Sunday, 20 November 2011

Richard Briggs' Skirret Fritters

I have had a bumper harvest of skirrets in my garden this year. This ancient vegetable (Sium sisarum L.) went out of favour during the course of the early nineteenth century. Despite their sweet, delicious flavour, the straggling, mandrake-like roots are difficult to clean and I suspect many cooks just lost patience with them. The kitchen staff must have dreaded it when the master called for a dish of skirrets, because it meant hours of tedious scrubbing and scrapping. Some of the older roots also have a hard stringlike thread going through them, providing the diner with a length of built in dental floss! However, they do have a great parsnip-like flavour and a wonderful creamy texture, so I take the trouble every year to make one or two dishes from them. Today, I made skirret fritters, an old favourite of mine from a recipe in Richard Briggs, The English Art of Cookery (London: 1788).

Skirrets cook very quickly and once boiled the skin can be rubbed off quite easily. I followed Brigg's method exactly, making about a pint of creamy skirret puree. The rest of the process is shown in the images below. 
A creamy puree is made by rubbing the skirrets through a drum sieve.
Flour, sugar, eggs, ginger and nutmeg are added to make the fritter batter.
A spoonful of the batter is dropped into hot hog's lard and the fritters fried until golden brown
The fritters served on an eighteenth century silver plate with their garnish
of dried sweetmeats (courtesy of Plumcake). Delicious!

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