Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton Goes Vegetarian

Illustration of vegetarian dishes, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition

‘A Vegetarian Society has been founded at Ramsgate by a gathering of vegetarians from many parts of the kingdom.  Its objective is to promote the use of a farinaceous and fruit diet, in preference to the use of flesh.  At the head of the Society is Joseph Brotherton Esq, MP who stated that he had abstained from eating animal food for the last thirty-eight years, during which he had enjoyed excellent health.’

The Preston Guardian, Saturday 20th November, 1847

In 1847 the first Vegetarian Society was founded.  The inaugural meeting took place on 30th September, 1847 at a Physiological Conference staged at Northwood Villa Hydropathic Institute in Ramsgate.  The first public meeting of the society was held in Manchester the following year.  The Society had 889 members in 1853 and by 1897 membership had swelled to 5,000.  In 1908 The International Vegetarian Union was founded to oversea the growing number of individual Societies.  Mrs Beeton acknowledged this increasingly popular food movement and included a chapter on ‘Vegetarian Cookery’ in the 1915 edition of her Book of Household Management (first published in 1861). One of the key publications that influenced much of The Vegetarian Society’s early doctrines was John Smith’s (of Malton) Fruits and Farinacea – The Proper Food of Man. Smith also wrote a book on vegetarian cooking called Vegetable Cookery, published in 1866.

Vegetable illustration from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition

At the Vegetarian Society’s annual dinner in 1848 the members were treated to an extraordinary meat-free spread:

  • First course – savoury omelet; macaroni omelet; rice fritters; forcemeat fritters, onion and sage fritters; bread and parsley fritters; savoury pie; mushroom pie; potatoes; peas; cauliflowers; beetroot;
  • Second course – plum pudding; fruit tarts, moulded rice; moulded sago; cheese cakes; blanc mange; custards; creams; sponge cakes; grapes; currants; gooseberries; figs; nuts; almonds and raisins.

Mrs Beeton said of Vegetarianism: ‘In England the question has come to the front on the ground of dietetic reform, and a number of persons known as “Vegetarians” abstain from animal food altogether, or take it only in such forms as milk, cheese, butter and eggs. The stricter adherents, however, abstain from the use of some or all of these products.  Other people, while not classing themselves as vegetarians, consider that a less quantity of food than is generally eaten is sufficient to keep the body in good health, and avail themselves of the various dishes tastefully served at the numerous vegetarian restaurants which are now common in London and other large towns.’ (p. 1317, 1915 edition).

Vegetable illustration from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition

Here a few of my favourite vegetarian recipes from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition):

Hotchpotch Soup

Ingredients – 3 ozs of pearl-barley, 1 small cabbage, 2 carrots, 1 turnip, 2 onions, parsley and herbs, 2 ozs of butter, salt and pepper, 3 quarts of water.

Method – Put the barley on the fire with the cold water.  Scrape or grate one of the carrots, and put it aside in a little water.  Chop all the rest of the vegetables very small, and when the water boils put them in with the butter, salt and pepper.  There should be enough vegetable to make it rather thick.  Boil it all for 2 hours, then add the scraped carrots, and boil for another 30 minutes. Takes 3 hours to make and is sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Spinach souffles from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

Asparagus Soufflé

Ingredients – 50 green asparagus heads, cooked and well-drained, 2 ozs of butter, 1 1/2 ozs of flour, 2 ozs of grated Parmesan cheese, 2 yolks of eggs, 3 whites of eggs, 1/2 a pint of milk, salt and pepper.

Method – Heat the butter in a stewpan, stir in the flour, and add the milk.  Beat and cook the mixture over the fire until it leaves the sides of the pan, then add the yolks of eggs, and a little salt and pepper.  Beat well, add the cheese, stir in the stiffly whisked whites of eggs, and lastly the asparagus heads, or the pureé thereof.  Turn into a well-buttered soufflé dish, and back in a moderately hot oven for about 20 minutes. Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Macaroni and Cream

Ingredients -1/2 a lb of macaroni, 2 ozs of Gruyère cheese grated, 2 ozs of Parmesan cheese grated, 2 ozs of butter, 1/3 of a pint of cream, salt and pepper, triangles of fried or toasted bread.

