Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Literature, Museum

Martha Lloyd – Housekeeper, Cook and Confidante to the Austen ladies

Jane Austen's cottage, Chawton, Hampshire

Novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), her sister Cassandra, their mother and close family friend Martha Lloyd came to live in the tiny village of Chawton, Hampshire in 1809.  The cottage is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum.   Jane’s brother, Edward, had inherited the Knights’ Chawton estate and was in a position to let his two sisters and widowed mother use the cottage for the rest of their lives. Martha had collected recipes for food and household remedies for a number years.  When the ladies moved into this charming cottage, Martha became the housekeeper and cook.  

Bakehouse oven at Jane Austen's Cottage, Chawton, Hampshire.

One of Jane’s brothers, Francis (Sir Francis Austen) was widowed in 1823  when his wife Mary died after giving birth to their 11th child.  In 1828 he remarried Martha, a blushing bride at the ripe old age of 62, she became Lady Austen.  Martha died in 1843.

Chawton House, country house of Edward Austen-Knight, Chawton, Hampshire.

Jane died on 18th July 1817 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.   Cassandra and Mrs Austen remained at the cottage in Chawton until their deaths in 1845 and 1827 respectively.  They are both buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church which is situated in the grounds of Chawton House.  Edward Austen-Knight’s son, Charles Bridges Knight, was Rector of St. Nicholas from 1837 until his death thirty years later.

St. Nicholas Church, Chawton, Hampshire.
Mrs Austen and daughter Cassandra are buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church, Chawton, Hampshire.

For further information about Jane Austen and Chawton, the BBC have recently broadcast a superb new series on the Regency era, Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency – Episode 2 ‘Developing the Regency Brand’.

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton – Bread, Biscuits and Pies

Bread Cutter, featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.

Continuing with my Mrs Beeton and Great British Bake Off  inspired postings,  I have chosen some of Mrs B’s delicious recipes for bread, biscuits and pies.  Autumn is just around the corner and with the evenings drawing in, there is no better time than now to take to the kitchen for a home-cooking bakeathon.

Illustration showing different types of bread, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition


  • Mrs B’s advice on how to choose flour;
  • Home-made bread;
  • Rice bread;

Mrs B’s advice on choosing flour

‘The quality of wheat varies much with the weather of each season at home, and also with the weather and soil in countries that differ more from each other than our wettest season from our driest…… Good flour is dry and does not lose more than 12 per cent. in weight when heated in an oven.  If the flour is remarkably good and dry, a greater weight of water is taken up, and consequently a larger number of loaves are made from the same amount of flour.  Cloths are sometimes thrown over bread hot out of the oven to retain the steam and prevent the loaves from becoming dry….. The finest flour procurable in this country is “Vienna” or “Hungarian”, as it is more generally called, and it is always the dearest flour on the market.’ (Chapter 46, p. 1399, 1915 edition)


25g = 1oz      100g = 4oz       225g = 1/2 lb     450g = 1lb   1 Peck = 8.81 litres   1 quart = 2 pints

Home-made bread

Ingredients – 1 peck of flour, 2 ozs of compressed or distillery yeast, 1 1/2 ozs of salt, 3 quarts of water.

Method – ‘Turn the flour into a clean pan, and make a “bay”, or hole in the centre.  Let the water be about 80 degrees Fahr., or blood-warm, so it feels neither hotter nor colder than the hand when placed in the water.  Put the water into a bowl, add the yeast and salt, and stir up well with the hand till dissolved, then turn it into the bay, and make up into rather a stiff dough; knead well, and leave to dry, cover over with a clean cloth, and set the pan of dough in a warm place to prove for at least 2 hours, then give it another good kneading and drying over, and leave it for another hour; turn out onto the board, divide into suitable-sized pieces, make into loaves, prove and bake.’

Rice bread

Ingredients – 1 lb of rice, 7 lbs of flour, 1 oz of salt, 1 1/2 ozs of compressed yeast, water.

