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(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Good Manners at the Table

Sit upright at the table. Do not slide down on your spine nor sprawl forward on your elbows. Lay your serviette across your lap; don’t tuck it in your collar.

Don’t fidget with your knife and fork, drum with your fingers, or tap your foot on the floor. Don’t make a noise in eating and drinking or take enormous bites or chew with your mouth open. Don’t bite into a whole slice of bread and butter. Break the bread into suitable pieces for eating and butter each piece separately. Don’t bend over your plate and give the effect of shovelling your food into your mouth, and don’t reach for things.

If soup is being partaken of, dip the edge of the spoon that is farthest from you to fill it, and take the soup from the other side, not from the tip. Don’t tip the plate to get the last spoonful.

Table-talk is a fine art. Because unpleasant thoughts interfere with the enjoyment and digestion of food, disagreeable topics must not be mentioned at table. Table-talk is light, bright and crisp, never very serious, and should be as general as possible.

When you have finished eating, drop your napkin unfolded beside your plate, since at a dinner party a napkin is not supposed to be used again; and lay your knife and fork on your plate, side by side, not crossed.

Cockles are possibly our most modest and unassuming shellfish. For me, however, the humble cockle is among the sweetest and most delicious morsels to be found on Britain’s seashore. Cunningly hidden inches below the sand and mud, the cockle can typically be found in such beauty spots as Morecambe Bay in Lancashire and the Gower peninsula of South Wales, where they have been an essential source of food for millennia.

Ingredients

100g butter
1 leek, finely chopped
3 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
100ml cup dry cider
150ml double (heavy) cream
1kg fresh cockles (baby clams), washed and prepared
500g mussels, washed and prepared
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Heat up a heavy saucepan or casserole over a medium heat and add the butter. When it foams, add the leek, shallots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add the cider and cook for a further 3 minutes, then pour in the cream. Tip in the cockles and mussels, throw in the parsley, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, turn the heat up to high and cook with the lid on for 3 minutes.

Discard any shellfish that haven’t opened. Serve with chunks of white bread and mugs of cider.

Another revolting 1970s recipe from my complete set of Good Housekeeping cookery cards; beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, they are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.

Ingredients

4 dozen mussels, about 6 pints
4 shallots or 1 medium onion, peeled
butter
1 bottle dry white wine
chopped parsley
2 sprigs thyme, if available
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
butter
2 level tsp flour

Method

Place mussels in a large bowl and under running water. Scrape off mud, barnacles, seaweed and “beards” with a small sharp knife. Discard any that are open or even just loose (unless a tap on their shell makes them close) or are cracked. Rinse again until there is no trace of sand in the bowl.

Finely chop shallots. Melt a large knob of butter and sauté shallots until soft but not coloured.

Add wine, a small handful of chopped parsley, thyme, bay leaf and several turns from the pepper mill. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Add drained mussels, a handful at a time. Cover and steam, shaking often until shells open (about 5 minutes).

Remove top shells over saucepan to catch juices and place mussels in wide soup plates. Keep warm.

Strain liquor and reduce by half, thicken a little by adding a small knob of butter creamed with 2 level tsp flour, whisked in, in small pieces. Adjust seasoning. When cooked, pour over mussels.

Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve at once. Use forks for mussels, soup spoons for the juices. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Another revolting 1970s recipe from my complete set of Good Housekeeping cookery cards; beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, they are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.

Ingredients

24-26 soft sponge fingers
6 oz. caster sugar
2 level tbsp cornflour
½ pint double cream
½ pint milk
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 egg yolks
1 oz. butter
1 level tsp gelatine
2 tsp water
toasted flaked almonds for decoration

Method

Line a loaf tin 7 in. by 5 in. with a strip of non-stick paper. Arrange some sponge fingers to cover the base and sides.

In a saucepan blend together the sugar and cornflour. Gradually stir in the milk and ¼ pint cream.

Break chocolate into pieces, add to the milk, bring slowly to the boil. Stir all the time. Boil gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. Cool for a few mins, beat in egg yolks.

Return to heat, cook 1 min. Beat in butter.

Sprinkle gelatine over 2 tsp water, stir into chocolate mixture. Cool, stirring occasionally. When beginning to thicken, pour half the mixture over the sponge fingers.

Cover with another layer of sponge fingers. Spoon over remainder of chocolate mixture. Cut sponge fingers level with chocolate mixture. Use bits to place over chocolate in a final layer.

Leave overnight in the refrigerator. To serve, turn out on a flat dish.

Whip rest of cream. Cover the top of the cake with cream and strew with almonds.

Good Housekeeping cookery cards, beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.

Ingredients

1 oz. butter
4 large eggs
salt and pepper
4 tbsp single cream
parsley for garnish
toast triangles

Method

Take four individual cocotte ovenproof dishes and put a knob of butter into the bottom of each.

Carefully break an egg into each dish, season with salt and freshly milled pepper.

Spoon 1 tbsp cream over each.

Bake in the oven at 350° F for 12-20 minutes until whites are just set.

Serve straight from the oven garnished with parsley. Partner with toast triangles and butter.

Variations:

First line each dish with lightly cooked bacon rashers, cut to size; or sprinkle eggs with grated Gruyère or Dutch cheese and cook until it is meltingly golden, then top with a dusting of paprika or finely chopped parsley.

From my complete set of Good Housekeeping wipe-clean recipe cards, another revolting 1970s recipe.

