A Dutch dish in a French cookbook

Kale with chestnuts and ... groats

Huwelijkspenning prinses Anna en toekomstig erfstadhouder Willem IVThe recipe on this page is from Le cuisinier moderne, written by the French cook Vincent La Chapelle (1690 or 1703-1745). He wrote his book first in English, while he was in the service of the fourth Earl of Chesterfield,  Philip Dormer Stanhope. The first edition, in two volumes, appeared in London in 1733 as The modern cook. Chesterfield worked as a diplomat in The Hague in the Netherlands from 1728 to 1731, and was involved in the final negotiations for the marriage between the  Stadtholder of Frisia, prince Willem Karel Hendrik Friso (1711-1751, from 1747 General Stadtholder William IV of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces), and the English Princess Royal Anne (1709-1759, eldest daughter of King George II). The marriage took place in 1734. On the picture you see a medal that was issued on occasion of this marriage. Apparently La Chapelle came under the attention of William (IV) Friso, his next employer, through Chesterfield. He published an extended French version of his book, Le cuisinier moderne, printed in The Hague in 1735. This work, which now has four volumes, is dedicated to his new employer, "Monseigneur le prince d'Orange et de Nassau, &c". In 1742 a new, five-volume edition appears, again printed in The Hague. The added volume contains all kinds of 'foreign' (= not-French) dishes, such as à l'Angloise [sic], à l'Orange-Nassauvienne and à la Hollandoise. The recipe on this page for a stew with kale, a precursor of the traditional Dutch stamppot, is taken from this fifth volume.

A decorative table from La Chapelle's cookbook

The contents of Le cuisinier moderne

The French edition of Le cuisinier moderne from 1735 had four volumes. The first three have recipes for potages, warm and cold dishes with fish, meat, poultry and offal, ragouts, and crêmes. The third volume has an extra chapter with advise and recipes for sea cooks. The fourth volume is especially for the many fish and fast days, with recipes for fish, shellfish, eggs, vegetables, mushrooms, and beignets. In the last volume, newly added to the second edition from 1742, La Chapelle has collected many of his 'foreign' dishes. Not only from England and the Netherlands, but also from Spain, Moscow, Italy (including macarollis, macaroni).

A meal according to La Chapelle

All volumes of Le cuisinier moderne (at least my facsimile edition from 2007 of the first edition in four volumes), have an appendix with menus for extensive dinners and illustrations with 'plans' for the tables. I have only seen the fifth volume in an online version, this had no menus at the end, but neither have the first four volumes online.
To give you an idea of what appeared on the table during La Chapelle's reign in the kitchen, I describe the first menu from the first volume, for hundred persons. The meal was served in two courses. The meal started with 12 pottages (like Potage à la reine), 25 large entrées (like a dish with a suckling pig that is accompanied by six fat eels and fifty crayfish), 4 medium entrées (like a dish of three chickens with pickeld gherkins), of everything two, and 66 smaal dishes with oysters as hors d'oeuvre. The second course actually consists of courses 2a and 2b. The pottages are replaced by 12 large entrées (all with fish) and the 66 small dishes are replaced with 33 small entrées (like chicken wings with spinach, or twelve pigeons prepared as turtle, or fried trout), again two dishes of everything. All this is once more replaced, the large entrées with fish by 17 cold entremets (sweet pies, but also partridges with truffles, and hare pasties) and 24 meat dishes, Plats de Rot, (lamb, boar, hare, duck, chicken, etc.) with 30 sauces. The 66 dishes with small  entrées are replaced with as many dishes with salads and lemons, and these are once more exchanged for 20 small entremêts (asparagus, foie gras, sweetbread with herbs, grilled oysters) divided over 66 dishes. It sounds like a lot, and the table looks laden with (too) many dishes. However, from each dish there were only two, and the hundred eaters could only eat from those dishes that were within their reach.

A duel in 18th-century France. NOT Massialot and La Chapelle!Squabbling cooks
La Chapelle liberally borrowed recipes from other cookbooks, almost a third from the content of The Modern Cook was copied from Le nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois (first printed in 1691, with later editions that were constantly reviewd and extended) by François Massialot, who died in 1733. In the preface of the first French edition of Le cuisinier moderne in 1735 the hypocrite sets Massiolot down as "trop ancien" and "d'une nature à ne pouvoir plus être suivi". But he reacted venomously  when a later edition of Massialot's Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois contained a few added recipes (well, actually it was 54) from his cookbook. La Chapelle takes the whole last chapter of the fifth volume of Le cuisinier moderne from 1742 to ridicule the recipes of Massialot. Not nice. But it had the desired effect, because later editions of Le nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois appeared without La Chapelle's recipes.
The eighteenth-century picture on the left shows two Frenchmen on the brink of duelling. NOT La Chapelle and Massialot. But if they ever met, this could be the way the conversation ended.

