"Brevity is the soul of wit…"

Spake the irritating Polonius in Hamlet, before launching into a lengthy speech, unaware of his foolishness…well at least I’m aware that this is a long post.

As I type I am having a very serene afternoon tea- a bowl of miso soup (made by adding boiling water to a spoonful of white miso paste.) I am even drinking it straight out of the bowl, both hands cupped around its warm curves – how very zen!

Above: What Othello might have called “Ocular proof” that I am, in fact, having soup. Anyway, I need all the “zen” I can get, as I have Shakespeare coming out my ears, rather than staying in my brain where he belongs, and our exam (Monday by the way) looms ever closer.
Last night I decided to peruse a much-loved but never used book of mine – the Victoria League of Auckland’s Tried Recipes, 5th edition (price: 2/-) It has recipes sent in by Good Women of Auckland, and has many chapters, including “Creams, Jellies, and Pretty Sweet Dishes” and “Gravies, Forcemeats and Sauces for Meat Dishes.” How I yearn for the days when cream-based puddings had their own category in cookbooks. I must admit, I was surprised to see the chapter “Vegetarian Cookery and Salad Dressings,” in that I small-mindedly didn’t think anyone was ‘allowed’ to be vegetarian in ‘those days.’ Should the discerning vegetarian about town in the 1940s/50s be looking for a meat-free substitute for brawn, this book has it. (And I quote – “The sago binds it”)

This book, like all good books of its kind, has three trillion variations on fruit cake, not to mention a plethora of obscurely named puddings that all seem to be the same – has anyone out there ever heard of: Chandos Pudding, Russel Pudding, Verney Pudding, Totnes Pudding, Marlborough Pudding? I think it’s worth pointing out that you could replace the word ‘pudding’ with ‘disease’ or ‘syndrome’ and they would sound quite credible. I know they were economising on eggs and butter but surely not beautiful words too? (also noted – the book includes recipes for both American Pudding and Canadian pudding and they are different, thank you very much.)
I know it sounds like I’m making fun of this book, but oh how I love it, and others of its ilk (Aunt Daisy, I’m looking at you.) In fact, last night’s dinner came from it, and I was snared instantly by its straightforward, thrifty title: “A Way to Cook Fish.”
It goes thusly: Fry an onion in butter, add some fish, lemon juice, and two egg yolks (into which I stirred a little cream.) It took as long to cook it as it did to type it out, and it is very, very good. I served it on top of pasta, with some greens that I had squeezed the rest of the lemon over.

Above: Yes, not much based on canned tuna will ever be photogenic. But, it tasted great. So, to Miss E.T Rose, of Stonehurst, Auckland, from whence this recipes came, I salute you.

In the spirit of economy, I decided to use the egg whites for dessert. I had found a recipe on Nigella.com for Butterscotch Mousse, which sounded like one of those store cupboard recipes that the Victoria League would go nuts for. It is very simple. First of all, make a caramel sauce, by melting 75g butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 100 mls cream together in a pot. Let this cool thoroughly, and then whisk up two eggs whites till stiff, and fold them in, followed by 200mls whipped cream (I used the same bowl.) It is rich and creamy and has a wonderful caramel flavour. If you cannot be bothered with whisking things, the sauce on its own would be great poured over ice cream.

Above: The Mousse, partially eaten.
It doesn’t ‘set’ like a gelatine-based mousse but completely makes up for its gloopiness with its voluptous butterscotch kick. We all (even Emma – it’s gluten free!) ate out of the same bowl, passed from person to person, as we watched Outrageous Fortune (technically studying since the title is a quote from Hamlet.)

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