Method – ‘Wash the rice in cold water, put it in a clean saucepan, cover with water, set over the fire, and cook until tender.  Turn the flour into a clean pan, make a hole in the centre, put in the boiled rice, add 1 quart of cold water, and stir-up gently without mixing in much flour; test the heat, and if cold enough, add the yeast, dissolved in another pint of water, stirring it into the rice with another handful of flour.  Cover over with a clean cloth, and let it stand for 2 hours, then add the salt in fine powder, and make into dough, using any more water that may be necessary for the purpose.  Cover over, and leave the dough to rise, mould up, prove, then bake in a moderate oven.  The rice can be boiled in milk if preferred.’

Different types of biscuit illustration from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.
  • Arrowroot biscuits or drops;
  • Cocoanut gems;
  • Ginger biscuits;
  • Lemon biscuits.

Arrowroot biscuits or drops

Ingredients – 1/2 lb of butter, 6 eggs, 1/2 lb of flour, 6 ozs of arrowroot, 1/2 lb of castor sugar.

Method – ‘Beat the butter to a cream; whisk the eggs to a stiff froth, add them gradually to the butter, stir in the sugar a little at a time, and beat the mixture well.  Smooth down all the lumps from the arrowroot and sift it with the flour and then add to the other ingredients.  Mix all well together, drop the dough on a buttered tin in pieces the size of a shilling, and bake the biscuits for about a 1/4 of an hour in a slow oven.  Sufficient to make from 3 to 4 dozen biscuits.’

Cocoanut biscuits

Ingredients –  1 lb of grated cocoanut, 2 lbs of sugar, 5 eggs, 2 teacupfuls of flour.

Method – ‘Rasp a good fresh cocoanut on a grater, letting none of the rind fall.  Spread the cocoanut thus grated on a dish, and let stand in some cool dry place 2 days to dry gradually, or desiccated cocoanut can be used in the proportions given.  Add to it double its weight of powdered and sifted loaf sugar, the whites of 5 eggs whisked to a stiff froth, and 1 teacupful of flour to every pound of sugar.  Drop the mixture on a baking-tin 1 spoonful at a time, like rock cakes, or into proper drop-cake tins.  Bake in a very gentle oven for about 20 minutes; move the biscuits out of the tins while warm, and when cold, store them in a tin container.  Sufficient for 3, 1/2 lbs of biscuits.’

Ginger biscuits

Ingredients – 1 lb of flour, 1/2 lb of fresh butter, 1/2 lb of castor sugar, 3/4 of an oz of ground ginger, 2 eggs.

Method – ‘Rub the butter and ginger into the flour on the board, make a “bay” or hold, break in the eggs, and wet-up into a nice workable paste, using a little milk if necessary.  Roll down in thin sheets,  and cut out with a plain round cutter, set them on to a greased baking-sheet, and bake in a cool oven.  Sufficient to make 4 dozen biscuits.  Seasonable in winter.’

Lemon biscuits

Ingredients –   1 1/4 lbs of flour, 3/4 of a lb of castor sugar, 6 ozs of fresh butter, 4 eggs, the grated rind of a lemon, 2 dessertspoonfuls of lemon-juice.

Method – ‘Rub the butter into the flour, stir in the castor sugar and very finely minced lemon-peel, and when these ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add the eggs, which should be previously well whisked, and the lemon-juice.  Beat the mixture well for 1 or 2 minutes, then drop it from a spoon on to a buttered tin, about 2 inches apart, as the biscuits will spread when they get warm; place the tin in the oven, and bake the biscuits a pale brown for 15 to 20 minutes.  Sufficient for 3 or 4 dozen biscuits.’

Raised Game Pie with Aspec Jelly, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.
  • How to make rough puff pastry (paste);
  • Raised game pie;
  • Pigeon pie;
  • Beefsteak and potato pie.

How to make rough puff pastry (paste)

Ingredients – 8 ozs of flour, 6 ozs of butter (or equal quantities of butter and lard), 1/2 a teaspoonful of lemon-juice, salt, about 1/4 of a pint of water.

Method – ‘Sieve the flour on to a pasteboard, divide the butter into pieces about the size of small walnut and mix them lightly with the flour.  Make a well in the centre, put in the lemon-juice, salt, and 1 tablespoonful of water, mix lightly, keeping the pieces of butter intact, and add water gradually until a moderately stiff paste is formed.  Roll into a long strip, fold it equally in 3, turn it round so as to have the folded edges to the right and left, and roll out as before.  Repeat until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, then use; or, if convenient, let it remain for 1 hour in a cool place before being used.  Sufficient for 1 pie of average size.’

