An “Elizabethan” Salmagundi from The Scottish Prisoner (Sort of)
“I should be so pleased, ” von Namtzen said. “But I am engaged…” He turned, looking vaguely behind him and gesturing toward a well-dressed gentleman who had been standing out of range. “You know Mr. Frobisher? His lordship John Grey,” he explained to Frobisher, who bowed.
“Certainly,” the gentleman replied courteously. “It would give me great pleasure, Lord John, was you to join us. I have two brace of partridge ordered, a fresh-caught salmon, and a vast great trifle to follow — Captain von Namtzen and I will be quite unequal to the occasion, I am sure.”
Grey, with some experience of von Namtzen’s capacities, rather thought that the Hanoverian was likely to engulf the entire meal single-handedly and then require a quick snack before retiring, but before he could excuse himself, Harry snatched the kidnapped papers from his hand, thus requiring an introduction to Frobisher and von Namtzen, and in the social muddle that ensued, all four found themselves going in to supper together, with a salmagundi and a few bottles of good Burgundy hastily ordered to augment the meal.
Diana Gabaldon, The Scottish Prisoner (Chapter 9)
“Scottsdale, we have a problem.”
“DG here. Go ahead, Outlander Kitchen.”
“Seems I’ve made a bit of a mess of it all…made salmagundi the Salad, instead of salmagundi the Game, Duck & Truffle Pie.“
I should have checked. A simple tweet was all it would have taken.
The night before I created what you see above, I was rereading Chapter 9 of The Scottish Prisoner, looking for any specific descriptions of the table, seating, etc (for photos), when I really noticed it for the first time, right in front of my eyes:
“The room seemed very warm, and sweat gathered round his hairline. Luckily, the arrival of the salmagundi and the kerfuffle of serving it diverted the company’s attention from verse, and he lost himself thankfully in the glories of short-crust pastry and the luscious mingled juices of game, duck, and truffles.”
Diana Gabaldon, The Scottish Prisoner (Chapter 9)
I even turned to My Englishman and inquired, “Why is he dipping into short-crust and meat juices when they just served a huge glorious salad?”
I like to think that I was already diving into the depths denial at that point, and not just being completely daft.
It was too late to change course, anyway. All of the components for my salmagundi were tucked in Tupperware in the fridge, ready to go the next morning.
So I turned out the light, and promptly forgot all mentions of pastry.
That is, until I saw this series of tweets on Sunday morning, in response to my tweet of the above “salmagundi preview” photo:
@InnocentBystander to @OutlanderKitchn: I always wondered what a #Salmagundi looked like! Thanks for tweeting, and @Writer_DG for retweeting!
@Writer_DG to @InnocentBystander @OutlanderKitchn: That’s a great salad, but it’s not a salmagundi. <g> Salmagundi is an assortment of game, mushrooms, etc….
@Writer_DG to @InnocentBystander @OutlanderKitchn: cooked in a pastry crust. That’s why Theresa’s calling this salad “Salmagundi for ONE” <g>. Very creative!
Oh dear. It seems that there’s more than one way to make a salmagundi.
Which is not all that surprising when you learn that the name very likely comes from the French, salmigondis, meaning “a contrasting assembly of things, ideas or people, forming an incoherent whole.” Or, it could also come from the Italian, salami-gondi, loosely translating to “savoury salt meats.”
I’m sure you can understand my confusion.
To compound upon my obvious lack of attention while reading (I saw salmagundi and lost all focus on the page), is the fact is that I have also had salmagundi, the salad, on the brain since I first came across the word years ago at culinary school. I’ve suffered from salmagundi envy for many years. (I like large salads, what can I say?)
I will make a salmagundi, the game, duck & truffle pie soon — just not today, I’m afraid.
My apologies to Herself for my mixup. And the last thing I want to do with all this hullabaloo is detract from The Scottish Prisoner! Have you read it yet? I enjoyed the story immensely and it’s fast pace kept me, yet again, from sticking to my “savour it slowly” resolve…it was done in just 3 days.
I’d love to hear what you thought of TSP. But for now, it’s time to get on with the show.
With my admission of my mistake and my apology behind me, I have no choice but to boldly go on — bluff it out — that’s what Jamie (aka Etienne Alexandre) would have done, oui?
So we’re just going to assume that the Beefsteak was having their annual “Dizzy-Lizzy, Elizabethan-Retro Week,” serving up great culinary classics from the 16th Century and beyond — like the very salmagundi you see here.
Described as a grandly presented, large-plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients, the cook’s aim is to display a wide range of flavours, colours and textures on a single plate. These can be arranged in layers, geometrical designs or simply mixed together. Below is an early recipe for a salmagundi (the salad) from The Good Huswives Treasure, by Robert May, written in 1597:
“Cut cold roast chicken or other meats into slices. Mix with minced tarragon and an onion. Mix all together with capers, olives, samphire, broombuds, mushrooms, oysters, lemon, orange, raisins, almonds, blue figs, Virginia potatoes, peas and red and white currants. Garnish with sliced oranges and lemons. Cover with oil and vinegar, beaten together.”
It’s what George Costanza would have called a Big Salad. For ease of explanation, you could also call it the Elizabethan version of a Cobb Salad.
With inspiration, it can almost be anything you want. Given that My Englishman and I like to eat locally and sustainably when we can, much of what you see on the plate was grown and harvested right here on our little island.
The spiced walnuts are from a tree a few miles down the road. The Cornish game hen was raised on Vancouver Island. I roasted everything together, then put all the bones in the freezer to make stock later.
The pickled sea asparagus (samphire) came from one of my foraging expeditions to a local beach, and the gorgeous, “best shrimp in the world,” Spot Prawns came from the Straight of Georgia. My Englishman pulled the trap from the water himself.
The potato salad (that’s the mound in the middle) is made from homegrown potatoes, with crisp bacon, dill and preserved lemon. I smoked the devilled eggs first, then added a little spice with curry powder.
Most of the greens came from my winter garden: cilantro, parsley, mint, radicchio and sorrel. I poached the carrots in orange juice with a couple of squashed garlic cloves and some salt until they were tender-crisp. They’re garnished with mint.
Everything else: the grapes, the citrus, the olives, the dates and the cucumbers are from the grocery store. I made one of my favourites, a quick cucumber-pickle salad, German in origin, as another veggie component. I reserved the marinade and whisked it with some olive oil to make the dressing.
As you can see, almost anything goes on a salmagundi, the salad. In the springtime, asparagus would be a fabulous highlight veggie. Beets are another good choice to add colour anytime of year. Leftovers and pantry items can be turned into a beautiful salad with a mysterious name. What better way to get everyone to eat their veggies?
Whew — what a week — first the crockpot porridge fiasco, now this!
I’d hate to think about my potential for disaster were I actually cooking on an open hearth surrounded by a wooden floor.
No, best not to worry about that. After all, I won’t have to cook for days. We’ve got a big salad to finish. ;)