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Foods from The Hundred Days

HorchataA Noble Pork PieA Large Quantity of Ox-Tail Soup

What better way to celebrate the publication of the nineteenth Aubrey/Maturin novel than by cooking up a few of the dishes eaten therein? Begin now, while the last of summer is still with us, by brewing a refreshing batch of cold eighteenth-century Horchata. Then start storing fuel for the cooler weather ahead: our more substantial recipe for A Noble Pork Pie. And as autumn deepens into winter, curl up by the fire with A Large Quantity of Ox-tail Soup.

'A parenthetical update: We are pleased (if a tiny bit chagrined) to announce that, thanks to the good offices of two of our readers, the elusive arrack has been located at last! The true Batavia arrack can be found in Germany, and so far two brands have been identified: Robinson, from Bremen, and Der alte Hansen, from Flensburg. We have yet to determine its general availability here (though we certainly intend to have a word with our local purveyor about importing a case or so), but we can report that it was worth the wait. We seized the sample bottle from our intrepid courier's hands and immediately transformed its contents into iced Arrack Punch (Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, p. 115). We were delighted to discover that it not only made a delightful drink but tasted startlingly similar to our Benzoin-infused stand-in. One way or the other, a glass of punch with you!


By the smell it was clear that the goat had joined them. 'May I break off for a moment and tell you an anecdote of an Austrian medical man I knew in Catalonia?'

'I should be happy to hear it,' said Jack.

'There was an English soldier, a Captain Smith, with me, and we were walking to the village to drink horchata when we met Dr. von Liebig. I asked him to join us. Ordinarily he and I spoke Latin, his English being as indifferent as my German, but now Liebig had to use Smith's language, and as he drank his horchata he told us that coming down the hill he met a ghost, a ghost with a beard. "A ghost in broad daylight?" cried Smith. "Yes. He was quite pale in the sun. A man was leading him with a string." I wish I could convey something of the very beautiful contrast between Smith's amazed solemnity, merging into deep suspicion, and Liebig's cheerful face, casual tone and evident pleasure in his ice-cold drink.'

'Ghost. Pale, bearded ghost. it must have been very rich indeed,' said Jack with relish. 'Did your soldier smoke it in time?'

'Never. Not until I told him, afterwards, and then he was angry. Jack, I beg pardon. This is the end of my parenthesis.'—The Yellow Admiral, p. 41

~ ~ ~

Pablito tapped. The door opened, and a well-known voice said, "Dr. Maturin, I presume?"

The door closed. Pablito's feet echoed on the stairs. Dr. Jacob seized Stephen, kissed him on both cheeks and led him into a cool, shaded room where a jug of horchata stood on a low table and smoke from the hookah hung from the ceiling down to eye level.—The Hundred Days, p. 32

~ ~ ~

According to the Regulatory Council of Valencia, the only authentic Horchata is made from "the chufa nut," and all others are impostors. Let the honorable members of the Regulatory Council but consider the long history of this interesting substance, and they will discover the true origins of Horchata to be considerably more complicated.

In the beginning there was the word, and the word was hordeum, the Latin root of horchata—meaning "barley." Yet of barley there is neither trace nor mention in modern Horchata recipes. How haps this? By a long and circuitous route, and through several layers of French etymology. From hordeum to orge (barley), through orge mondé (hulled barley, or "french barligh," as Lady Elinor Fettiplace called it in 1604), to orgemonde, a thick barley-water drink flavored, in the late 1500s, with ground almonds. Orgemonde in turn was shortened to orgeade or orgeat, under which name it traveled far and wide during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In Italy it resolved itself into orzata (barley-water). In Spain it became horchata; and, as any Spanish-English dictionary will tell you, today the English word for horchata is still—orgeat.

That's as may be. Yet this simple translation disguises a paradox: the two are no longer truly equiponderant. It seems the dictionaries are mistaking the etymology of a thing for the thing itself. The names may have remained "synonymous," but the drink has evolved into two entirely different potions.

Medicinal drinks made of barley and water go back to the ancient Romans, who drank a barley-and-herb decoction known as tisana (hence the French tisane or infusion—it usually refers to an herb tea, but in its medieval incarnation it was an herbed barley-water, and to this day barley-water is referred to as tisane d'orge... but we digress... and as Stephen says, this is the end of our parenthesis); and cookery books throughout the ages have given instructions for making healthful and demulcent "waters" with barley and almonds. Some of these preparations are intended for external use (indeed, Dorothy Hartley argues somewhat spuriously that the "milk of almonds" so prized from medieval times for both cooking and skin care was probably a form of orgeat), but most are to be ingested either as hot broths or as cooling drinks.