Raised game pie

Ingredients – game of any kind, equal quantities of finely chopped veal and pork, veal forcemeat, paste (see previous posting for Pork Pie recipe for instructions on how to make this paste), coarsely chopped truffle, stock that will jelly when cold (preferably game stock), egg, salt and pepper.

Method – ‘Mix the veal and ham together, season liberally with salt and pepper, and add 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls of chopped truffle.  Divide the birds into neat joints, and remove all bones except those which are deeply imbedded in the flesh and difficult to detach.  Make and mould the paste as described in the recipe for pork pie, and line the bottom and sides with veal forcemeat.  Put in the prepared game, season each layer with salt and pepper, and intersperse small pieces of the meat force, taking care to leave spaces to be afterwards filled with stock.  Pile the game high in the centre, cover with a thin layer of veal force, put on the cover, then follow the directions given for preparing, baking and finishing the pork pie.’

Pigeon Pie

Ingredients – 2 or 3 pigeons, 1 lb of rump steak, 1/4 of a lb of ham or lean bacon, 3/4 of a pint of good stock, 2 hard-boiled eggs, the yolk of 1 egg, puff paste, salt and pepper.

Method – ‘Cut each pigeon into 4 or more pieces, according to their size; cut the beef into small thin slices, the ham into strips, and the eggs into sections or slices.  Put these ingredients into a pie-dish in layers, season well, and pour in stock to 3/4 fill the dish.  Put on the cover, moisten and press the edges together, make a hole in the centre of the top, decorate with leaves, brush over with yolk of egg, bake in quick oven until the paste is risen and set, then cook at a lower temperature for about 1 hour.  Have ready a few of the pigeons’ feet,  scalded and the toes cut off, also the remainder of the stock.  Before serving, pour in the stock through the hole in the centre of the pie, and replace the pastry ornament with the feet, fixing them in a nearly upright position.  The pie may be served either hot or cold; if the latter, the stock must form a jelly when cold.  Sufficient for 6 to 8 persons.’

Beefsteak and potato pie

Ingredients –  1 1/2lb of beefsteak, potatoes to fill the dish, 1 small onion parboiled and finely chopped, 1 tablespoonful of flour, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1/2 a teaspoonful of pepper, short crust paste.

Method – ‘Peel the potatoes, and cut them into thick slices.  Cut the meat into thin slices, about 2 inches long and an inch wide.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper together on a plate, dip the slices of meat in the mixture, and roll them up tightly.  Line the bottom of the pie-dish with slices of potato, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with rolls of meat, and add a little onion, but use it very sparingly unless the flavour is much liked.  Repeat until the dish is full, add boiling water to 3/4 fill the dish, and cover with short crust paste.  Bake for 2 hours in a moderately hot oven, and, before serving, pour a little hot beef gravy, or hot water seasoned with salt and pepper, through the hole in the top.’

I thought I would finish with a picture of my husband’s version of Mrs Beeton’s beefsteak and potato pie.  He used puff pastry instead of short crust for the cover and a cat motif as his decoration of choice – nicer to look at than embedded, scalded pigeons’ feet.  I would like to think that the cat has had the last laugh and polished off the pigeon!

My husband's version of Mrs B's beefsteak and potato pie.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton, TV Programme, Uncategorized

Mrs Beeton’s advice for The Housekeeper

Image of a typical kitchen, from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

There are not many weeks left now until the second series of ITV’s hugely successful and simply brilliant Downton Abbey returns to our tv screens.  I believe that the first episode is due for transmission on Sunday 18th September.  The first series ended at the outbreak of World War One on 4th August 1914.  The second series continues the story in 1916, two years into the Great War.  In the second series Downton Abbey is converted into a Military Hospital for wounded servicemen.

