The Corner

The Ultimate Cookbook

Willie Fowler’s “Countryman’s Cooking” (1956), which has just been republished…

Yes, there’s a touch of crunchiness about it, but I defy you not to be impressed by a cook whose “interest in food began,” the Times reports, “when he was shot down over Münster in 1941. He was a PoW in Stalag Luft 3, where he stewed the commandant’s cat with a black-market onion.”

While I’m not a particular fan of caterole myself (our feline friends are, I find, best deep fried), who couldn’t warm to Fowler’s pigeon pie?

This is an excellent dish, and very well worth making. The only snag to it is that you must have some pastry; and here, I fear, I cannot help you. So far, I have always been able, by the liberal use of blandishments and flattery, to get someone else to make it for me. Anyway, what better gambit could you have than “Come and make the pastry for my rabbit pie, darling?” Presupposing that you have your glamorous pastry-maker positively champing at the bit, cook the rabbit either in the same way as for a casserole, or else dispense with a marinade and begin by flouring and frying. Then simmer in a saucepan, using cider or mild beer as a cooking liquor. Don’t forget the salt. Whilst this is cooking, hard-boil three eggs and cut the rind off half a pound of bacon – smoked or plain, as you prefer. Take the meat off the bones as soon as it is ready to come. You will now have finished, for the time being, with the kitchen table – so, having fortified your pastry- maker with a couple of stiff gins, let her loose with some flour, lard, a bowl and a rolling pin. Put an eggcup in the centre of the pie dish to support the crust if you must, but you should have sufficient filling, and arrange the boned meat, hardboiled eggs (sliced in half lengthways), bacon and a few mushrooms if you have them, around it. Scatter in a little thyme and freshly-ground black pepper, and fill up to the top of the meat with the cooking liquor. Hand over to your minion to have the hat put on. It will take about half an hour to cook the pastry in a hot oven. Preferably foist this job off on her as well, and then if it all goes up in smoke you are comparatively in the clear.”

Good advice, I feel.

Hat-tip: New English Review