Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Country House, Exhibition, History, Museum

Heroines From The History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Elizabeth Raffald

The newly renovated Georgian Dining Room at Avebury Manor in Wiltshire. The room is set for a dinner c. 1798 when Sir Adam Williamson (1736-1798), then Governor of Jamaica, was in occupation at the Manor.

Elizabeth Raffald (bap. 1733 – d.1781) was born in Doncaster and from the age of fifteen until thirty worked as housekeeper in several homes including, Arley Hall, Cheshire for Sir Peter and Lady Elizabeth Warburton. Elizabeth married Arley Hall’s Head Gardener John Raffald with whom she had nine children, all daughters, sadly only three survived to adulthood.  Elizabeth and John moved to Manchester in 1763. Elizabeth ran a confectionary shop in Fennell Street while her husband sold flowers and seeds from a market stall.  Elizabeth ran a cookery school teaching students how to produce French dishes and confectionary.  Elizabeth also spoke excellent French.  She died on 19th April 1781 and is buried in Stockport, Cheshire.

In 1769, Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper: For the Use and Ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks & Co was published.  Raffald’s book was extremely popular and underwent many reprints (including a number of unauthorised versions). Raffald dedicated the book to her former employer, Lady Elizabeth Warburton.

According to historian Kate Colquhoun (Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking, 2007), Raffald was:

…well-ordered, lucid and dependable, explaining how to make the kind of dishes that Middle England craved….She could, occasionally, be just a bit bizarre – her ‘surprised’ rabbit was indeed surprising, stuffed with a pudding, and ‘when they are roasted, draw out the jaw bones and stick them in the Eyes to appear like horns.’

(Colquhoun, K., 2007, p. 214)

…the undisputed queen of jelly, flavouring them with lemon, orange or madeira and colouring them with cochineal, syrup of violet-blue or the old-fashioned fallbacks of saffron and spinach.  Raffald’s jellies were painstakingly built up in elaborate layers to produce domed mounds which magnified their amused contents – fish made from flummery or hens’ nests from thinly sliced, syrup-poached lemon rind, each layer set firm before the next was added, each new syrup cool enough so as not to melt the one below it.

(Ibid. p. 231)

The Rienzi Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, recently mounted the exhibition, English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century which ran from 17th September 2011 until 29th January 2012. The exhibition was curated by Christine Gervais in collaboration with renowned food historian Ivan Day (of the wonderful ‘historic food’ website). Inspiration for the exhibition came from the writings of Elizabeth Raffald.  For an interesting article and short film (3:59) of the exhibition, introduced by Ivan, CLICK HERE.

A Few Recipes by Elizabeth Raffald from The Experienced English Housekeeper

A note on flummery.  Flummery is Welsh in origin and first appeared in England c.1620. It is made of oatmeal and similar to Scottish porridge but originally was made using just milk, flour and water. During the seventeenth century it was served in elaborate moulds.  Raffald’s advice on flummery: ‘When you make flummery, always observe to have it pretty thick, and your moulds wet in cold water before you put in your flummery or your jelly will settle to the bottom, and the cream swim at the top, of that it will look to be two different colours.’

To Make a Fish-Pond

Fill four large moulds with flummery and six small ones, take a china bowl and put in half a pint of stiff clear calf’s foot jelly, let it stand till cold, then lay in the four small fishes across one another, than when you turn the bowl upside down the heads and tails may be seen, then almost fill your bowl with jelly, and let it stand till cold, then lay in the jelly, four large fishes and fill the basin quite full with jelly, and let it stand till the next day when you want to use it.  Set your bowl to the brim in hot water for one minute, take care that you do not let the water go into the basin, lay your plate on the top of the basin, and turn it upside down, if you want it for the middle, turn it out upon a salver, be sure to make your jelly very stiff and clear.

Cribbage Cards in Flummery

Fill five square tins the size of a card with stiff flummery, when you turn them out have ready a little cochineal dissolved in brandy, and strain it through a muslin rag, then take a camel’s-hair pencil and make hearts and diamonds with your cochineal, then rub a little cochineal with a little eating oil upon marble slab till it is very fine and bright, then make clubs and spades; pour a little Lisbon wine into the dish, and send it up.

Dish of Snow

Take twelve large apples, put them in cold water, and set them over a very slow fire, and when they are soft pour them upon a hair sieve, take off the skin, and put the pulp into a basin, then beat the whites of twelve eggs into a very strong froth, beat and sift half a pound of double refined sugar, and stew it into the eggs, beat the pulp of your apples to a strong froth, then beat them all together till they are like a stiff snow, then lay it upon a china dish, and heap it as high as you can, and set round it green knots of paste in imitation of Chinese rails, stick sprig of myrtle in the middle of the dish and serve it up. It is a pretty corner dish for a large table.

Orange Cream

Take the juice of four Seville oranges, and the out-rind of one pared exceedingly fine, put them into a tossing-pan with one pint of water, and eight ounces of sugar, beat the whites of five eggs exceedingly well, put it in your tossing pan with the cream, stir it over a very slow fire till it is ready to boil, put it into a basin to cool, and stir it till it is quite cold, then put it into jelly glasses; sent it in upon a salver with whips and jellies.

Moon and Stars in Jelly

Take a deep china dish, turn the mould of a half-moon, and seven stars, with the bottom side upward in the dish, lay a weight upon every mould to keep them down, then make some flummery, and fill your dish with it, when it is cold and stiff, take your moulds carefully out, and fill the vacancy with clear calf’s foot jelly; you may colour your flummery with cochineal and chocolate to make it look like the sky, and your moon and stars will show more clear; garnish with rock candy sweet meats.  It is a pretty corner dish or a proper decoration for a grand table.

To Make Blancmange of Isinglass

Boil one ounce of isinglass in a quart of water till it is reduced to a pint, then put in the whites of four eggs, with two spoonfuls of rice water, to keep the eggs from poaching, add sugar to your taste, and run it through a jelly bag, then put to it two ounces of sweet and one ounce of bitter almonds, give them a scald in your jelly and put them through a hair sieve, put it in a china bowl, the next day turn it out, and stick it all over with almonds, blanched and cut lengthways; garnish with green leaves or flowers.

Clear Blancmange

Take a quart of strong calf’s foot jelly, skim off the fat and strain it, beat the whites of four eggs, and put them to your jelly, set it over the fire, and keep stirring it till it boils, then pour it into a jelly bag, and run it through several times till it is clear, beat one ounce of sweet almonds and one of bitter, to a paste with a spoonful of rose-water squeezed through a cloth, then mix it with the jelly, and three spoonfuls of very good cream, set it over the fire again, and keep stirring till it is almost boiling, then pour it into a bowl, and stir it very often till it is almost cold, then wet your moulds and fill them.



Social historian, based in the UK.

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