Tag Archives: Harry Hayfield

Henri’s kitchen: 3. Croque Madame

Harry Hayfield, a resident of Ceredigion in Wales, has long had an interest in the stories of the Musketeers which are set in early 17th century France, this led in turn to an interest in the Stuart period of history and joining a living history group. However, as a registered carer for his grandparents, he is unable to get to many of the events and yet wanted to do something to help. One day he was watching “The Little Paris Kitchen” broadcast on the BBC and thought “These are recipes designed by the French, therefore could they be converted in the 17th century versions of themselves?”. Doing some research he found that they could. Harry will therefore contribute four of the recipes as shown in the programme as if cooked by Henri de Ceredigion (Harry’s Stuart persona) a cadet member of the Musketeers, with able assistance from Planchet, his manservant cum stable lad.

Whenever I invite people to have a meal with me, they are always very surprised by how little I actually have. I explain this by saying that both Planchet and myself are very careful about what we eat for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to be as big and rotund as Athos and secondly, I have always had a very small appetite and therefore all my meals are very small. That does not mean that they are boring, as demonstrated when Planchet introduced me to what he called Croque Monsieurs, which were absolutely delicious, but so filling I could only manage one of them. So I wondered if I could make a version just a little smaller, and that’s when I came up with the idea of Croque Madames (after all, most ladies are smaller than me) with a few English connections.

The first thing that you need is to make a sauce, which is the simplest thing in the world to do. Take a knob of butter and melt it in a pan, then take roughly the same amount of flour, give it a good mix then pour a good quarter pint (English I should point out) of milk slowly into the mixture whilst still mixing. Then, depending on your opinion on the subject, add some mustard and then start to make your croques. These are so simple even Porthos could make them (but don’t tell him that I said he was simple). First you take a loaf of bread and slice it into as many slices are you want croques, ignoring the comments from a certain manservant about how dull and uninspiring that sounds, then cut off the crusts. Then flaten them with a roll until they are as half as thick as they were to begin with and then brush them with butter on both sides. This is the get the crunch. As Planchet has often told me “Monsieur, no crunch, no croque”, and who I am to argue with him!
 
A nice piece of ham for my croque madame. Credit: Wellcome Images.
Place the buttered slices into a cup, adding some ham, a small egg and the sauce last of all before dusting them with a liberal amount of cheese of your own choice and brushing the exposed pieces of bread with some more butter before placing into the oven. Now, depending on how runny you like your egg, you leave them in for about fifteen minutes for a soft egg (as Planchet prefers) or twenty minutes for a set egg (as I prefer). Once you take them out of the oven, don’t worry if the edges of the bread look a little burnt as this adds to the crunch. Then simply serve and enjoy your meal as myself and Planchet will in about thirty minutes, as writing about these has made me rather peckish. Planchet, have you got any sliced bread not doing anything? I would like a Madame.

 

Henri’s kitchen: 2. Chouquettes

Harry Hayfield, a resident of Ceredigion in Wales, has long had an interest in the stories of the Musketeers which are set in early 17th century France, this led in turn to an interest in the Stuart period of history and joining a living history group. However, as a registered carer for his grandparents, he is unable to get to many of the events and yet wanted to do something to help. One day he was watching “The Little Paris Kitchen” broadcast on the BBC and thought “These are recipes designed by the French, therefore could they be converted in the 17th century versions of themselves?”. Doing some research he found that they could. Harry will therefore contribute four of the recipes as shown in the programme as if cooked by Henri de Ceredigion (Harry’s Stuart persona) a cadet member of the Musketeers, with able assistance from Planchet, his manservant cum stable lad.

There is nothing nicer after a hard day’s training as a cadet to get back to my digs, command “Planchet, chouquettes please!” and know that about half an hour later you can be doing a very good impression of Athos at a grand dinner relaxing and enjoying life. I’ll admit that when Planchet first introduced them to me, I wasn’t entirely sure about them, but once I tasted one I couldn’t have enough. And what are these little wonders, you may be asking? Basically little pastries that, ooooh, you cannot describe without having experienced them first. So, if you fancy making some, here’s how you do it. First you take a quarter of a cup of water (and before you hold your hands up in horror, don’t worry, this is freshly collected rainwater, I know to avoid the stuff in the streets), the same amount of milk, a little salt and a little sugar, some butter, roughly the length of your index finger, chopped into small pieces. Put it all in the pot. Then add a third of a small packet of flour and mix. Now, when I first made this, at this stage it just looked, well, wrong is the only word I used. It was lumpy and reminded me of very badly made porridge. But Planchet was on hand to help and spent the next several minutes mixing it so hard that by the time it had turned into a solid mass, he was breathing hard. When it reaches that point, place it in a bowl and then move on to the next ingredient.

Chouquettes. Credit: Aerith, Wikipedia

That ingredient is eggs; however, do not do what I did the first time I made this on my own, because if you add the eggs now, they will scramble, and although I like scrambled eggs of a morning, that’s not what I was wanting to make, so here’s a little tip from Planchet. Give the mass a stir until the pastry is cool enough so that it is still warm but nothing like as hot as when it came out of the pot. Add the eggs and keep on stirring as you do so and don’t worry if it looks like it has all gone wrong, you are on precisely the right path, as you want to end up with something that looks like mud in terms of its consistency. Then you put that into a special bag for piping, available from any half decent chef ,or in my case, my manservant, and then it comes to piping it. Now, there’s a special technique for this. In order to pipe properly make the shape of a letter L with your thumb and finger next to it; then turn the shape around, place your thumb part of the shape to the left of the bag and then wrap the other finger around and you are ready to go. Hold the bag upright and count to three whilst squeezing at the top and, if you will pardon the term, voila, chouquettes! Then, if you can get any, dust with icing sugar and decorate with either small pieces of chocolate or if you like, small pieces of cheese, although technically that will turn them into gorcherge, but that is purely personal preference.

