Category Archives: Food

Oatmeal Pie: Oats, Coconut, Maple Syrup

Oatmeal Pie

Oatmeal Pie piece with whipped cream

I’m an advocate for pie for breakfast at all times, but who could find fault with eating oatmeal with maple syrup in the form of pie?

Frugal and tasty, “Oatmeal Pie” demonstrates the make-do attitude of our ancestors in aprons.  As I frequently do, I turned to the Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial cookbook for some vintage takes on this poor man’s pecan pie. After also consulting some web sites, I was prepared to try a variation on the Mennonite cookbook recipe that most appealed to me.

Mennonite

Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial Cook Book

Please understand right at the outset, that although it is called “oatmeal” pie, the pie does not contain a gooey mixture of cooked oats–oatmeal.  Instead, the base for the pie contains either quick-cooking or old fashioned oatmeal–UNCOOKED. Also, although the name “Amish” is attached, other people probably made the pie also.  The history is elusive.

The original Amish oatmeal pie relies on dark corn syrup (Karo©), as do most pecan pie recipes.  However, I was thinking how delicious maple syrup is on oatmeal, and had decided to make a swap.  An experienced baker friend recommended that I include a couple of spoonfuls of the dark corn syrup to balance out the mysterious chemistry and characteristics of corn syrup.  However, by the time I got her advice, I had baked the pie. The good news is, the pie turned out fine.

Whether its a dessert or breakfast–try this old fashioned pie recipe.  Of course, I recommend my Perfect Pie Crust recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can use a pre-made crust.

Oatmeal Pie with Maple Syrup

Serves 8-10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Old fashioned Oatmeal Pie makes a frugal substitute for pecan pie. It forms a chewy nutty crust on top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cups coconut (flaked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pie shell (unbaked)

Directions

1. Line pie plate with pie dough and put in refrigerator while you make the filling. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars. Add spices and syrup and blend well.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time. and mix until well blended.
4. Stir in milk.
5. Add oatmeal and coconut and stir in well. [ I thought the filling was too thin, and added two tablespoons of rice flour to thicken. This will depend on the texture of your maple syrup. (Use corn starch or flour if you do not have rice flour.)]
6. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees about one hour.

Note

You can use Karo syrup or molasses in your oatmeal pie instead of maple syrup for a slightly different flavor.

Some recipes for oatmeal pie call for addition of nuts, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of substituting oats for pecans, but do your own thing.

As mentioned in the article, an expert in baking suggested it would be better to include a couple spoonsful of Karo syrup when substituting maple syrup to avoid the sugar crystalizing. However, my version did not have any crystalizing. Again, use your own judgment.

Butter Chicken: American Colonial Curry

Close your eyes and imagine an American Colonial meal.  I imagine that you’re seeing roasts, overcooked vegetables, pastries both sweet and savory. But I’ll bet you didn’t think to put a curry dish like butter chicken on your Puritan grandmother’s table.  I certainly didn’t, until I received some spices from Pereg to try. I started looking into what spices the 17th and 18th century American colonists might have been using.

Our grandmothers in that period would not have been using these particular spices, however, with the possible exception of Sumac. (I’ll explain below)

Pereg Spices

Some of the Pereg spices sent to me for testing.

How Do We Know What Seasonings Colonists Used?

Spices in Colonial America

Common Spices used in 18th century America

I remembered reading in the book A Thousand Years Over A Hot Stove a list of recommended foods for the early settlers to take with them on the Atlantic passage.  Higginson’s book, New England Plantation published in 1630 included packing hints for survival in the new world. Under spices, Francis Higginson recommended housewives should take Sugar, Pepper, Cloves, Mace, Cinnamon, Nutmegs and Fruit. (Not sure about that one? Dried fruit, probably.)

In my own family, I have read two wills that shed light on products that housewives considered essential.

Rudolph Manbeck, an ancestor of my husband, wrote a bill in 1794 that sets aside certain property for his wife, including

  • half bushel of salt
  • 1/4 lb. pepper
  • 1/4 lb. allspice
  • 1/3 lb. ginger
  • 4 gall(on) vinegar

In the inventory of Asahel Platt’s property (he died intestate in 1833) I learned that he must have been a merchant. So what seasonings did he carry in his store? The long inventory includes these items:

  • 34 lb. pepper
  • 3 lb. spice ( unspecified)
  • 7 lb. ginger
  • 2 lb. Salt Peter (sic) [used for curing meat]
  • 5/16 lb. nut megs
  • 1/2 lb. cloves
  • 22 lb. raisins
  • 1 barrel of salt

Home Grown Herbs and Sumac Berries

Of course these lists focus on those seasonings that need to be imported. Additionally, plenty of herbs were growing just outside the kitchen door.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove reminds us that the spices and herbs are used as much for curing as for cooking.  The author lists thistle, borage, peppermint, licorice, rosemary, lavender, sage, anise, fennel, cloves, elder, garlic and ginger and some of the multi-purpose spices and herbs.