I am looking forward to bringing you some Mrs Beeton tie-ins to help bring life below stairs to life.  My edition of Mrs B’s book is from 1915 and contains lengthy advice for the cook (including kitchen-maid duties), the housekeeper, the butler, domestic servants and their duties.  I thought I would whet your appetite and bring you Mrs B’s advice for ‘The Housekeeper – Chapter II’ together with her recipe for candied peel.  One of the suggested evening occupations for the housekeeper was to make candied peel:

Duties and Responsibilities

‘As second in Command in the House, except in large establishments, where there is a house-steward, the housekeeper must consider herself as the immediate representative of her mistress, and bring to her work all the qualities of honesty, industry, and vigilance which could be expected of her if she were at the head of her own family.  Constantly striving to promote the prosperity of the household, she should oversee all that goes on in the house, that every department is thoroughly attended to, and that the servants are comfortable, at the same time that their various duties are properly performed.  Cleanliness, punctuality, and method are essentials in the character of a good housekeeper.  Without these qualities, no household can be well-managed.  Order again, is indispensable; by it we provide that “there should be a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  A necessary qualification for a housekeeper is that she should thoroughly understand accounts.  She will have to write in her books an accurate account of all sums paid for any and every purpose, the current expenses of the house, tradesmen’s bills, wages, and many miscellaneous items.  The housekeeper should make a careful record of every domestic purchase whether brought for cash or not.  An intelligent housekeeper will by this means be able to judge of the average consumption of each article in the household; and to prevent waste and carelessness.’

The Housekeeper’s Room

The Housekeeper’s room is generally made use of by the lady’s-maid, butler and valet, who take there their breakfast, tea and supper.  The lady’s-maid will also use this apartment as a sitting-room, when not engaged with duties which would call her elsewhere.   In different establishments, according to their size, means and expenditure of the family, different rules, of course, prevail.  For instance, in mansions where great state is maintained, and there is a house-steward, two distinct tables are kept, one in the steward’s room for the principal members of the staff, the second in the servants’ hall for other domestics.  At the steward’s dinner-table, the steward and housekeeper preside; and here, also, may be included the lady’s-maid, butler, valet.’

Evening Occupation

‘In the evening, the housekeeper will often busy herself with the necessary preparations for the next day’s duties.  At times, perhaps attention will have to be paid to the preparation of lump-sugar, spices, candied peel, the stoning of raisins, the washing, cleansing, and drying of currants, etc.  The evening, too, is the best time for attending to household and cash accounts, and making memoranda of any articles she may require for her store-room or other departments.’

Recipe for Candied Peel

‘There are three kinds of candied peel, viz. citron, lemon, and orange, the mode of preparation being in all cases practically the same.  The rinds of sound young fruit are cut lengthwise in halves, freed from pulp, boiled in water until soft, and afterwards suspended in strong cold syrup until they become semi-transparent.  Finally, they are slowly dried in a stove or in a current of hot air.’

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Cooking Tartlets with Mrs Beeton

Pudding, Ice, Cake and other Moulds, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management , 1915 Edition.
Let’s cook again with Mrs Beeton.  Here are  Mrs B’s recipes for:
  • Lemon tartlets (Fr. Tartelettes au Citron) – two different methods;
  • Parisian tartlets (Fr. Tartelettes à la Parisienne);
  • Frangipan tart (Fr.  Tourt à la Frangipanne)
  • Pork pie.

Lemon tartlets – Method one

Ingredients:  Short paste (see earlier blog posting), 4 ozs of butter, 4 ozs of castor sugar, 3 yolks of eggs, 1 lemon.

Method: Cream the butter and sugar well together, beat each yolk of egg in separately, and add the juice of the lemon and the rind finely grated.  Let the mixture stand in a cool, dry place for at least 24 hours, then bake in patty-pans, previously lined with the short paste.

Time taken: To bake, from 15-20 minutes.  Quantity: sufficient for 1 tartlets.

Lemon tartlets – Method two

Ingredients: Short paste (see earlier blog posting), 4 lemons, 4 ozs of loaf sugar, 4 ozs of blanched finely shredded almonds.

Method: Pare the lemons thickly, boil the fruit in 2 or 3 waters until tender, then pound or rub through a fine sieve.  Replace in the stewpan, add the sugar, almonds and lemon-juice, and boil until a thick syrup is obtained.  Line 10 or 12 patty-pans with paste, fill them with the preparation, and bake for about 20 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

Time taken:  To bake from 20 to 25 minutes.  Quantity: sufficient to make 10 or 12 tartlets.