Method – Break the macaroni into short lengths, throw them into boiling salted water, and boil rapidly for 20 minutes, or until tender.  Heat the butter, drain and add the macaroni, stir in the cheese and cream, and season to taste.  Make quite hot, and serve garnished with sippets of bread.  Takes 1/2 an hour to make and is sufficient for 2 or 3 persons.

 Onion Pudding

Ingredients – 8 ozs of flour, 2 ozs of breadcrumbs, 3 or 4 ozs of butter (1 tablespoonful of olive oil may be substituted), 1 teaspoonful of baking powder, 1 saltspoonful of salt, water.  For the mixture: 3 or 4 large mild onions, 2 tablespoonfuls of breadcrumbs, 1/4 of a teaspoonful of sage, salt and pepper, 1 or 2 ozs of butter.

Method – Cut the peeled onions into small dice, place them in a pie-dish with the breadcrumbs, butter, sage, and season with salt and pepper, cover closely, and bake gently for 1 hour.  Rub the butter into the flour and breadcrumbs, add the baking powder and salt, and sufficient water to form a rather stiff paste.  Line a basin with the paste, put in the mixture when cool, cover with paste, and afterwards with 2 or 3 folds of greased paper, and steam for 2 hours.  Service in the basin, and send brown sauce to table separately.  Takes 3  1/2 hours to make and is sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Savoury Semolina

Ingredients – 4 ozs of semolina, 2 ozs of grated cheese, 2 ozs of butter, 1 teaspoonful of made mustard, pepper and salt, cayenne, breadcrumbs, 1 quart of milk.

Method – Boil-up the milk, sprinkle in the semolina, stir and cook for 15 minutes, then add the cheese, butter, mustard and pepper, salt and cayenne to taste.  Turn into a buttered gratin dish, or several china scallop shells, sprinkle liberally with breadcrumbs and cheese, and add a few very small pieces of butter.  Brown in a hot oven, and serve.  Takes 1/2 an hour to make and is sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Vegetable Goose

Ingredients – 1/2 a lb of breadcrumbs soaked in cold water, 1 onion, 1 teaspoonful of chopped parsley and herbs, 1 oz of butter, pepper and salt.

Method – Squeeze the bread nearly dry, and mash it, mix in the other ingredients, chopped small.  Butter a Yorkshire pudding-dish, put in the mixture, and bake in a good oven for about 3/4 hour. Serve hot and cut in squares.  Takes about 1  1/2 hours to make and is sufficient for 2 persons.

Lentil Porridge

Ingredients – 3 ozs of lentil flour, 1 pint of water, salt, butter.

Method – Put the flour and salt in a basin, with a little cold water, add the rest of the water boiling, put it on the fire, and boil for 20 minutes.  Stir in the butter just before serving.  Half lentil and half barley or wheat-flour is preferred by some, and makes a close imitation of the Revalenta Arabica, so much-advertised for invalids.  Takes 10 minutes to make and is sufficient for 2 persons.

Pea Fritters

Ingredients – Cold brose, or lentil porridge, breadcrumbs, herbs, onions, seasoning, flour, frying-fat.

Method – Mix the cold porridge about its own bulk in breadcrumbs.  Add a little chopped onion and sweet herbs, and seasoning  taste.  Shape the preparation into flat cakes, flour them, and fry a nice brown in the frying-pan.  Takes 10 minutes to make.

