Saturday, April 26, 2008

English Mint Sauce (Page 893)

  • Date: Saturday, April 26, 2008 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I am leaving for the summer in less than a week and I have a ton to do so this week I am trying to make some quick and easy recipes that don't generate too much food! The Sauces and Salsas section is generally a good place to look for such recipes, so you'll be seeing a few sauces from me this week. First up: English mint sauce. In all my travels I have never been to England, and I've never eaten anywhere in the US claiming to serve authentic English food. So I can't say with any certainty how close this recipe is to a traditional English mint sauce. I can say that I didn't understand this sauce at all. One of my major problems with the sauce was textural. For one thing, it had no body to it. It had approximately the viscosity of water, which is atypical for a sauce. Then, floating in this watery substance were chopped up pieces of mint. The flavor didn't do much to redeem it. The background liquid here was water mixed with cider vinegar and a bit of sugar. What did the sauce taste like? Mint floating in cider vinegar. It wasn't bad exactly. I love both mint and cider vinegar, and they didn't do particularly bad things to each other once stirred together. But there was also just not much to it. There was zero depth of flavor, or mouth feel, or body. It didn't have any of the qualities that make a sauce really special. On top of it all, it was tremendously unappealing visually. Would I make this again? Certainly not. Would I be interested in trying a traditional mint sauce as served in England? Yes, indeed.

This recipe isn't online.

On Thursday afternoon I gave my last business calculus lecture of the semester, and yesterday afternoon I taught a review session for the final. Now I am done! (sure, sure, I have to administer and grade the final exam at 8am on Monday morning, but that should be painless enough since the exam is multiple choice) Last night, after my review session I went over to Paul and Beth's place for dinner and a movie. On the way there I rolled the windows down in my car and blasted George Michael's "Freedom." I was pretty happy to be done with business calculus!

Actually, as much as I complained about teaching fake calculus, I did learn quite a bit about teaching this semester. It was easily the most challenging class I have ever taught in that the students were less interested in being there than any students I have had before. In retrospect there are a lot of things that I would have done differently. I wasn't completely happy with the job I did teaching this term. Fortunately (?) I will get a chance to redeem myself in the fall, when I have a section of business calculus again! I also have a section of regular calculus that semester to balance things out a bit...

In the meantime: summer!


David said...

Unfortunately, as an englishman I can confirm that your recipe is authentic and enormously traditional dating to before the french influence on english cuisine (I guess). Its the usual accompaniment to roast lamb. Peronsonally I think some traditions are over rated and if you ever do go to england there is much better food to be had than this.... An example I fear of why english food used to have a bad reputation.

Magdalen said...

I'm with David on this. Both my current husband and my ex-husband are English, and I've spend a LOT of time over there in the past ten years. I would have labelled mint sauce as a condiment rather than a sauce.

Again, David's right -- there's some amazing food in England these days. I'm not a member of the "fooderati" but I gather that London is rated as the best city for restaurants currently in Europe. Seriously! And the desserts can be amazing. We had warm individual Bakewell tarts with clotted cream & "drunken" raspberries as the pudding (generic term for dessert in the UK) at the wedding breakfast -- shortcrust pastry topped with a ground almond layer, then a raspberry puree layer, and finally with an egg-based sweet layer. Really sublime. (The English wedding cake is traditionally fruitcake and is served at the very end in tiny pieces that people can even take home. That's not what we did. We had a white chocolate sponge with raspberry filling, but no one ate it anyway. That's okay; we were all full of the lunch.)

Which reminds me, I have to start writing thank you notes. *sigh*

Paul said...


One thing for sure: after writing that, no english mint sauce manufacturer is likely to hire you to do their advertising.....and that's a good thing!


Teena said...

Well now I am convinced of two things: one, I should go to England and do some serious eating, and two, I should just skip the mint sauce!

Anonymous said...

Dont skip mint sauce!! its actually delicious, altho it is english it wouldnt be really sold over here as "traditional english mint sauce" the way some other sauces would.
The mint sauce you made (if you dont mind me saying) dosnt have enough mint in it, and it looks like it isnt choped up fine enough. IF you think of mint sauce as more of a vinger and mint paste you wont go far wrong instead of pickled mint leaves.

Good look with the cooking!

Teena said...

Anon: Your suggestion of a more paste-like vinegar and mint mixture definitely sounds superior to the pickled mint leaf concept! I can imagine how that could be really good!

Anonymous said...

It's all very well to "cook your way through a cookbook" but if you don't understand what you're cooking, or how to use it in a menu, it hardly makes sense as a way to learn about food, cooking, recipes or cultures.

I do note, off the top, that cider vinegar is not used in traditional mint sauce. Malt vinegar, which is somewhat more trouble to find in the US, is the usual foundation liquid. Also, running some of the mint through a processor, and chopping some by hand infuses the flavor of the mint into the vinegar and sugar solution so that the flavor of the mint can dominate.

As with many things from other cultures, with different use of vocabulary, this is not a sauce in the category of hollandaise, or bernaise. By the way, if you get to that chapter in your cookbook, you'll discover that Yorkshire Pudding is not like something made by Jell-O. As another poster noted, mint sauce is a condiment, almost exclusively used with roast lamb, and as a condiment it is meant to add a little piquance, but not to be a major player on the plate.

A beautifully roasted leg of lamb with mint sauce kept over the winter from the last summer's mint crop just drizzled over it, some early spring peas just blanched enough to be hot, with maybe some roasted root vegetables is a spring meal that is nothing short of sublime.

Follow it with a cold glass of syllabub for dessert and you will discover that the English have quite a lot to offer in the kitchen.

jdp - london, on said...

I am English and cook in an English pub here in Canada and our mint sauce is a mix of sugar/water/mint/mail vinegar ... none of the sweet mint jelly one finds at the grocery.
I personally like it half traditional and half mint jelly as it smooths out the vinegar.

Anonymous said...

Always cook your Yorkshire pudding in the pan with the meat and always server with the mint sauce you made (just a few dashes on the Yorkshire only - we are not heathens after all!. Brown gravy for your meat and mash)