Saturday, 29 September 2012

11 December, 1897 - 'Some Economical Irish Dishes' - Potato Cakes, Honey Cake, Economical Christmas Cake, Buttermilk Bread

Potato Cakes:- For this, equal parts of cold boiled potatoes and white flour are wanted. Knead well together with a little milk, if necessary. Flour your pastry board well and roll out the mixture about half an inch thick. Cut into three-cornered scones and bake on a griddle. These must be eaten hot, but with plenty of butter. They are delicious!

Honey Cake:- This is another hot cake fit for supper or high tea.

Mix together half a breakfast-cupful of white sugar and one breakfast-cupful of rich sour cream (Dinah was always leaving driblets in jug and basin after afternoon tea or Helen's morning cup. It was not difficult for enough to get sour very frequently). Dredge into the mixture two breakfast-cupfuls of finely sifted flour, and about two tablespoonfuls of clear honey. This will flavour the cake nicely, and must be stirred in well, so as to be thoroughly mixed. Add half a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda (it is called bread soda in Ireland) and beat with the back of a wooden spoon until air bubbles appear.

Bake in a buttered tin for three-quarters of an hour and eat hot.

This may not sound a very economical recipe, but Helen drew her aunt's attention to the fact that neither eggs nor butter are used. As a matter of fact, a cake sufficient to allay the hunger of four or five persons can be made for eightpence, not an exorbitant outlay.

Economical Christmas Cake:- Helen rather doubted if she ought to put this amongst distinctive Irish cookery recipes. Its original birthplace may be England. But it was given to her by a typical Irishwoman, and has only been met with by her in Irish households, so she does not withhold it from her aunt's servants' hall.

The first thing to recommend this cake is, that the longer before Christmas it is made, the richer it tastes. It takes all of November and December to bring it to perfection if kept in an airtight box. By this early preparation, some of the fuss and turmoil of Christmas week is done away with - especially if, like Helen, her aunt mixes her plum pudding and mince pies not later than stir-up Monday.

Put half a pound of butter in a large bowl, breaking over it five eggs. Heat until the mixture looks "curdy", add a handful of coarse brown sugar.

Add this boiling mixture to the eggs and butter, and keep stirring, whilst a second person sifts in slowly one pound and a half of well washed, well dried, carefully picked currant, three-quarters of a pound of flour, and two ounces of citron peel chopped small.

Put into a shape papered, but not buttered, taking care that several folds of paper are lining the bottom of the tin. Bake in a moderate oven for three hours.

To look at, this rich, cheap cake might be prepared for a wedding. To eat it is delicious; but only if kept for at least a month before cutting. Nothing better could be desired for birthday in the parlour, or weddings in the servants' hall.

Buttermilk Bread:- Helen's aunt greatly prided herself upon her home-made bread. Helen thought it vastly inferior both in looks and taste to the flat cakes she was accustomed to in Ireland. So she just jotted down a rule of thumb recipe for the latter and inserted it slyly at the end of her instructions.

To every pound of whole wheatmeal (or brown flour) add a handful of seconds, a spoonful of salt, a small pinch of baking soda, and as much thick sour buttermilk as will make an ordinary cake mixture. Flour the pastry board and lift the dough onto it. Knead very thoroughly and lightly from outside to inside, working the mixture always towards the centre. Now with a firm turn of the wrist, roll out the dough from the centre outwards, pressing firmly and evenly. When one inch thick, flour thickly with the hand, and bake in an oven or griddle. This bread ought to rise and be quite four inches thick when done. One slice of this is as satisfying as four or five of baker's bread, and far more wholesome. If brown bread is not liked, white flour can be used in the same way.

Helen has not paid a visit to her aunt since she sent her these recipes. But she hears, on good authority, that her Irish stew is not relegated to the servants' hall; that her honey cake is much appreciated upstairs at afternoon tea; that colcannon is often introduced to visitors as something quite new and strange; and that the household bread bill is reduced by one half.

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