Parisian tartlets

Ingredients:  Short paste (see earlier blog posting), 3 ozs of butter, 3 ozs of castor sugar, 2 ozs of cake crumbs, 1 oz of cornflour, 1 oz of ground almonds, 2 small eggs, 2 tablespoonfuls of cream, 1 dessertspoonful of lemon-juice, 1/2 a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon.

Method: Cream the butter and sugar well together until thick and smooth, add the eggs separately and beat well.  Mix the cream and cornflour smoothly together, stir the ingredients into the mixture, add the ground almonds, cake crumbs, cinnamon and lemon-juice, and mix well together.  Line 12 tartlet-moulds with paste, fill them with the preparation and bake in a moderate oven from 15 to 20 minutes.  When about 3/4 baked, dredge them well with castor sugar.

Time taken: 30 to 40 minutes.  Quantity: sufficient for 12 tartlets.

Frangipan tart

Ingredients: short crust (short paste) (see earlier blog posting), 4 eggs, 1 1/2 ozs of butter, 1 1/2 ozs of sugar, 1/4 of an oz of flour, 1/2 a pint of milk, 1 bay-leaf, 2 or 3 fine strips of lemon-rind, nutmeg.

Method:  Mix the flour smoothly with a little milk, simmer the remainder with the bay-leaf, lemon-rind, and a pinch of nutmeg, for about 15 minutes, then strain it on the blended flour and milk, stirring meanwhile.  Return to the stewpan, add the butter, sugar, and slightly beaten eggs, and stir by the side of the fire until the mixture thickens, but do not let it boil.  Line a tart-tin with the paste, pour in the preparation when cool, and bake from 25 to 30 minutes in a moderate oven. Serve cold.

Time taken: To bake, about 1/2 an hour.  Quantity: sufficient for 1 large or 2 medium-sized tarts.

Note from Mrs B on Frangipanni puddings.  They were originally made chiefly of broken bread and a great variety of flavouring substances.  This was named after the Marchese Frangipanni, head of a very ancient Roman family whose privilege it was to supply “holy bread” or wafers to St. Peter’s cathedral, hence the name, derived from the Latin words frangere (to break) and panis (bread).  The Marchese Frangipanni was the inventor of the complicated, but very durable, perfume which bears this name.

Pork pie

Ingredients:  1 1/2lb of lean pork, 1lb of household flour, 6 ozs of lard, 1 small onion, 1/4 of a pint of water, cayenne, pepper and salt.

Method: Cut the meat into dices, and season it well with salt and pepper.  Place the bones in a stewpan, add the onion, salt and pepper, cover with cold water, and simmer for at least 2 hours to extract the gelatine, in order that the gravy, when cold, may be a firm jelly.  Put the flour into a large basin, and add to it a good pinch of salt.  Boil the lard and water together for 5 minutes, then add it to the flour, stirring it thoroughly until cool enough to be kneaded.  Knead until smooth, cover with a cloth, and let the basin stand near the fire for about 1/2  an hour.  Throughout the whole process the paste must be kept warm, otherwise moulding may be extremely difficult; but overheating must also be avoided, for when the paste is too soft it is unable to support its own weight.  At the end of this time, re-knead the paste, put aside about 1/4 for the lid, and raise the remainder into a round, or oval form, as may be preferred.  If an inexperienced worker finds any difficulty in raising the pie by hand alone, a small jar may be placed in the centre of the paste, and the paste moulded over it.  When the lower part of the pie has been raised to the necessary shape and thinness, subsequent work may be made much easier by putting in some of the meat, and pressing it firmly down to support the lower part of the pie.  Before adding the lid, moisten the meat with 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of the prepared seasoned gravy; the remainder is re-heated, and added after the pie is baked and still hot.  Three or four folds of greased paper should be pinned round th pie to preserve its shape, and prevent it becoming too brown.  The pie should be baked for at least 2 hours in a moderate oven, and its appearance is greatly improved by brushing it over with yolk or egg when about 3/4 baked.  Slices of hard-boiled egg are often added with the meat.

Time take: To bake, about 2 hours.  Quantity: enough to make 1 medium-sized pie.