Beginning with sixteenth-century France, then, the evolution of orgeat took a bifurcated path.

In France, England and America it gradually lost its grain base altogether; but what it lost in barley it gained in milk, so it remained sweet, white and creamy. Eventually, however, the milk was also eliminated, and orgeat became the almond-flavored syrup that is still used in cocktails (Mai-Tai, Scorpion, etc.).

Meanwhile, great things were happening on the Spanish Horchata front. Although both barley and almonds flourish all over the Iberian peninsula, they were gradually all but superseded by other local crops. Horchata found a home in the rice-growing region of Valencia, giving birth first to Horchata de Arroz (made of rice, milk and sugar), and then, in the late seventeenth century, to the Horchata de Chufa so beloved of the Regulatory Council.

Now, about the chufa, or Cyperus esculentus. It is a perennial sedge (yellow nutsedge, to be pedantically exact), and it belongs to an eclectic family: it is related both to English galingale (Cyperus longus) and to Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). Its tuberous roots are known as tiger or chufa nuts. (They are also called earth or ground almonds, and from this arises a pretty if unintentional play on words: most descriptions of both orgeat and horchata refer to a drink "flavored with ground almonds"—sometimes meaning actual almonds that have been ground, sometimes meaning the "almonds" that grow underground. Either may be correct. It is not always easy to tell which is which, and one has to wonder whether the writers of these descriptions are even aware of the ambiguity.) Chufa came to Spain from Africa, presumably on the heels of the Moorish invasion. It settled happily into its new home (for that matter it settled happily in most places: today the government of British Columbia classifies it as an invasive "noxious weed"; it also grows prolifically in the Southern United States, where it is chiefly used as cattle fodder), and the dried tubers were found to be a convenient and nutritious base for the local form of Horchata. The true and only Horchata de Chufa, that is.

Today Horchata has come almost full circle in Spain, as witness the variation known as Horchata de Almendra (ironically, the almonds are considered a poor substitute for "the real thing"), a form made from rice and almonds, and one chufa form in which the pounded roots are "cooked in barley juice."

Modern Horchata recipes (based on chufa, almonds, rice, and even coconut) are thick on the ground and even thicker on the World Wide Web. Our own version harks back to the original orgeat, which almost certainly still existed in Jack's time, though by then it may not have been the only version available in Catalonia and Gibraltar. Unlike the typical Horchata de chufa, it is cooked to stabilize the emulsion—as Eliza Smith says in her 1727 recipe for Barley-water, you must "let it have a walm or two" (how could we help falling in love with this word? which according to the Oxford English Dictionary means "a gushing, swirling of boiling liquids"). In the matter of combining bitter almonds with sweet we have followed the logic given in our recipe for Ratafia Biscuits (Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, p. 44), and have produced a subtly-flavored, pleasantly refreshing summer drink.

4 ounces (2/3 cup) hulled barley Water 3 ounces sweet almonds, blanched and peeled, and 1 ounce bitter almonds or apricot kernels, peeled; or 4 ounces sweet almonds, blanched and peeled, and 1 teaspoon pure almond extract 1/4 teaspoon rose water Zest of 1/2 lemon 1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long 1/4 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
Pick over the barley, discarding extraneous matter and any blackened grains. Put it in a large saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and strain, discarding the water.

Return the barley to the pot and add 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, over fairly high heat, until the liquid is reduced by half (about 25 minutes).

While the barley is cooking, pound or grind the almonds as fine as possible. Add the rose water (and the almond extract, if you are using it) and mix well. Gradually add 4 tablespoons of cold water, beating the mixture all the while until it becomes a thick paste.

Put the barley and its cooking liquid through a fine strainer, discarding the barley (or reserving it for other uses). Return the liquid to the pot and add the almond mixture, stirring to combine thoroughly. Stir in the lemon zest, cinnamon, salt and sugar.

Bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently. Let it have a walm or two—that is, simmer 5 minutes, still stirring.

Remove from heat and let cool. Cover loosely and allow to steep several hours or overnight (the lemon and cinnamon flavors will intensify).

Put the Horchata through a fine mesh strainer, discarding (or consuming) the solids. Chill and serve over ice.

