Tag Archives: Traditional cooking

Traditional Old Country Soups to Warm You Up

I just found out that January is National Soup Month. I don’t know how I missed that before but maybe this is the perfect timing to talk about soup as folks are still digging themselves out from Winter Storm Jonas and it’s still so cold over much of the country. As we are into the final season of Downton Abbey too, let’s take inspiration from The Dowager Countess of Grantham (played by the awesome Maggie Smith) who is a big fan of soups.

Dowager enjoys soup

She was the one who said, “‘Every good lady’s maid should know how to make a restorative broth.” I don’t have a lady’s maid (I went wrong somewhere…) and probably you don’t either, so here are some traditional Old Country soups from Europe that you can make yourself to get warmed up!

We’ll start with an English Barley Soup creation from Pamela Foster, author of the Abbey Cooks Entertain books. Beef and barley soup is a very old English dish – you’ll find a version of it in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management book published in 1861, but it goes back long before that.  On her DowntonAbbeyCooks.com blog, Pamela offers two variations: cream of barley for the posh family upstairs and a more rustic beef and barley soup for the servants downstairs. I’m with the servants – it looks delicious!

Cock a Leekie soup MSFarther north, Scotland is famous for its Cock-A-Leekie soup, which was first written about in the 1500s. It is often served on Burns Night at the end of January in celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but it is a year-round warming treat.

The soup is made of leeks and chicken, usually thickened with rice but sometimes with barley. Prunes are traditionally added for extra seasoning or as a garnish.

Try the recipe by Martha Stewart or go direct to the source with the Cock-A-Leekie recipe in The Scotsman newspaper!

French Onion Soup If you’ve been to France, you might have fond memories of luscious French onion soup. It’s a wonderful comfort food, served with croutons or slices of French bread on top, covered with melted cheese and traditionally served in a chunky round bowl with one or two handles. There are many versions of this simple but satisfying soup that dates back to Roman times, but the longer you leave the onions to caramelize, the richer the flavor! Here’s one recipe from Real SImple magazine.

Waterzooi soupWe import quite a lot of antique Flemish furniture and lighting  to our store, so I went looking for a traditional Flemish soup.

This recipe for Waterzooi soup is a great one to try if you want something a little different. The thick stewy soup is traditionally made with fish, although you can substitute chicken. It has egg yolks, cream and potatoes in it, so you won’t go hungry!

Do you have any favorite traditional soups, perhaps from old family recipes? Make our mouths water and tell us about it in the comments!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

A Traditional English Christmas

Downton Abbey fans will already know that the popular English TV show is back for its sixth and final season soon, starting on January 3, 2016 on MASTERPIECE on PBS. The very last show in the series will be a Christmas special! But if you want your Downton Abbey Christmas fix now, I’ve also heard that PBS is re-airing the Christmas special finale from Season 5 on December 27, 2015. Downton Abbey Christmas

There’s something nostalgic about an old-time English Christmas. I guess it must be all those Masterpiece Theatre shows as well as holiday stories like A Christmas Carol. Here are some of the English Christmas traditions that stand out to me.

Christmas crackers children

An English Christmas dinner table is always set with Christmas crackers – NOT a food but the novelties that pull apart with a bang. They’re ‘cracked’ before Christmas dinner and the person who “wins” by keeping hold of the longest piece gets the prizes inside. They put on the paper crown and tell the (usually terrible) joke. Once everybody has a paper crown, the feast can commence! This illustration of two children tugging on a cracker dates back to 1878.

Yorkshire PuddingThe English Christmas meal is very similar to our own, except redcurrant jelly might replace cranberry sauce and roast parsnips are traditional too. Turkey is a favorite although in medieval England a roast peacock or wild boar might have been on the menu! King Henry VIII was the first English King to tuck into turkey for Christmas. Many families add a Yorkshire Pudding to the meal. This is not a dessert but a savory dish between an American biscuit and a savory pancake. If you want to try this tasty treat, here’s a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.