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton, TV Programme

Afternoon tea with Mrs Beeton

The Victorian Kitchen display at Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire

Time to cook with Mrs Beeton again.  This posting is inspired by the second series of BBC’s The Great British Bake Off which began yesterday, Tuesday 16th August, 8pm on BBC2.  I love the mix of contemporary baking and historical background of some of the food created.  This week the 12 amateur bakers tackle 24 perfect cupcakes in 2 hours, Mary Berry’s recipe for coffee and walnut battenberg cake and finally, a tiered, showstopping cake.  Compulsive viewing for all foodies and food historians!

I have selected a few lovely recipes from my 1915 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, to create afternoon tea à la Mrs B:

  • Tea bread;
  • Macaroons;
  • Ratafias;
  • Queen cakes (the forerunner of cupcakes and featured in one of the history segments on The Great British Bake Off);
  • Saucer cake for tea;
  • Afternoon tea scones;
  • How to make marzipan;
  • How to make the perfect cup of tea.

    Assorted Pastry from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition


25g = 1oz      100g = 4oz       225g = 1/2 lb     450g = 1lb

Tea Bread

Ingredients: 2lbs of flour, 1/4 of a lb of butter, 1/4 of sugar, 1oz salt, 1 1/2ozs of yeast, 1 1/2 pints of milk and water, 4 yolks of eggs.

Method: Make the milk and water lukewarm, turn it into a convenient-sized basin, dissolve the yeast and 2ozs of the sugar in it, stir in 1/4 of a lb of flour, cover over with a clean cloth, and stand aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.  While this is standing, weigh the remainder of the flour on to the board, rub the butter into it with the hands, then make a bay; add the other 2ozs of sugar, the yolks of eggs, and the salt in fine powder, and then if the ferment is ready put it into the bay, wet up into a smooth paste, give it a good kneading, then cover over with a clean cloth, and leave it to prove.  When well proved, divide up into pieces about 2ozs in weight, and form them into various shapes – twists, crescents, scrolls, rosettes, or any other shape fancy may suggest.  As these are formed, set them on to a clean tin, cover them over and leave to prove.  When well proved, wash them over with a beaten-up egg, and bake in a moderately warm oven to a nice colour.

These rolls are very much appreciated for afternoon tea, tennis and garden parties, and are an excellent adjunct to coffee, cut up into slices and dried in the oven as rusks.

Time taken: About 2 hours  Quantity: sufficient for 30 to 40 rolls.


Ingredients:  1/2 lb of ground sweet almonds, 3/4 lb of caster sugar, the whites of 3 eggs, wafer paper.

Method: Mix the sugar and ground almonds well together on the board, then put them into a large marble or porcelain mortar, add the whites of eggs, and proceed to well rub the mixture into a smooth paste.  When it begins to get stiff and stands up well it is ready, or if uncertain whether the paste has been pounded enough, try one in the oven, and if all right, lay sheets of wafer paper over clean baking-sheets, and lay out the biscuits upon it with a spoon, or savoy bag, place a few split almonds on the top of each, then bake in a cool oven.

Time taken: 15 to 20 minutes in a slow oven.  Quantity: Sufficient for 24 to 36 biscuits.


Ingredients: 3/4 lb of sweet ground almonds, 2ozs of butter, 1 1/4 lbs of caster sugar, the whites of 6 or 8 eggs.

Method: Exactly the same as for macaroons, but the paste must be a little softer and they must be laid out in very small drops on to sheets of clean white baking paper, laid over baking-plates, and baked in a cool oven to a very pale in colour.

Time taken: 20-30 minutes.  Quantity: Sufficient for 60 or 80 ratafias.

Queen cakes

Ingredients: 1lb of flour, 1/2lb of butter, 1/2lb of caster sugar, 3 eggs, 1 teacupful of cream, 1/2lb of currants, 1 teaspoonful of baking-powder, essence of lemon, or almonds, to taste.

Method: Sieve the baking-powder well with the flour on to a sheet of paper.  Put the butter, sugar and cream into a clean basin, and beat up to a light cream.  Add the eggs 1 at a time.  When all the eggs are in, add the flour and fruit, and moisten with milk to the consistency of cake-batter.  Put it into small buttered tins, and bake the cakes from a 1/4 to 1/2 an hour.  Grated lemon-rind may be substituted for the lemon and almond flavouring, and will make the cakes equally nice.

