Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The Art of British Cooking" - An Elizabethan Casserole of Pork (for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee)

Date I made this recipe:  June 3, 2012

The Art of British Cooking by Theodora FitzGibbon; foreword by Lord Geddes
Published by:  Phoenix House - London
© 1965
Recipe:   An Elizabethan Casserole of Pork – p. 116

This week in the “Jolly Good News” department, Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond (60 year) Jubilee.  Smashing!    Brilliant!  Hip Hip Hooray!  Quite.

As mentioned in previous blogs, I love the Queen.  At age 86, she keeps a record pace of appearances and dang it all, she just looks so darn cute with her hat, heels and handbags that it’s hard not to “luf” her.  Plus, she’s got the royal wave down pat but then again, after 60 years on the throne, why wouldn’t she?

For those in the know like me, you know that the Jubilee Celebrations kicked off months ago when members of the royal family took to points east, west, north and south of Her Majesty’s (wild!) kingdom to visit with “the people.”  The British Empire may be smaller than it used to be but QEII still has millions of loyal subjects all over the world, all whom are partying along with her, helping her celebrate an amazing feat that was only accomplished by one other queen, Queen Victoria.

Closer to home in London, the Queen kicked off local celebrations starting Saturday, June 2nd, with a visit to the Epsom Derby (pronounced “Darby”) to watch the horse races.  Her Majesty loves her some horses…and corgis…but mainly horses. 

On Sunday, the royal family and about 1,000 other boaters took to the Thames River (pronounced “Temes”—what is it with the Brits and pronunciation anyway???!) for a massive flotilla in the rain.  News organizations reported that HM (Her Majesty) stood for 4.5 hours, waving to her loyal subjects whilst floating on the royal barge.  (The royal barge should never be confused with your ordinary and ugly river barges.  This sucker was fit for a queen..hahahahaha).  At any rate, despite the rain, there were huge crowds celebrating and partying and whatnot which is so out of character for the Brits…but then again, maybe not?

Last night, the royals took in a Jubilee Concert featuring Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, several other “sirs” and a couple of dames—and I mean that in a good way, “Dame” being the female equivalent of “Sir.”  (“Sirs” are knighted by the Queen).  And then today, everything wrapped up with a celebration mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the royal wave “wave” on the balcony of the palace.

From all accounts, the Queen was quite touched by the outpouring of love and affection for her (and perhaps a teensy bit for Catherine, the new Duchess of Cambridge), all events went over well and the normally staid and stiff-upper-lips Brits went a bit dotty over the whole thing and really, why not, eh what?

By the way, one of my favorite movies is Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and one of my favorite scenes is when King Arthur is “riding” through the forest with his trusty guide, Patsy (and to see what I mean by “riding,” you have to see the movie).  When Arthur encounters some local serfs who are less than happy to see him, he announces “I’m Arthur, King of the Britons,” to which they reply something along the lines of “Who?  We don’t have no king.  I never voted for you.”  I think Queen Elizabeth has fared far better than poor Arthur (“Run away, run away…..”)

So OF COURSE the Jubilee weekend provided the perfect excuse for me to make something in honor of HM, and in an amazing “just-in-the-nick-of-time” moment, I found today’s cookbook, The Art of British Cooking.  And by “found” I meant that for the first time ever, I attended the Bloomington Crime Prevention Association’s (BCPA) 20th annual “Book’Em” book sale, held in Bloomington, Minnesota (at 9801 Lyndale Ave and it runs until June 16th). 

Can we say “gold mine?”  Holy Hannah, people, there were tables and tables of books of all shapes, sizes and subjects with overflow stored under the tables and apparently, a loading dock of books just waiting to be put out.  Within minutes, I started filling a paper back with cookbooks, this one being one of them.  All told, I picked up 16 new cookbooks at $2.00 each for hardcover, $1.00 softcover, and my husband found several biographies wanted to read.  Two bags and $40 later, we were quite the happy campers.

Now some of you, having experienced British food, might think the title The Art of British Food to be ironic.  And although my husband still shudders at the thought of British breakfast sausages (bangers), we luckily experienced good food on our visit to England.  And in fact, while there were some recipes I would never make from this book (say, for example, something with a cow’s hoof), there were many up for consideration, from seafood recipes to trifle.  Many recipes contained cucumbers, something that surprised me until I remembered that cucumber sandwiches are apparently popular at tea time.  Many recipes also called for anchovies, another surprise but you know the Brits once ruled the ocean and traveled the world and ultimately incorporated a lot of food from the Commonwealth into their own diets.

So after hemming and hawing in true British fashion, we finally decided that it would be fitting for us to make the recipe, An Elizabethan Casserole of Pork, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, even though “Elizabethan” here refers to the first queen named Elizabeth, Elizabeth I.  Actually, according to the book, “This dish is sometimes on the menu of the Elizabethan Room of the Gore Hotel, Queen’s Gate, London.”  (By the by, the Gore Hotel is still in London but the Elizabethan Room has been replaced by Bistro One Ninety.  I must say that I prefer the name “Elizabethan Room.”)

I also have to say that this is a rather odd dish that overall worked pretty well save for a few things I would tweak here and there.  The “casserole” of this dish consists of pork plus apples, celery, onions, orange and orange rind, seedless grapes, dates and sage and parsley and red wine, all of which are good ingredients but the orange flavor almost overwhelmed.  I was also expecting more of a sauce of the red wine (and water to cover the pork) but instead got more of a diluted glass of wine so that was disappointing.  Still, I would make it again with a few adjustments – less orange, more spices, and maybe more apples.  Does the Queen like apples?  Hmmm…must ask next time I see her.  Quite.

An Elizabethan Casserole of Pork – serving size not specified
1 boneless joint of pork, about 4 lbs. (translated:  one boneless pork roast!)
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons cooking oil or fat
1 head celery (in other words, several stalks of celery if not the entire bunch!)
½ bottle red wine (oh yeah!)
1 orange (Note:  if I had to make this again, I would use a much sweeter and smaller orange than the navel one I used for this recipe.  The tartness of the orange was not necessarily pleasing to my palate) (PS—save the orange peel)
¼ lb seedless white grapes
3 medium onions
6 dates
3 medium apples
A sprig of sage and parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the fat or heat the oil and brown the pork on all sides in it.  The remove the joint and fry, very lightly, the onions and apples, both peeled and sliced.  When they are done put them in the bottom of a casserole and season well. Rub the pork in flour, salt and pepper, and place it on top of the apples and onions.  Add the stoned grapes (i.e. seedless – not to be confused with “stoned” as in high on marijuana!), dates, chopped herbs, chopped celery, the orange peel finely chopped and quarters of orange without pitch or pips (seeds).  Pour over the red wine, adding a little water if it doesn’t quite come to the top of the meat.  Cover and cook in a slow oven (300-325) for about 3 hours.  For carving, put the pork on a separate dish, pouring some sauce and vegetables over each portion.

Okay, I simply MUST comment on this last line – “pour sauce and vegetables” over each portion.”  Last time I checked, celery and onions were vegetables but dates, grapes, apples and oranges were fruit.  But the Brits are nothing if not succinct so the all-encompassing “vegetables” it is!

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