A glamorous French chef called Alexis Soyer was an unlikely hero of the Crimean War. He heard the PBI were suffering from appalling conditions in the front line. Cold and dysentery were killing more men than shot and shell.
Soyer designed a simple but brilliant stove that could use any fuel and cook any food. He also created recipes for cooking hearty food on a massive scale using his eponymous stove.
Here's Soyer's recipe for a huge stew to feed 100 men:
Food for 100 men, using two stoves
Cut or chop 50Lbs. of fresh beef in pieces of about 1/4Lb. each; put in the boiler, with 10 tablespoonfuls of salt, two tablespoonfuls of pepper, four tablespoonfuls of sugar, onions 7 Lbs. cut in slices: light the fire now, and then stir the meat with a spatula, let it stew from 20 to 30 minutes, or till it forms a thick gravy, then add a pound and a half of flour; mix well together, put in the boiler 18 quarts of water, stir well for a minute or two, regulate the stove to a moderate heat, and let simmer for about two hours. Mutton, pork, or veal can be stewed in a similar manner, but will take half an hour less cooking.
Note. A pound of rice may be added with great advantage, ditto plain dumplings, ditto potatoes, as well as mixed vegetables. For a regiment of 1,000 men use 20 stoves.
Borotho, the traditional bread of Lesotho, is easy to make and very tasty too!
Bread flour (whole meal & white)
Pinch of salt,
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, add water gradually as you knead. Knead until the dough is well mixed and springing back. Cover and keep warm, leave untill the dough is well risen.
Cook as desired: in the oven, or on the hob in a heavy pan at low heat, or steam. If steamed, it will be cooked if the table knife comes clean when testing. If cooked in the oven or on the hob, cook until nicely browned.
Serve with stew and barbecued meat or eat with jam. Enjoy!
If you enjoy the recipe, please make a donation to Sentebale, a great charity that cares for HIV/AIDS orphans in Lesotho.
Prince Harry is a patron of Sentebale, along with my friend Prince Seeiso.
I appeared on @bbcwm this afternoon, discussing historical food with @dannykellywords. I explained how #mediæval and #Tudor cooks used to balance sweet and savoury flavours. My expertise in historic cooking came in very useful one Christmas when I was presented with an enormous organic Turkey at 1am on Christmas Day and 'ordered' to cook it for dinner. I hadn't planned to cook that year so I had to improvise with what I had in my cupboards.
Serve with a spiced sweet potato soufflé and fat-free roasted potatoes.
Happy (very early) Christmas!
I have just invented and cooked this rather left-field recipe and it was well received.
Trout - cleaned, scaled and gutted but with their heads and tails.
Onions sliced in circles and some finely chopped.
Herbs and seasoning.
Make a strong herbal tisane with two teaspoons in half a cup of boiling water. Allow it to brew. I used a rather nice apple and lemon tisane.
Line a large flat oven-proof dish with foil and oil it. Cover the base of the dish with circles of onion and place the trout on top. Place the finely chopped onion inside the fish with seasoning and herbs. Pour the tisane over the fish including the leaves and fruit. Sprinkle herbs and seasoning over the fish. 'Tent' the foil over the trout and place in a pre-warmed oven at 180•C for 30 minutes. Open the tent and drizzle olive oil on the fish and return to the oven for another ten minutes.
Serve with potatoes and vegetables.. Enjoy!
Blanc Mang, from the Forme of Cury, 1390, combined chicken, nuts, rice and spices. It was inspired by the Arabic and Persian inspired foods that were brought back to England by Crusaders. The recipe has obvious parallels with Korma.
Here's the original recipe from 1390 with my modern reinterpretation below.
Take Capouns and seeþ hem, þenne take hem up. take Almandes blaunched. grynd hem and alay hem up with the same broth. cast the mylk in a pot. waisshe rys and do þerto and lat it seeþ. þanne take brawn of Capouns teere it small and do þerto. take white grece sugur and salt and cast þerinne. lat it seeþ. þenne messe it forth and florissh it with aneys in confyt rede oþer whyt. and with Almaundes fryed in oyle. and serue it forth.
