At least the recipe for "quick" beef tea at the end of this article does involve actually cooking it, unlike other recipes given elsewhere in the G.O.P.
One reason why the French are so superior to us as cooks is that they do not object to give both time and trouble to the preparation of their dishes. If only educated English girls would follow their example and give time, care, and forethought to cookery in their own homes, we should have many a father and brother strong and hearty who now looks white and delicate; we should have less waste in our kitchens, less bad temper in our families, and, I really believe, more thankfulness in our hearts.
Therefore when you see that I am going to speak about preparing dishes quickly, please do not imagine that I am recommending you to cook in a hurry. Things done hurriedly are generally done badly. It is my conviction that the time which a girl devotes to cookery is well and wisely spent.
Nevertheless there are occasions when it is necessary that our food should be quickly prepared, and it is for occasions of this kind that these recipes are given.
A friend of mine, a very clever housekeeper, once told me that for fifteen years she had never been without a neck of mutton in the house. Her husband was in business, and was in the habit of coming home hungry at unexpected time. She found that so many excellent and varied dishes could be made out of a neck of mutton, that she always had one hanging in her larder. She did not allow the butcher to joint it because it kept better whole, so that part of the business was done at home when required. The scrag end and the ends of the ribs were cooked separately, made into Irish stew or toad-in-the-hole, or hotch-potch or mutton broth. The best end alone was preserved for cutlets.
If mutton cutlets are bought ready trimmed at a shop the butcher will ask a very high price for them; indeed I have known people pay 1s 4d per pound for mutton cutlets. And they are very easily trimmed by those who can handle a small saw. The chine bone has to be removed, and also a piece about an inch and a half wide from the end of the rib bones. The flat bones which are on the meaty fillet of the neck are pared away, and the joint is separated into cutlets, one of which is cut with a bone and one without. The cutlets are then neatly trimmed, and a little of the fat is pared away from the end of the bone, leaving it bare a little way. When all this is done the cutlets are ready to be cooked.
Perhaps the best way of preparing cutlets is to broil them. For directions for cooking them thus I must ask you to refer to the paper on broiling which was given a little while ago. Well broiled cutlets are tender and full of flavour. If there is time to mash a few potatoes or to dress vegetables of any kind to serve with them, so much the better. The dressed vegetables may be piled in the centre of a hot dish, and the cutlets may be placed round them, one leaning on another. All vegetables after being cooked are improved by being shaken over the fire with a slice of butter before being sent to table.
If the fire is not in good condition for broiling, the cutlets may be cooked in a frying-pan as follows. Sprinkle a little pepper and salt on the cutlets. Rub a thick slice of stale crumb of bread through a sieve to make fine bread crumbs. Beat an egg in a plate, and brush the cutlets entirely over with it. Put the bread crumbs on a sheet of paper, lay the egged cutlets upon them on e at a time, and shake the corners of the paper, so as to toss the crumbs over the cutlets. Melt a slice of butter or dripping in a perfectly clean frying-pan, lay the cutlets in it, and cook them over a good fire. When the fat round them begins to get brown turn them over, and let them cook in the same way on the other side. Of course, we must remember not to stick a fork in the meat when we turn them.
Cutlets thus prepared may be made into different dishes by simply sending different sauces to table with them. Piquante sauce, for instance, is excellent. For this we make a quarter of a pint of melted butter in the usual way, and stir into it, at the last moment, four pickled gherkins that have been chopped quite small. A little of this sauce may be laid over each cutlet.
Melted butter is one of those things that every one knows how to make, and that is scarcely ever made well. Perhaps I may stop to describe how I think it should be made. It is a good plan to keep a very small stewpan specially for making sauces. An enamelled or tin stewpan will do excellently, although when it can be had, a porcelain stewpan is the best, because it can be cleaned so easily. I have a small porcelain stewpan that will hold three-quarters of a pint, and it has been in use a long time. Only I may say that I take charge of it myself, and am as careful about it as if it were a diamond ring. If it had been left to a careless servant it would have been broken long ago.
Melt an ounce and a half of butter in the stewpan, and draw the pan back and mix with it one ounce of flour. Beat flour and butter together until the mixture is quite smooth; then add, a little at a time, half-a-pint of cold water, and stir the sauce over the fire till it boils. Let it boil for three minutes, and it is ready. If liked, an ounce, instead of an ounce and a half of butter, may be used, or half good dripping and half butter may be taken.
Another very good sauce is made by chopping a moderate-sized onion till very small, and tossing it on the fire in a small stewpan with a small piece of butter for two or three minutes. When it is soft, and before it is at all coloured, pour over it a wineglassful of vinegar, and add an equal quantity of either stock or water. Simmer together for about five minutes, and add pepper and salt and a teaspoonful of mushroom ketchup, if liked. This sauce should be served in a tureen instead of being poured over the cutlets.
Perhaps it will be seen as if there were so many little details to attend to in the preparation of these dishes that they could scarcely be quickly prepared. But when the process is understood so that we can go on from one thing to another without waiting, and especially if we can arrange that bread crumbs can be passed through the sieve and gherkins or onions chopped beforehand, the work is soon done, and the result is decidedly satisfactory.
A broiled rump steak may also be quickly prepared, and if well cooked is sure to be enjoyed. It may be served without sauce, and is an excellent dish. Full directions for preparing it will be found in the paper on broiling.