The original recipe
The recipe is published in the (new) fifth volume of the second edition of Le cuisinier moderne (1742), pp.318/319. I have used the online reproduction of this text.
There are two facsimile editions available of Le cuisinier moderne, and one of The modern cook. But, however pleased I am that these texts have become available again in print, I am not pleased at all with the lackadaisical way the publishers provide prospective buyers with information. There is absolutely no additional introduction to the text, and it is nearly impossible to find out what edition was used for the facsimile. For example, the edition used for the facsimile of Massialot's Le nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois is NOT the first edition from 1691, but a version from 1748. The book was revised and extended several times in those 57 years, from one volume in 1691 to two volumes in 1712 and three in 1733, and following editions also kept changing the content (like the 54 recipes from La Chapelle). So it is important to know which version was used for the facsimile. The facsimiles of La Chapelle's cookbook on the other hand, both use the first edition, which means the fifth volume with all the 'foreign' recipes is missing.

Boere-kool, autrement dit Choux de Paysans.
Ces sortes de Choux ne sont pas communs en France, quoique pourtant il y a des Choux de Paysans qui sont verds ; lorsqu'ils sont gelez, ils peuvent être aussi bons que les Choux frisez de ce Pays-ci. Il y en a de deux sortes de ces derniers, savoir les verds, & des rougeâtres ; ces Choux sont bons après la gelée. Quand vous voulez servir de ces Choux, il n'en faut prendre uniquement que le coeur, & en jetter les grandes feuilles. Vous fendez le coeur en quatre, ou en six, & vous le coupez environ de trois doigts de longueur ; puis mettez-les dans l'eau pour les bien laver. Vous aurez de l'eau bouillante sur le feu, dans laquelle vous aurez jettez une bonne poignée de sel ; vous y mettez vos Choux pour les faire blanchir ; étant presqu'à demi cuits, tirez-les ensuite, & faites-les égouter. Mettez-les dans une casserolle, en y ajoutant du bon beurre frais, sel & poivre modérément ; il vaut mieux en mettre deux fois que d'en mettre trop ; mettez-y ensuite des saucisses, des marons grillez à la braise, ou bien cuits à l'eau, & otez-en toutes les peaux petites & grosses ; vous y ajouterez une jointée, ou une poignée de gruau selon la quantité des Choux que vous préparez, une cuillerée de bouillon, ou de l'eau au défaut de bouillon : couvrez la casserolle, & mettez-la sur un fourneau allumé pas trop fort. Quand vous vous appercevrez que les saucisses seront cuites, ôtez-les, & ajoutez-y un petit morceau de sucre de la grosseur d'une noix pour un bon plat : remuez bien vos Choux ; observez qu'ils soient d'un bon goût, & faites griller vos saucisses. Dressez vos Choux dans un plat, en mettant vos saucisses autour, & dessus, & servez chaudement pour entrée.
Kale or Choux de Paysans.
These kinds of cabbage are not common in France, although there are green Choux de paysans. Once they are frozen, these can be used as well as the curly cabbage from this country. There are two of these kales, to wit green and reddish. These cabbages are good after frost. When you want to serve these cabbages, just use the heart, and discard the large leaves. Cut the heart in four or six pieces, and cut these in pieces of about three fingers long {or wide?}. Then put them in water to rinse them well. You'll have boiling water on the fire, into which you cast a handful of salt, and blanch the kale in it. Remove when it is almost half-done, and drain. Put them in a casserole, add unsalted butter, and a moderate amount of salt and pepper. It is better to add twice than to add too much. Then add sausages, and roasted or boiled chestnuts of which all shells and inner skins have been removed. Then add one or two hands of groats, according to the amount of cabbage you prepare, and a spoonful of stock, or water if you dont have stock. Cover the casserole and put on a furnace {oven?} with moderate heat. When you see that the sausages are cooked, remove them, and add a little piece of sugar as large as a walnut for a good dish. Stir the cabbage well, taste to see if it is good, and grill the sausages. Arrange the cabbage on a plate, and put the sausages around and on top, and serve warm as entree.

