A Christmas Favorite – Christmas Pudding

December 19, 2013 at 9:31 AM | Posted in dessert | Leave a comment
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This Christmas pudding is decorated with skimmia rather than holly

This Christmas pudding is decorated with skimmia rather than holly

 

Christmas pudding is a type of pudding traditionally served on Christmas Day (December 25) as part of the Christmas dinner. It has its origins in medieval England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding or Christmas Pudding or just “pud”, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit. Despite the name “plum pudding,” the pudding contains no actual plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums” as a term for raisins. The pudding is composed of many dried fruits and is held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses. Also, flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices. The pudding is aged for a month or even a year. It can age for a long time because it has so much alcohol in it, it never spoils. Plum pudding was also used as a model example by J. J. Thomson, where the cake represented the protons and the plums represented electrons.

 

 

 

Many households have their own recipe for Christmas pudding, some handed down through families for generations. Essentially the recipe brings together what traditionally were expensive or luxurious ingredients — notably the sweet spices that are so important in developing its distinctive rich aroma, and usually made with suet. It is very dark in appearance — effectively black — as a result of the dark sugars and black treacle in most recipes, and its long cooking time. The mixture can be moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol (some recipes call for dark beers such as mild, stout or porter).
Christmas puddings are often dried out on hooks for weeks prior to serving in order to enhance the flavor. This pudding has been prepared with a traditional cloth rather than a basin.
Prior to the 19th century, the English Christmas pudding was boiled in a pudding cloth, and often represented as round. The new Victorian era fashion involved putting the batter into a basin and then steaming it, followed by unwrapping the pudding, placing it on a platter, and decorating the top with a sprig of holly.
Initial cooking usually involves steaming for many hours. To serve, the pudding is reheated by steaming once more, and dressed with warm brandy which is set alight. It can be eaten with hard sauce, brandy butter, rum butter, cream, lemon cream, custard, or sweetened béchamel, and is sometimes sprinkled with caster sugar.

 

 

 

Traditionally, every member of the household stirs the pudding, while making a wish.

Traditionally, every member of the household stirs the pudding, while making a wish.

Traditionally puddings were made on or immediately after the Sunday “next before Advent”, i.e. four to five weeks before Christmas. The collect for that Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, as it was used from the 16th century (and still is in traditional churches), reads:
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
The day became known as “Stir-up Sunday“. Traditionally everyone in the household, or at least every child, gave the mixture a stir and made a wish while doing so.
It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year.
Other tokens are also known to have been included, such as a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbor).
Once turned out of its basin, decorated with holly, doused in brandy (or occasionally rum), and flamed (or “fired”), the pudding is traditionally brought to the table ceremoniously, and greeted with a round of applause. In 1843, Charles Dickens describes the scene in A Christmas Carol:
“Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper which smells like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”

 

 

A Christmas pudding being flamed after brandy has been poured over it.

A Christmas pudding being flamed after brandy has been poured over it.

 

Christmas puddings have very good keeping properties and many families keep one back from Christmas to be eaten at another celebration later in the year, often at Easter. Constance Spry records that it was not uncommon to go so far as to make each year’s pudding the previous Christmas.

 

 

One of America’s Favorites – Fish and Chips

April 22, 2013 at 7:28 AM | Posted in fish, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Fish and chips is a take-away food which consists of battered fish and deep-fried chips, sometimes accompanied by mushy peas and

Fish and chips in Norfolk, England

Fish and chips in Norfolk, England

tartar sauce.

Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in Great Britain as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of railways which connected the ports to major industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century, which meant that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas. In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin.

Deep-fried chips (slices or pieces of potato) as a dish may have first appeared in Britain in about the same period: the Oxford English Dictionary notes as its earliest usage of “chips” in this sense the mention in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (published in 1859): “Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil”.
The modern fish-and-chip shop (“chippy” or “chipper” in modern British slang originated in the United Kingdom, although outlets selling fried food occurred commonly throughout Europe. According to one story, fried-potato shops spreading south from Scotland merged with fried-fish shops spreading from southern England. Early fish-and-chip shops had only very basic facilities. Usually these consisted principally of a large cauldron of cooking fat, heated by a coal fire. During World War II fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Fish Labelling Regulations 2003 enact directive 2065/2001/EC and generally means that “fish” must be sold with the particular species named; so “cod and chips” now appears on menus rather than the more vague “fish and chips”. In the United Kingdom the Food Standards Agency guidance excludes caterers from this; but several local Trading Standards authorities and others do say it cannot be sold merely as “fish and chips”.
England
The dish became popular in wider circles in London and South East England in the middle of the 19th century (Charles Dickens mentions a “fried fish warehouse” in Oliver Twist, first published in 1838), while in the north of England a trade in deep-fried chipped potatoes developed. The first chip shop stood on the present site of Oldham’s Tommyfield Market. It remains unclear exactly when and where these two trades combined to become the fish-and-chip shop industry we know today. Joseph Malin opened the first recorded combined fish-and-chip shop in London in 1860 or in 1865, while a Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North of England, in Mossley, in 1863.
The concept of a fish restaurant was introduced by Samuel Isaacs (born 1856 in Whitechapel, London; died 1939 in Brighton, Sussex) who ran a thriving wholesale and retail fish business throughout London and the South of England in the latter part of the 19th century. Isaacs’ first restaurant opened in London in 1896 serving fish and chips, bread and butter, and tea for nine pence, and its popularity ensured a rapid expansion of the chain.
The restaurants were carpeted, had waited service, tablecloths, flowers, china and cutlery, and made the trappings of upmarket dining affordable to the working classes for the first time. They were located in Tottenham Court Road, St Pancras, The Strand, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Brixton and other London districts, as well as Clacton, Brighton, Ramsgate, Margate and other seaside resorts in southern England. Menus were expanded in the early 20th century to include meat dishes and other variations as their popularity grew to a total of thirty restaurants. Sam Isaacs’ trademark was the phrase “This is the Plaice” combined with a picture of the punned-upon fish in question. A glimpse of the old Brighton restaurant at No.1 Marine Parade can be seen in the background of Norman Wisdom’s 1955 film One Good Turn just as Norman/Pitkin runs onto the seafront. Coincidentally, this is now the site of a Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips restaurant. A blue plaque at Oldham’s Tommyfield Market marks the first chips fried in Britain in 1860, and the origin of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in Britain.

