Salmagundi: A Recipe For Laughter


I like to cook, though my cooking is more about assembling, (except when I’m baking). Peeling, slicing; one of the things I love most about preparing lunch is chopping ginger (we eat a lot of ginger, finely sliced and then cut into the slenderest of matchsticks and sprinkled on almost everything – it’s delicious).

When my sister sent me a recipe for Salmagundi I thought that it was because it’s a promising sounding assortment of whatever you happen to have in the fridge and the larder – and that is, in fact, what it is – Wikipedia says:

Salmagundi (sometimes abbreviated as salmi) is a salad dish, originating in the early 17th century in England, comprising cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices.

But that’s not the real reason she sent me the link to this entry in Wikipedia. No. It’s because of the recipe lower down the page, for a pirate version of the dish (it was popular with pirates, apparently) but this isn’t a salad.

‘The following is taken from a reprint of Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book, originally published in 1867 and republished by Applewood Books of Bedford, Massachusetts.’

‘Boil two calf’s feet; take the feet out when done; reduce the broth to a quart. The feet may be fried and used, first removing the bones. Let the broth become cold in an earthen vessel; scrape off all the grease; wipe the top of the jelly with a coarse towel; put the cake of jelly into a kettle lined with tin or porcelain; season it with two lemons cut up (removing the seed), fine blades of mace, a stick of cinnamon, pepper (white pepper is best), and salt to taste. Beat to a froth the whites of six eggs; stir these to the jelly just as it melts; it must then be left to clarify and not stirred again. When it simmers long enough to look clear at the sides, strain it through a flannel bag before the fire; do not squeeze the bag. Suspend it by running a stick through a loop made by tying the bag; rest each end of the stick upon a chair, and throw a table-cloth over all to keep out the dust. If the jelly does not run through clear the first time, pour it through the jelly-bag again. Set this aside. Prepare the meat and seasoning for the pie. Put into a stew-pan slices of pickled pork, using a piece of pork four inches square; if it is very salt lay it an hour in tepid water. Cut up two young, tender chickens—a terrapin, if it is convenient—two or three young squirrels, half a dozen birds or squabs. Stew them gently, cutting up and adding a few sprigs of parsley. Roll into half a pound of butter two tablespoonfuls of flour; add this to the stew until the meat is nearly done. Line a fire-proof dish, or two fire-proof dishes (this quantity of stew will fill two common-sized or quart dishes;) with good pastry; mix the different kinds of meats; put in Irish potato dumplings; season to taste; pour in the gravy and bake. When done, remove the upper crust when the pie is cold and pack in the jelly, heaping the jelly in the middle. Return the crust and serve cold or hot. The jelly will prevent them become too dry. They are good Christmas pies and will keep several days. Very little gravy should be used, and that rich. Should there be too much, leave the stew-pan open until reduced sufficiently. This kind of pie keeps well if made in deep plates, and by some is preferred to those baked in deep moulds.’

I think it was the bit about throwing the tablecloth over everything to keep off the dust that got me going – and the ‘terrapin, if convenient’ finished me off. I love the way it starts off sounding fairly straightforward and then goes off at all sorts of tangents and becomes baffling until you have no idea where all this is going to end and what it is you’re making – it’s exhausting even to contemplate.

I wonder what Heston Blumenthal would make of it? I think I’ll stick to the salad version, as I’ve got plenty of those sort of ingredients. Except for flowers. I don’t think daffodils will do……..

What are you eating this Easter?