In modern English:
Take capons and seethe (boil) them, then take them up. Take blanched almonds. Grind them and chop them up with the same broth. Put milk in a pot. Wash rice and add thereto and let it seethe (boil). Then take the flesh of the capon, chop it small and add thereto. Take white grease (lard), sugar and salt and put them in. Let it seethe. Then mix it up and garnish it with any sweetmeat red or white, and with almonds fried in oil. And serve it forth.
Many different mediæval versions of this recipe exist, often incorporating ginger and saffron. Blanc Mang eventually evolved into blancmange, which was a staple of school dinners when I was a child.
Blanc Mang - my modern version
Stir-fry chopped onions and garlic, add chopped chicken breast and nutmeg and cook through. Cover and take off the heat.
Cook rice with chopped ginger, stock and ground almonds. Once all the liquid has been taken up and the rice cooked, combine with the cooked chicken. Top with chopped coriander, fried flaked almonds and crystallised ginger.
Dine like Richard II and enjoy!
Cullen skink is a hearty Scottish fish soup or stew from a wee place called Cullen in NE Scotland.
There are loads of variants on this traditional dish so here is the version that I am cooking today.
Herbs and seasoning
Pour the milk into a pan and bring it to a simmer. Add the smoked haddock and seasoning. I leave the skin on so that it stays together. Poach for a few minutes then remove the fish and place to one side.
Add cubed potatoes and chopped shallots to the milk and poach until they are soft.
Add cream and herbs. Place fish on top and warm through again.
Serve with oat bread and some veg. I have served it with string beans today.
This gingerbread recipe is from A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen, 1617.
'To make red Ginger-bread, commonly called Leach-lumbar.'
'Grate and dry two stale Manchets, either by the fire, or in an Ouen, sift them through a Sieve, and put to it Cinamon, Ginger, Sugar, Liquorice, Anis-seed: when you haue mingled all this together, boile a pint of red wine, and stirre it, that it be as thick as a Hastie-pudding; then take it out, and coole it, and mould it with Cinamon, Ginger, Liquorice, and Anise-seede, and rowle it thinne, and print it with your mould, and dry it in a warme Ouen.'
In simple terms, add grated and sieved white breadcrumbs to mulled wine, or alcohol-free equivalent. Blend it to a thick paste, like a biscuit mixture. Either roll out and cut into shapes or use a gingerbread mold to create shapes. Dry them in front of the fire or in a cool oven. They should be dried, not baked.
When dried they can be decorated with edible gold to make culinary bling!
This recipe for 'The Best Pancake' is from
The English Husewife by Gervase Markham, published in 1615.
''To make the best pancake, take two or three eggs, and break them into a dish, and beat them well; then add a pretty quantity of fair running water, and beat all well together; then put in cloves, mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and season it with salt; which done, make it as thick as you think good with fine wheat flour; then fry the cakes as thin as may be with sweet butter, or sweet seam, and make them brown, and so serve them up with sugar strewed upon them. There be some which mix pancakes with new milk or cream, but that makes them tough, cloying, and not crisp, pleasant and savoury as running water.''
Plain wheat flour - about 8oz
Water - about a pint (or replace some or all of it with milk and/or cream)
Ground spices: mace, cinnamon, cloves nutmeg
Mix the dry ingredients together, mix in the egg then gradually add the liquid. Beat well and let it stand for a while. Fry in a good heavy frying pan using a little butter or suet.
Serve with sugar or with fruits preserved in brandy.
Enjoy, because the Lentern fast begins tomorrow!
Having plumed and cleaned your chickens, cut them in half, truss them and pound them with the flat of a big knife: then put them in a pot with good butter and melted lard, some slices of lemon, elephant garlic and all sorts of fines herbes, except thyme and laurel; cook and simmer all this slowly over a low fire with a little good bouillon, then put in a glass of Champagne, or of good white wine: when they are almost cooked, take them out of the pot, bread them well and grill them, and serve them as is or with a Remoulade.
For the sauce:
Chop two or three shallots up very fine, a little chervil and some tarragon; put all this in the bottom of an earthen vessel with mustard, a trickle of vinegar, salt and pepper, depending on how much you need; sprinkle your suace lightly with oil, and stir it constantly; if you see that it thickens too much, put in a little vinegar; taste to see if it is properly salted; if it is too salty, put in a little more mustard and oil.