Christmas puddingAfter the meal comes the ‘real’ pudding: Christmas pudding or plum pudding. Except that it’s not a pudding in the way we understand a pudding either! Instead of being a custardy dish, it’s more like a dense steamed cake, full of dried raisins, cherries and other dried fruit and nuts. It’s traditional to hide a silver coin (in the old days it was a silver sixpence) inside the pudding. It’s good luck for whoever finds it in their bowl. Sometimes the pudding is doused in brandy or rum and then set alight as it is carried to the table. It is served with custard, rum butter, clotted cream, or a brandy sauce of thick cream with a few spoons of brandy stirred in.

Osborne House Festive Guided ToursFor snacks between meals or to accompany a pot of tea, everyone loves mince pies! Even if you don’t have servants to bring you mince pies on a silver tray, they are easy to make if you find a jar of the mincemeat in your local grocery store. Despite the name, there is no meat involved, although when the delicacy first appeared in the 13th century it was indeed real meat, seasoned with dried fruits and spices including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Now the meat has gone and just the sweet stuff remains, although suet is a part of the mix. If you don’t eat meat, look for products with vegetable suet rather than lard suet.

Christmas-decorations-Finally, the English take Boxing Day, December 26, as a national holiday as well as Christmas Day itself. It has nothing to do with the sport of boxing, although there are lots of sporting events on Boxing Day including horse racing. It is actually the day that people traditionally gave gifts (or boxes) to their servants and tradesmen. Nowadays most people don’t have servants but they still celebrate the day as a chance to visit friends or extended family and exchange gifts, or just relax and eat more mince pies!

This looks like a very grand and festive place to entertain visiting friends. It’s a picture of the Christmas tree at Holker Hall in Cumbria, England, the ancestral home of Lord Cavendish. Even the bust of the Greek poet Homer on the mantelpiece over the fireplace is decorated with a mistletoe wreath!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you might also like my post on Old World Christmas Traditions in France and Italy, or the one about Downton Abbey Kitchen Style.

Merry Christmas!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Bookshelf: Tales of Traditional French Cooking

I know that many customers who appreciate our fine French antique furniture also enjoy French food and lifestyle. As the holidays are upon us, I thought you might like to see some recently published books about French cooking by American expats who are living the French lifestyle. They’ll make great stocking stuffers for the Francophiles in your life. You could also pair a book with some antique or vintage kitchenware from our gallery!

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in FranceIn a french kitchen

This is the latest book by Susan Loomis who is well-known for her earlier memoir On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town. Her new volume In a French Kitchen mixes 85 recipes with stories about the American author’s friends and neighbors in her adopted town of Louviers in France.

She also shares lots of tips about cooking at home in true French style and without a lot of fuss. Recipes like Braised Asparagus with Herbs look like they are simple to prepare but very delicious. Chapters on French breakfast, dessert, cheese and bread are sure to make the mouth water!

 

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories

My Paris KitchenMmm… just the dish on the cover makes me hungry and a copper pan is always so handsome to look at.

Food blogger David Lebovitz shares 100 French-inspired recipes that the author has gathered and created since moving to Paris more than a decade ago. The book is illustrated by photos of Paris and of the author’s own kitchen. Although he does write and reinvent some of the classics of French cuisine, he also gives more unusual recipes to reflect the way modern Parisians eat today. For example, Dukkah-roasted cauliflower, salt cod fritters with tartar sauce, and an exotic wheat berry salad with veggies and pomegranate.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes

picnic in provenceThe author Elizabeth Bard is a New Yorker but she’s lived in France long enough to write the popular book Lunch in Paris and now she’s following up with Picnic in Provence. The memoir is about Elizabeth moving from Paris to Provence with her husband and their infant son. There, among the acres of lavender fields, they start their own artisanal ice cream shop with unusual flavors like honey & thyme, olive oil and saffron. As you can guess, the book has plenty of recipes inspired by the culture and countryside of Provence.

