetables into fairly small pieces makes it more visually appealing.

I ended up omitting the milk, egg yolk and nutmeg even though they would make the soup  smoother and richer. 

Lamb and Pearl Barley Soup

60g or 1/2 cup pearl barley
1 lamb bone (shoulder or leg)
2 tablespoons butter
3 small carrots, thinly sliced
2 onions, diced
1 turnip, peeled and cut into small dice
1 stalk celery, sliced
6 peppercorns
2 cloves
1 blade mace (or nutmeg)
salt, pepper
250 ml milk 
1 egg yolk

Put the pearl barley in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight.

Saute 1 carrot and 1 onion in 1 tablespoon butter for a few minutes, without browning. Add the lamb bone, brown on all sides, the seasonings and 4 or 5 cups of water. Bring to the boil, skim, reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling from the bone.

Strain the stock, reserve the meat, discard the vegetables and seasonings. (Putting the stock in the freezer for 20 0r 30 minutes will make it easier to remove the fat.)

Saute the remaining onion, carrots, celery and turnip in 1 tablespoon butter for a few minutes until soft. Add the pearl barley, the lamb (cut into small pieces) and lamb stock; simmer for 20-30 minutes. 

The soup can be thickened, if desired. Remove from heat. Stir in 250 ml milk, mixed with the beaten yolk of one egg, return to heat and add a dash of nutmeg.

Season to taste and serve with fried bread cut into slices.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Scallops

This isn't really a Phryne recipe, unless she happened to be in Provence some years after the time her novels are set and decided she'd like her cook to recreate this dish back in St Kilda. I used scallops that weren't in the shell, organic carrots and home-made vegetable stock.
Carrot and ginger soup with scallops

Serves 8

32 scallops, roe off

8 carrots, washed, peeled and cut into chunks

6 cm of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
200 ml dry white wine
zest of 1 orange
300 ml cream

40 g butter
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

Saute carrots and ginger in oil for 1 minute; add stock and white wine; cook 15-20 minutes over medium heat or until carrots are cooked but still slightly firm.

Remove from heat; puree; add orange zest.

Brown the scallops in butter for 1 min each side; remove scallops and set aside; reserve pan juices.

Add pan juices to carrot and ginger puree; add cream; bring to the boil, reduce heat  and simmer for about 1 minute.

Place puree in soup bowls, place scallops on top, garnish with parsley.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anzac Biscuits

Phryne Fisher drove ambulances in France during World War I. Bert and Cec are returned soldiers. Were they sent Anzac biscuits from home, biscuits made without eggs so they would keep?  

There are no references to Anzac biscuits in any of the Phryne Fisher novels, but by the early 1920s readers were writing to Vesta, editor of the women's pages at the Argus, asking for recipes. The earliest recipe I could find actually called for two eggs and two teaspoons of cinnamon powder, but it did not appear until 1 May 1921 when it received an honorable mention in the Perth Sunday Times competition.

This recipe seems more authentic. It was published in July 1921, and again in June 1926, 1930, 1933... It makes about 2 dozen biscuits and contains no eggs. Don't be tempted to make bigger biscuits. The teaspoon of mixture makes a good Australian-sized biscuit.

Anzac Biscuits

2 breakfast cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 scant cup plain flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda

Mix the golden syrup, boiling water and soda till they froth; then add the melted butter. Mix in the dry ingredients, and drop in teaspoonfuls on a floured tray. Bake in a slow oven, about 160 to 180 degrees, until golden. Enjoy with a mate and a cup of tea.