In strict vegetarian cookery suet is replaced by one of the nut batters, now so plentiful on the market.  In Italy and Corsica a flour made from dried chestnuts is much used. It is of a dark-brown colour, and richly nitrogenous.  Carefully used, it makes excellent puddings and cakes.’ (Mrs Beeton, p. 1342, 1915 edition)


Ingredients – 1/2 a lb of flour, 1/2 a lb of golden syrup, 2 ozs of butter, 1 teaspoonful of baking-powder, 1/2 a teaspoonful of ground ginger, 1 egg, salt.

Method – Mix the baking-powder and ginger with the flour, rub in the butter, add the treacle and the egg, well beaten, and mix all together; flour a pudding cloth, put in the mixture, and boil for 1 1/2 hours, serve with butter sauce.  Takes 2 hours to make and is sufficient to feed 2 or 3 persons.

Pastry Without Butter

Ingredients – 1 lb  flour, 1 teaspoonful of baking-powder, a small wineglassful of salad-oil, water.

Method – Mix the flour and baking-powder.  Add the oil to cold water, and stir the paste to a proper consistency for rolling.  Fold it over and roll it out 2 or 3 times, place on a baking tin, and bake immediately.

Vegetable illustration from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton – Cooking Around The World

cooking utensils featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

The marvellous Mrs Beeton never ceases to surprise and delight me.  Dipping into her Book of Household Management provides the social historian with an invaluable insight into domestic life of the middle classes during the Victorian and Edwardian era.  Much of her advice and many of the recipes are just as relevant to the modern-day cook as they were to the Victorian and Edwardian housewife.

Mrs B’s chapters on cooking styles and recipes from around the world really is an exciting and inspirational read.  Not just content to include recipes from Europe, which in itself was quite a cosmopolitan gesture at that time, she features a chapter on Jewish cookery, with a lovely selection of Passover dishes to recreate and background detail on the Jewish culture.  There are also recipes from far-flung corners of the Empire including: Australia; Canada; America; South Africa and India.

According to Mrs B, the first cookery book in a modern language was published in Madrid in 1521.  She also informs us that during the reign of Henry III, the Cordon bleu, the order of knighthood of the Saint Espirit, became the recognized definition of a skilful female cook.  On the subject of poultry feeding in France, Mrs B is uncomfortable with this method but nonetheless shows respect to its practice by another food culture. ‘Poultry feeding is quite an art in France, and every French cook knows how to cram a fowl, duck, or goose.  To watch them, they would appear to go at the process with a will.  Seizing the unfortunate bird three or four times a day, they open its bill and stuff a quantity of warm meal and potato down its throat, caressing it and talking to it the while, and when they consider it has had food enough, wind up by giving it a very small walnut by way of a digestive.’ (p.1527, 1915 edition).

Here are a small selection of the fascinating recipes that Mrs B features:


Brown Onion Soup (Potage Soubise Brune)

Ingredients – 4 medium-sized onions cut into dice, 2 ozs of butter or 1 1/2 ozs of good dripping, a few scraps of stale bread cut into small pieces, a few rinds of bacon, the water in which a cauliflower has been cooked.

Method – Melt the butter in a stewpan, put in the onions, cover closely, and let them cook very slowly for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, boil the cauliflower in slightly salted water, drain it, and pour the water over the onions when they are sufficiently cooked.  Add the bacon rinds, bread and a little pepper, cover and cook gently for 1 hour, then press the whole through a fine sieve.  Replace the soup in the stewpan; if too thin, let it boil rapidly until sufficiently reduced; or if too thick, add a little milk.  Re-heat, season to taste, and serve. Takes  2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours to cook and is sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.


Sacher Torte

Ingredients – 8 ozs of butter, 6 ozs of castor sugar, 4 ozs of fine flour, 4 ozs of vanilla chocolate, finely grated, 8 eggs, the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 a gill of whipped cream, apricot marmalade.

