The hearth was christened by a wonderful group of beginning hearth cooks. I was thrilled to have them, as they all have cooking fireplaces at home and hope to start using them as they were meant to be.
We start out with traditional cooking techniques, including fire safety, proper fire maintenance and learning skills in using the bake kettles and other hearthside equipment. Our meal was simple. Chicken on a String with root vegetables, Hannah Glasse’s Onion Pye made with Lydia Maria Child’s common pie crust, John Nott’s fried beets and Elizabeth Raffald’s boiled bread pudding, with a wonderful sauce.
After we read through the receipts, we were off and running, gathering up needed ingredients. Paul started on the pie crust which was really a puff pastry dough with lots of butter rolled into it. Barbara picked the bread pudding, a daring choice for a novice as boiled puddings are notorious for being soggy if not done correctly. While Barbara mixes up the bread with the candies fruit and currants, Paul rolls out the dough a second time, after it had rested for 15 minutes in a cool place. Once the dough was ready, Heather, who had prepared the filling, assembled the pye. Heather toasted some bread on the hearth to dry out and used the mortar and pestle to make the crumbs for the beets. Being a confessed toast burner, I must say that Heather made the best dry toast, golden and light.
With the pudding in the boiling water and the chicken and pye done, it was time to do the beets. Heather had cooked the beets to fork-tender in a bake kettle on the hearth. They were put in a batter then rolled in the bread crumbs she had made from the toast. Into the fry pan they went with butter, and were fried so they had a crunchy exterior and a soft interior. They were so good I ate them like candy. Paul worked on carving the chicken that had a lovely brown and crispy skin. He had put butter, parsley and garlic in the cavity and basted it while it spun. This was one tender and juicy bird.
The pye was retrieved from the bake oven and it was cooked perfectly, and tasted as good as it looked.
We all sat down to a hearty lunch and while we chatted, Barbara discovered that Paul and Heather had purchased their home from a friend of hers. The conversation turned to antiques and all the shows they all went to and the upcoming ones. Conversation did not lag with this group. Then it was Barbara’s time to present her boiled bread pudding and sauce. Taken out of the water, it was put in a strainer and covered with a dish, flipped over and then the pudding cloth slowly removed. Perfection! It was flawless and made a wonderful ending to our meal.
As with every meal there is a time for clean-up and this day was no different. Everyone pitched in and the job was quickly done.
This was a very congenial group. I was able to share my cooking skills and resources with them and I enjoyed meeting Paul and Heather. And it is always nice to have Barbara visiting.