Now we are all hungry, aren’t we? I can’t think of any recipes to offer you like the French cooking described in these books, but if you want some good all-American recipes for the holidays, we shared some favorites in our post on Christmas Cookies and Franklin Nut Cake.  Bon appétit!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Heirloom Tomato Harvest

HeirloomTomatoesThere are so many delicious ways to enjoy the tomato harvest. Heirloom tomatoes are especially fun to cook with and they look beautiful displayed in a rustic wooden bowl on a kitchen counter. Or if you choose heirloom tomato varieties with different colors, create a vibrant centerpiece just by arranging them in a simple glass dish on the dining table.

Tomatoes have a long and interesting history. The fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit if you didn’t know that already) was already being enjoyed by the Aztecs more than 1300 years ago. The Aztecs called it ‘tomatl’  – that’s where our modern day name comes from.

But tomatoes have also been known as Love Apples and Poison Apples. It’s crazy how the humble tomato can have two such different reputations!

TomatoharvestSpanish conquistadors and explorers introduced the tomato to Europe in the early 16th century, and that’s when rich Europeans started to dub the fruit ‘poison apples.’ People got sick and died after eating them. However, it wasn’t the tomatoes making the rich folk sick. It was the pewter plates they ate from. Tomatoes have a high acidity which reacted with the pewter to leach the lead out, causing lead poisoning.

The French called tomatoes pommes d’amour meaning love apples, because they thought the tomatoes were aphrodisiacs. (Then again, is there ANYTHING that the French don’t make romantic?)

A simple gazpacho with tomatoes is perfect for hot summer days. The cold soup is refreshing and helps keep you hydrated. For extra flavor, it’s great to throw a few heirloom tomatoes in too. There are many gazpacho recipes, but here’s the simple version we like.

Gazpacho Soup Recipe:

5 pounds ripe and juicy tomatoes
1 cup of diced red onions
1 large cucumber
1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves
Juice of 1 or 2 limes
Salt, pepper, and finely diced chile peppers to taste.

Skin the tomatoes. (Drop them in hot water for a few seconds till the skins wrinkle and you can slip them off with your thumbs.) Then core and seed the tomatoes – if you do that over a sieve over a bowl, it will catch the seeds but let the juice go through. You don’t want to waste a drop of that delicious juice! Roughly chop about half of the tomatoes. Put the other half in a blender and liquidize to soup consistency.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and take out the seeds with a spoon, then dice the cucumber. (Skin the cucumber first with a potato peeler if it is very rough skin.)
Then combine all the ingredients, and let chill for an hour or overnight. Go light on the seasoning – once the flavors have blended you can taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Caprese in a shot glassAlthough these don’t look like heirloom tomatoes, these mini insalata caprese in shot glasses are so adorable. They’d be great for a party or a wedding. Just pour some tomato juice in a shot glass (spiked with vodka or not!) and then add the skewered tomato, flourish of basil leaves, and mozzarella ball.

If you like a Bloody Mary, then also check out my Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary recipe.

There are so many different types of heirloom tomato, and the colorful ones often seem to be the most tasty. Try the black-tinted Black Prince tomato, the stripy Green Zebra tomatoes, or the golden pear-shaped Beam’s yellow pear heirloom tomato, which dates to the early 1800s.

red and yellow heirloom tomatoThe Italian word for tomatoes – pomodoro – actually means golden apple. Some say that is because the earliest types of tomato taken to Italy were the golden yellow varieties. The red tomato became more popular later.

You say to-MAY-to and I say to-MAR-to….. However you say it, I hope you’re enjoying the tomato harvest this year. If you have any heirloom tomato recipes you love, share them with us in the comments box below!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Things We Love: Elsie’s Oyster Stew Recipe & Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary

Thanksgiving dinner with Elsie's Oyster Stew Recipe for breakfastI love spending time with family during the holidays. This Thanksgiving, Greg and I look forward to traveling to Maryland to visit my family. We’re looking forward to it so much, I want to share my grandmother’s Oyster Stew recipe with you and my uncle’s wonderful Bloody Mary!

