LOBSTER PIE

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According to Mark Strauss at the Smithsonian, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day since Roman Times. I like this passage he writes of a traveler’s diary from the early 18th century that notes: “On the eve of St. Valentine’s Day . . . An equal number of maids and bachelors get together; each writes his or her true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’ . . . Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the Valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses [and] wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves.”

I’ve also read that gift-giving and exchanging handmade cards on Valentine’s Day had become common and handmade Valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or woman one loved. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies due to the import from England of booklets, or “writers,” which had “be my Valentine” verses and messages which could be copied into cards or letters.

It was not until 1843 that Valentine’s Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced, the first one created by Esther A. Howland, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts. 

So I find that Valentine’s Day has come around again, and last year I made Allan a cheesecake. (See February 2012 Post) This year I decided on a Lobster and Scallop Pie. Looking at several cookery books, I found first a receipt from Hannah Glasse called “To Make a Lobster Pie.” 

 This is a rather simple receipt with few ingredients and seemed a bit bland, so I continued to look to find something a bit special for this Valentine’s Day treat. In Charles Carter’s 1730 cookery book I found one that I also liked yet it had too many sweet seasonings. Hannah uses vinegar in her lobster, Carter uses sack (sherry or a red wine) and this sounds more interesting. He also uses a leer (sauce or gravy) in the pie. So I will combine the two receipts to satisfy our taste in seafood.

I had two small lobsters and a few scallops for the pie. I started by cooking the lobster about 10 minutes, just enough so the meat could be removed from the shell. Next a puff paste as per Hannah. She does not mention blind baking the crust and it may be just something they did or did not do and did not write down. I wanted to try it without baking the bottom first. I think the heat under the kettle will brown it up nicely. I had already put the kettle by the fire to warm up, as I wanted a high heat.

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 I lined the pie tin with the puff paste and filled it with lobster and scallops. For a sauce, Allan heated cream in a sauce pan, then added some to, two whipped egg yolks to temper them. After he whisked the egg mixture back into the cream he added anchovy paste, salt and pepper, butter and sherry, to round off the sauce. This became our leer and we poured it over the lobster and scallops. 2 copy

I rolled out the top paste and cut some hearts out from the sides. With the top in place and decorated with the hearts, into the kettle it went. I turned it every 10 minutes or so and took a look half-way through. It was not cooking as fast as I would have liked, so I put more coals under and over the kettle.

3 copy The added coals worked, and the hearts puffed up and the sides pulled away from the pan. It took about 45 minutes total. I scooped it out onto the plates. It lacked presentation as it flowed out of the crust onto the dish, however, it tasted wonderful. There were some leftovers and they will make a nice starter for our next meal.

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We will celebrate Valentine’s Day, on the 14th of February by going off to lunch at one of our favorite resturants in Portsmouth. I doubt they will have a seafood pie as great as this, however.

 Happy Valentine’s Day

 Sandie

 

 

 

STEAMED PUDDING

A Steamed Pudding is a mixture that you put into a bowl, and steam in a water bath. In many very early receipts you find them, both savory and sweet. By the 17th Century, meat was eliminated from the recipe in favor of more sweets and it was sprinkled with brandy, then set aflame when served to guests.

The most famous steamed pudding we think about this time of year is the Christmas — or Plum — Puddings, made dense by all the fruit and nuts in them.  This is not your fruitcake type food. Many of the same components, yet so much better.

Definition of “plum” in the Oxford English Dictionary
A dried grape or raisin as used for puddings, cakes, etc. This use probably arose from the substitution of raisins for dried plums or prunes as an ingredient in plum-broth, porridge, etc., with retention of the name ‘plum’ for the substituted article.” The OED then goes on to list occurrences of this use in literature. Samuel Johnson defined a “plum” as “raisin; grape dried in the sun.”

The Puritans banned plum pudding during the second half of the 17th Century as an unfit custom for those who followed the ways of God because of its use of alcohol. However, by 1714, King George I brought back plum pudding as part of the traditional Christmas feast despite the strong objections. The name Christmas pudding is first recorded in 1858 in a novel by Anthony Trollope.

Almost every year I make Plum Pudding in November and have it sit in the refrigerator for a month to infuse all the flavors I have added. Come Christmas Day, it is served with a hot lemon sauce.

To get into the spirit of things I draped my tin chandler with a fake garland, no bugs in my pudding, thank you, and I put on some Christmas music. Then I put out what I need, chopped bread as my base for the pudding, to which I will add all the other ingredients.

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 I love to fill the pudding with candy citron, lemon and orange peels, raisin of the sun, dates, orange preserves and many spices.

I mixed the fruit together and added it to the bread. Then white  sugars was added, along with cinnamon, mace, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. 

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The pudding is basically a bread pudding held together with eggs. I stirred the bread mixture well before incorporating the whisked eggs.

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The grated lemon and orange peels, with some juice of both, were added to the preserves. Two sticks of melted butter were added to the bowl.

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In went the juice, preserves and peels along with a 1/2 cup rum mixed with some orange flower water.

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The pudding was mixed well to make sure all the bread cubes were well covered with fruit and that it was soaked with the liquid.

I could only find one of my molds and so I decided I would use a vintage angel food pan also. I traced and cut out some parchment paper and greased the pans. The pudding was lightly packed into the forms.

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The parchment paper was placed on top and the molds covered. These I put on steamer baskets and placed them on the stove. I poured water one third of the way up the sides of the molds. My steamer baskets were too high so I ended up using ring molds on the bottom and that worked very well.

I steamed the puddings for six hours then let them rest and cool before storing them in the refrigerator. Now the wait, a month has passed and Christmas Day is upon us. I will need to make my lemon sauce and then re-steam the pudding for two hour to warm it up. Then it will be served; I may even make some whipped cream. After all, there are no calories in Christmas food.

A receipt for the wonderful Pudding is posted in the receipt file. It is from The Art of Cookery, by Hanna Glass.

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