Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two Appealing Recipes (From Early Numbers of Petits Propos Culinaires) -- Albondigas de Pescado and Mrs. Berry's Trifle


        I have previously mentioned the food journal, Petits Propos Culinaires, which was started in 1979 by the late Alan Davidson.  Today, while searching for something else in my disorganized library, I came across two early issues, which included recipes that are sort of "essence of  PPC" for me because they are both highly personal and show the marks of history and "lived" local culture, i.e., they are the opposite of the gimmicky, "fad" cuisine that not infrequently makes its way into periodical media.  The current PPC issue (No. 91, published in October 2010) is illustrated above.  The excellent PPC anthology The Wilder Shores Of Gastronomy was published in the U.S. by Ten Speed Press in 2002, is still in print and commercially available and is highly recommended reading.  PPC's website is found here.

 I.        From A Fishy Miscellany: Petits Propos Culinaires No. 2.  Prospect Books, London, August 1979  (Recipe author anonymous.)

Albondigas de pescado 

        "It often happens that one sets off to the fishmonger without knowing what fish will be cheap and good on the day in question.  So any-good-fish-will-do recipes are particularly useful.  A correspondent from the north of Spain provides such a recipe, for Spanish fish balls.

Albondigas de Pescado (Spanish fish balls)
The quantities given will serve four to six people.

500 g (1 lb.) white-fleshed fish, cooked and deboned
1 small onion, very finely chopped
40 g (1 ½ oz.) fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs lightly beaten
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 to 2 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper
120 g (around 4 oz.) flour
4 to 5 tbsp. lemon juice
More olive oil for the frying

And for the sauce:

4 dl (around ¾ pint fish fumet)
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 small onion, finely chopped
30 g (1 oz) toasted almonds, ground

Pound the fish flesh in a mortar, then combine it in a mixing bowl with the onion, breadcrumbs, eggs, olive oil, parsley and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix all this together thoroughly , then form the mixture into balls about  the size of small hen’s eggs.  Roll these in flour, dip them in lemon juice and roll them in flour again.

         Take a frying pan of suitable size, add the olive oil to a depth of about 5 mm ( ¼ inch), heat this and then fry the fish balls until they are golden brown all over.  Drain them and put them in a shallow casserole.

          Add the sauce ingredients, except for the almonds, to the fish balls in the casserole and simmer the lot, covered, for 10 minutes.  Then add the almonds and simmer, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Serve straight from the casserole."

II.            Mrs. Berry’s Trifle – Janet Ward, From Petits Propos Culinaires 3.  Prospect Books, London, November 1979.

Not exactly the recipe described below, but it has most of the constituent elements and is very pretty to look at.

"This is a family recipe based on one which was used in Sale, Cheshire, in the 1880s, and slightly modified by three subsequent generations of the same family.

Depending on the size of the bowl to be used, buy six to a dozen trifle sponges (or, if you prefer, make them).   Cut each sponge (or sponge-finger, as some call them) in half lengthwise and spread the inside with good strawberry or raspberry jam (homemade if possible).  Put them together again and line the bottom of the bowl with them.  Fill in the spaces between them with macaroons or ratafias.  If using macaroons, make sure that you use the soft kind, not hard ones.  Soak this bottom layer thoroughly with medium-dry sherry (e.g., half a pint of sherry to eight sponge-cakes).  Leave for a while.

          Make a thick custard in a double-saucepan, using 6 to 8 eggs to a pint of milk.  Do not add any sugar, but put in some strips of lemon peel and a few drops of vanilla essence.  Pour the custard, while it is still warm, over the sponge-cakes and leave overnight. (There should be no surplus liquid.)

          Whip a pint of double cream and fold into it a tablespoonful of brandy.  Spread the cream over the soaked sponge-cakes and decorate the too with “flowers” made with glace cherries (for the centre of each flower), blanched almonds for the petals and thin strips of angelica stuck in at of 30 to 40 degrees, for the leaves.

           Traditionally, trifle is served in a glass bowl, but in this household a blue and white willow pattern bowl has been used as far back as anyone can remember."

Reader Note:  For other Spanish recipes, please consult here.  For other trifles, here.

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