Lucky find ~ a tatty little gem of a cookbook!

You may remember I referred recently to my lovely one day a week sorting books for charity – it’s so exciting. As you can imagine lots and lots of cookbooks come through but these days I am not much of a one for reading about cooking, I feel I know  ... well, not “it all” exactly but enough already! If I do like the look of a cookbook I apply a stringent test – I open it at random a few times and if I know I can make the dishes thus revealed I go no further.

I did buy “My Life in France” by Julia Child a couple of weeks ago (which was great – what a character and what a boon to cooking and eating in the States) and then this week I bought a seriously dilapidated little book with the pages falling out, it was so tatty I almost threw it into the discard container without looking at it. Glad I didn’t though – it is lovely and makes me grin every time I think of it!

“Mangoes & Monsoons – the best of tropical cooking”  by John Kenyon published in 1964. 

When I applied my “test” I almost bought it out of sheer sneeriness – I have lived in the tropics and was not impressed with the first few recipes I looked at...

Hot Tomato Dip – which is a small bottle of tomato ketchup spiced up with garlic salt, ground red pepper and brandy to serve with potato chips.

Frozen Rainbows – three different tinned soups set with gelatine, layered up and frozen (which is actually an interesting idea which could be played with).

Sardine Cocktail – soak toast fingers with oil from a can of sardines, dip the sardines in gin (yes, gin) and lay them on the toast. Sprinkle with pepper and bake or grill, serve hot.

Banana Cutlets – lamb chops with mashed banana pressed onto them, breaded and deep fried.

I flicked on through and then suddenly “I fell in” so to speak, and realised that this isn’t a book on how to cook wonderful exotic and exciting tropical foods (well most of it isn’t but more about that in a minute), this is about how to make the most of what was actually available in many tropical places 50 years ago; mostly imported tinned and packaged goods from the UK

I have experienced this myself; firstly in Dominica in the early 70s, where the shop was full of Heinz tomato soup, Horlicks, Ovaltine, baked beans and other warming homely stuff from Britain. I found the same thing in Asia in 1991 and when I  moved to the British Virgin Islands a few years later it was the same again. Things there have, of course, improved a great deal, the imported stuff is now a lot posher – here is a picture of one of the aisles in Riteways, the main supermarket in Tortola.

Mr. Kenyon seems to have been very well travelled, he mentions Australia, India, Malaya, the Gold Coast, Uganda, Pakistan, Ceylon, Siam, Borneo, Panama, The West Indies and so on. His book, Mangoes and Monsoons, is full of useful advice gleaned from his travels, such as ...

If you are rich enough to employ a cook ... learn to look angry without feeling so inside – it helps”

“If you are the type to get ‘het up’ then have a good stiff drink early in the evening before you begin – I find cooking with a drink on the draining board helps”

And from his Ghanaian cook, Mousah ...

“Some people they no savvy the chop palaver. You give ‘um fry, you give um boil, and palaver finish”

... by which he obviously means don’t just fry or boil stuff, strive for variety in food, cut it up and make something interesting. A man after my own heart.

Of course some of the recipes use fresh local ingredients such as pawpaws, bananas and lotus nuts and even things I’ve not heard of such as under curries one recipe contains ¼ tsp each of metic and funch and a whole teaspoon of jiva! (If anyone know what these are please leave a comment!) There is one small chapter on “Peculiar Things” such as Porcupine in Okra Soup and Blood Stew from Ghana. This is from his directions for Fried Grasshoppers ...

“Having collected your grasshoppers during a minor “plague’ ... use as little oil as possible as the flesh itself is  very oily and rich

Liver Dust

I think it is this recipe that persuaded me to save the book from pulping!
1lb lambs liver
3 tablespoons soya sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
1 crushed clove of garlic
red pepper and oil

Soak the liver in salted ware for 2 hours then remove the skin.  Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a frying pan and put in the liver whole with the garlic and quickly brown both sides. Then add the soya sauce, sugar and brandy, and simmer until all the liquids are absorbed.

Remove the liver and put on a rack to drain and dry. When really dry it will literally be as “hard as rock” and you can then grate it on a fine cheese grater like Parmesan cheese. Heap in bowl and sprinkle generously with red pepper.

Excellent for using as a topping for soups, over rice or noodles, with Chines food or as a side dish to curries.

A bit like my Bacon Salt,  I might (or might not) try it sometime!

It’s not all either outrageous or boring, a previous owner has ticked many recipes (and made notes such as to use tinned mushroom soup instead of dehydrated in the recipe for Malidadi Kuku; chicken, frankfurters or saveloys, the said soup, vegetables and paprika). There are lots of perfectly normal recipes, several quite appealing and a few I might try for instance at the end of the books is this ...

Cold Weather Drink

Cover 6 peeled and quartered tangerines (although he says tinned mandarins can be used instead) with 1 tablespoon of sugar till and when the sugar has melted putting fruit and juices into a muslin bag and simmer in a quart of cider for 10 minutes. You then add half a bottle of rum and allow to stand for several hours. Sounds yum!

As Mr. Kenyon says at the end of his book ...


In Other News ~ the Mary Berry bit ...

I picked the last orange off our tree the other day and decided to make an orange drizzle cake with it. I have reams of recipes in my computer, notebooks and head but had heard from a friend that Mary Berry’s easy peasy Lemon Drizzle recipe on Good to Know was a useful one. The measurements seemed both small and odd to me but it was “well tested” with good reviews and seemed a doddle so I did it. It was a doddle and worked really well but was tiny, which didn’t surprise me at all but think it should have been mentioned.  The recipe says it serves six but not six of the sort of people I know! 

So here is the recipe using a lovely homegrown orange and doubled up to make a decent sized and delicious ...

Orange Drizzle Loaf à la Mary Berry

3 large eggs
175g self raising flour
1½ tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
175g margarine
finely grated zest of 1 orange
100g granulated sugar
juice of said orange

~   Preheat the oven 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin (even when doubling the recipe – see photo above!).
~   Put everything but the last two ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat till smooth.
~   Decant into the loaf tin and bake for about 35 minutes till risen and golden and bounces back when you lightly press the surface with your finger.
~   Remove from the oven but leave in the container.
~   Mix together the granulated sugar and the orange juice and pour it over the warm cake – the juice will be absorbed and the sugar make a crunchy topping.
~   When cool carefully remove from container.

I understand from Good to Know that the original recipe is taken from Mary Berry's Stress-Free Kitchen by Mary Berry.

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