18 Mar 2009

The Uppercrusts unsavoury eating habits

I really could not believe what I was reading when I glanced through this old cookbook dated 1882 and this is the 5th edition, with a view to perhaps find a recipe that had been foregotten, when I came across the meat section, well!, I certainly would not have joined the popular show "Come Dine With Me" knowing now what they were gorging themselves on, I will not go into to much detail but it will be suffice to know that this cookbook was for the Victorian Gentry and not the poor. Woodcocks. Woodcocks, which are highly flavoured and most delicate birds, come in on the ist of November, but as they are not con¬sidered game, they may be shot as soon as they reach England from more northerly regions. They generally appear with a north-east wind in October, and remain till March, lying hid in moist woods, where they feed on insects and grubs, and grow fat and very delicious about Christmas, when woodcocks swell the list of rich viands for the season. They will keep good for weeks in frosty weather, if hung in a dry place; and as, in many seasons, they are rare in this country, great care must be taken to preserve them. A woodcock is never drawn. To roast Woodcocks. Pluck them very carefully, to avoid tearing the tender skin. Leave them unopened, but wipe them carefully, and truss with the head under the wing and the long bill laid along the breast. Suspend the birds before the fire with the feet downwards. No bird requires such constant care and watchfulness for the short time it is roasting as the woodcock. Place underneath each bird a thick toast, buttered, and without crust, to catch the trail, or inside, .which is accounted the most delicate part. Baste them continually with salt and water only; and though some affected epicures declare that a woodcock to be perfectly cooked ought only " to fly through a hot kitchen," we would allow twenty minutes' slow roasting to make the birds fit for the general taste. The toasts must be laid upon a hot dish, with a bird on each toast. Gravy, or melted butter may be sent in with them in a tureen, but none on the dish, to destroy the flavour of the birds. Snipes, though decidedly inferior in quality, may be roasted in the same way, with the trail on a toast, and fill up a table when woodcocks are scarce. Salmi of Woodcocks. Put into a stewpan two eschalots, a carrot, and half a dozen mushrooms, all chopped small, with a slice of lean ham, two cloves, and half a dozen peppercorns; cover with a pint of beef gravy, and stew for an hour. Then strain, and again put the gravy on the fire with any of the bones and trimmings of the cold dressed woodcocks that may remain after you have cut off the meat for the salmi, and if any portion of the toast with the trail remain, mix it well up with the gravy. Add two glasses of Madeira and two ounces of butter rolled in flour, and stew half an hour longer ; then strain the sauce over the slices of woodcock, which must be laid in a clean stewpan, and let it stand at the side of the fire till the meat have imbibed the sau~e and become perfectly hot; then serve with fried sippets. They may also be larded and roasted, or broiled like partridges; but the simple mode of roasting preserves best the peculiar flavour of the delicate bird. Cygnets and Leverets. These were also eaten by the gentry, Swan was considered to be tough so they picked on their young and the same for Hare.

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