Note: Hulled barley is available from health-food stores.

Makes 1 pint

A Noble Pork Pie

"I am very sorry for the pandemonium, Stephen," he said as at last they sat down to their breakfast, brought in by a now silent, timid Killick. "All this mad rushing up and down, bellowing like Gadarene swine..."
The breakfast itself was adequate, with quantities of fresh eggs, sausages, bacon, a noble pork pie, rolls and toast, cream for their coffee, but there was little to be said for it as a fleshly indulgence, since every other bite was interrupted by a message from one ship or another, often delivered by midshipmen, washed, brushed and extremely nervous, presenting their captain's compliments.... Even more irritating was Killick's unceasing concern with the splendid uniform in which Jack was to appear at the court-martial—his intolerable twitching of the napkin that guarded breeches and lower waistcoat, his muttered warnings about egg-yolk, butter, anchovy paste, marmalade.—The Hundred Days, p. 32

~ ~ ~

The noblest pork pie of our acquaintance is indisputably the famous Melton Mowbray. Strictly speaking, it's slightly anachronistic for 1815, since the first recorded instance of a commercial Melton Mowbray Pork Pie dates from 1831. On the other hand, it is obvious that this extraordinary pie did not leap full-blown from its creator's mind on that date: it is a product of evolution, and that evolution was certainly taking place during the 16 years that preceded the event.

A little to the northwest, the Melton Mowbray's immediate predecessor and close cousin is the Cheshire Pork Pie, and the link of kinship, the recurring theme, is the apple. The fruit itself appears in the Cheshire pie, in layers alternating with layers of pork, the whole being sweetened with sugar and moistened with white wine and butter; the Melton Mowbray, however, is filled with pork alone, and the wine is replaced by a savory stock perfumed with apple cores. Hannah Glasse published her Cheshire recipe in 1747, and John Farley republished it under his own name 50 years later; so it would still have been typical when Jack took command of the Sophie. Fashions in food were changing quickly, however, and by the time Jack was removing his bear costume in Catalonia sweetened meat pies were rapidly falling out of favor.

Following our usual logic, we have produced a Noble Pork Pie that looks eagerly forward to the true Melton Mowbray pie of 1831, yet nostalgically retains the apples of 1797.

(We were briefly tempted by another Hannah Glasse recipe, "A Cheshire Pork Pye for Sea," in which the pork was replaced by parboiled salt pork, the apples by potatoes, the sugar by pepper, and the wine by water and butter... but that approach was too spartan for Jack's circumstances—and for our present whim.)

Readers of Lobscouse & Spotted Dog will note that the crust is slightly different from the Hot Water Paste given therein for Raised Pies (though the technique is the same)—this one is traditional for this particular pie, and presumably it has something to do with Dorothy Hartley's "Tracklement" principle, the idea being that for such a purely porky pork pie, the only truly appropriate crust is one made with purely porky unadulterated lard.

(For information about preparing raised pies, see "About Raised Pies," Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, p. 279.)

1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tart, juicy all-purpose apples (Hannah used pippins, which are not always easy to obtain; but the Granny Smith makes a nice substitute)
2 pig trotters (the meaty long-cut hind feet)
2 pig ears if you can get them
1 large onion, peeled and stuck with...
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
Large handful of fresh parsley
Small handful of fresh marjoram
2 large handfuls of fresh sage leaves
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or essence (see Note)
3 pounds fresh pork, boneless and trimmed of gristle and sinews but not denuded of fat (if you bone and trim the pork yourself, keep the bones, trimmings, and other odd bits for the stock)
1/2 pound salt pork

Pastry: 1 1/2 cups water 1 1/2 cups lard 8 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

To make the stock:

Half-fill a large bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Peel and core the apples, reserving the peels and cores. As each apple is peeled, place it in the acidulated water. Set the bowl of apples aside.

Put the apple cores and peels, pig trotters and ears, clove-studded onion, bay leaf, parsley, marjoram, and half of the sage in a large pot. Add the pork bones and trimmings, if any, and cold water to cover. Bring slowly to a boil, skimming off scum as necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover loosely, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.

To make the filling:

While the stock is cooking, slice the fresh pork and the salt pork about 1/4 inch thick. Coarsely chop the remaining sage. Put the pork, salt pork and sage in a bowl with half the anchovy paste, mix thoroughly, cover, and let rest in a cool place until needed.

