I have a cookbook inherited from my grandmother; Tried Favourites Cookery Book With Household Hints and Other Useful Information by how to make everything from jam preserves to haggis, take care of invalids, clean your kitchen table with sand and how to rid your cupboard of damp using a bucket of lime. Instructions to the recipes assume you’ve had previous experience, and oven temperatures are simply registered as cool, moderate or hot.
Besides helpful household hints and instructions on how to prepare and cook wild game and produce coming directly from the butcher or the allotment – remember these are pre-supermarket recipes – there’s a small section on vegetarian cooking. In it is one intriguing recipe called Mock White Fish but I should hasten to add it is nothing more than yummy potato croquettes! However, with a handful of beans twirled into the mix for the sake of protein and a few extra herbs, it was delicious. When lunch was over, hardly anything was left.
This recipe adaptation has several steps and you can make the base a few hours ahead of time, or even the day before. It’s possible to use ready-cooked beans but if you prefer to skip the beans all together, use an extra potato.
There are two methods for cooking the potatoes. The first one is what my father always did – he would boil potatoes in their skin, then peel them as he needed them. This way only the thin outer skin peels off and no potato is lost. He was a 1921 baby and living through the war in Poland made him careful of not squandering any precious ingredients. The second is the more familiar method. Peel, quarter, then boil.
Makes about 10 patties.
125 g (⅓ cup) navy beans raw, or 400 ml (1¾ cups) cooked
350 g (2 large) potatoes
240 ml (1 cup) milk, any kind, unsweetened
60 g (about ½ cup) rice flour
½ teaspoon mace or dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 egg (optional)
80 g (¾ cup) bread crumbs
Olive oil or butter for frying
- BEANS: Soak the raw navy beans overnight – or for about eight hours – in three times their volume of fresh, cold water. When doubled in size, drain the soak water, rinse and put the beans in a pot or pressure cooker:
- To cook in a pot, bring to a boil over a high flame, turn down, then skim any foam that collects on the surface. Cover and simmer for 1½–2 hours, or until soft-tender. If needed, add more water to keep the beans covered.
- To cook in a pressure cooker, cover the beans with 2 cm (1 inch) of water, lock the lid, put over a high flame and bring to pressure. When the pressure is high, turn the flame low and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it rest for 10 minutes. Release the remaining pressure and open the lid. Drain and set aside to cool.
- BINDING SAUCE: Peel and mince the onion. Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan on medium flame, add the onions and mace or nutmeg, and stir-fry until the onions start to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the dill for the last thirty seconds. Whisk the rice flour with the milk and put in a saucepan together with the cooked onions. Set over a low-medium flame and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking all the time to prevent clumping. It will become very thick, but don’t stop whisking until the flame is turned off. If the lumps are too big, whizz with an immersion blender or push through a fine sieve.
- POTATOES: Method 1: Prick the potatoes with a knife, put them into a large pot, cover with water and one teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over a high flame. When boiling, turn down the flame and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. They are ready when a knife slides through them easily and the peel begins to split. Drain and cover with cold water. Remove the potato skins by rubbing them off with your fingers. Method 2: Peel the potatoes, cut into quarters, put them into a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil over a high flame. When boiling, turn down the flame and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. They are ready when a knife slides through them easily.
- CROQUETTES: While the potatoes are still warm, mash with a potato masher until smooth. Combine the mashed potatoes with the onions and binding sauce. Season to taste with salt. Set aside to cool.
- When ready to bake the croquettes, whisk the egg in one bowl.
- Put the breadcrumbs into a second bowl.
- With floured or wet hands, take a handful of the potato mixture and form it into a patty. Dip both sides into the egg and then coat with breadcrumbs.
- Place on an oiled baking sheet, brush the surface of the patties with a little oil and bake for 25–30 minutes in a hot oven 210 °C (410 °F), or fry in a frying pan on both sides until crisp and brown, about 3–5 minutes either side. Repeat until the mixture is finished.
- Serve with steamed buckwheat or rice; grated carrots and beets lightly fried until al dente; and soured cream with dill and grated cucumber.