Modern adaptation of the recipe Print the recipe on this page
Kale from the field with snowThe kale is blanched in salted water, then simmered with stock, butter, salt and pepper, sausages and chestnuts. Instead of potatoes, which would be used from the nineteenth century onward, groats are added. The dish is finished by adding a little sugar. La Chapelle mentions variations: instead of sausages thighs of geese, or whole ducks or partridges, or lighly salted port (le petit salé). That last variaton is called Choux de Paysans à l'Allemande.
According to La Chapelle, there were two kinds of kale, green and red. Green kale is the most common, but I have prepared this dish with red kale. On the picture you see the kale just after it was harvested. It is still frozen, and snow clings to the leaves.
For the saucisses, sausages, I have used smoked pork sausage, rookworst in Dutch. The rookworst is always cooked after smoking, but my butcher makes his own, so I could ask him to sell me a few uncooked ones. In the chapter for a ship's cook, in the third volume of Le cuisinier moderne, there La Chap[elle gives a recipe to make sausages (p.8): chopped lard and lean pork, spiced with pepper, salt, and unspecified herbs and spices. A pig case is stuffed with this mixture, and the sausages are preserved by submerging them in lard with bayleaf, or drying in smoke. The Dutch cookbook De Volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-Meid from 1747 also has a recipe for making sausages. These are with pork, spiced with nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. The sausages are first dried, than kept in salt in a Cologne pot.
The groats provide the dish with carbohydrates, as potatoes do in the modern stamppot. But potatoes still weren't eaten much in the middle of the eighteenth century. As it happens, Frisia was one of the first regions where potatoes were accepted as food. Because I prepared the dish with red kale, the groats have turned a beautiful pink.
Sweet chestnutsChestnuts had the same role as groats: carbohydrates. In France there are regions where sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) were common fare, like the Ardèche and the Cévennes. Chestnut meal was also used, to make bread or wafers.
In the Netherlands the climate is too cold to be able to harvest the fruit from sweet chestnuts on a regulare basis. Here, the horse chestnut  (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) abounds, but the fruit from these trees is too bitter. Seet chestnuts are recognizable by their prickly husks (see picture on the left), the husks of the horse chestnut are smooth with little points.
How to prepare sweet chestnuts: with a sharp knife, cut a cross in or slice accross the chestnuts. Boil in water for three minutes. Leave them in the hot water, and peel them one by one while they are still hot (but cooled just enough not to burn your fingers). If the chestnuts have cooled too much, it is nearly impossible to remove shell and skin. Removing the skin is patient work, if they are difficult to remove, just peel the chestnuts as you would potatoes.
A piece of sugar the size of a walnut, says the recipe. We know granulated sugar and sugar cubes, but in the eighteenth century sugar was sold in the form of hard moulded loaves. The sugar was grated on a special sugar grater, or pieces were chopped off with a sugar nipper.
Casserole for 6 persons; preparation time 15 minutes; cook time 55 minutes.

Red kale with chestnuts and groatsIngredients
1,5 kilo upper parts of kale plants (I had nine), or 12 cups/5 1/2 pint chopped kale
1 to 2 tsp salt for blanching the kale
For the stew
2 (uncooked) smoked pork sausages (rookworst), or 4 fresh pork sausages, 550 gram/1 1/4 pound in all
200 gram (1 1/2 cup) chestnuts, boiled or roasted and peeled (about 300 gram/2 cups whole chestnuts)
250 gram (1 1/3 cup) groats of wheat, barley etc.
3 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
8.5 decilitre (3 1/2 cup) meat stock, beef stock or water
1 Tbsp. sugar

Preparation in advance
Cut the young leaves from the stenm of the kale. Wash the leaves to remove sand, and cut in side strips. Then blanch in salted water until the kale has lost volume and drain well. Rinse the groats in a sieve under the running tap.

Take a casserole with a thick bottom. First put in groats, then kale. Spinkle with pepper and salt, and pour the heated stock or water over it. Put chestnuts and sausages on top, close the pan. Bring to the boil, and immediately lower the heat, or put the casserole in an oven at 120 dgC/ 250 oF, and simmer until groats and sausages are done. This will take about 45 minutes. Then remove the sausages from the pan, and stir kale, chestnuts and groats well. Put the casserole back in the oven or on the fire. Grill the sausages if you want to, in a grill pan, under the grill or on the barbecue. If you do not want to grill the sausages, you can serve the dish as soon as the groats are done.

To serve
Piping hot. Seve kale with chestnuts and groats on a dish, and arrange the sausages whole or in slices on top.

All descriptions of ingredients

Common green kaleKale - Cabbage with large, curly dark green leaves. Scientific name is Brassica oleracea var acephala. Many people don't even know what the plant looks like, all they ever see is the frozen or chopped cellophaned version. According to TOCF, kale was the ordinary greenstuff for country people until the late Middle Ages, when the headed cabbages gained popularity. Kale was very valuable because of its resistence to frost. In the depth of winter, when all land was bare, you could still harvest kale.
Groats and grits - Grain kernels are seldom used whole in food. From large to small, you have the whole kernel, then groats (broken kernels), grits (crushed kernels) and meal (ground kernels). Groats and grits can be made of wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat. In the South of the United States, grits made from corn is popular food. Bulgur is also a kind of wheat groats, but the kernels are steamed, so it does not need to be cooked, or just a few minutes at most.
Two Dutch smoked sausagesRookworst - Literally rookworst means 'smoked sausage', but not just any smoked sausage is a Dutch rookworst. It can be made of 100% pork, but there's also rookworst from beef (which I find less tasty). Pure pork rookworst is made from one part lean pork and two parts pork fat (from belly, back and jaw), with salt, very little sugar and white pepper. Then the meat is encased in natural gut, and the sausages are tied with their ends together (see picture). After drying for twelve hours they are cold-smoked for 24 to 36 hours. At least, that is how they used to be made. Today most rookworst is mass produced, the sausage encasing is artificial, as is the smoke taste, which comes from articial flavouring. Pity. Not that the Dutch people seem to care, they buy Unox rookworst en masse at the supermarkets, in stead of supporting the few butchers that still make their own rookworst.

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