When we have friends round for dinner and we cook something special we nearly always have something to start with, a main course, a dessert and then cheese and biscuits. When we go out somewhere posh, occasionally there is a sorbet thrown in too – or sometimes soup then a fish course, or amuse bouche/amuse gueules/bonnes bouches/hors d’œvres to start… That’s a menu we recognise. However, when I look back to menus from the past, quite often, after the dessert there is a savoury. I guess we have the remnants of it in cheese and biscuits, but we wouldn’t have a cooked dish… that would seem quite strange I guess.
This struck my last night when I was sharing an eighty year-old menu from Modern Practical Cookery; it was their suggested menu for September, that betwixt-and-between season as the month is described. September’s savoury is mushrooms on toast – very seasonal, especially if you can get lovely big field mushrooms, what my mum called horse mushrooms.
So what are the savouries suggested for the other months?
- January – in actual fact, this New Year’s menu has no savoury, but it does have a fish course between Brussels sprouts purée soup and braised fillet off beef; sneaking in between those two big flavours is sole Maître d’Hotel
- February – prune toast – prunes stuffed with almonds and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, skewered, baked and served on buttered toast
- March – another month when soup and fish replace a savoury; for this spring month it is clear soup á la Royale (beef and vegetable consommé served with shapes of a savoury custard, and the fish is fried sole and tartar sauce
- April – anchovy fingers – anchovies mashed with hard-boiled egg yolks served on buttered toast fingers
- May – cheese sticks
- June – eggs en cocottes – baked eggs with a cheese sauce
- July – tomato toast – as it says, with chopped bacon and grated cheese – and of course tomatoes are coming into season!
- August – cheese soufflé
- September – the aforesaid mushrooms on toast
- October – soft roes on toast – herring roes, but I can’t imagine it would be a popular choice today!
- November – savoury aigrettes – what I would call cheese puffs, deep-fried cheesy yums
- December – cheese eggs – hard-boiled egg whites filled with a mixture of cheese sauce and the mashed yolks
To be honest, I can’t see me serving any of these to my guests!