The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher: A Dish of Sardines and Cress

Books:
Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter
1997, Frederick  Warne
Citrus and Spice: A Year of Flavour by Sybil Kapoor
2008, Simon & Schuster

eggshell1To further explore the verdant theme and make use of all the cress now growing on my kitchen windowsill, I reread The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, which is an extremely watery, green sort of story, perfect for a rainy day.
JFaThe story concerns Mr Jeremy Fisher (a frog), who lives in a “damp house amongst the buttercups at the edge of a pond.”  So close to the edge, in fact, that the water gets into his larder, but Jeremy Fisher doesn’t mind that; he likes getting his feet wet.
JFd He also is pleased when he sees that it’s beginning to rain.

“I will get some worms and go fishing and catch a dish of minnows for my dinner,” said Mr. Jeremy Fisher. “If I catch more than five fish, I will invite my friends Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise and Sir Isaac Newton. The Alderman, however, eats salad.”

JFcJeremy Fisher does indeed go fishing, but the rest of the story is a series of misadventures.  He fails to catch anything for a long time, so he decides to have his lunch of a butterfly sandwich (!).
JFeBut while he is eating he is pinched by a water-beetle and hears a mysterious splash which he is afraid might be a rat.  Then he catches, instead of a minnow, Jack Sharp the stickleback, who flaps around with his prickly spines, and a shoal of other little fish laugh at Mr Jeremy Fisher.  Worst of all, Jeremy is then eaten by a big trout.  Thankfully, the trout doesn’t like the taste of Jeremy’s a mackintosh and it spits him out.

Poor Mr Jeremy Fisher can’t offer his friends minnows for dinner, but it turns out all right in the end.  Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise brings a salad in a string bag, and Jeremy serves roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce, on the subject of which the author comments:

“which frogs consider a beautiful treat ; but I  think it must have been nasty.”

JFfThis story is fun for all ages, although it does have a little bit of peril for Mr Fisher.  Though he had a bad day, he managed to persevere, adapt and make a nice dinner for his friends anyway.

It would also be a good opportunity to learn about frogs and pond life.  This is a good time of year to look for frogspawn.
tadpoles
You could organise a child’s tea party with “butterfly sandwiches” and “roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce.”  For now, I decided to see if I could make a dish of minnows for myself and a guest.  I wanted to make a salad of leeks and eggs, similar to this one in Citrus and Spice:
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But obviously it had to be a fish dish.  For the minnows I used sardines, and had them with a bit of toast, a duck egg and a salad of cress.EGG&CRESSa

Dish of Sardines and Cress

Ingredients
2 slices sourdough bread (I used Schär gluten free seeded loaf)
2 eggs (duck eggs if you can get them)
2 handfuls mixed baby spring greens
2 large snips of cress or mustard & cress
1 tin sardines
2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp good butter
2 Tbsp young leeks, sliced.
1 sheet nori or kombu
4 fillets anchovies
Squeeze of lemon juice
Mustard and hot sauce to taste
duckeggs
Method
First make the salad: arrange baby spring greens on two plates, and top with cress, chives, and a couple of anchovy fillets (these are very salty so use caution!).  Then cut the nori into one inch strips and sprinkle on top (these are salty too so you only need two or three).  If you like you can cut them into shapes — I cut them to look like butterfly wings.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.  Next fry the leeks and slices of bread in the butter on medium heat, or you can also use olive oil.


When the bread is golden, set aside and fry the sardines.  Be careful with the sardines as they may fall apart if handled roughly.  After a couple of minutes, when they are hot and slightly crisp, remove them and the leeks to a hot plate and fry the eggs.  Duck eggs are preferable because they are very rich.  They also should take only a minute or two to cook.  Try to keep the yolk a bit runny.  Add the fried bread to the plates with the salad, and top each slice with a couple of sardines.  Then put an egg on top of the sardines.  Sprinkle with a bit more cress and chives.  At this point you can add a squeeze of lemon, although my sardines came in a tin with lemons, so I just drizzled a little of the lemony oil onto my eggs.
egg&cressbServe immediately with hot sauce and mustard.
sardines&cress1


Of course, maybe your guest is more like Ptolemy Tortoise and doesn’t want fish.  In that case, you could make this cute mini stacked omelet.
omeleta
Cheese & Cress Omelet