Of the seasonings sent to me by Pereg, I thought Sumac might be the most likely to have been used by our Puritan ancestors.  After all indigenous people used the red-berried sumac, and our grandmothers learned to use many American Indian foods. If you think of Sumac as poison, don’t worry–that only applies to the white-berried sumac plant. The red berry grows on another plant and is entirely edible.

However, I can find no direct reference to that cross over from American Indians to colonists. Too bad, because although I have never used sumac before I have become a fan. It has such a beautiful color and a nice tangy lemon, almost sweet and sour taste.

Butter Chicken meal

Butter chicken with eggplant and salad. Note sprinkle of Sumac on the butter chicken and on the eggplant.

Butter Chicken: Colonial Curry

I perked up when I read about the popularity of curried foods in America, even in the mid-17th century. If I want to use sumac in colonial food, curry provides a great opportunity. English housewives had discovered curry early in that century, and anything popular in England  carried over into American habits.  The most popular cookbook in the late 18th century in American would have been The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Simple by Hannah Glasse.

The clever Ms. Glasse recreated tastes of dishes made with seasonings not yet available in either England or America.  Which brings us to her Butter Chicken, a curry dish popular in the 17th and 18th century.  Although her version had much simpler seasonings than the “original” Indian dish, as spices became more available, we see an expansion of seasonings in later recipes.  Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, calls for eight spices (ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin seeds, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cayenne) instead of the three in Glasse’s recipe (ginger turmeric, pepper).

You will notice a lack of curry powder in both–colonial housewives had to be creative rather than use pre-mixed seasonings like curry powder.

I was a bit surprised that turmeric would have been used by the 18th century housewives, but there it is in Glasses’s 1774 book as she makes India pickle and butter chicken.

Check out  Silkroad Gourmet  for a nice comparison of these two recipes that were published fifty years apart. There you will find the entire recipe as originally published in each of the books.

I started with Hannah Glasse’s curry recipe for Butter Chicken, but spiced it up just a bit. My use of spices in the recipe as written below still could use some pepping up, I think. Let me know what spices you will use in Butter Chicken.

Colonial Butter Chicken

Serves 3-4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Asian

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2lb chicken breast (cut in one inch chunks)
  • 1/4lb butter ((one stick))
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 1/2-2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups orange juice ([or use lemon juice])
  • 1/2 cup half and half

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a skillet, brown chicken slightly. Be careful not to overcook--just get rid of all pink.
2. Remove chicken from pan and add onion to saute until soft.
3. Add spices and garlic and stir about one minute.
4. Put chicken back in pan and pour broth over--just about covering.
5. Turn heat down and simmer about 20 minutes.
6. Add cream and juice, stir well until warm, then remove chicken again.
7. Bring liquid to a boil and reduce until you get desired thickness.
8. Stir chicken in briefly to warm, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle with sumac powder.
P.S.  Pereg Gourmet sent me several spices plus dried Lemon Verbena so that I could try them out and share them with you.  This gift is welcome, but does not affect my opinion.  I had not heard of Pereg, even though they have been around since the early twentieth century, but I am glad to learn about them.  Their spice jars are much bigger than the usual ones on my shelf and the prices seem very reasonable.

Perez big spice jars

Comparing the size of most spice jars on my shelf with the standard size of a Pereg spice jar.

This size difference is a mixed blessing.  Since the price for the large Pereg jar is the same or less than the normal size, they are a bargain. However, I don’t generally use up a jar of spice before it is a year old–the time period in which most should be replaced.  And secondly, storage becomes a problem because the large jars do not fit on my standard spice shelves, and hog space in a drawer.

On the plus side for Pereg, they have an amazing variety of mixes ready to go for many kinds of cuisine.  If you feel like experimenting and don’t want to invest in ten different herbs and spices they’ve got you covered.  They carry a lot of spices that I have not seen routinely on my grocer’s shelf–like the Sumac and in the very top picture the fenugreek seeds.  If you shop their website, you may be inspired to try some very different kinds of cuisine.

Welsh Cawl for St. David’s Day, the Welsh National Holiday

daffodils

Daffodils

On March 1st, I’ll be celebrating St. David’s Day.  “Who/What?”  Well, think another Celtic country celebrates its national day–David instead of Patrick, Wales instead of Ireland and leeks and daffodils instead of Shamrocks. And some home-made Welsh Cawl.

St. David's Day the day for Welsh Cawl

St. David in a St. David’s Day Parade with Welsh Flag.

