Mrs Patmore, Downton Abbey's cook.
But back to the devilling. The word 'devil' - in the context of spicing up a dish with cayenne pepper or a similar heating agent - was first used in print in 1787, when it appeared in The Lounger, a British periodical, but it was only in the 19th century that it become a commonplace term for describing food that had been grilled or fried, then highly seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, mustard, mushroom ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and so on.
Alan Davidson's The Oxford Companion to Food mentions that James Boswell, Dr Johnson's biographer, frequently refers to partaking of 'devilled bones' for supper. These sounded intriguing, but after an exhaustive search of Boswell's books - at least the ones that have been digitised - I couldn't find a single reference to the writer gnawing on spicy bones. I did discover with relief, though, that 'bone' in this context meant a devilled joint of meat, not a dry rib or femur or the like.
Besides meat, all sorts of other foods were devilled at the height of the craze: chicken, turkey, goose, game birds, almonds, walnuts, tomatoes, chestnuts, lobster, prawns, crab, and even ship's biscuits. In A New System of Domestic Cookery (1808), Maria Rundell offers this recipe:
'Butter captain's biscuits on both sides, and pepper them well; make a slice of cheese into a paste with made mustard, and lay it on upon one side; sprinkle cayenne pepper on the top, and send them to be grilled. This may be varied by the addition of chopped anchovies, or the essence, diavolo paste, or Chetney.'(And this sent me off on another wild goose chase to find out how to make 'diavolo paste'. It's mentioned in several early cookbooks, but I couldn't find recipe for it. I assume it was a sort of hot chilli paste.) An 1825 description of devilled woodcock that delighted me was this one (not least because it contains all the ingredients for the dish!) :
'If I be inclined to be luxurious, give me devilled woodcock—cayenned—curry powdered—truffled—madeiraed—Seville-oranged—catsupped—soyed... in a silver stew-pan, saturated with its piquant juice, and gently liquefied with the huile of Aix, a city of oil and amphitheatre. It is heavenly. '
(John Wilson, from Noctes Ambrosianæ)So: my devilled mushrooms.These are quite delicious on thin, crisp hot toast, which I make by sizzling slices of baguette in a buttered sandwich press. The mushrooms are not terribly hot, so feel free to spice them up with extra cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, or even some chopped fresh chillies. These is very good topped with a few slices of good chorizo that have been fried in a hot pan.
Devilled Mushrooms on Toast
500 g button or portabellini mushrooms
3 Tbsp (45 ml/45 g) butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½ tsp (2.5 ml) chilli powder, or more, to taste
½ tsp (2.5 ml) paprika
4 tsp (20 ml) Dijon mustard
juice of a lemon
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
milled black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) cream
chopped fresh parsley
1 chorizo sausage (optional)
Fry the mushrooms in the butter over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until just golden. Stir in the garlic, chilli powder, paprika, mustard, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the cream and let the mushrooms bubble until the sauce has thickened slightly. Serve over hot toast with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley.
If you're using chorizo, slice it and fry it in a little oil, in a separate pan, for a minute or two, or until lightly browned. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serves 4 as a snack.