Method – Beat the butter to a cream, stir in the yolks of eggs separately, add the sugar, grated chocolate, lemon-rind and lastly the flour, and beat briskly for at least 20 minutes.  Whisk the whites of eggs to a very stiff froth, stir them into the rest of the ingredients as lightly as possible, pour the mixture into round shallow tins, and bake in a moderate oven from 40 to 45 minutes.  When quite cold spread the surface rather thickly with apricot jam, and decorate tastefully with whipped cream.  Takes  1 1/2 to 2 hours to make and is sufficient for 2 or 3 tarts.


Wiener Schnitzel

Ingredients – 2 lbs of lean veal, eggs for frying, 1 or 2 lemons, clarified butter, fillets of anchovies, gherkins, capers, egg and breadcrumbs, brown sauce, pepper and salt.

Method – Cut the meat across the grain into thin slices, beat with a cutlet bat, trim them neatly, and season them with salt and pepper.  Coat the slices carefully with egg and breadcrumbs, and fry in hot clarified butter until lightly browned on both sides.  Fry the eggs in clarified butter, or, if liked, good salad-oil, then drain them well, and trim them neatly.  Heat the sauce, season to taste, and add a little lemon-juice.  Dish the meat either in a circle or lengthwise on a potato border, place the eggs on the meat, and on each egg arrange 2 or 3 small fillets of anchovies.  Garnish the dish with slices of lemon, fancifully cut gherkin, and capers.  Serve a little sauce on the dish, and the remainder in a sauce-boat.  Takes 3/4 of an hour to make and sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.


The Collazione, the midday meal of the upper classes, is almost identical with the English luncheon or the French déjeuner à la fourchette, while the simple meal of the poorer Italians frequently consists of nothing more substantial than chocolate or fruit and bread.’ (p. 1551, 1915 edition)

Polenta Alla Bologna

Ingredients – 3 or 4 sausages, 1 lb of Indian corn meal, 1 pint of boiling water, 1/4 of a pint of tomato purée, grated Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs.

Methods – Stir the polenta gradually into the boiling water, add salt to taste stir until smooth, and let it be cool.  Put the sausages into boiling water, cook them for 10 minutes, and when cool, remove the skins and cut them into slices.  Place a layer of polenta at the bottom of a fireproof baking-dish, cover with a layer of sausages, add a little tomato purée, a good sprinkling of cheese, and a seasoning of salt and pepper.  Repeat until the dish is full, cover lightly with breadcrumbs, add a few bits of butter, bake in a moderate oven for about 1/2 an hour, and serve hot.  Takes 50 to 60 minutes to make and serves 3 or 4 persons.


Housekeeping in Spain is primitive and cooking a very simple affair.  Every family buys just enough potatoes or beans each day for one dinner, cooks and eats them all, and the next day does the same thing over again.  The kitchens are almost bare of utensils with which to cook.  Even rolling pins and bread boards are unknown, for both bread and pastry are obtained from the bakery.  The bread, by the way, is close-grained, it’s almost solid condition being due to the excessive kneading it receives.’ (p. 1568, 1915 edition)

Estafado (Stewed Chicken)

 Ingredients – The remains of cooked chicken cut into dice (about 2 heaped tablespoonfuls), 2 large potatoes cut into dice, 1 slice of toasted bread cut into dice, 1 tablespoonful of raisins, 2 tomatoes, 2 green pepper finely shredded, 1/4 of a pint of wine or vinegar, 1 oz of lard, salt.

Method – Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out all the juice and cut them into dice.  Place the chicken, potatoes, toast, raisins, tomatoes and green pepper in a stew-jar, add a good seasoning of salt, the wine or vinegar, and as much water as is needed to barely cover the whole.  Place the lard on the top in small pieces, cover closely, and stew gently for about 1 1/2 hours.  Serve hot.  Takes 1 1/2 hours to cook and sufficient for 2 persons.


‘..there are many interesting dishes peculiar to special feasts and fast days, but in all the directions given for these, it will be noticed that cleanliness and health are regarded as the essential.’ (p. 1572, 1915 edition)

Frimsel Soup

Ingredients – 1 quart of best stock, 1 egg, flour, salt.

