Book Review: Cold Savoury Meals

This charming English ca. 1925 recipe book by Mrs C.F. Leyel (Hilda Leyel, 1880-1957) was published by George Routledge & Sons as part of a series by the author called The Lure of Cookery. Other titles in this series include Puddings, Meals on a Tray, Drinks & Cordials, and Salads and Jams, offering Leyel's inventive cooking style as well as a concise overview of modern British cookery at that time. Cold Savoury Meals suggests meals in the manner of an impromptu Continental style picnic. In the preface Leyel writes, "It taxes the ingenuity of most English cooks to even think out a cold meal on the day the boiler has to be cleaned, and yet a cold supper, and even a picnic basket of cold food, can be made a banquet."

The volume is divided into the following chapters, and includes menus with a main dish and suggestions for other courses suitable for serving at a dinner party or luncheon:

Cold Suppers
Cold Fish as Hors D'Oeuvres or Savouries
Cold Egg Dishes as Hors D'Oeuvres
Cold Cheese Dishes as Hors D'Oeuvres
Cold Vegetable Dishes as Hors D'Oeuvres

As with most pre-war era cookbooks, Cold Savoury Meals has few instructions and ingredient details- Leyel presumes a general level of cooking knowledge from her readers. Her words are directed at the middle to upper-middle class host/hostess, with recommendations such as the use of decorative molds in which to set a paté. These meals did not require servants, costly serving pieces, or many hours of preparation. Rather, a meal such as Cheshire Eggs, Savoury Banana Salad, and Strawberry Soufflé can be assembled without much fuss with the aid of a refrigerator. Much of the recipes are variations on mousse, loaf, or paté and rely on standbys such as aspic and béchamel or curry sauce. There are some unusual features such as a sandwich which combines gruyère cheese and plantain leaves, but I'm not sure whether ingredients such as plantain leaves were considered unique during the period.

I tried Leyel's delicious recipe for Spaghetti Pie, a perfect choice to serve a group of people, as it can be made in large proportion.

Spaghetti Pie, adapted from Cold Savoury Meals
The recipe calls for "a good béchamel sauce" and I provide my favorite recipe below.


3/4 lb. spaghetti
12 oz. milk
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced lengthwise
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
white pepper

While spaghetti cooks in boiling water, prepare béchamel sauce. Over a low flame, melt butter in a saucepan until it just starts to brown. Evenly sprinkle flour over butter and whisk together until flour begins to smell nutty, about a minute. Continue whisking and add milk slowly. Gradually raise the heat, add bay leaf, a pinch of nutmeg and white pepper and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside. Drain cooked spaghetti and fill a deep pie dish with alternate layers of spaghetti and egg. Pour béchamel sauce over the spaghetti and place under the broiler until slightly browned. Allow to cool and set for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Served at room temperature, the Spaghetti Pie is a nice picnic meal when combined with side dishes such as my piquant cucumbers.


Unknown said...

I bet that's tasty. I had a dish similar to that at a Syrian friend's house. She called it Lasagna. I guess thats what they call lasagna in Syria.She didn't use spaghetti, though; she used large spiral pasta. Anyway, the bechamel sauce really gives a nice creamy flavor. I loved it.

Phyllida said...

I enjoyed your comments on this book. I actually have
a copy of 'Puddings' of this series in my collection and
have made some of the lovely recipes in it. Old
cookbooks are a delight, aren't they?

Rajani said...

i love old cookbooks, but cheese and plantain leaves does sound strange! in kerala plantain leaves are used to eat on, or as wraps, and discarded leaves are fed to cattle. the stem of the plantain however is edible and very tasty and is prepared like a curry or a stir fry with coconut. i find that they can be used to substitute meat in meatballs of kofta curries.

coming back to the cookbook, its great to be able to recreate these forgotten recipes.