Slice the apples about 1/4 inch thick, returning them to the acidulated water until needed.

To make the pastry for the coffin:

Heat the water and the lard together until the lard is just melted.

In a large bowl, stir the flour and salt together. Add the hot liquid and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Cover with a damp cloth and let rest, in a warm place, for about 30 minutes.

To assemble and cook:

Put a quarter of the pastry in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside in a warm place.

Form the remaining pastry into a ball and place on a well-greased pan. Working quickly while the dough is warm, begin to raise your coffin, continuing in stages until it is about 8 inches across and 3-1/2 inches high. Chill the coffin for at least an hour, or until it is firmly set.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Drain the apple slices and pat them dry.

Fill the coffin with alternating layers of the pork mixture and the apple slices, finishing with a layer of pork.

On a floured board, roll out the remaining pastry until it is about 3/16 inch thick. Cut a circle slightly larger than the diameter of the coffin. Cut a 1/2-inch hole in the center of the circle. Place this top crust over the pie. Moisten the edges of the two crusts with the egg wash and seal them tightly together by crimping with your fingers.

Cut decorative shapes from the pastry scraps (apples, oak leaves and acorns are considered appropriate, to symbolize the tastes of the animal whose meat lies within) and arrange them on the top crust, cementing them in place with the egg wash. Brush a thin layer of the remaining egg wash over the top of the pie.

Bake 15 minutes at 450°, turn the oven down to 325°, and bake 1 hour 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for an hour or so.

If the stock has solidified into a jelly, warm it until it melts. Stir in the remaining anchovy essence. Using a small funnel, pour as much stock as possible into the pie.

Allow the pie to cool until the stock sets completely.

Note: The contribution of anchovy paste to the flavor of this pie is all but unnoticeable. Its chief purpose is to help the meat retain a pleasing (but not unhealthy) pink color.

Serves 6-8

A Large Quantity of Ox-tail Soup

Stephen was already in the cabin, trying to play a half-forgotten tune pizzicato on Jack's second-best sea-going fiddle. "I heard this long ago at a crossroads meeting something north of Derry, and perhaps just in the county Donegal, the kind of gathering for music and song and above all for dancing what we call a ceilidh; but there was a dying fall near the end that I cannot recapture."

"It will come to you in the middle of the night," said Jack. "Pray draw up your chair and let us fall to: I am fairly wasted with hunger."

They ate a large quantity of ox-tail soup, Jack fairly shovelling it down like a boy, then half a small tunny, caught by trolling over the side, and then their almost invariable toasted cheese, a Minorcan formatge duro, not unlike Cheddar, that tasted remarkably well.

"What a joy it is to satisfy desire," observed Jack when all was done.—The Hundred Days, p. 32

~ ~ ~

Pity the hapless denizens of the boneless British Isles. As the cool nights draw in, a large quantity of Ox-tail Soup, hot and hot, will be comfortable fare indeed for those of us who can easily procure the components. Here in the United States it's merely a matter of trotting down to our excellent local butcher shop or supermarket. For those less fortunate—we take this occasion to wish them either a speedy change in legislation or a highly efficient black market.

2 ox-tails, divided at the joints
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 turnip, peeled and sliced
2 large carrots, scraped and cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound smoked ham, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground mace
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Mushroom Ketchup (see Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, p. 269)
1/2 cup Madeira or port

Rub the ox-tail pieces with salt, then soak them in lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry.

In a large stewpan, melt the butter over medium heat. Brown the ox-tail pieces and set them aside. Reduce the heat slightly. Put the vegetables in the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften.

Return the ox-tail pieces to the pot. Add the ham, parsley, spices, and cold water to cover (approximately 3 quarts). Bring to a boil, skimming occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the meat is tender (3-4 hours). Allow to cool slightly.

Remove the meat and cut it into bite-size pieces, discarding the bones. Skim the stock, reserving 4 tablespoons of the fat (you may also want to reserve any identifiable vegetables). Strain the stock into a large bowl.

Return the reserved fat to the soup pot. Add the flour and combine thoroughly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is brown and bubbly.

Reduce the heat and add the stock a cup at a time, stirring briskly to prevent lumps. When all the stock has been incorporated, add the meat (and vegetables, if you've salvaged any).

Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Add the Mushroom Ketchup, wine, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve up hot and hot.

Serves 8-10

© 1998 Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas

Copyright © 1996-2003 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.