Method – Add a little salt to the egg, and stir in as much flour as possible.  Knead well, roll out as thin as a wafer, and divide it into three strips.  Put these aside until thoroughly dry, then place the strips one above the other, and shred finely.  Then put them into the stock when boiling, simmer from 20-25 minutes, remove the scum, and serve.  Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.


Fricassee of Kangaroo Tail

Ingredients – 1 tail, 2 ozs of butter, 1 oz of flour, 1 onion sliced, 1 carrot sliced, 1/2 a small turnip sliced, 2 or 3 springs of parsley, 1 bay leaf, 2 cloves, 1 blade of mace, 1 dessertspoonful of lemon-juice, salt and pepper, stock or water.

Method – Divide the tail at each joint, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then drain and dry well.  Fry the joints lightly in hot butter, then take them up and stir in the flour.  Fry until well browned, add the stock and stir until it boils, then put back the tail, and add the vegetables, herbs and spices.  Season to taste, cover closely, and simmer gently until tender.  Arrange the pieces of tail neatly on a hot dish, strain the sauce over, and serve.  Takes 3 hours to make.

Peach and Pineapple Marmalade

Ingredients – 7 lbs of peaches, 1 large ripe pineapple, 3 lemons, 6 lbs of sugar.

Method – Pare and slice the pineapple, peel and stone the peaches, crack half the stones and remove the kernels.  Put the peaches and pineapples into a preserving-pan with just a little water to protect the bottom layer, heat slowly to simmering boil, and afterwards cook gently for about 1/2 an hour.  Add the sugar gradually, so as not to reduce the temperature below simmering point, the strained juice of the lemons and the kernels, and boil gently for 20 minutes, skimming when necessary.  Pour into earthenware or glass jars, cover closely, and store in a cool dry place.


‘Many South African colonists consider the iguana a very welcome addition to the bill of fare, and say that the flesh of this reptile is anything but unpalatable.’  (p.1588, 1915 edition)


Ingredients – 2 lbs of meat finely chopped, 1 thick slice of bread, 2 medium-sized onions sliced, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoonfuls of curry powder, 1 dessertspoonful of sugar, 1 tablespoonful of lemon juice or two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, 1 oz of butter or fat, 1/2 a pint of milk, 8 almonds finely chopped, salt.

Method – Soak the bread in the milk, drain away all that remains unabsorbed, and beat out the lumps with a fork.  Fry the onion in the butter or fat, add the curry powder, 1/2 teaspoonful of salt, the sugar, almonds, lemon juice, meat, bread and 1 egg.  Mix well and turn the whole into a buttered pie-dish or into little cups.  Beat the remaining egg, add the milk strained off the bread (not less than a good 1/4 of a pint), add a little salt and pepper, and pour over the mixture.  Bake gently until the custard is set.  When possible, juice obtained by soaking tamarinds in water should replace the lemon juice.  Sufficient for 6 or 8 persons.


‘Housekeeping in India is totally different from housekeeping here. The mistress cannot undertake the personal supervision of her kitchen, which is not in the house or bungalow, but outside, and often some distance away…As regards culinary apparatus, the native cook’s requirements are extremely simple.  With the aid of a fireplace made of clay, a few earthen dishes, and other utensils of a primitive description, he will produce excellent results.’ (pp. 1599 & 1602, 1915 edition)

Quoorma Curry (We know it as Korma today!)

Ingredients – 1 lb of lean mutton, 2 ozs of butter, 3 ozs of shallots or onions finely chopped, 1 clove of garlic very finely chopped, 1 dessertspoonful of finely grated green ginger, 1 dessertspoonful of rice flour, 1 teaspoonful of ground coriander seed, 1 teaspoonful of ground cardamoms, 1/2 a teaspoonful of ground cloves, 1 teaspoonful of ground turmeric, 1 saltspoonful of sugar, 1 pint of mutton stock, 1/2 a pint of milk, 2ozs of ground almonds, the juice of 1 lemon, salt.

