Experiments with English recipes as per my dumb weird mission to revitalise the national palate continue.
After noodling with Roman British recipes I’ve leapt a long way forward in time to investigate the Age of Sail, which has raised a nagging question about a childhood favourite book.
In The Silver Chair by CS Lewis, when the Queen of Harfang offers “possets and comfits and caraways” to a knackered, cold, hungry and fed up Jill Pole, what kind of posset does she refer to? Comfits and Caraways are pretty straightforward (if not exactly pleasant in my opinion). A cold set lemon posset doesn’t seem to cut it…
So we begin with a recipe for Posset, an old favourite for sickly and miserable types which, as far as I can work out, before it was cream curdled with lemon juice as it is now, was more like milk curdled with Basically Any Alcohol But Probably Wine and then spiced. By the 16th century it had reached its current cold confection status, but during the age of sail cream and indeed fresh lemons were not always available to sick bay invalids, and improvisation was necessary. While “boil milk, add either wine or ale “and no salt”, let it cool, gather the curds and discard the whey, and season with ginger, sugar, and possibly “sweet wine” and candied anise.” sounds like the start of a compelling meal, if I wanted sweet cottage cheese I probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of making it, and I very definitely do not discard whey, that stuff is expensive for Body Building Types.
The version I liked best, Sack Posset, also involved oatmeal for additional strengthening properties, and comes out of experimentations by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas in their seminal and incredibly useful Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, which along with John Edwards’ Apicus translation and modernisation, and endless different translations and approximations of The Forme of Cury, is proving exceptionally useful in the quest.
Full disclosure, the Grossman and Grossman version contains both dry sherry and ale as per the original they worked from whereas I cannot abide either and have no intention of buying them. I also wanted something that would work as a restorative for me personally, a man best described as a night shift gremlin with a loose relationship with sleep schedules: coffee.
- 1.5 tsbp oatmeal
- 1.5 tsbp sugar
- pinch of nutmeg
- about 35-50ml of whatever sweet & spicy liqueurs/flavoured vodka you have around. i used Christmas cake vodka* but frangelico, vanilla vodka, amaretto, caramel vodka etc would work just as well. if you’d put it in your coffee you can put it in this.
- 1 spoonful of instant coffee power or two firm squirts of coffee concentrate, or an espresso
- 1 cup of whole milk or, if your hangover is really bad, 1/2 a cup of whole milk & 1/2 a cup of single cream (and add another espresso)
- Combine ingredients thoroughly in a milk pan and simmer while stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened to thickshake consistency
- Chug or eat with a spoon from your mug
- Will cure: hangover, heartbreak, horrible weather, and possibly death
* Technically it’s Mince Pie Vodka Liqueur and it’s made to a Hairy Bikers’ Recipe. I rate it highly. I think Clary would also work a treat under these circumstances, but as that takes at least a month to mature and the vodka only takes three days, I know which side I come down on.