My grandmother, Elsie, lives in Westminster and I’ve always loved going to her house. As a child, it seemed like it took forever to get to Grandma’s house on the long drive from Florida. But Grandma was always waiting for us with open arms and some home-made delicious treat. She always let me lick the beater – even if it was a cherry pie filling that got all over my white jumper.

Grandma is famous for her Oyster Stew recipeAimee and Grandma

As I child, I didn’t realize how hilarious my grandmother is. She is quite the family clown and especially loves to tell stories. Even though we’ve all heard the stories many, many times, I still love to hear them again. At 87 years young, she’ll still climb up and hang from the tree branches with her grandchildren or strike a pose with a Rasta hat. (She claims she didn’t know I put that hat on her head – not true!)

GrandmaRastaGrandma

Oysters and Bloody MaryMy Uncle Dick and Aunt Leigh host the big Thanksgiving meal and they surely know how to put on a gourmet feast for a crowd. The table is spread with all of the traditional favorites. Of course, my favorite part of the meal is when they serve the oysters! My Uncle Dick actually raises oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and lovingly tends to them all year long. We feel so blessed that he shares his bounty with us! Oysters on the half shell are served as appetizers with Uncle Dick’s Famous Bloody Mary cocktails. I am a huge Bloody Mary fan, so I will share this fantastic family recipe with you.

 

Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary recipe

2 cups Clamato juice
1/2 cup vodka
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

If you want a spicier drink, add more hot sauce or Old Bay Seasoning. (I do both.) Serve over ice.

Grandma after frying the oystersUncle Dick actually puts the oysters on the grill for a few minutes, which makes shucking easier. Grandma is in charge of making fried oysters – also a family tradition that I love. After the big meal, we all sit around digesting, watching football games, and catching up with the latest family news. I snapped this photo of my dad and grandma kicking back – she still has on her chef’s coat from frying the oysters!

Uncle Dick always brings enough oysters to make Elsie’s Oyster Stew recipe for breakfast the next morning. If you’ve never had it, you might think it sounds gross. (Greg won’t even try it!) But if you like oysters, it is heavenly.

Elsie’s Oyster Stew Recipe

Stick of butter
1/2 pint of shucked oysters
Milk, enough for everyone to have a bowl
Salt & pepper to taste
Old Bay Seasoning

Bring the milk, butter, and spices to just below boil. (Don’t boil it or the milk will scald.) Take it off the heat and add oysters and juice. Let the stew sit for a few minutes until the oysters curl up on the edges.

Aimee&Grandma2013I always look forward to spending time with my family, and especially my grandmother, as you can see from this photo taken this year.

Do you have fond memories of your grandparents? Tell us about them in the comments area below, or share some of your favorite family recipes!

 

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Hillwood Estate Antique Treasures

A while ago I mentioned the Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC., in a post about new books including one called Living Artfully At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post. Ms. Post was the founder of General Foods and as a wealthy society hostess she became quite famous for her parties. She was also a keen collector of Russian and French antiques and art. Hillwood Estate was one of her homes and it is open for the public to visit. I was so intrigued that I wanted to find out more about her and her house.

Hillwood Estate

This view of the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens is enough to make anyone want to throw a garden party! Ms. Post bought the 1920′s neo-Georgian mansion in 1955 and she would spend spring and fall here. She headed to her Camp Topridge home in the Adirondacks for summer and stayed warm in winter at her Palm Beach villa.

Hillwood Estate Interior

The grand piano is the focal point in this room. It proves that even a wealthy heiress and businesswoman still wants to show off her  family photos! Marjorie Merriweather Post was a big fan of 18th century French decorating style, and had the house refurbished and furnished to reflect her tastes. I love the gracious combination of the large ginger jar, needlepoint arm chair, and dainty round side table.