Method – Cut the meat into 1/2 inch squares, sprinkle over them the ginger and a good seasoning of salt, and let them remain for 1 hour.  Melt the butter in a stewpan, fry the shallots and garlic until lightly browned, then add the rice flour, coriander, pepper, cardamoms and cloves, and cook gently for 10 minutes.  Add the stock, boil up and simmer gently for 15 minutes, then pour over the meat, and let it stand covered for 1/2 an hour.  When ready, turn the whole into a stewpan, boil up, and cook as slowly as possible for 1/2 an hour, or until the meat is quite tender.  Meanwhile soak the pounded almonds in the milk, and when the meat is tender, strain the milk 2 or 3 times through fine muslin, pressing the almonds well each time, then add it to the contents of the stewpan.  Mix the turmeric smoothly with a little stock or water, stir it in, add the sugar and salt to taste, and continue to cook as slowly as possible for 20 minutes longer.  Add the lemon-juice just before serving.  Takes 2 hours and serves 4 persons.

cooking utensils featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition. Chafing dish, items 1, 2, 3 and 7.


Oysters Cooked in a Chafing Dish

Ingredients –  1 pint of oysters, 2 tablespoonfuls of butter, a small teaspoonful of salt, a few grains of cayenne, slices of buttered toast.

Method – Melt the butter in the chafing dish, put in the oysters, and sprinkle in the seasoning.  Stir repeatedly and cook gently until the oysters begin to curl at the edges, then serve at once on the prepared toast.  Variety may be introduced by adding either 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of thick cream just before serving, or 3 yolks of eggs beaten with the juice of 1 lemon.  Takes 10 minutes to make, sufficient for 3 or 4 persons and is seasonable from September to April.

Rye Pop Overs

Ingredients –  1 1/2 cups of rye flour, 1 cupful of white flour, 1 tablespoonful of sugar, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 2 eggs, 1 pint of milk.

Method – Mix the dry ingredients together.  Beat the eggs, add to them the milk, and gradually mix with the flour.  When sufficiently moist to offer little resistance to the spoon beat well.  Stir in the remainder of the milk and egg, turn into well-buttered cups or pop-over tins, and bake in a fairly hot oven.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Washington Pie

Ingredients – 1 lb of flour, 3/4 of  lb of castor sugar, 1/2 lb of butter, 6 eggs, 1 gill of cream, the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 a teaspoonful of saleratus, fruit jelly or apricot marmalade.

Method– Beat the butter and sugar together until white and creamy, then add the lemon-rind and the eggs 2 at a time, beating well between each addition.  Mix the saleratus with the cream, stir into the mixture, and add the flour as lightly as possible.  Turn into 4 round shallow baking-tins, and bake in a moderate oven.  Allow the cakes to get cold, then split them and put a thick layer of fruit jelly, or apricot marmalade, which has been stiffened by a little gelatine, between the cakes.  Cut into sections, and serve as a cold sweet.  Takes 20 minutes to bake and makes 4 cakes.

Victorian and Edwardian earthenware cooking utensils featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Managment, 1915 edition.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton

The Edwardian Craze for Paper Bag Cookery – Part 2

Gas cooking ranges, 1915. (Left) large double gas oven with hot plate, for a large kitchen, (right) gas oven with hot plate, for ordinary use. Edwardian cooks recommended cooking with gas as the best method for paper bag cooking.

Following on from my previous posting, on paper bag cookery, I have selected a few recipes from cookbooks by Vera Countess Serkoff (1911); Emma Paddock Telford (1912) and Mrs Beeton (1915).  Since Christmas is nearly upon us, I thought I would choose recipes with a festive theme.  The more adventurous cooks among you may wish to experiment with some of these recipes and have a go yourself.  Edwardian cooks would have purchased purpose-made paper bags and special clips, although not entirely flame retardant, were reasonably robust for the job in hand.