Ingredients

4-6 trout
2-3 oz. unsalted butter
1 oz. flaked almonds
2-3 teaspoonfuls lemon juice
parsley sprigs and lemon slices for garnish

Method

Ask fishmonger to clean the trout. Remove heads only if desired. Rub off any black film inside the cavity with a little salt. Brush fish with a little melted butter.

Heat grill and line the rack with buttered kitchen foil. Grill the trout for about two minutes on each side, then reduce heat and continue to cook until flesh shows signs of leaving the bone.

For the almond butter, melt 2 oz. butter, add 1 oz. flaked almonds. Fry gently until almonds begin to brown. Add 2-3 teaspoonfuls lemon juice and a little salt.

Serve trout on a hot dish, pour almond butter over. Garnish with parsley and twists of sliced lemon.

Good Housekeeping cookery cards, beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.

Ingredients

1 lb. calf’s or lamb’s liver, sliced
lemon juice
seasoned flour
2 oz. butter
3 tbsp Marsala
¼ pint stock, made with a cube
whole grilled tomatoes and shoestring potatoes for garnish

Method

Sprinkle liver with lemon juice and coat with seasoned flour.

Melt the butter in a frying-pan and fry the liver quickly on both sides until lightly browned.

Stir in the Marsala and stock. Simmer until the liver is just cooked and the sauce syrupy.

Arrange on a serving dish and garnish with tomatoes and potatoes.

From my complete collection of Good Housekeeping cookery cards, here’s another revolting recipe from the 1970s.

Ingredients

2 best ends of neck (12 cutlets)

For the stuffing:
2 oz. minced or finely chopped onion
2 oz. minced or finely chopped celery
8 oz. fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of garlic powder
8 oz. cooked rice
1 oz. butter
2 level teaspoonfuls curry powder
salt and pepper

Method

Mix together all the ingredients for the stuffing. Remove the chine bone from each joint.

With a sharp knife, cut across bone ends of meat, about 1 in. from bone tips. Remove the fatty ends and scrape the bone ends free of flesh.

Using fine string and a trussing needle, sew joints together, back to back, with bones curving outwards to form the crown shape.

Stand crown in roasting tin and brush with melted fat. Insert stuffing.

Cover tips of bones with foil to prevent burning. Cover stuffing with foil to keep moist. Roast in the oven at 350° F, allowing 25-30 minutes per lb.

To serve, remove crown from oven and place on a serving dish. Remove foil. Decorate bone tips with cutlet frills. Garnish with potato baskets filled with minted peas.

Recipe taken from Nigella Christmas by Queen of Gastroporn Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £25)

1 large or 2 small onions
100g streaky bacon
large bunch of parsley, from which you can get a good 2 handfuls of leaves
75g butter, plus more for greasing dish and extra 15g for buttering top (if not stuffing turkey)
250g vacuum-packed whole chestnuts
250g breadcrumbs
1 x 435g can unsweetened chestnut purée
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
good grating of fresh nutmeg

Peel and roughly chop the onion and stick the pieces in the processor with the bacon and parsley. Or chop finely by hand.

Melt the 75g butter in a largish, heavy-based pan and, keeping the heat fairly low, cook the processed mixture until it softens, about 10 minutes.

Remove to a bowl and, using your hands, crumble in the chestnuts so that they are broken up slightly, then mix in the breadcrumbs and chestnut purée. This isn’t very hard to do by hand (a wooden spoon and brutal manner will help), but an electric freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment is the agreeably lazy option.

If you are making this in advance, then let it get cold now, otherwise beat in the eggs, season with only a little salt (remember the bacon will contain some) and a good grating of fresh nutmeg and fresh pepper.

If you want to stuff the turkey with this on Christmas morning, be my guest; otherwise butter your dish or foil container, add the stuffing, spread the 15g butter on top, and bake, uncovered, in the oven underneath the turkey for 30-40 minutes, depending on how full your oven is.

Recipe taken from Nigella Christmas by Queen of Gastroporn Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £25)

This involves a simple, but amply satisfying procedure. In advance, as soon as you get your bird home, remove any trussing, take out the giblets and stash them separately in the fridge. Before putting the turkey in the fridge, wash the inside of the bird with cold running water. Drain well and blot dry with kitchen towels.

The important thing is that you take your bird out of the fridge a good hour before you want to start cooking it, so that it’s at room temperature before you begin. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Now comes the bosomy bit. You take your turkey and, using your fingers, wiggle some space between the skin and breast of the bird, being careful not to tear the skin. (Mind you, turkey skin is so tough, you’d probably need talons to rupture it.) Into this space you’ve made, squeeze good sausage meat, or the contents of your favourite butcher’s sausages (900g of either should be enough for a 5.5kg turkey), pushing, pressing and coaxing so that it covers the whole breast.

Then, from on top of the skin, mould it a little with your hand so that the breast is voluptuously but smoothly bulging. Secure the flaps of skin over the cavity with a metal skewer so that the sausage meat doesn’t escape during cooking.

The skin really crisps up as this turkey roasts, and the sausage meat, which drips down into the breast as it cooks, keeps the meat from drying out. To ensure the turkey doesn’t brown too rapidly, cover it loosely with a sheet of buttered foil until halfway through the cooking time about 2 hours 40 minutes total for a 5.5kg bird with its sausagey faux-bosom). You could then dispense with the chipolatas (or stuffing if you can live without it), so this is a good way of cutting down on dishes to prepare, without making huge sacrifices.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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