I am not one of those people who have a strong dislike to cold meat served cold. I think there are times and seasons when cold meat is very much to be preferred to hot meat. In the middle of summer, for instance, what can be more appetising than a well-cooked joint of cold lamb, served with a good salad, or a little mint sauce or sliced cucumber. Any girl who busied herself in "warming up" cold meat in sultry weather would make a great mistake. She would do far better if she devoted her energies to making the salad thoroughly dry, so that the dressing would mix with it properly, and also to making the cold joint look as tempting as possible by garnishing it prettily.
In England, however, the weather is rarely sultry, and the occasions are many when cold meat would be most unwelcome. What shall we do then? I will tell you what I should advise.
The first thing to be done is to cut all the meat off the bone It should be taken as far as possible in neat slices of fat and lean together, afterwards in broken fragments. If we spend a little time over the business and cut close to the bone, we shall be astonished to find how much meat there is, ever so much more than we imagined at the beginning. Indeed it is quite likely that, with the majority of joints, there will be more fat than we require. If this is so, we must cut it off and render it down in the way I described in the article on frying.
When all is done we may divide our cold meat into three portions - the neat, handsome pieces, the broken remnants, and the bone. Now, I propose that we make either curry or meat fritters of the pieces, and shepherd's pie of the scraps.
I do not mention the time-honoured or scorned hash, that we all know so well, simply because the method of making it has been so often and so clearly described, that I do not think it will be particularly useful. I may say, however, that the reason why hash is held in such general disfavour is, that people forget that if the meat boil in the gravy it will be hard - it should only simmer; and also that it is better to have a little good gravy than an abundance of poor gravy.
Whatever we determine to do with the meat, we must first stew the bone and the scraps we cannot use otherwise for gravy. We chop the bone into small pieces, and put these into a saucepan with a carrot - washed, scraped and cut up small; an onion, peeled, and divided into quarters; a small piece of turnip, a bunch of well-washed parsley, a sprig of marjoram, another of thyme, and a bay leaf. The four last-named ingredients may be neatly tied together with twine, thus making what cooks call a faggot or bouquet garni. The advantage of tying them together is that they can be lifted out together when the gravy is made.
We now pour into the saucepan as much cold water as will cover all the ingredients; bring the water to a boil, throw in salt and pepper to season it pleasantly, skim it well, then put the lid on the pan, draw it back, and let the gravy simmer very gently for from an hour and a half to two hours. We might, for the sake of varying the flavour, rub the inside of the saucepan quickly with garlic before putting in the bones; or we might add a spoonful of sherry or Worcester sauce to the gravy just before using it.
Gravy is a most sure to be wanted in whatever way we dress the meat, and the liquor thus produced by stewing the bone will give excellent gravy. For hash or minced meat, or croquettes or rissoles, it would be better that the gravy should be thickened and browned by boiling a little brown thickening with it. If this were not in the house, the gravy might be thickened by mixing a little cornflour or arrowroot to a smooth paste with cold water, and stirring this gradually into the liquor; and it might be browned by adding liquid browning, or by frying a sliced onion in fat till it was brightly coloured, and stewing this in the stock. It must be remembered, however, that gravy should be boiled and stirred for a few minutes after it is thickened, or it may taste pappy, and that it should be freed from fat; also that a very small quantity only should be put into the dish with the meat. The remainder should be served in a hot tureen.
The first dish we proposed to make of the cold meat was curry. There is no dish that is so frequently spoilt in the cooking as this, and the reason is that most people have an idea that curry is nothing but an ordinary stew thickened with curry powder. This is a mistake. I think, however, if you will follow exactly the following recipe, you will have an excellent curry -
Cut a pound of meat, fat and lean together, into neat pieces, free from skin and gristle, and about an inch square. Peel and chop four good-sized onions, fry them in a little dripping, and shake the pan to keep them from burning. When brown take them up with a slice, and fry the meat in the same dripping. When this also is brown take it up and sprinkle a large teaspoonful of curry powder over it. Have ready a sour apple, peeled and chopped small. Fry it in the fat, and when it is cooked put it with the onions and rub both through a fine sieve. Mix with the pulp a tablespoonful of curry paste and a dessertspoonful of ground rice, and add gradually the stock made from the bone. Return the thickened gravy to the saucepan, and stir it over the fire till it boils. It should be thick. Taste it, and, if required, add a pinch of salt to it; also, if it is not sufficiently acid, put in two or three drops of lemon juice.
Now, when the sauce is all ready, put in the meat; draw it to the side of the fire and let it simmer for half an hour or more. On no account let it boil and stir it frequently to keep it from burning. When it is quite tender it is ready to serve.
Curry should have a wall of rice, about an inch and a half deep, put round it, which rice can be eaten with it instead of vegetable. Now it is evident that if the gravy is thin it will run into the rice and make the dish look messy and disagreeable. Therefore the curry should be thick. The gravy should coat the meat, as it were, instead of running into the rice and the meat should be so tender that it could be eaten with a fork and spoon, instead of being cut with a knife.