Scotland
Dundee City Council claims that “…in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy – the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket.”
In Edinburgh, a combination of Gold Star brown sauce and water or malt vinegar, known either simply as “sauce”, or more specifically as “chippy sauce”, has great popularity.

 
Ireland

In Ireland, the first fish and chips were sold by an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Cervi, who mistakenly stepped off an America-bound ship at Cobh (then called Queenstown) in County Cork and walked all the way to Dublin.[18] He started by selling fish and chips outside Dublin pubs from a handcart. He then found a permanent spot in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street). His wife Palma would ask customers “Uno di questa, uno di quella?” This phrase (meaning “one of this, one of the other”) entered the vernacular in Dublin as “one and one”, which is still a way of referring to fish and chips in the city.
Cooking

Traditional frying uses beef dripping or lard; however, vegetable oils, such as peanut oil (used because of its relatively high smoke point) now predominate. A minority of vendors in the north of England and Scotland and the majority of vendors in Northern Ireland still use dripping or lard, as it imparts a different flavour to the dish, but it has the side effect of making the fried chips unsuitable for vegetarians and for adherents of certain faiths. Lard is used in some living industrial history museums, such as the Black Country Living Museum.
Thickness
British chips are traditionally thicker than American-style French fries sold by major multinational fast food chains, resulting in a lower fat content per portion. In their homes or in non-chain restaurants, people in or from the United States may eat a thick type of chip, more similar to the British variant, sometimes referred to as home fries or steak fries.
How much cooking fat soaks into the potato depends on the surface area and how long they are cooked. Chips have a smaller surface area per unit weight than French fries, which means absorbing less oil in a given time. On the other hand, chips, being thicker, take longer to cook than fries.

Batter
UK chippies traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles in the batter. Other recipes may use beer or milk batter, where these liquids are often substitutes for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. Beer also results in an orange-brown colour. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different: some prefer lager whereas others use stout or bitter.

In Britain and Ireland, cod and haddock appear most commonly as the fish used for fish and chips, but vendors also sell many other

Fish and chips in Norfolk, England

Fish and chips in Norfolk, England

kinds of fish, especially other white fish, such as pollock or coley; plaice; skate and ray (particularly popular in Ireland); and huss or rock salmon (a term covering several species of dogfish and similar fish). In Northern Ireland, cod, plaice or whiting appear most commonly in ‘fish suppers‘—’supper’ being Scottish & Northern Irish chip-shop slang for a food item accompanied by chips. Suppliers in Devon and Cornwall regularly offer pollock and coley as cheap alternatives to haddock due to their regular availability in a common catch. As a cheap, nutritious, savory and common alternative to a whole piece of fish, fish-and-chips shops around the UK supply small battered rissoles of compressed cod roe.
In Australia, reef cod and rock cod (a different variety from that used in the United Kingdom), barramundi or flake (a type of shark meat) are commonly used. From the early 21st century, farmed basa imported from Vietnam and hoki have become common in Australian fish and chip shops. Other types of fish are also used based on regional availability.
In New Zealand, snapper was originally the preferred species for battered fillets in the North Island. As catches for this fish declined, it was replaced by hoki, shark (marketed as lemon fish) and tarakihi. Bluefin gurnard and blue cod predominate in South Island fish and chips.
In the United States, the type of fish used depends on availability in a given region. Some common types are cod, halibut, flounder, tilapia or, in New England, Atlantic cod or haddock. Salmon is growing common on the West Coast, while freshwater catfish is most commonly used in the Southeast.

