Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Sterkarm Dinner-Party: The Main

A soay sheep posing as a Sterkarm sheep
     Now for the main course of the Sterkarm dinner party.
     It’s a delicious meat pudding.  In The Sterkarm Handshake, Per Sterkarm went out especially to catch a deer for it, and the deer was hung for several days - but if you can’t put your hands on a deer, fallow or red, you can use a sheep, goat, or even a cow, though  obviously, the size of your pudding will vary, and the amount of other ingredients will have to be adjusted.
       The recipe below assumes you are using a sheep.
       Take the stomach, liver, heart and lungs.
       You’ll also need three onions, 250 grams of beef lard, 150 grams of the inevitable oatmeal, salt, and about 150 mls of stock.  
      Also some of that expensive spice, pepper – the little dried berries of a vine, picked and dried half a world away.  Their price reflects the distance they’ve travelled.
          Start preparing this dish at least a day before you need it because first you must clean the stomach well, emptying it of what the animal was last keeping in it, and washing it out.  Soak it overnight (in a wooden bowl or tub, probably).
          In the morning, turn the stomach inside out, and boil it for one and a half hours in good stock.  (There would always be a stock-pot full of bones and bits boiling in the Sterkarm kitchen.)  Make sure that the weasand – that it, the windpipe – hangs over the edge of the pot, to allow drainage – though drainage of what I’d rather not ask, if you don’t mind.
          While the belly-bag is boiling, slap the heart and lungs on a table-top or large chopping board, and mince them with a big knife.
          Get hold of the liver and chop up half of it.  (The other half isn’t needed for the pudding, so Per Sterkarm probably had it as a treat, and a reward for catching the deer.)
          Keep chopping! –chop  up the onions and the beef lard.
          In a large crock or tub, mix together the chopped heart, lungs, liver, lard, onions and oatmeal.  Season well with salt.
          Then the peppercorns need to be ground.  If you are the lady of the tower, Isobel, then obviously you can use your own pepper as you like.  If you’re a mere cook, you will need to ask for the peppercorns, as they are so valuable they will kept locked away.  Grind them in a pestle and mortar, and add to the mix.
          Add sage, thyme and parsley, if liked.  They will have been grown by Isobel, or gathered wild, and may be either fresh or dried.
          Take some of the water the belly was boiled in, and add enough to the mixture to make it a little watery.
          Now take the belly-bag and put it in another bowl, to support it, with the opening at the top.  Fill it with the mixture of oatmeal and offal until it’s half-full.
          Squeeze out the air, and sew it up with thread.
          Put it back into the boiling stock, top up with water, and boil for three hours, without a lid.  Don’t let it boil dry, and  if the stomach starts blowing up, prick it with a needle.
          When it’s done, bring to table and cut into steaming slices.  Serve with its own gravy and boiled neeps – that is, turnips.  Some turnip greens, would also be good, if  in season, as would carrots – which, in the Sterkarm’s time, the early 16th Century, would be purple, not orange.  (They would never have called their redheads ‘carrot-top.')
          No potatoes. The plant hadn’t yet been introduced to Britain.
          They would expect you to tuck in enthusiastically, and Isobel Sterkarm would be beside herself with disappointment and shame if you didn’t.  After all, she and her maids had worked long and hard in a stifling kitchen to offer you their very best.
          The offal was far more nutritious, juicy and tasty than the tough, dry, lean muscle meat from their hardy little beasts – and they’d put expensive pepper in it, just for you!
          Isobel would press second and third helpings on you, because it was a terrible slight to be called mean, or for anyone to say that they left your table hungry.  It would be a matter of pride, too, to show that they didn’t need to care about saving food. And, of course, the more you ate, the more Isobel could pride herself as a hostess.
          However politely you refused, she would heap your plate anyway.  She wouldn’t be able to help herself.
        Toorkild and Per Sterkarm would probably make sure the pudding was finished but if, somehow, there was any pudding left over, it would turn up at breakfast, fried.  And, because you were a guest, the envious Sterkarm men would be denied it, and it would land on your plate.  With a clonk.  Good appetite!

1 comment:

madwippitt said...

Always avoid cliches is a cliche in itself isn't it? Or are you being tongue in cheek and far too subtle for me? :-D