Vegetarian dishes Victorian style: white bean soup (make with pork stock if possible), macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, and cheesy rice.
A good deal has been said of late years about the desirability of doing without meat altogether, and living upon nothing but milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and grains. I have no intention of entering into the subject here, for I do not suppose it would interest you very much. But I know there are several excellent and nourishing dishes into which meat does not enter, and which cost very little; and as you might like to try some of them I will describe how two or three of them are made.
One seems to have an idea that soup, if it is to be worth anything, must be made from meat. And yet some very excellent and nourishing and most palatable soups can be made without it. One of them is haricot soup.
I suppose you know the white haricot beans that are sold at the cornchandlers at a price varying from 4d to 6d per quart. Procure a print of these, wash them well, and pick out any beans that float or look black. Put the rest to soak all night in plenty of cold water. The next morning drain them and place them in a saucepan with two quarts of cold water and a large onion cut into slices, and boil them for four hours, by which time they will be soft. (And by the way I may say that white soups and white sauces are more likely to be a good colour if they are made in a white or enamelled saucepan rather than in an iron one.) Invert a wire sieve in a large bowl, turn the beans with the liquor upon it into this, and with a wooden spoon rub beans and onion through the sieve. The skins will not go through, and they should be thrown away. Stir the pulp that has been passed through the colander with the liquor, and season the mixture liberally with pepper and salt, and then return it to the saucepan, and put it on the fire, stirring it now and then. Boil a pint of milk separately. Mix this with the puree at the last moment, put it into a hot soup tureen, and it is ready.
If we can procure them, we may sue red haricot beans instead of white ones, and then we can make what is called soup a la Conde. We must proceed exactly in the same way as with white haricots, but we shall not need to add milk to our puree. The soup will be a rich, deep red colour, and will taste excellently. Red haricots are not, however, much used in England, and cannot be bought at every shop, though they may generally be had if ordered beforehand.
Peas, lentils and haricot beans are all very nearly as nourishing as meat, and very good soup may be made of each of the three by following the idea given in this recipe, that is, soaking them for a time, boiling them till soft with suitable flavourings, and rubbing them through a sieve. Milk, however, will be required for haricot soup alone, although many people think it is an improvement to throw a cupful of boiling milk into a tureen of lentil soup.
The flavouring of the different soups must be suitably varied. Celery stalks or celery seed certainly be boiled with both lentils and peas, and onions are called for with all three soups. It is very usual to add also carrots and turnips to lentil and to pea soup. But in every case the particular point that needs attention is to pass the boiled beans through a sieve. The skins are too coarse to enter into the soup, and they would only spoil if they were put in. One word I must say about lentils. It is commonly understood that the Egyptian or red lentils are to be preferred to the German or green lentils. To my mind this is a mistake. I prefer the German lentils for every purpose. However, tastes differ, and the way to decide between the two is to first try both.
People who do not care for the trouble of rubbing the beans through the sieve frequently buy what is called pea flour or lentil flour, thickening their soups with it. Their plan is not, however, to be recommended. Too often, these prepared meals are mixed with inferior meal of different kinds, and they are rarely to be relied on. We want real lentil soup or real pea soup, and we had better make it the right way.
If we were not "set" against using meat in some form or other the liquor that pork or fat bacon had been boiled in would be better than water for making pea or lentil soup. Not so, however, with haricot soup. We want this to look white and delicate, and therefore pure water will answer our purpose for it better than anything, besides which the milk that is put with it will help to make the soup nourishing.
So much for soups. And now for two or three savoury dishes made without meat. Amongst the best of these are Italian macaroni and cauliflower au gratin, and rice and cheese.
Macaroni is a preparation of flour. It is very wholesome and good, but few English people care for it. I do not think, however, that anyone could help liking it if made in the way I shall describe.