Amongst homely dishes quickly prepared, what are called Scotch collops hold a foremost place. For this it is necessary only to have a little tender steak; buttock steak will answer the purpose excellently. Trim away all the fat and skin, and mince it finely. Dissolve a slice of butter or good beef dripping in a stewpan, put in the mince, and stir it well over the fire to prevent its gathering in lumps. In about eight minutes dredge a little flour over it, add gravy, or wanting this, water boiling hot, to moisten it. Season with pepper and salt, simmer a minute longer, and serve very hot. Mashed potatoes is a very good accompaniment to this dish also.
When good, fresh eggs are at hand they can quickly be transformed into an agreeable dish. There are said to be six hundred different way of serving an egg. I cannot answer for the truth of that, but I know that omelettes can be made of eggs, and that is praise enough. Omelettes are convenient preparations, too, because they can be varied to such an extent, and they are cheap, wholesome, and delicious. It is a very great pity that they are not more common amongst us, and yet somehow everyone seems afraid of making them. Let me advise you to try them. If you can make a plain omelette you can make every other kind, and then you need never be at a loss to furnish an elegant and delicious dish in a few minutes.
You will be very much more likely to succeed in making omelettes if you do not attempt very large ones. Three eggs will make a very good sized omelette. Also keep a little pan especially for the purpose; and never allow it to be washed; when it is done with let it be scraped and rubbed clean with a cloth, and wipe it out again with a cloth before using it. If it is washed the next omelette that is made for it will be a failure. The pan should be about six inches across, and can be bought for less than a shilling.
Break the eggs first into a cup, then into a basin, and season them with pepper and salt. Beat them lightly for three or four seconds and keep beating till the last moment. Whilst doing so, let the omelette pan be on the fire with about two ounces of fresh butter in it. AS soon as the butter froths turn the eggs into the pan, and stir them very quickly with a wooden spoon. When they begin to thicken raise the pan at one end, and keep the omelette at the lowest side till it is brown, moving the outside edges with the spoon. Turn it over quickly and put it on a hot dish. The outside should be a golden brown, and the inside should be quite soft, and the omelette should be a long oval shape. It can be made in two or three minutes. This seems simple enough, I dare say. So it is when once "the knack of it" is acquired. But there is quite an art in making an omelette, and this art can only be gained with practice.
Eggs, seasoned with pepper and salt, and cooked thus, form a plain omelette. If sweetened with sugar and flavoured with a few drops of vanilla, it would be a sweet omelette. If mixed with a teaspoonful of chopped parsley, and a piece of shallot the size of a pea, boiled, then chopped to dust, it would be savoury omelette. If gravy were poured round, we should have omelette with gravy. If the green points of boiled asparagus, or green peas were mixed with the eggs we should have omelette with asparagus, or omelette with green peas. If a dessert spoonful of grated cheese were added to the eggs, and a little more sprinkled on the top, we should have cheese omelette; or if a cooked sheep's kidney were cut into dice and mixed with the eggs, there would be omelette with kidneys; if a little jam (apricot jam is the kind usually preferred) were introduced into the centre, there would be apricot omelette; and if the flesh of tomatoes freed from skin and seeds were mixed with the eggs, there would be omelette with tomatoes.
When it is wished that food should be quickly prepared, tinned provisions are particularly valuable. I know quite well that a strong prejudice exists against these meats in many quarters, and I think the feeling is a little unreasonable. Of course I do not maintain that tinned meat, even when served in perfection, is as good as a freshly broiled rump steak; but I do say that it is an advantage, especially for those who are likely to have unexpected calls upon their resources, to have in the house one or two varieties of preserved food. This food does not spoil with keeping; and it will always be at hand when wanted. The only precaution that needs to be observed in buying it is to secure a good brand.
Tinned soups are especially excellent. The objection is frequently urged against them that they taste of the tin. This can be removed, however, by boiling fresh vegetables such as were likely to be used originally in flavouring the soup with a small quantity of fresh stock, and adding this with half a tea-spoonful of extract of meat, and a little brown thickening to the contents of the tins, and then making all hot together. By this means not only will the "tinny" taste be removed, and the flavour of the soup will be revived, but its quantity will be increased, and it will be made to "go further."
Tinned vegetables on the other hand are improved by having a little sugar put with them when they are made hot, while, in addition, peas can have a sprig of mint, or mixed vegetables a bunch of parsley, put into the saucepan with them. Tinned apricots and peaches can have a drop of almond flavouring added to the syrup. By the help of little manoeuvres of this kind food can be made to taste very much like fresh good tinned food.
Before I close I must say one word about making beef tea quickly. I am a great believer in good beef tea. Whenever any of my friends get below par, and take cold quickly and are generally out of sorts, I always feel a desire to make them take twice or three times a day, and in addition to their ordinary food, a cupful of good, strong beef tea. I mean good home-made beef tea, made from the roll of the bladebone of beef, and tasting as if it would give energy and strength.
It takes time, however, to make beef tea like this, and sometimes the tea is wanted quickly. When this is the case, take half a pound of lean juicy meat - the roll of the bladebone is the best part for this purpose - and trim away both fat and skin. Cut the meat into very small pieces, sprinkle a little salt over it, and pour upon it a small tumblerful of cold water. Bring it to the boil, stirring it all the time; ;et it simmer for five minutes, and it is ready to serve.