Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hachis de Viande, French Army, 1905


     Now that we’ve had a primer on viande de boucherie, let’s see how it was used in some recipes of “The Great War”.  Presented here are a couple of recipes for hachis. As noted in an earlier post, the English word “hash” derives from the French hachis, a dish of chopped ingredients.
     In the French Army during the pre-World War 1 period and in the early days of the war, squads prepared their own meals while in the field. The early meal of the day was the “morning soup”. During the morning meal, preparations the next meal were also performed. It was intended that the morning’s activities would consist mainly of a long march, followed by a break for the midday meal. The earlier preparations would insure that a meal could be quickly prepared once the tired and hungry soldiers halted for the meal break. This system worked well enough during peacetime maneuvers, and for what was anticipated to be a brief war of rapid movement. The war in France quickly ground down to an immobile and contracted slugfest where artillery and machine guns made any movement above ground level risky at best. Even the mere presence of smoke from cooking fires in the first line of trenches would gain the attention of German artillery observers and snipers. In such an environment, the French Army’s de-centralized system of field cooking proved to be highly inadequate. It would not be until 1915 that the French Army employed rolling field kitchens, but problems with feeding the troops in the front lines continued throughout the war.

Meat and Beans Hash, French Army, 1905
(Hachis de viande aux haricots)

The meat for this meal was cooked together with the morning soup, then de-boned and cut into small pieces.
To reproduce this recipe, use the meat to make broth. Let the broth cool and skim the fat. Presoak the beans overnight or in the morning, at least 2 hours prior to cooking. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water before adding the beans to the other ingredients.
US                               Metric                         Ingredients
24 oz                           640 g                           viande de boucherie
70 oz*                         2000 g                         potatoes
14 oz*                         400 g                           cabbage
14 oz*                         400 g                           carrots
7 oz*                           200 g                           leeks
7 oz*                           200 g                           onions
4 oz                             120 g                           lard
12 oz                           340 g                           dried beans
to taste                         to taste                        salt & pepper
68 fl oz                        2 liters                         broth
or
34 fl oz                        1 liter                           broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                           water

* Weight of ingredients prior to peeling and coring

Procedure
1.      Boil the meat until tender, 1-2 hours. De-bone if necessary and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/8    
      inch (1 to 1.5 cm).
2.      Cut the potatoes, cabbage, carrots and leeks into pieces about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm) in size.
3.      Heat the lard in a pan over medium heat and add the onions.
4.      When the onions have taken on a golden color, add two liters of broth or 1 liter of broth and 1 liter of water.
5.      Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6.      Add the beans. Simmer until the beans are nearly cooked.
7.      About 20 minutes before the beans are fully cooked, add the potatoes, cabbage, carrots and leeks.
8.      Cook until all of the vegetables are tender.
9.      Place the vegetables and broth into bowls, and add the meat on top.

Meat and Potato Hash, French Army, 1905
(Hachis  de viande aux pommes de terre)

The ingredients and preparation for this recipe is quite similar to the meat and beans hash recipe. Some salt pork is used for the fat, and the beans are replaced by an additional 800 grams/28 ounces of potatoes. 

US                               Metric                         Ingredients
24 oz                           640 g                           viande de boucherie
1½ oz                          40 g                             lard
4 oz                             120 g                           salt pork
100 oz*                       2800 g                         potatoes
14 oz*                         400 g                           cabbage
14 oz*                         400 g                           carrots
7 oz*                           200 g                           leeks
7 oz*                           200 g                           onions
to taste                        to taste                         salt & pepper
to taste                        to taste                         spices**
68 fl oz                        2 liters                          broth
or
34 fl oz                        1 liter                            broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                            water

* Weight of ingredients prior to peeling and coring
** Dried spices or dried herbs commonly found in French cuisine of the time may be used, such as thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, parsley, tarragon, etc.


Procedure
1.      Boil the meat until tender, 1-2 hours. De-bone if necessary and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm).
2.      Cut the cabbage, carrots and leeks into pieces about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm) in size.
3.      Cut the salt pork into small pieces of about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) in size.
4.      Peel the potatoes, leave whole and boil until cooked.
5.      While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate pot, heat the lard over medium heat and add the onions.
6.      When the onions have taken on a golden color, add two liters of broth or 1 liter each of broth and water.
7.      Add the cabbage, carrots and leeks and cook until tender.
8.      Season to taste with salt, pepper and spices.
9.      Add the meat.
10.  Drain the potatoes and mash.
11.  Place the mashed potatoes in bowls and pour the meat and vegetables on top.
















3 comments:

  1. Ran across your blog surfing around and wanted to tell you that I enjoyed it. I too share an interest in military history and recently have been trying to read more about military food service. I am struck by how relatively little there is about the subject so I especially appreciated finding your blog. I'll be sure to check back regularly.

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  2. After reading this particular receipe, which is French, I was wondering if French North African troops (as opposed to Metropolitan troops in France) did things any differently, at least during the period that this receipe is from, the two decades before WWI. I ask because of other references to food habits there at that time, which I've found. Not so much the receipe themselves but mealtimes, the way it was served, what was eaten (lots of soupe!) and so on.

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  3. It would depend on the type of unit. Although the recipe was from a standard army recipe book, in many armies (French included) there were separate recipes or cookbooks for colonial troops to accomoodate ethnic and religious preferences. The British had separate manuals for Indian recipes; modern manuals still have a section on Ghurka recipes. Prior to WW2, US cooking manuals had sections on Filipino rations. One of the early French Army recipe books that I own contains hand-written notes detailing the daily ration allotment for native Madagascar soldiers. In the French Army, as in others, popular native dishes were often incorporated into standard army fare. Mealtimes in armies are (in normal circumstances) reflective of civilian eating habits. World War I certainly disrupted how the French Army was fed, in many ways.

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