The contemporary cook could use baking parchment as a substitute and care with temperature settings on your oven should be taken, underestimate and keep a close eye on it during the cooking process in case the bag burns or bursts. I suggest double-lining your parchment parcels. To secure the parcel’s openings first fold the parchment paper over and then seal the edges tight with a generous amount of cooking foil.  If you are cooking a recipe that is likely to produce a lot of juice, place the parcel on a deep baking dish or roasting tin.  I find my own oven, which is fan-assisted, can be quite fierce, many a cupcake and biscuit has turned to charcoal after just a few minutes cooking! I now move the oven shelf into one of the lower groove settings for certain types of baking and I would adopt this approach when experimenting with paper bag cooking as well. Paper bag cookery is sometimes now called cooking En papillote.

I also discovered some additional and really interesting quotes in Vera Countess Serkoff’s Paper-Bag Cookery book which I would like to share with you here.  Her musings do give us an interesting insight into living and cooking conditions in the UK, for the less well-off, at the turn of the last century.  Her suggestion to erect the gas stove in your bathroom when cooking your evening meal is quite an alarming piece of advice though!

‘Those who live in small houses or flats know the misery of having each meal heralded by a violent smell of cooking, which invades every room, and robs the average person of all appetite; the tenant of those uncomfortable dwelling-places known as ‘Maisonettes’ knows only too well what it is to inhale the fragrance of the downstairs burned onion or frying bloater; while the occupants of the lower maisonette suffer from audible and pungent remarks upon the odours from their kitchen, remarks which frequently lead to friction. Now, paper-bag cookery does not smell.’ (p. 68)

Doing without a Kitchen

‘With the aid of paper-bag cookery, the up-to-date householder may eliminate the kitchen altogether, thus gaining another room.  The small flat at a moderate rent usually consists of one sitting-room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. It is equally unpleasant to sit in the room in which one has just dined, or to take meals in the room where they have just been cooked.  With a little contrivance and ingenuity, the kitchen may be transformed into a neat little dining-room, a gas stove erected in any convenient rececessor in the bathroom and with paper-bag cookery, nothing more elaborate will be needed.’  (p. 69)

Bedroom Cookery

‘For the business woman, living in one room, ordinary cooking is out of the question, yet most landladies refuse to cook for their lodgers, except at a high charge, and restaurant living is expensive.  Ordinary cooking, too, means more or less heat and odours, incompatible with keeping the one room fresh and neat.  In this case, too, paper-bag cookery solves the difficulty.’ (p. 69)

 ‘Wild West’ Cookery

‘Paper-bag cookery has been seized upon with thankfulness by a girl who went out to keep house for a brother in the ‘Wild West’, and found the toil of cooking with rough and old-fashioned utensils beyond her capacity. So incessant were her labours, so unsatisfactory the results, that she hailed with joy and gratitude a newspaper article and some bags sent her by a compassionate relative, and now writes triumphantly that all her cookery troubles are over.’ (pp. 69-70)

Recipes for Paper Bag Cooking


  • A White Plum Pudding and Fruit Sauce;
  • Mince Pie;
  • Walnut Macaroons;
  • Date Pudding;
  • Cinnamon Apples;
  • Cranberry Pie;
  • Colonial Pumpkin Tartlet;


  • Cheese Straws;
  • Lentil Cutlets;
  • Cod Steak and Bacon;
  • Stew;
  • Yorkshire Pudding;
  • Veal Steak With Mushrooms;
  • Kidney Potatoes.

A White Plum Pudding (Telford)

Beat to a cream a half cup of sugar and three-quarters cup of butter.  Add four eggs well beaten, a salt spoonful of salt, two cups milk, a quart of flour mixed with one-half cup shredded citron, one-half cup currants, a teaspoonful grated nutmeg and a teaspoonful vanilla.  Just before turning into the mould stir in two even tablespoonfuls pure baking powder.  Put in bag, surround with water, steam two hours and serve with any good sauce.

