Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History

Heroines from the History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Rundell

Victorian cast iron, coal-fired, cooking range. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire.

I am delighted to be able to bring you another domestic cookery treasure, recently unearthed from my secondhand bookshop trawl. The publication is Mrs Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principles of Economy and adapted to the use of Private Families, 1862 edition, published by Milner & Sowerby. The publication was very popular in both England and America.  First published in England in 1806 and in America the following year. Until 1844 the American edition was reprinted 15 times and the English edition a staggering 67 times! In the recipes I have selected you will see there is a distinct American influence, ‘dough nuts’ and ‘New England pancakes’ for instance. The final edition to be published in England appeared in 1893.

So, who was Mrs Rundell? Maria Eliza Rundell (née Ketelby) was born in Ludlow, Shropshire in 1745, the only child of barrister Abel Johnson Ketelby.  In 1766 she married Thomas Rundell, who practiced as a surgeon in Bath and the two of them set-up home together there. The couple raised 2 sons and 3 daughters.  Unfortunately, Thomas Rundell died in 1795 and this tragic event prompted Maria to move to Swansea, Wales. She began feverishly collecting recipes and household management tips to pass on to her daughters, so that they too would be able to run successful households of their own once married. Maria also sent her collection to an old family friend, the well-respected publisher John Murray. He thought the collection would make for an excellent publication.

The first edition was printed in 1806 under the title Domestic Cookery. The book became a publishing sensation and in addition to the numerous English language editions, was also translated into German in 1841. The target readership for Mrs Rundell’s book being the middle-class household. In the introduction she states, ‘….When young ladies marry, they frequently continue their own maids in the capacity of house-keepers; who, as they may be more attached to their interest than strangers, become very valuable servants. To such, the economical observations in this work will be as useful as the cookery; and it is recommendable in them to be strictly observant of both, which, in the course of a year or two, will make them familiar in the practice. It is much to be feared, that for the waste of many of the good things God has given for our use, not abuse, the mistress and servants of great houses will hereafter be called to strict account.’ (1862:xxxiii)

Her book was a lot more sophisticated in content than Mrs Mary Holland’s The Complete Economical Cook and Frugal Housewife.  Interestingly, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was first published in 1861. Following the success of Mrs B’s infamous tome, it is not surprising Mrs Rundell’s book was reprinted again in 1862 to cash-in on the renewed interest in household management advice. I have included here a selection of recipes that particularly caught my eye.

  • Cucumber vinegar;
  • Pilchard and leek pie;
  • Dutch pudding or Souster;
  • New England pancakes;
  • Bockings;
  • Podovies or beef patties;
  • Baked custard;
  • Dough nuts;
  • Snow cream;
  • A very fine Somersetshire syllabub;
  • Hard biscuits;
  • Vendor, or milk punch;
  • Restorative pork jelly;
  • Refreshing drink in a fever;
  • Draught for a cough;
  • Paste for chapped hands.

Cucumber vinegar

Pare and slice fifteen large cucumbers and put them in a stone jar, with three pints of vinegar, four large onions sliced, two or three shalots, a little garlick, two large spoonfuls of salt, three tea-spoonfuls of pepper, and half a tea-spoonful of cayenne.  After standing four days give the whole a boil, when cold, strain, and filter the liquor through paper.  Keep in small bottles add to salad, or eat with meat.

Pilchard and leek pie

Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald in milk and water, and put them in layers in a dish, and between the layers, two or three salted pilchards which have been soaked for some hours the day before.  Cover the whole with a good plain crust.  When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift-up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor, then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

Dutch pudding or Souster

Melt one pound of butter in half a pint of milk; mix it into two pounds of flour, eight eggs, four spoonfuls of yeast; add one pound of currants, and a quarter of a pound of sugar beaten and sifted.  This is a very good pudding hot, and equally so as a cake when cold.  If for the latter, caraways may be used instead of currants.  An hour will bake it in a quick oven.

New England pancakes

Mix a pint of cream, five spoonfuls of fine flour, seven yolks and four whites of eggs, and a very little salt; fry them very thin in fresh butter, and between each strew sugar and cinnamon.  Send-up six or eight at once.


Mix three ounces of buck-wheat flour, with a tea-cupful of warm milk, and a spoonful of yeast, let it rise before the fire about an hour; then mix four eggs well beaten, and as much milk as will make the batter the usual thickness for pancakes and fry the same.

Podovies or beef patties

Shred underdone dressed beef with a little fat, season with pepper, salt, and a little shalot or onion.  Make a plain paste, roll it thin, and cut it in shape like an apple puff, fill it with the mince, pinch the edges, and fry them of a nice brown.  The pastie should be made with a small quantity of butter, egg and milk.

Baked custard

Boil one pint of cream, half a pint of milk; with mace, cinnamon, and lemon-peel, a little of each. When cold, mix the yolks of three eggs, sweeten and make your cups or paste nearly full.  Bake them 10 minutes.

Dough nuts

Rub a quarter of a pound of butter into a pound of flour, then add five ounces of sugar, two eggs, about a dessertspoonful of yeast, and sufficient milk to make it into a stiff-paste.  Let it stand to rise, then roll it out, and cut it into shapes, with a paste-cutter, and boil them in lard, till they are of a nice brown colour.

Snow cream

Put to a quart of cream the whites of three eggs well beaten, four spoonfuls of sweet wine, sugar to your taste, and a bit of lemon-peel, whip it up to a froth, remove the peel, and serve in a dish.

A very fine Somersetshire syllabub

In a large China bowl put a pint of port, and a pint of sherry, or other white wine, sugar to taste.  Milk the bowl full.  In twenty minutes’ time cover it pretty high with clouted cream; grate over it nutmeg, put pounded cinnamon and nonpareil comfits.

Hard biscuits

Warm two ounces of butter in as much skimmed milk as will make a pound of flour into a very stiff paste, beat it with a rolling-pin, and work it very smooth.  Roll it thin, and cut it into round biscuits, prick them full of holes with a fork.  About six minutes will bake them.

Vendor or milk punch

Pare six oranges and six lemons as thin as you can, grate them after with sugar, to get the flavour.  Steep the peels in a bottle of rum or brandy stopped close twenty-four hours.  Squeeze the fruit on two pounds of sugar, add to it four quarts of water, and one of new milk boiling hot, stir the rum into the above, and run it through a jelly bag till perfectly clear.  Bottle, and cork close immediately.

Dr Ratcliff’s restorative pork jelly

Take a leg of well-fed pork, just as cut-up, beat it, and break the bone.  Set it over a gentle fire, with three gallons of water, and simmer to one.  Let half an ounce of mace, and same of nutmegs, stew in it.  Strain through a five sieve.  When cold, take-off the fat.  Give a chocolate-cup the first and last thing, and at noon, putting salt to taste.

A refreshing drink in a fever

Put a little tea-sage, two sprigs of balm and a little wood-sorrel, into a stone jug, having first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear from the white; slice it, and put a bit of the peel in, then pour in three pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.

Soft and fine draught for those who are weak and have a cough

Beat a fresh-laid egg, and mix it with a quarter of a pint of new milk warmed, a large spoonful of capillaire, the same of rose-water, and a little nutmeg scraped.  Don’t warm it after the egg is put in.  Take it first and last thing.

Paste for chapped hands and which will preserve them smooth by constant use

Mix a quarter of a pound of unsalted hog’s lard which has been washed in common, and then rose-water, with the yolks of two new-laid eggs, and a large spoonful of honey and as much fine oatmeal or almond-paste as will work into a paste.

To find out more about the Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire. Click here.

Victorian kitchen display. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire

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