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All The Sweet Things

1942Thus, racing through Week 2, we come to Week 3 covering the early Georgians, specifically George I and focusing heavily on sweet things and…chocolate. Don’t get too excited just yet – I’m saving my experiments with that for the next post 😀

Britain’s love affair with sugar was well-established by this time. From the early luxury of Persian imports in Henry VIII’s day, through Elizabeth I’s reign when sugar became much more readily available and therefore cheaper via Europe (pre-EU). By George I’s day, the New World had been opened up and sugar was being grown and imported from there, further increasing availability and blackening the nation’s teeth.

From this week’s recipe collection, which included Puddings of Several Colours, basically blancmange-like “quivering” puddings coloured with all sorts of things from spinage (spinach) to violet flowers. I’m not a huge fan of wobbly puddings, so I plumped for Potato Tort, a sweet Sweet Potato tart. Here’s the original recipe:

Take a pound and a half Spanish potatoes; boil them and blanch them, and cut them in slices, not too thin; sheet a dish with puff paste, lay some citron in the bottom, lay over your potatoes, and season them with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar; then take the marrow of two bones, cut it into pieces as big as walnuts, roll it in yolks of eggs, and season it as the potatoes; lay it in them, and between the lumps of marrow lay citron and dates slic’d, and eryngo roots, sprinkle over some sack and orange ower water; then drawn up a quart of cream boil’d with the yolks of ten eggs, and pour all over, bake it, and stick over some citron, and serve it.

Charles Carter, The Complete Practical Cook, 1730

Needless to say, a few substitutions were needed, notably butter for bone marrow and crystallised ginger for eryngo root*. I didn’t have any sack/sherry or orange flower water, but I did add a little puréed orange I had left over from another dish.

*No, I had no idea either, so I looked it up and found this

Here’s my finished tort:

Sweet Potato Tort

Sweet Potato Tort

I had some double cream to use up so it ended up extremely rich and I rather regretted putting in butter. There was also quite a lot of the custard mixture, so I served the tart hot with extra custard. It was rather tasty, albeit very rich. I think it would have benefitted from the potato being mashed into the custard for a smoother filling similar to a pumpkin pie.

Rather like quiche, it was actually nicer munched cold the next day and I found myself snacking on slivers at various points throughout the day. Just as well the children object to sweet potato on principle and weren’t having any of it, despite my efforts to make them taste it.

Vegetables in cakes, pastries and sweet dishes are nothing new it seems. I think the best part of this course is exploring the different ingredients and flavourings, and the change in their usage. “Sweet” spices in savoury dishes, vegetables in puddings (spinach blancmange, anyone?) and a whole load of flavours that we just don’t use in food any more, e.g., sandalwood, flower waters and even flowers. I have several recipes in my collection for sweet tarts made with all sorts of flowers: violets, borage, marigolds, cowslips, as well as the more usual fruits.

What do you use in your cooking that bucks the modern norm? Are you a sugar addict or is spice your thing? Do you like the unusual or prefer to stick to the traditional (as we know it today)?

Next up, will be my adventures with chocolate 😀

 

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13 July 2016