Sunday, July 13, 2014

Something I saw today

This weekend I knitted so much I strained something in my hand. Ridiculous.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Something I saw today

The orchids are coming! #t
via Instagram.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Something I saw today

Wellington is looking particularly stunning this morning.
via Instagram.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Something I saw today

Treating myself with a coffee and a book at Midnight Espresso. When I was living on Manners Mall or in Aro, I'd stop by on the way home, just because I could. I haven't done it in an age, and sadly there are no late night coffee places in Petone. It's good to have a treat.

via Instagram

Monday, June 30, 2014

Let me tell you about this Victorian Dinner I made in the weekend

Delicious desserts: lithograph from 'Beeton's Book of Household Management', 1879 Photo: THE BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY.
A couple of months ago I changed jobs. In the inbetween time, I immersed myself in geeky Victoriana – Lark Rise to Candleford, Victorian Kitchen, and Victorian Farm.

There were two immediate results: I became obsessed with knitting Victorian-style crossover shawls and I decided that I wanted to make better use of my copies of Mrs Beeton's Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book and Mrs Marshall's The Book of Ices. (These were gifts from members of my family who clearly know me pretty well to have anticipated this.)

AND SO IT WAS that in the weekend, after much planning and shopping and preparation, I had my almost Victorian dinner party with a hand selected bunch of fabulous people. It all went down pretty well! The reviews have been good, at any rate.

What was actually eaten

I aimed to make dishes that were representative, a bit weird for the modern palate, but basically pretty delicious.

I made four courses altogether :
And then Stilton and port to follow.

Dinner on the table, photo courtesy Katherine.

Also! Lashings of red wine

Shannon and I bought a couple of bottles of the ubiquitous Victorian claret which is evidently just a Bordeaux red, so, less exciting than previously imagined.

Shannon made a Claret Cup which was actually pretty dull, partly due to the ambiguity of the recipe and partly because Claret Cup is basically red wine and fizzy water. I think it would be improved by having rather less soda water than claret, as oppose to Mrs B's half and half approach. Or perhaps by replacing the soda water with lemonade. At any rate, we live and learn.

Also also! Disasters

Things I would do differently include trying to achieve some kind of dinner party service zen - I get strangely panicky during service, and end up making silly decisions designed to save time but that rarely pay off.

On this occasion I made a series of terrible rush decisions that ended with my “Muscovite of Oranges” - a kind of orange jelly - collapsing spectacularly all over the bench. Unmoulding a jelly is hard and I if I was to meet, say, Mrs Patmore, I would be worshipping at the altar of her jelly-unmoulding skills. Because O-M-G.

Bonus recipe

The Cucumber Ice Cream was the star of the show. It's possible that it was made wrong - it's not entirely clear whether the cucumber should be pureed with it's cooking liquid or not...

From Mrs Marshall's The Book of Ices (1885)

Cucumber Ice Cream

Peel and remove the seeds from the cucumber and to 1 large-sized cucumber add 4 ounces of sugar and half a pint of water; cook until tender. Then pound and add to it a wine-glass of ginger brandy and a little green colouring and the juice of two lemons; pass through the tammy, and add this to 1 pint of sweetened cream or custard. Freeze and finish as usual.

My book has modern conversions written in for the ingredients and methods:
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water
Pound: Puree in blender or food processor, or with finest grid of food mill
2 Tb ginger brandy (I actually steeped some fresh ground ginger in regular brandy and then strained it)
The juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 cups of cream or custard*

*I used the 'Very Rich' custard base:
1 pint of cream, a quarter of a pound of castor sugar, and 8 yolks of eggs.
Put the cream in a pan over the fire and let it come to the boil, and then pour it on to the sugar and yolks in a basin and mix well. Return it to the pan and keep it stirred over the fire till it thickens and clings well to the spoon, but do not let it boil; then pass it through a tammy or hair sieve, or strainer. Let it cool; add vanilla or other flavour, and freeze. Mould if desired. When partly frozen, half a pint of whipped cream slightly sweetened may be added to each pint of custard.

Modern measurements:
2 1/2 cups of cream
1/2 cup sugar
After boiling, cool cream slightly
7 egg yolks
Optional: 1 1/4 whipped cream
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