Hillwood Estate Faberge EggThis gorgeous Catherine the Great Fabergé Easter egg is one of the treasures on display at Hillwood Estate.  The Fabergé egg  was made for Emperor Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, to give to his mother on Easter morning in 1914. It is known as the Catherine the Great egg because it once had a mechanical sedan chair inside it, carrying Catherine the Great. That part of the egg has since been lost. But still, it’s more than impressive! The pink enamel and gold egg, encrusted with diamonds and pearls, is a pretty feast for the eyes. The egg was given to Marjorie Merriweather Post by her daughter in 1931. It was the second Fabergé piece in her collection… by the time she died she had nearly 90! Obviously she developed a taste for the stuff. The Fabergé is all on display at Hillwood Estate.

Hillwood Estate Trinity ChaliceThis magnificent chalice was commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1790 as part of a liturgical set. She presented it to the Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The gold and diamonds came from the State Treasury and Catherine provided the craftsman with her own carved gems depicting scenes from the life of Christ. One is a 13th century cameo of the Archangel Michael. The chalice became part of Ms. Post’s collection. Isn’t it a wonderful piece? If you’re feeling inspired, we have some very fine antique religious treasures in our gallery, and I promise they are all a lot easier on the pocket than this regal beauty!

As the hostess of legendary parties, Ms. Post was keen on punctuality and was careful about tracking her menus so she didn’t repeat them. But as the founder of General Foods she didn’t hesitate to serve up her own company’s foods as part of the fancy meal. Posh debutantes and powerful politicos would find themselves eating Jell-O!

Adirondack Pie Gateau Mille CrepesHer signature dish was Adirondack Pie. As far as I can gather, this was a sweet dish of 10 to 15 large and thin pancakes – like French crêpes – layered with butter, maple syrup and maple sugar. Then you slice the entire stack like a pie. (You can top the whole thing with whipped cream too.) The dish is still served at the Hillwood Estate Café. It sounds very much like the French dish Gâteau Mille Crêpes, pictured here.

Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens is located in northwest Washington, D.C. Have you visited? Tell us about it in the comment box below!

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Serve Up Summer Herbs in Style…The Old-Fashioned Way

Many of our customers have traditional-style kitchens, and we know many are keen gardeners too. So let’s look at some traditional ways to serve up summer herbs in style! Many of these old-fashioned ideas for culinary herbs are great for entertaining – they’ll look charming on your dining table. Or just enjoy them for a meal with the family.

These gourmet treats can cost a fortune if you buy them ready-made in the store, but they’re easy enough to make yourself. Plus, it’s fun – and very fragrant!

Chill out on a summery day! Chill out on a warm day by sipping iced mint tea. Just steep a generous handful of mint leaves in hot water and refrigerate. Strain the mint before serving in a pretty glass pitcher. Add a dash of sugar to taste if you have a sweet tooth, or squeeze a spritz of lemon for a really summery zing! Garnish with a couple more mint leaves. You can also make your own sparkling herbal water with summer herbs including mint, lavender, and lemon verbena.

Summer herbs are fantastic in oil and vinegar infusionsHerb-infused vinegars and oils are delicious in salad dressings. Pop aromatic summer herbs such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon or dill into a sterilized jar with a nice quality vinegar, like red or white wine vinegar. Be lavish with the herbs – if the flavor is too strong you can always dilute it later to taste. Leave for 24 hours to two weeks in a cool, dark place. An occasional taste test will tell you if it’s ready to rock your romaine or put a frisson in your frisée!

Cooking with summer herbs, the traditional wayFor a herb-infused oil, opt for a good olive oil and follow the same method as for vinegars. Basil and chives are especially lovely summer herbs to give a punch of flavor to oils. You can use the oils too in marinades for meat or to cook vegetables, like these tasty and colorful roast beets with herb oil.

 

Summer herbs in the gardenIf you’re not sure which herbs grow best in your area, many public gardens have kitchen gardens and herb gardens, so you can see what flourishes there. This Friday May 10, 2013, is National Public Gardens Day. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens magazine and the American Public Gardens Association, you can get free admission to participating public gardens and botanic gardens across the country for up to 10 people. Just print out your free tickets here.

All this talk of summer herbs is making me hungry. As the saying goes: So many herbs, so little thyme!

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina.  Connect with or sign up to receive this blog in your inbox!