Time taken:  1/4 to 1/2 hour.  Quantity: sufficient for 2 or 3 dozen small cakes.

Saucer cake for tea

Ingredients: 1/4lb of flour, 1/4 of a best cornflour, 1/4lb of castor sugar, 1/4lb of butter, 2 eggs, 1oz of candied orange or lemon-peel.

Method: Mix the flour and cornflour together; add the sugar, the candied peel cut into thin slices, the butter beaten to a cream, and the eggs well-whisked.  Beat the mixture for 10 minutes, put it into a buttered cake-tin or mould; or, if this is obtainable, a soup-plate answers for the purpose, lined with a piece of buttered paper.  Bake the cake in a moderate oven from 3/4 to 1 hour, and when cold put it away in a covered canister.  It will remain good for some weeks, even if it be cut into slices.

Time taken: 3/4 to 1 hour   Quantity: sufficient for 1 cake

Afternoon tea scones

Ingredients:  4ozs of flour, 1oz of butter, 1 tablespoonful of caster sugar, 1/2 of a teaspoonful of cream of tartar, 1/4 of a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, 1 egg, a little cold water.

Method: Rub the butter lightly into the flour, and add the remaining dry ingredients.  Beat and stir in the egg, adding cold water or milk to make a light dough.  Roll out thin, cut into small rounds, and bake on a hot griddle or in a sharp oven.


Ingredients: 1lb of loaf sugar, 12ozs of ground almonds, 3ozs of sifted icing sugar, 2 whites of eggs, 1 1/2 gills of water (gill is approximately 1/4 of a pint).

Method: Boil the sugar and water to 240F, then draw the sugar boiler or pan aside, and when the syrup has cooled slightly add the almonds and whites of eggs.  Stir by the side of the fire for a few minutes, then turn on to a slab, stir in the icing sugar, and work with a spatula until the preparation is cool enough to handle.  Knead until perfectly smooth, add flavouring to taste, and mould into desired shapes.

How to make the perfect cup of tea

In order to make good tea it is necessary that the water should be quite boiling, but it must on no account be water that has boiled for some time, or been previously boiled, cooled, and then re-boiled.  It is a good plan to empty the kettle and refill it with fresh cold water, and make the tea the moment it reaches boiling point.  Soft water makes the best tea, and boiling softens the water, but after it has boiled for some time it again becomes hard.  When water is very hard a tiny pinch of carbonate of soda may be put into the teapot with the tea, but it must be used very sparingly, otherwise it may impart a very unpleasant taste to the beverage.  Tea is better made in an earthen than a metal pot.  One good teaspoonful of tea will be found sufficient for two small cups, if made with boiling water and allowed to stand 3 to 4 minutes; longer than this it should never be allowed to stand.  The delicate flavour of the tea may be preserved, and injurious effects avoided by pouring the tea, after it has stood 3 or 4 minutes, into a clean teapot which has been previously heated.

Fancy Cakes from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.
Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, History, Museum

A Taste of the Tudor Kitchen

Tudor Kitchen display, Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire

I recently had the good fortune to attend an absolutely brilliant workshop on life in the Tudor kitchen by food historian and interpreter Emma Shelley.   The workshop is part of a vibrant programme of educational events and activities organised by Southampton City Council’s Arts and Heritage Department to compliment the recent opening of the Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton.   Emma’s knowledge and enthusiasm for Tudor cooking is inspiring.  Her clear explanations and interactive ‘hands-on’ approach kept us all engaged for a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours.  The interior of Westgate Hall, a 15th Century timber-framed building, also added an air of authenticity, the perfect backdrop to learn some Tudor cooking skills.  I love cooking.   I have cooked Regency and Victorian food before, but never tried Tudor cooking, I had mistakenly thought that the ingredients would be too difficult to source and the recipes tricky to follow.   Emma has proved me quite wrong. 

Emma prepares for our butter-making task, Tudor style.

We helped make butter, ate dried pears, tried traditional bread, cakes (well biscuits actually, but the Tudors called them cakes), quince sweetmeats and a lovely sweet/savoury dessert that reminded me of traditional thick-set fromage frais.  

The end result of the group butter-making task
Emma prepares a delicious Tudor dessert for us to try.