Now comes the tricky part of the whole exercise: baking them. Ideally they need to be baked until the smell of baking fills the kitchen and here is where the problems can start. We first made this on a very hot day and so had all the windows and doors open, just as we finished making them the local priest walked in, quite unexpectedly and asked if we would be willing to donate anything to help raise funds. All we had were these chouquettes so we asked if that would be all right. He popped one into his mouth and collapsed with desire before placing the rest into a bag, blessing us and walked back the way he had come. So we had to make another set; however that version caught the attention of Athos and I regret to say that his reputation precedes him. He managed to devour four sets of them before he had his fill. If that wasn’t bad enough, just as we thought we would have some to ourselves, lots of children starting rapping at our door asking for some. So a word of advice: never bake these on the hottest day of the year or if you have to then, do it during the coolest part of the day. If you do manage to get them out of the oven before anyone realises that you have, make sure they are nice and golden brown and devour before anyone gets the chance to pinch them.

Henri’s kitchen: 1. Cheese and Potato Nests

Harry Hayfield, a resident of Ceredigion in Wales, has long had an interest in the stories of the Musketeers which are set in early 17th century France, this led in turn to an interest in the Stuart period of history and joining a living history group. However, as a registered carer for his grandparents, he is unable to get to many of the events and yet wanted to do something to help. One day he was watching “The Little Paris Kitchen” broadcast on the BBC and thought “These are recipes designed by the French, therefore could they be converted in the 17th century versions of themselves?”. Doing some research he found that they could. Harry will therefore contribute four of the recipes as shown in the programme as if cooked by Henri de Ceredigion (Harry’s Stuart persona) a cadet member of the Musketeers, with able assistance from Planchet, his manservant cum stable lad.

Bonjour mes amis and welcome to my kitchen. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Henri de Ceredigion , I am a cadet in the forces of the famed Musketeers that serve loyally under the authority of King Louis XIII of France and I am so pleased that my recipes have been accepted . I hope that these will give you as much pleasure as they have given me. I feel it is only fit and proper that I also introduce my manservant, Planchet, who has been by my side for the last year or so and is an absolute asset in the kitchen. You are, don’t be embarrassed please.

Today, by means of an introduction, I thought I would start with something nice and simple, namely cheese and potato nests which is a firm favourite in this household. First you need six good sized potatoes, about the size of your fist should do, and then you cut them up very small. This is where Planchet comes into his own as he states that he can chop anything to any size and he recommends that you chop them to resemble twigs that you sometimes find on the ground. Whilst that is happening, you finely chop an onion (excuse the tears), some garlic and then place it into a cooking pot with some butter (luckily we get ours from a very friendly farmer just outside Paris) and then cook gently. You can, if you wish add a bay leaf as well as I do, but that is purely optional. As that starts to cook, take some lardon and chop it into small squares and add that to the onion and garlic which should by now be gently cooking.

House mice devouring a large cheese. R. Hicks, 1888 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Ah, Planchet, well done, there’s the potatoes done now for the cheese, and I have to admit we have had a bit of a disagreement about this in the past. You see, Planchet, comes from the alpine area of France and therefore brought what he called a “devotional cheese” with him. It’s the cheese that monks in that area use when offering communion. The problem that I found was that it was very smelly indeed. In fact, when I first smelt it I declared that it was worse than a farmyard and, I don’t like to admit it, I think I upset him because we then had a blazing row and he stormed out and I was worried I would never see him again. Thankfully I did and I apologised for upsetting him and explained why. The following day, he came back from the market with a cheese that I instantly recognised, as it was made to a recipe form Somerset in my native homeland. Oh, sorry, did I neglect to mention that at the beginning. Sorry, when I am in the middle of something my memory does slip. I’m English by birth here as part of a special mission for His Grace the Duke of Buckingham, but don’t tell anyone that. Anyway, back to the cooking, so as a result of that disagreement we alternate the cheese, but today we are making the classic version and so we’re using half a devotional cheese, but you are more than welcome to use any cheese you like. Chop that cheese into little cubes, about the size of your thumb, and put them to one side, then add two glasses of white wine. Yes, I know that grapes are very hard to find these days, but again, having connections to the south of this country does have its perks. Give that mixture a good stir until there’s only a very small amount of liquid left. When that happens add the chopped potatoes and then pour the whole mixture into a bowl.

Now, has anyone spotted the deliberate mistake? Anyone? No? Well, this is what happened the first time we did this recipe, we forgot to get the bay leaf out of the mixture. So before you pour it into the bowl, take the bay leaf out otherwise you might spend the next few moments looking for it. Once you have removed the bay leaf, just throw in the cheese and give it a good mix and then place it into either several small tins that have been smeared with pig fat or if you fancy something a little on the big side place it all into a large bowl. Then you place it into the oven and cook it for as long as it takes for a cheese smell to permeate through your kitchen or it looks brown and is bubbling away in the tins. Serve immediately lest a certain manservant decides to devour them all or if you are able keep them warm until they are needed with some lettuce, if you fancy it.

About Harry Hayfield: My name is Harry Hayfield and I have been interested in history ever since I was first taught it in high school. My interest in living history is much more recent and was prompted by being able to buy on DVD a cartoon series that I would like to think reflects how I would behave if my father suddenly packed me off to one of the prestigious military academies of Europe (namely the Musketeers of 17th century France) and the interest comes from the fact that I was the only boy to take cookery in high school.