Ingredients
1 handful baby spring greens
1-2 Tbsp cheese of choice (I used unpasteurized Red Leicester), grated
1 Tbsp milk or cream
A dash salt and pepper to taste
1 snip cress or mustard & cress
2 eggs (preferably duck eggs)
1 tsp butter or olive oil for frying
omeletb
Method
First add the spring greens with a dash of oil or butter to a medium pan to wilt.  This should take less than a minute.  Remove and set aside.  Add the cream to the eggs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk them up and pour half the mixture onto a medium hot pan.  If you have a mini frying pan you can use that, or you can pour the eggs into a metal cookie cutter to help them keep their shape.  Flip the omelet when it starts to bubble in the middle (it should only take about a minute).  After another minute, remove the omelet to a hot plate and pour the second half of the egg mixture onto the pan.
omelet1
While this is cooking, top the first omelet with the wilted greens, cress, and cheese.  When the second omelet is cooked, place on top of the first and scatter with a bit more cress, cheese, and baby greens.  Serve at once.
omelet3If Jeremy Fisher’s misadventures don’t put you off, never mind the rain and go fishing! 

Whether you fish or not, have friends round for dinner, and cook something with a lot of green.  It doesn’t have to be grasshoppers!sradines&cress6
grasshopper
 

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Milly-Molly-Mandy: Mustard-and-Cress

Books:
Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley
1990, Puffin
Citrus and Spice: A Year of Flavour by Sybil Kapoor
2008, Simon & Schuster
cressWe have been having a lot of April showers lately, which will hopefully lead to a very verdant Spring.  I looked to my stack of cookbooks for some inspiration.  Citrus and Spice is a very fun cookbook which has a focus flavor for each month.  April’s is “verdant” and the descriptive introduction mentions shoots, herbs and leaves, including the “flavour of crushed watercress.”


C&S1
You can buy watercress and other cress, but it’s more fun to grow your own.  There are many different kinds, but I wanted to grow the same kind as Milly-Molly-Mandy.
MMM1I have this very cute pink and white striped copy of the Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories.  The second story in the book is entitled “Milly-Molly-Mandy Spends a Penny”.  In this story Milly-Molly-Mandy finds a penny in the pocket of an old coat.
MMM3

She asks her family what she should do with it, and they all give different advice:  put it in the bank, buy a skein of rainbow wool and learn to knit, buy some seeds and grow mustard-and-cress, buy a little patty-pan and make a cake in it, save it up until she has three and buy a baby duckling, and get some sweets.
MMM2cresssnipb
In the end, Milly-Molly-Mandy buys some mustard-and-cress seeds, which she plants.  At last they grow into a clump of “fresh green mustard-and-cress, that made you quite long for  some bread-and-butter to eat it with.” Milly-Molly-Mandy sells the cress to her neighbor for twopence, and then uses one penny to buy some rainbow wool.  She asks her grandmother to teach her to knit a kettle-holder.  She sells the kettle-holder to her mother for one penny, uses the penny to buy a shiny tin patty-pan, and bakes a little cake.  That day, a lady cyclist stops by Milly-Molly-Mandy’s cottage and asks for a glass of milk, and the patty-cake looks so good that she asks if she might have that too.  Milly-Molly-Mandy gets a penny of what the lady pays for the milk and cake.  The story goes on in this way, and Milly-Molly-Mandy manages to do everything her family suggests, and in the end puts the last penny in the bank to save up for a duckling.
mmm4This is very cute story for all ages which also has a good message about the good use of money.  Milly-Molly-Mandy’s patience and sensible use of her penny enables her to get all the things that she wanted.  You probably can’t buy most of the things she buys for a penny anymore.  But you can still get mustard and cress seeds for cheap.  I did buy some cress at first, but I couldn’t find mustard-and-cress, so I decided to grow my own.


Just a tiny sprinkle of seeds on damp paper towel or soil will grow a nice bunch of mustard-and-cress in only a few days.


To start simple with mustard-and-cress, I took Milly-Molly-Mandy’s suggestion to try it with bread-and-butter.  If you don’t have cress, you can always add whole grain mustard to mimic the flavor.
cresssnipa
Mustard-and-Cress on Bread-and-Butter

Ingredients
1 slice of good bread
1 Tbsp good salted butter
1 bunch fresh growing mustard and cress
OR cress and 1 tsp whole grain mustard

Method
You don’t need a recipe for bread and butter!  Add the mustard and cress to taste.  This needs to be served right away as the cress will wilt.
m&cam&cb
You probably can’t sell your cress for twopence, but you can grow it, snip it and grow some more!