What to do with lettuce

I can’t imagine anything more dispiriting or tasteless than boiled lettuce. I do like lettuce, but it hasn’t got a really strong flavour, and boiling it would surely take away most of its delicate flavour, i would have thought. There are a lot of old recipes which do sound tasty, and I have cooked a few which are as good as they sound,but boiled lettuce?

I’ve been looking at Mrs A,B. Marshall’s Cookery Book published in the 1880’s, and I mentioned yesterday that she had instructed that summer vegetables ‘should be cooked as soon as possible after gathering’. I must say, I’m not convinced, but here is her recipe for  cooked lettuce:

Lettuce á la Espagnole

  • lettuce, well washed, outer leaves removed (the best of which can be kept for soup)
  • salt
  • 2 oz good butter
  • 1 carrot cut lenghtways
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • bunch of herbs such as a sprig of thyme, parsley and bayleaf tied up
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • fat bacon
  • coralline pepper (paprika)
  • ¼ pint stock
  • croutons, fried  a pale golden colour and cut in the shape of a kite
  • pinch of castor sugar (optional)
  • 4 little bunches of crisply fried ham or bacon
  • bacon cut into small dice
  • chopped parsley
  1. put the lettuce in a pan of cold water with a little salt and bring to the boil
  2. drain the lettuce, refresh in cold water and drain
  3. tie up the lettuce with string
  4. melt the butter in a stewpan and add the fat bacon, carrot, onion, herbs, peppercorns and cloves
  5. arrange the lettuce on the vegetables and dust with coralline pepper
  6. place buttered greaseproof paper over the lettuce, cover with lid and fry for 15-20 mins
  7. add the stock and place pan in the oven
  8. baste frequently with the stock (just tilt the stewpan gently and take the gravy up with a spoon and drop it on the lettuce)
  9. let all braise with the stock for about 1 hour
  10. remove lettuce and if it is big enough, cut in four pieces lengthwise
  11. flatten the lettuce, then turn it over so as to make it about two and a half or three inches long
  12. strain and remove the fat from the gravy, if it tastes too strong add the sugar
  13. fry the diced bacon until crispy, drain
  14. glaze the lettuce lightly and serve on the croutons – dish up straight down the dish
  15. pour the gravy round the lettuce and serve with the little bunches of bacon
  16. either add the bacon bits sprinkled with parsley and coralline pepper, or serve separately (the recipe isn’t clear.

I can’t imagine that the lettuce would taste of anything other than the vegetables cooked with it; it was blanched, fried for 15-20 mins, braised for an hour, quartered, flattened, folded, placed on croutons, and dressed with gravy, bacon and paprika… and wouldn’t the crisp, kite-shaped croutons go soggy in the gravy?

Sorry, Agnes, Bertha Marshall, I don’t think I’ll be trying this! … and yes I know my featured image has a row of other plants down the middle but I couldn’t find a just lettuce picture!

 

12 Comments

  1. david lewis

    We have a fish here in Canada called a Sucker and they look and taste terrible. An old timer years ago told me of a way to prepare and cook them. After you gut and filet them then nail them to a thin board of cedar wood and bake in the oven with similar ingredients as the lettuce.It goes on and on until finally you gently remove the nails from the wood, throw the fish away and eat the board. I still like to tell that story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      What a great story… a version of it might appear on the blog if you don’t mind!! I love fish, but I’m not fond of river fish as they always seem to have a muddy taste to me – apart from trout and salmon caught in bright sparkling fast running streams! – especailly brown trout!

      Like

  2. david lewis

    It’s a great yarn and you can embellish all you want but remember in the end to eat the board. Took my grand daughter fishing last summer and she caught the first two brook trout. Only eight and a great kid!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      Did she eat them? Lucky her – I used to go fishing with my sister and dad when I was a girl – my sister and I sat side by side on the fishing bank, she’d be pulling them out one after another and I never caught a one!

      Like

  3. david lewis

    No,they got released. Too bad she lives so far away I miss her so much. I keep changing my plans for her. First it was barrel racing in the rodeo, then a girl soccer superstar and now a world famous vetinarian. I sang karaoke for her and shes my biggest fan.

    Liked by 1 person

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