There are different qualities, too, of macaroni, and we may take it as a general rule that the commoner the kind the more quickly it is boiled. We must, however, procure the best, that is Naples macaroni, and the fresher and smoother it is the better.
Supposing we take half a pound of macaroni. We first wash it for safety's sake in lukewarm water, break it into three inch lengths and throw it into two quarts of boiling water, seasoning it with plenty of pepper and some salt. We then let it simmer very gently for about twenty minutes, though if the macaroni is very superior, it will take half-an-hour. At any rate it ought to simmer until a little piece taken between the thumb and finger feels tender, but it is not at all broken or pulpy. We now drain the macaroni carefully and put it back into the stew-pan with half-a-pint of milk, and simmer it again for a minute or two until this is absorbed. Meanwhile we have read-grated and mixed two ounces of Parmesan and two ounces of Gruyere cheese. Half the quantity must be sprinkled over the macaroni and tossed over the fire well till it is well mixed in. An ounce of fresh butter is now put with it in the same way, and this is tossed about till melted. Last of all the remainder of the cheese is added. When the macaroni begins to get stringy it is ready to pour upon a hot dish and to be served.
Real Italian macaroni would be made with broth or gravy instead of milk, but of course if we are to do without meat we cannot have broth, and milk will do very well for our purpose. It may happen, however, that the cheese becomes oily when melted, and if this should be, one or two additional table-spoonfuls of moisture must be added and gently stirred in for about a minute.
I have said that equal quantities of Parmesan and of Gruyere cheese are to be used in making Italian macaroni. These cheeses are not very common in England, and perhaps might be difficult to get, although they could be obtained easily enough by ordering them beforehand. They are suitable for this purpose simply because they are so dry that they can be grated to powder as a nutmeg is, though on a cheese grater. If we could get an English cheese dry enough to grate in this way it would do instead of the foreign cheese, though it would not be quite so good. You can see, however, that a rich cheese could not be grated to a fine, dry yellow powder; it would cake together in a mass and it would become oily when tossed in the macaroni.
I am afraid I cannot say that cauliflower au gratin is a very nourishing dish, but it is so delicious that I must tell you of it. We shall want for it one large or two moderate-sized cauliflowers and 2 ozs of grated Parmesan, or any other dry cheese, half an ounce of butter, 1 oz of flour, 2 tablespoonfuls of cream, or milk. Boil the cauliflower in the usual way, and take it up when it is slightly underdone. Whilst it is boiling prepare the sauce. Melt half an ounce of butter in a small stewpan, and beat smoothly with it off the fire 1 oz of flour Add a gill of cold water and stir the sauce over the fire till it boils, put in two tablespoonfuls of cream and half the grated Parmesan, and the sauce is ready. Trim away all the green leaves from the cauliflower, and break the white part into sprigs. Lay half of these on a dish, and pour half the sauce over them; arrange the remainder on the top, pour the rest of the sauce over, and sprinkle the other half of the grated cheese over all. Brown the cauliflower before the fire, and serve it very hot. An girl who wishes to give a little treat to her father or brother could not do better than prepare this dish for them.
We all know that rice is very nourishing and wholesome; indeed, it is said to constitute the chief food of one-third of the human race. Rice and cheese cooked together are excellent. For this we take any quantity of rice - say half a pound. Wash it well, for if rice is well washed in the first instance it is not so likely to burn afterwards. Put it into a saucepan with cold water to cover it, and bring it to a boil, then drain it and return it to the saucepan with a pint and a half of milk, a little pepper and salt, and a piece of butter the size of a fourpenny piece. Let it simmer gently till it is tender, and if necessary add a little more milk, but it ought not to be moist. While it is boiling prepare a quarter of a pound of grated cheese. Grease a dish with bacon fat [What???] spread the rice and cheese upon it in alternate layers, the cheese forming the uppermost layer. Put a little more bacon fat over all, [FFS, Phillis.] and put the rice in the oven to brown. Serve as hot as possible.