In chip shops in the United Kingdom and Ireland, salt and vinegar is traditionally sprinkled over fish and chips at the time it is served. Suppliers use malt vinegar, onion vinegar (used for pickling onions), or the cheaper non-brewed condiment. A portion of mushy peas is a popular side dish. In table-service restaurants and pubs, the dish is usually served with a slice of lemon for squeezing over the fish and without any sauces or condiments, with salt, vinegar and sauces available at the customer’s leisure.
In Ireland, Wales and Northern England, most takeaways serve warm portions of side-sauces such as curry sauce, gravy or mushy peas. The sauces are usually poured over the chips. In some areas, this dish without fish is referred to as ‘wet chips’. Other fried products include ‘scraps’ (also known as ‘bits’ in Southern England or ‘batter’ in North-East England), originally a by-product of fish frying. Still popular in Northern England, they were given as treats to the children of customers. Portions prepared and sold today consist of loose blobs of batter, deep fried to a crunchy golden crisp in the cooking-fat. The very popular potato scallop or potato cake consists of slices of potato dipped in fish batter and deep fried until golden brown. These are often accompanied for dipping by the warm sauces listed above.[25] Scraps are referred to as ‘scrumps’ around Bristol.
In Edinburgh and the Lothians salt and sauce (or saut an sauce) is the normal accompaniment traditionally sprinkled over fish and chips or almost anything else bought from the fish-and-chips shops. The watery “sauce” is a mixture of malt vinegar or non-brewed condiment and/or water and Rowat’s or Gold Star brand brown sauce, and it is mixed and bottled—often in an old glass fizzy drink bottle with a hole pierced in the screw cap—by each fish-and-chip shop to their own secret recipe.
In Australia and New Zealand, seasoned salt or chicken salt is often sprinkled over fish and chips just before serving. Many customers now choose to salt food themselves, given current public health concerns about salt intake. Another popular condiment is tomato sauce. Tartar sauce is also very popular for the fish. Both tomato and tartar sauce are usually sold in small plastic tubs on the shop counter. Complementary slices of lemon are generally served with the dish or take-away pack. In the best British and Irish tradition, malt vinegar is often the condiment of choice of many Australasian fish and chip lovers.
In Canada, fish and chips may be served with the traditional salt and vinegar, but a lemon wedge and tartar sauce is often the accompaniment found in table service restaurants. Coleslaw of both the vinegared or creamy variety is often interchangeably served as a side.
In the United States, most restaurants serve fish and chips with tartar sauce, ketchup, and coleslaw, although malt vinegar also is sometimes offered, especially at UK-themed pubs.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, fish and chips usually sell through independent restaurants

A Neon sign for Fish and Chips in London

A Neon sign for Fish and Chips in London

and take-aways. Outlets range from small affairs to chain restaurants. Locally-owned seafood restaurants are also popular in many local markets. Mobile “chip vans” serve to cater for temporary occasions. In the United Kingdom some shops have amusing names, such as “A Salt and Battery”, “The Codfather”,”The Frying Scotsman”,”Oh My Cod”, and ” Frying Nemo” In countries such as New Zealand and Australia, fish-and-chip vendors are a popular business and source of income among the Asian community, particularly Chinese migrants.
In Ireland, the majority of traditional vendors are migrants or the descendants of migrants from southern Italy. A trade organisation exists to represent this tradition.
Fish and chips is a popular lunch meal eaten by families travelling to seaside resorts for day trips who do not bring their own picnic meals.
Fish-and-chip outlets sell roughly 25% of all the white fish consumed in the United Kingdom, and 10% of all potatoes.
The existence of numerous competitions and awards for “best fish-and-chip shop” testifies to the recognised status of this type of outlet in popular culture.
Fish-and-chip shops traditionally wrapped their product in newspaper, or with an inner layer of white paper (for hygiene) and an outer layer of newspaper or blank newsprint (for insulation and to absorb grease), though the use of newspaper for wrapping has almost ceased on grounds of hygiene. Nowadays establishments usually use food-quality wrapping paper, occasionally printed on the outside to emulate newspaper.
The British National Federation of Fish Friers was founded in 1913. It promotes fish and chips and offers training courses.
A previous world record for the “largest serving of fish and chips” was held by Gadaleto’s Seafood Market in New Paltz, NY. This 2004 record was broken by Yorkshire pub Wensleydale Heifer in July 2011. An attempt to break this record was made by Doncaster fish and chip shop Scawsby Fisheries in August 2012, which served 33 lb (13.6 kg) of battered cod alongside 64 lb (27.2 kg) of chips.

The long-standing Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays – especially during Lent – and of substituting fish for other types of meat on that day – continues to influence habits even in predominantly Protestant, semi-secular and secular societies. Friday night remains a traditional occasion for eating fish-and-chips; and many cafeterias and similar establishments, while varying their menus on other days of the week, habitually offer fish and chips every Friday.
In the UK, waste fat from fish and chip shops has become a useful source of biodiesel. German biodiesel company Petrotec have outlined plans to produce biodiesel in the UK from waste fat from the British fish-and-chip industry.

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