All of the food displayed was typical of fare made by a Yeoman farmer’s wife.   Emma explained that the wife would have had dairy and storage rooms, no glass in the windows and for light used beeswax candles, rancid beef fat tallows and rushlights.  There were no forks in Tudor times, just knives.  The Tudor diet was varied and made-up of whatever was in season.  Their average calorie intake often topped 5-6,000 a day.  Many of the ingredients used are still familiar to us: wheat, barley, peason (peas), garlic, quinces, plums, cherries, apples, pears, mutton, cheese, pork and fish.  Honey was not as readily available due to a law that only allowed clergy and landowners to have a bee-keeping licence. Pastry was robust and used as a container for the filling as opposed to an edible casing

Fasting, usually on Wednesdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays, was practised throughout the Tudor and Elizabethan period. Fasting was also observed during Lent and Advent.   On fasting days no meat or white meat could be consumed, only fresh or preserved fish, dairy, dried fruits and vegetables.  Incidentally, root vegetables were eaten but viewed with suspicion by the God-fearing Tudor who thought their earthy connections were too close for comfort to hell and the devil.  Potatoes were never eaten at all in Tudor times, they had been brought over to the UK but were ignored as they are related to the nightshade family.  The use of white flour was seen as a symbol of high status, it was a finer texture than brown flour as a result of the bran particles having been removed.  Bread made with white flour was called manchet.  Bread was made twice a week.  I can’t wait to have another go at Tudor cooking.  Emma recommended Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking by Elinor Fettiplace and Hilary Spurling, published in 1987 by Penguin.  It is unfortunately out-of-print but I am sure a copy can be found in a good secondhand bookstore or on-line repository.   Happy Tudor cooking!

To contact Emma Shelley, please click here.

Tudor chafing dish from Saintonge in South-West France on display at Tudor House & Gardens, Southampton. Chafing dishes were used to keep food warm on the table, heating plates of food resting on top.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton

Making pastry Mrs Beeton’s way – Part 1 – Short Crust Pastry

How to make pastry – Mrs Beeton 1915 edition
In chapter 31 – ‘Pastry making, tarts, tartlets, icing, etc’, Mrs B. advice on pastry making is clear, ‘…the quality especially to be desired in pastry is lightness.  The best pastry is therefore that which contains the greatest quantity of the coldest air prior to baking.’ (1915: 879)
25g = 1 oz       100g = 4 oz     225g = 1/2 lb    450g= 1lb
Rich Short Crust
1lb flour; 1/3 of a lb of butter; 2 yolks of eggs; 1 level tablespoonful of castor sugar; 1 teaspoonful of baking-powder.
Rub the butter lightly into the flour, add the baking-powder, sugar, yolks of eggs, and a little water if necessary, but this paste must be rather stiff, and when the butter is soft, or the paste is being mixed in a warm place, only a few drops of water may be required.  Roll out thinly and use at once.  The crust for fruit tarts should be lightly brushed over with cold water, and dredged with castor sugar before being baked.
Preparation time=  15 minutes,  will make 2 tarts of medium size or 24 patty-cases.
Short Crust
8 ozs of flour; 2 ozs of butter; 2 ozs of lard; 1 yolk of egg, 1 teaspoonful of baking-powder; a good pinch of salt; about 1/8th of a pint of water.
Rub the butter and lard lightly into the flour, add the baking-powder, salt, yolk of egg, and as much water as is necessary to form a stiff paste.  Roll out to the required thickness and use at once.
Preparation time = 15 minutes, sufficient for 1 medium-sized tart.
Short Crust, Plain
1/2 lb of flour; 3 ozs of lard; clarified fat or dripping; 1 teaspoonful baking-powder (heaped); 1/4 of a teaspoonful of salt; 1/4 of a pint of water.
Pass the flour, salt, and baking-powder through a sieve into a large basin, then rub in the fat, add the water, and work into a smooth paste with a knife.  Roll out to desired shape and thickness, and use at once.  When required for fruit tarts, 1 tablespoonful of sugar should be added to the above ingredients.
Preparation time = 15 minutes, sufficient for 1 medium-sized tart.
Let me know if you think Mrs Beeton’s recipes for short crust pastry work better than your normal methods?  Happy baking!