You can learn more about St. David and his day from this article in The Telegraph.

Of course, my special occasion planning goes straight to “What do we eat?”

Welsh Cawl for St. David’s Day

The answer to that question for St. David’s Day seems to vary, but always includes some Welsh Skillet Cakes and the Welsh soul food, Welsh Cawl.  Pronounce it like “owl”. Make it with winter vegetables. Sup it from a bowl with some crusty bread.

Like beef vegetable soup or stew, this dish is quite flexible, so feel free to toss in what you have on hand. But the basics that make it uniquely Welsh Cawl include lamb, leeks and potatoes. If you read that article on St. David, you might have picked up that the saint recommended the Welsh wear leeks in their caps when they went into battle. Smelly, what?  However, a more practical reason for leeks in the soup is that they  are widely available in late winter/early spring.

Leeks for Welsh Cawl

Leeks, ready for harvesting

The other vegetables that might be included in your Welsh Cawl could be carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and even some greens, like spinach or kale (which I’ll toss in to mine when I reheat it.)

Although this is a simple recipe, it takes a while to make it, and everyone recommends leaving it in the fridge for a day before you eat it. So plan ahead. The flavors have a chance to meld, and to me the most important reason for the day’s delay is that the fat accumulates on top and you can skim it off.

Peasant Food Isn’t The Bargain It Used To Be

Vegetables for Welsh Cawl

Vegetables for Welsh Cawl

Our peasant ancestors made this soup for its taste–but also for its economy.  In Wales on their small farms, they always had lamb available at this time of year, and they ate every cheap cut of meat from it. Generally they used neck for the Cawl. While lamb may still be abundant in parts of Europe (and New Zealand and Australia),  lamb in 21st Century America has graduated to a luxury item.

I could not buy lamb neck, even at a specialty butcher shop, and I wanted a piece of meat a bit meatier than the second choice, lamb shanks. So I went with another cut I had seen mentioned in online recipes–lamb shoulder. It was expensive.  $24.45 for less than three pounds. And a good deal of that was gristle and fat which got trimmed away after the initial cooking.

Of course it was not Welsh lamb–it came from Australia, which is fine, because I suspect that a good number of the sheep farmers in Australia originally emigrated from Wales.

Then there were the vegetables. Potatoes and carrots are standard, but not as many people like parsnips and rutabagas as I do.  Plus they don’t grow in the winter here in the Southwest.  So I paid $1.50 for one rutabaga and $1.99 for a pair of parsnips.

But the real shock came with the leeks at 2.49 per pound, I paid 1.77, and of course, threw most of them away, because I used only the white part.

That brings me up to $29.71, which would get close to $30.00 by the time I figured out (which I’m not going to do) the price of two potatoes, an onion, and one giant carrot.

On the other hand, the combination of lamb shoulder and veggies made over a gallon of soup, which will make at least 12 servings.

Welsh Lamb Cawl

Serves 12
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 3 hours, 30 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 30 minutes
Dietary Diabetic, Gluten Free
Meal type Soup
Misc Serve Hot
Region British
On St. David's Day in Wales, the traditional comfort food is Welsh cawl--a hearty soup of lamb and winter vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb lamb (See notes)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Leeks
  • 2-4 Potatoes
  • 1 Rhutabaga
  • 2 Parsnips
  • 2 Carrots (or one very large)
  • Herb bundle (parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Directions

1. Put oil in bottom of large pot, heat and add meat to brown on all sides.
2. When meat is browned, add onion, cut in quarters and whites of leeks, chopped in 1/2" slices-- cover meat with water.
3. Cut a small piece of cheesclot;, put herbs in the center and tie opposite corners to make a packet. Add to the water in the pan.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours (depending on the size of cut of meat and type of cut). Add water if needed to keep meat covered.
5. Peel other vegetables and cut in dice. In a small amount of oil in skillet, brown each type briefly.
6. When meat is cooked, remove from pan (leave onion and leeks in broth). Set meat aside and keep warm by putting aluminum foil on top. Put rhutabaga in broth and simmer 15 minutes.
7. Add carrots and simmer another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove meat from bones, cut in small pieces, and remove excess fat. Add parsnips and potatoes to the broth.
8. Add meat back and cook another 20 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Take pot off heat, let cool slightly and put in refrigerator for one to three days.
9. To serve, reheat gently. Add greens if you desire. Serve with a spring of parsley.

Note

Lamb neck is suggested as the favored cut for this recipe, in which case you would need to pick the meat off the bones after the initial cooking of the meat, and the cooking time would be shorter.

The same would be the case with lamb shanks, another possible cut of meat.

As the meat simmers, you may need to skim off fat. Add water if needed, to keep the meat covered at all times during cooking.