Food From Fiction 8: The Final Meal of Philip Boyes

“I have been a little careful to remind you of all these things, to show that we have good proof that every dish served at dinner was partaken of by two people at least, and in most cases by four. The omelette – the only dish which did not go out to the kitchen – was prepared by Philip Boyes himself and shared by his cousin. Neither Mr. Uruquhart, Miss Westlock nor the cook, Mrs. Pettican, felt any ill-effects from this meal.” – from Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Every so often we mingle our love of food with our love of reading. One of Grant’s favorite authors, if not his very first, is Sayers. Her character Lord Peter Wimsey is one of his absolute favorites as well. Lord Peter, in turn, has, in the beginning of Sayers’ book, fallen madly in love with someone he’s never met, while she is on the dock for murder by poison. He sets about making an absolute pest of himself and getting in everyone’s way while solving the murder by locating and providing good solid evidence for a different suspect.

The victim had a meal with a friend, felt ill afterward, and died. After hearing the evidence of the meal presented in court, Lord Peter managed to get a fairly clear account of the dinner which he suspected of containing poison, which in turn gave the readers enough information to have a reasonable stab at getting together a similar meal.

I skipped the cold jelled bouillon and fish courses and went straight to the stewed chicken dish and omelette dessert. Partly this is to keep from having to eat some of the less appealing British foods (jellied broth? EWW) and partly because, should our readers not have happened to read the book (which I strongly recommend anyone do if you haven’t yet), I didn’t want to introduce any spoilers by only doing the poisoned dish (keeping in mind that there were other suspect dishes as well, so this isn’t too bad a spoilery hint-fest).

The chicken was described this way: “Then came a poulet en casserole – that is, chicken cut up and stewed slowly with vegetables in a fireproof cooking utensil.”

There being no exact recipe for that online (at least in English), I adapted this and that and came up with the following:

About 2 lbs. white and dark meat chicken
A couple of potatoes and turnips
The white and light green part of a leek
About a quarter of an onion
A cup or so of baby carrots
A teaspoon or so each of thyme and shallots
A quarter teaspoon of pepper and Mural of flavor
a pinch of salt
A container of chicken stock

I kept that in a crock pot for a few hours on medium, but it should have been on high. I transferred it to a flat bottomed pan on the stove and things progressed much better. At the end, when everything was done, I pulled out the solids and made a thicker gravy out of the remaining liquids by mixing some corn starch into water, bringing that with the gravy into a boil and then whisking until the gravy thickened and mixed it all together for serving.

For the dessert, the instructions were pretty clear although they didn’t include the exact amount of sugar. It specified four eggs and hot jam. My opinion was that the two most essential British jams are marmalade or strawberry, and marmalade would not go well so I used the other, some of my own home made supply. I assumed the sugar was powdered because a sifter was used, so used that. I did use a pan, however, instead of cooking in a chafing dish as the victim did. Here is what I came up with:

4 eggs
1.5 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted, plus more for serving
a quarter cup of jam, warmed

Beat the eggs thoroughly, add in the sugar by sifting it into the eggs and beating again, then pour into a hot pan. When cooked on one side, flip carefully. Cook just until solid, then slip onto a plate. Spread hot jam over half, fold, and divide into two portions. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.

Grant didn’t especially care for the chicken, but I like herbs better than he does and really liked my portion. He enjoyed the omelette much better than I did. All in all, it was a fun adventure and neither of us had any {REDACTED} as one of the ingredients!

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One thought on “Food From Fiction 8: The Final Meal of Philip Boyes

  1. That is a spectacular looking dessert! Btw, jellied broth is also known as aspic, but I share your lack of enthusiasm for it 😜

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