One word must be said about the method of boiling rice for curry. The great object is to keep every grain separate, not to have it in a pulpy mass as it is usually seen. The small Patna rice is generally preferred for this purpose. Wash it well in two or three waters, to take away its raw taste, pick out any dark grains there may be; throw it into plenty of fast boiling water and boil it quickly for about a quarter of an hour, or until a grain taken between the finger and thumb feels quite soft. Skim the water every now and then, and in order to make the scum rise throw a little slat into it. We want the rice to look pure white, and therefore we must not let the impurities, which will rise from it in the shape of scum, sink and fall upon it again. Drain the boiled rice in a colander, pour cold water upon it to separate the grains; then put it into a dry saucepan, putting the lid half on, and set it on the side of the fire, to make it dry and hot, stirring it occasionally with a fork to keep it from burning. Thus boiled, the rice will be tender and white, and every grain will be separate.
Cold meat fried in batter, or meat fritters, is an excellent dish; indeed, according to my idea, it is one of the best methods of preparing cold meat. The meat should be cut into thin slices, and all gristle and skin should be trimmed from it. The batter should be made an hour or two before it is wanted. To make the frying batter put a quarter of a pound of flour and a pinch of salt in a basin and mix with it two tablespoonfuls of salad oil, and, gradually, a gill of lukewarm water. Beat the batter till it is quite smooth, and let it remain in a cool place till ten minutes before it is wanted. Then take the whites only of two eggs that have been whisked to a firm froth, and dash these lightly into the batter; its excellence depends to a great extent upon this being done properly.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word here about whisking eggs. White of egg is sufficiently whisked when it can be cut clean through with a knife. Some people say it should be whisked until it will bear the weight of an egg, but I feel quite satisfied if it can be cut clean with a knife, and I think you may be. Very good patent whisks may be now bought at a cheap rate, which save a great deal of time and trouble. If you can obtain one of these you can have the egg white firm very quickly. If you have not one, put the white of egg, quite free from the least particle of yellow, upon a plate, beat it from the wrist, not from the elbow, with a knife held as flat as possible, and try not to touch the bottom of the plate in doing so. Also stand in a cold place while you are whisking, and sprinkle a very small pinch of salt over the egg, as that will help to make it firm.
Perhaps you think "there is no need to tell us how an egg should be beaten; any one can do that," I once heard a young girl remark. "Some people say, do it this way; and other people say, do it that way; but I always do it as it feels most convenient to myself at the time, and I think that is best." Now I hope the girls of our cookery class will never be content to do their work in that way. Do everything right, and in the course of your life you will save many a precious minute.
We shall need a stewpan, half full of boiling fat, for the meat fritters, and the fat must be hot, that is, is that must be still, and a blue steam must rise from it. Unless the fat were hot the batter would come off in frying. When all is ready we take the slices of meat, dip them one at a time into the hot fat, and let them remain till they are brightly browned on both sides; and, of course, it would be necessary to turn them over when they were half done to cook them equally. They will be done in less than a minute, but it would not do to put more than one or two in at once, because the fritters should not touch each other in the pan. As the fritters are taken out of the fat they should, in order to free them from grease, be laid on a dish covered with kitchen paper. After this they can be dished, and, if properly made, will be sure to be liked.
If the meat, instead of being cut into slices, were finely minced, seasoned, pleasantly, moistened either with strong gravy that would jelly when cold, or with a sort of thick white sauce called panada, then rolled in very thin slices of fat bacon before being covered with the frying batter, we should have kromeskies. Or, if the minced meat, prepared in the same way, were folded in pastry, then fried in fat, we should have rissoles. If it were made into balls, dipped in beaten egg and covered with bread crumbs, and fried in hot fat, we should have croquettes. If the mince were pressed into a shape and steamed, we should have meat gateau. If the meat were mixed with potatoes or with turnips, then folded in pastry and baked, we should have Cornish pasties. If it were chopped small, seasoned well, then pounded to pulp, with butter, pressed into small jars and covered with clarified butter, we should have potted meat. I cannot, for want of space, give the details of these various dishes; but I should imagine that any one who gets to understand the method of one or two can form an idea of the rest, and prepare them without much difficulty.
Cold potatoes, as well as cold meat, may be used in making shepherd's pie; though, of course, if there were no cold potatoes, fresh ones would have to be taken for the purpose. Beat the cooked potatoes in a saucepan over the fire with a little boiling milk and a slice of butter. Cut the meat, fat and lean together, into neat pieces, and season them with pepper and salt. If liked, a very little finely chopped onion can be added also.
Fill a pie dish with the seasoned meat, and arrange it so that the meat shall be highest in the middle, for that will make it a good shape. Half fill the dish with gravy, and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, first making it smooth, and afterwards roughing it over with a fork. Put it in the oven or before the fire, and let it remain until it is hot through and the top is brightly browned. Send a little good gravy to the table with it, and I believe everyone who tastes it will say that it is good, and they should like to have it again.
If pork be the meat that we wish to serve a second time, we might, for the sake of variety, make a pork and apple dumpling of it. This is a very old-fashioned and rather peculiar dish, and perhaps would not suit every one; it is well known and appreciated in the county of Norfolk. Cut the meat from the pork into thin slices, and then into dice, and season with salt and pepper. Pare and cut up in the same way good baking apples, and have equal quantities of apples and pork. Line a pudding basin with good suet crust, fill it with the apples and meat, add a little good gravy; if a little were left from the meat, it will be the best for the purpose. Cover the pudding with pastry, tie it in a cloth wrung out of hot water and floured, plunge it into boiling water and let it boil from an hour and a half to two hours, according to its size.