Island Cooking

Royal Solace

• by Chef Jenn Farmer •

Unless you have been in a coma or cast away somewhere other than Nantucket, you probably know about the birth of the Royal Baby George.  It has become a news item that was difficult to miss.  I am a bit of a negative nelly and don’t think that it should have made the headline NEWS.  But, I do admit that the happy birth of a baby to such a beautiful young couple is a nice entertaining distraction from politics and all the grave and intense happenings in the world.  Babies are a sign of hope and new beginnings.

I was thinking of the new mother, which made me remember my own pregnancy and the raising of my infant to a child.  Much like Ms. Middleton, I had horrible morning sickness.  There were only two foods that I could eat:  clementine or ginger broth with noodles.   I developed other difficulties, and I was bed-ridden for months—it was depressing there was little solace for me.  It seemed like an eternity, but then the day finally came, and he was born.  It was the happiest moment.  With my son came a whole new set of problems, he had been wedged under my ribcage, and his neck and jaw were crooked.  He could not feed properly, since his bottom jaw did not meet his upper, and I had to feed him through a tiny tube, a few drops at a time, a tedious task for exhausted parents.  When not feeding, or changing diapers, I was stretching his jaw and tiny neck out, doing physical therapy with him 6 or more times per day.   It was a challenging time for me, and I know plenty of other parents who have been through or are going through far worse.  I have the utmost respect for all of you out there.

What I do remember is that soup and tea were my greatest comforts, before and after having the baby.  Another consolation was the food at Nantucket Cottage hospital.  It was better than I ever expected, and I looked forward to all the meal times.  It was one of my greatest comforts during a tough and miraculous time.

The following recipes are great for expectant or new parents; they are easy, cost effective, very tasty, and soothing.  I have added spiced tea and bubble and squeak recipes for a “British Twist” in honor of the royal infant, and a nod to his new parents.  No matter how prepared one is, it is astounding how much a baby changes life.  May he and all newborns be blessed with happy, healthy life, and may their parents find a level of solace through the difficult times.

Soup for All Seasons

  • 4 cups vegetable broth (beef, pork, chicken or fish broth may be substituted)
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • One quarter cup shredded onion
  • or finely chopped scallion
  • One half cup baby greens or finely shredded kale
  • 2-3 inch piece of ginger, grated or cut very fine like blades of grass
  • Pepper to taste

Heat the broth to a boil; skim any impurities that may create foam on top.  Remove from the heat and add all the additional ingredients. To make a heartier fall or winter soup, add some cooked meat or tofu to the soup.  For a cold remedy, add more ginger and garlic if the patient can tolerate it.  To ease morning sickness, don’t add onions, and add as much ginger as the patient can tolerate (sometimes cooked noodles are a happy addition if the expectant mother can tolerate it).  Add tender spring veggies for spring soup or light summer meal. Sometimes I will add a little chopped tomato for a little acid and depth of flavor.  Serves 2-4

Very Special Tea

This version of chai spiced tea is very fortifying and oddly comforting when the wind is blowing a gale.  It’s also very refreshing served over ice on a hot summer day.  Sometimes I just drink it for aroma therapy purposes, when tree pollen is high, or to adjust a case of nasty attitude.  This recipe comes from some notes I took more than 20 years ago on a trip to Monterey, California.

  • 12 peppercorns
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2  inches  grated ginger root
  • 4 tablespoons cardamom pods
  • 12 cloves, whole
  • 10 coriander seeds whole
  • 2 quarts of water
  • Black tea or  green tea (Decaf for expectant,or nursing moms or youngsters)
  • Milk and honey (optional)

Bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil, and then add the peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander and tea.  Let steep for at least 3 minutes—longer if you like your tea strong.  Add milk and honey to the portion you will be drinking, if desired.  Don’t add the milk and honey if you will be refrigerating the tea.  It can be added when it is time to drink it.  When refrigerated, this tea keeps for up to 5 days.  Serves 2-4.    For a dessert-like version of this tea, add a little grated nutmeg and some vanilla.

Bubble and Squeak is a very old recipe from the U.K.  Most people attribute it to the British, but my Irish Grandmother would vehemently disagree.  Regardless of the country of origin, it is a lovely dish, usually made from leftovers, and often served for breakfast or lunch the next day.  It consists of mashed or smashed potato (60 percent of the dish), with other vegetables but mainly cabbage or Brussels sprouts to give it the famous squeak.  Then sear up a little leftover Sunday roast, or some other meat to top it, and you have a very good meal.  In my house Bubble and Squeak is served for any meal, but at breakfast it comes accompanied by grilled tomato, an egg, and smoked fish as a Nantucket twist.  Smoked fish and potatoes are delicious together, so it was an obvious substitute.  It is so good, sometimes we eat it for dinner, its elegant flavor makes you forget it is leftovers.  There is no true recipe for bubble and squeak, and multiple ways to make it.  I have several Brit friends, each one with their own method or recipe, so I don’t’ feel bad about this non-traditional version.  This is my recipe.

Bubble and Squeak with Smoked Fish

Or Bubble & Squeak the way the British WISH they would have invented it.

  • 3-6 Tablespoons lard, bacon fat, or butter (olive oil may be used, but youwon’t get the same squeak)
  • 1 pound mashed potatoes (skins on is actually a little better)
  • Leftover ham, or rashers, chopped fine
  • 8 ounces smoked fish filet,(cooked, with pin bones removed, and broken into large flakes)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Leftover cooked cabbage, or Brussels sprouts (chopped)
  • Leftover cooked vegetables like turnip, carrots, peas, onion(chopped if they are large so they heat properly)

Mix together all the ingredients except the lard or fat.  Portion the mashed potato mixture into patties.  Meanwhile heat up the lard or fat in a cast iron skillet to medium high heat.  The idea is to brown the outside of the patties, but not burning, yet heating them through.  Adjust the heat if necessary, and add more fat if necessary between batches.  Eat hot.  Serves 6-8.

Articles by Date from 2012