Chapter 3: Mother’s cooking

English: lamb stew with leeks, lentils, yellow...

English: lamb stew with leeks, lentils, yellow (heirloom) and orange carrots, rosemary, and other spices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother was born in 1885 and was strongly influenced by her Victorian parents. However, in spite of the contemporary cook books, my mother was brilliant at cooking some things.

Suet puddings, meat pies, soup, stews and fish were specialities.

Here is an ancient recipe for Haricot Bean Soup:


1 pint of haricot beans
1 oz butter or dripping
1 onion
salt and pepper
1 teaspoonful celery seeds, tied in muslin.
2 quarts of bacon stock,
1 pint of milk.
Soak the beans in water for twenty-four hours if possible, then put them into a saucepan with the butter, onion, celery seeds and the stock.  Allow to boil gently for three hours or longer until soft, then rub through a sieve and return to the saucepan with the milk, pepper and salt to taste. Stir till the soup boils and serve with little dice of fried bread.

In those days, time was not much of a problem.

English: Oxtail for making bouillon/soup.

English: Oxtail for making bouillon/soup. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another of her specialities was Oxtail soup and here’s the recipe:


1 Oxtail
113 grams butter
1 carrot
1 large onion
Half a turnip
2 cloves
1 bunch of herbs
1 teaspoon of celery seeds.
20 peppercorns
4 allspice
28 grams flour
2,250 cc of stock
70 cc Sherry

Cut the oxtail into joints, wash thoroughly, and wipe dry with a cloth.
Melt half of the butter in a large saucepan, and, when quite hot, put in the vegetables, cut in slices, abnd the oxtail;  fry over the fire for about ten minutes, being careful not to burn it, as there is rather a lot of butter, then add the herbs and spices, the stock and a little salt.

Bring to the boil, skim well and allow all to simmer for three and a half hours;  then strain into a basin, and, when cold, remove the fat.

Take another saucepan, and melt in it the remainder of the butter. Add the flour, and fry till golden brown then pour in the strained stock and stir till boiling, then simmer gently for about a quarter of an hour;  strain again, if necessary, and serve the smaller pieces of oxtail and some little dice of carrot and turnip, boiled separately in the soup.

The rest of the oxtail may be served as a stew, with some of the soup.

Another one of our favourites was Thick Mulligatawny Soup,


Mulligatawny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s her recipe:


113 grams butter
113 grams of flour
a small desert spoon of curry powder
1 onion
1 carrot
1,125 cc of stock
a bunch of herbs
half a teaspoon of celery seeds
a small apple, chopped finely
a full teaspoon of Bovril
Lemon juice and salt.

Method :

Melt the butter, slice the vegetables and fry them in the butter till just beginning to brown.  Add the curry powder and a good squeeze of lemon juice, and stir over a slow fire for four or fire minutes.

Add the flour, stir well, and then add the apple, herbs amd celery seeds, tied together with muslin, and the stock.  Stir until boiling, ad the Bovril and a little salt, boil all together gently for three quarters of an hour to an hour.  Season with more salt and lemon juicer if necessary.  If too thick, add a little more stock or water.

English: A "home-made" cod and salmo...

English: A “home-made” cod and salmon fishcake, served on salad with a sweet chilli dipping sauce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother used to make extremely tasty fish cakes.  Here’s her recipe:


4 oz. of any cooked fish
4 oz. mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon of essence of anchovy
About 1 table spoonful melted butter sauce.
Salt and pepper
Egg and breadcrumbs.

Chop the fish coarsely, and mix it with potatoes, essence of anchovy and sauce.  Season with salt and pepper and a little cayenne, if liked; turn out on to a plate and allow the mixture to cool. When cold, shape into small flat cakes; cover with beaten egg, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and fry in hot, deep fat until golden brown.  Serve hot with fried parsley.

What about melted butter sauce ?  It might be hard finding a recipe for that.

Recipe for Melted Butter Sauce (almost an Hollandaise Sauce):


1 oz. of butter
1 oz of flour
half a pint of water
2 tablespoons of cream.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and fry gently, without browning, for two or three minutes; add the water and stir till boiling. Allow the sauce to boil for a few minutes to cook the flour, then add the cream.  Season with salt.

One of our favourite stews was rabbit which my Mother would call “Ragout of Rabbit”.  It probably made it sound a bit special.  That it was.  Here’s her recipe:


1 rabbit
half pound of bacon
1 carrot
a onion
one and a half ounces of flour
1 pint of water or stock.

Wash and clean the rabbit, cut it in neat joints and dry in a cloth. Cut the bacon in slices and fry in a stewpan, take the bacon out and fry the rabbit to a light brown. Remove and put in the vegetables, fry these pale brown, then add the flour, fry all together till the flour is a deep golden colour, add the water and stir till boiling.  Put in the rabbit and bacon and stew very gently for two hours.

Another regular meal was that of Beef Oxtail Stew with Dumplings. It seems that the recipe for Beef Oxtail stew differed from that of Oxtail Soup.

Here’s her recipe:


1 ounce of margarine
1 kilo of Beef Oxtail pieces
3 medium onions thinly sliced
2 turnips, diced
3 carrots, sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of flour and…….

My mother would send me to the grocers to buy a packet of Symington’s Soup which came as a solid lump about half the size of a packet of cigarettes. The required amount of this would be broken off and crushed to a powder.

Melt the marge in a deep stew pan.  Brown the oxtail pieces.  Remove the meat and then introduce the vegetables into the pan and fry them.

Stir the Symington’s soup powder into 600 ml of water and pour into the saucepan.  Heat the contents, including the meat, and bring it to simmering.  Cook for three hours.

Make a smooth paste with the flour and some water and some stock from the saucepan, stir the flour mixture into the stew and bring to the boil.  Let it boil for two minutes to cook the flour mixture and to thicken the stew.  Serve with Dumplings.

English: Dumplings with potato

English: Dumplings with potato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the recipe for Dumplings.


125 g self-raising flour, 50 g shredded suet, salt, pepper and water.

Put the flour through a sieve into a mixing bowl.  Add the suet, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly. Add enough water to make a soft dough.

Using the hands, make the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball.

If the Dumplings are to be served with the Oxtail stew, place the Dumplings on the surface of the stew and cook for twenty minutes.  They will cook in the steam coming off the stew.

I remember it well on a cold winter’s day.

Next chapter: Chapter 4: Low Budget Meals.

© Terence Gallacher 2014.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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