This is also known as salad burnet, and is a hardy herb, which will continue green during the greater part of the year. The young and tender leaves possess a smell and taste almost identical with cucumber, and greatly enhance the flavour of the salad. These leaves, when blanched, are sprinkled over the latter; but in addition burnet enters into the composition of ravigote butter, and helps to form green mayonnaise. It hardly requires any culture whatever, and will do well in the coastal districts and in all the cooler localities. With all these advantages, therefore, we can only marvel why it is denied us.
Of the two varieties which are cultivated elsewhere than in Australia - namely, the common chervil and the curled variety - the latter is generally considered the better. It grows about twenty inches high, and has deeply divided leaves, which are aromatic, and which are thus absolutely a necessary component of any well-ordered salad. The plant will grow everywhere, and, as it is never seen, it is only one instance out of the many which might be adduced, that much is neglected in Australian cultivation which would be of advantage to the whole community.
This is the most delicate of all the onion family; it occupies the one end of the scale, while garlic presides at the other; and midway between these we find the spring onion, the shallot, and the onion itself. It is a delightful salad herb which is too much neglected, and it is worthily entitled to cultivation in Australia. It gives to the salad a piquancy and an agreeable pungent flavour, which, while it faintly recalls that of the onion, is yet free from the accentuated properties of the latter. In addition to lending such an enhancement to salads, chives may be used for soups. The plant itself is a hardy bulb, growing to a height of about eight inches, and it is the tender tops which are used for saladings. It can be easily propagated, and will grow readily in all the cooler districts.
This used popularly to be known in the old country as "herb dragon," whereas it is now vested with the newer title. It is frequently to be found there in the country gardens, where it is in repute for the preparation of tarragon vinegar. It, however, occupies a position second to none as a salad accessory. It is one of the most odoriferous of the pot herbs, and gives to a salad a delightful aromatic warmth. At present all that one can do in the concoction of a salad is to make use of the tarragon vinegar, which is so admirably put up by Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell. Those who are fortunate enough to possess the plant itself should keep the leaves, as when dried they retain their flavour for some time. It is recommended, however, that the young plants should be propagated each year by division of the roots, as the plants of the first and second years are more delicate than those of older growth. It can easily be grown over the greater part of Australia, but I am not going to say more than that we are needlessly bereft of what we might enjoy.
In drawing attention to any matter connected with the subject of this chapter, a brief reference to mayonnaise sauce must necessarily find a place. This may be used with an endless variety of salads, but it is particularly concerned in the preparation of chicken, and also of crayfish salad. On looking through the cookery-books one gets perfectly bewildered with the different directions laid down by the various authors. This mayonnaise sauce, however, is so very important that it becomes an absolute necessity to know the successive steps in its preparation, for, though easily made, yet there is a right and a wrong way of going about it. Through the kindly offices of that accomplished aristologist, Dr. A. Burne, I was enabled to have some practical instruction in making mayonnaise sauce at the hands of the chef of the Cosmopolitan Club, and I will endeavour, therefore, to give an account of how he went to work.
The bowl he employed to mix it was about 9 in. across at the top, and its floor was rounded in shape, just as a salad bowl should be, to facilitate the thorough incorporation of the ingredients. Then, taking a couple of eggs, he broke each one by knocking its side midway between the two ends against the rim of the bowl. The greater part of the white of the egg was allowed to escape into a small vessel next the bowl, as it is not required for the mayonnaise, but comes in handy for other culinary purposes. He now, with the yolk in one half of the shell, poured away all the white remaining in the other half. Next he dexterously turned the yolk into this latter emptied shell and then got rid of the white left in the half previously occupied by the yolk. One egg was thus served in this way, and then the other, and the two yolks were slipped into the bowl and broken up with a few stirs of the egg-whisk. This latter is readily purchased from any ironmonger for the modest sum of one shilling. The next proceeding was a wrinkle which is worth knowing, and it consisted of placing within the bowl about a salt-spoonful of the ordinary dry mustard. This was well beaten up in a second or two. About a tablespoonful of good vinegar was next added, the whisk going vigorously to work, and thus blending well together egg yolk, dry mustard, and vinegar. At this stage occurred a sort of halt or breathing time in the manipulation, as the chief peculiarity of the mayonnaise now began. The chef, with his left hand, managed to tilt up the salad bowl and to hold a bottle of salad oil at the same time. The latter being inverted, he kept it over the contents of the bowl in such a way as to allow only a drop or so of the oil to escape at a time. Drip, drip, drip, went the oil, and as his right hand kept unceasingly plying the mixture with the whisk I could not help noticing what a fine wristy action he had. Almost directly as the oil touched it the mayonnaise began to thicken, to swell, and to change in colour. The remorseless whisk almost seemed to lash it into foam, and now the oil came faster and faster till the amber-looking sauce was ready, and all this within the space of at most two or three minutes. I suppose he must have used quite a teacupful of olive oil. Only one thing more : after stirring in a sufficient quantity of pepper and salt, the chef desired me to taste the result, and as I did so I read the triumph in his eye - it was superb.