Delicious Fruit Sauce for Plum Pudding (Telford)

Boil together one cupful of water and two of sugar for ten minutes.  Thicken slightly with three level teaspoonfuls arrow-root or two teaspoonfuls corn starch mixed with a little cold water, simmer five minutes, then add a half cupful candied cherries, cut in halves and a few pistachio nuts quartered.  Flavour with nutmeg or vanilla as preferred.

Mince Pie (Telford)

A simple rule for making mince meat by measure, calls for a pint bowl of well cooked beef chopped to the finest mince and measured after chopping, two bowls  of tart apples chopped into coarse bits and a half bowl of chopped suet.  Add to this a pound of seeded raisins, also chopped, a pound of currants, a quarter of a pound of citron cut in thin slices, a tablespoonful each of powdered cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Use enough sweet cider to make moist, then add a bowl of sugar and an even teaspoonful salt.  Scald well and put away in a stone jar. When you make the pies add a few whole raisins, chopped nut meats or any jelly you have on hand.  When mince-pie is to be reheated for dinner and served hot, grated cheese may be sprinkled over the top just before setting it in the oven to heat.

Walnut Macaroons (Telford)

One and one-half cupfuls of sugar, one-third cup of butter, three eggs, three cups of flour, one teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in water, one teaspoonful of cloves, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, one cup of English walnut meats, one cup of chopped dates.  Do not roll the mixture as in ordinary cookies, but drop into a greased bag with a spoon. Seal and bake slowly for thirty minutes.

Date Pudding (Serkoff)

Mix six ounces of bread-crumbs, four of self-raising flour, three of grated suet, half a pound of dates, stoned and chopped, but no sugar.  Moisten with a beaten egg, and, if necessary, a little milk, but do not make the mixture liquid.  Put into a greased bag and cook for an hour.

Cinnamon Apples (Telford)

Peel, core and quarter six good cooking apples, preferably greenings.  Melt a tablespoonful of butter in a warm bowl and stir the apples in it until coated with the butter.  Mix a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon with a half cup of granulated sugar, and stir into the apples.  Have a paper bag thoroughly buttered and put the apples in it.  Rinse out the bowl with a cup of hot water, add it to the apples, seal carefully, place on a broiler which rests on a pie plate and bake in a hot oven fifteen minutes.  Half a pint of whipped cream over the apples when served is an addition, but they are delicious, cooked in this way, without it.

Cranberry Pie (Telford)

Line a rather deep pie plate with a plain crust.  Put on a border of richer paste, fill with cranberries cooked according to directions for stewed cranberries, and put strips of crusts over the top, making squares or diamonds as preferred.  Put in bag and bake.

Colonial Pumpkin Tartlet (Telford)

To one quart of cooked and sifted pumpkin add one tablespoonful each of butter and flour, six well beaten eggs, a cupful of sugar, a quarter teaspoonful each of mace and nutmeg, four teaspoonfuls of ginger and one gill of milk.  Bake in patty-pans lined with rich flaky crust, set in paper bag. Remove from pans before serving. A touch of novelty is given by topping each tartlet with a generous portion of maple syrup or strained honey.


Cheese Straws (Serkoff)

Mix together four ounces of butter, four ounces of self-raising flour, four ounces of grated cheese, a little cayenne, a pinch of salt, and a well-beaten egg.  Roll out, cut into thin strips and into one or two rings.  Put inside a buttered bag, cook fifteen minutes, and serve with several straws inside each ring.

Lentil Cutlets (Serkoff)

Either Egyptian or German lentils are excellent in a paper bag.  Wash them well, soak all night in abundance of fresh, cold water.  Next day put them in a well-greased bag with the water in which they have been soaking, a carrot, a turnip, a parsnip, and onion, chopped up roughly.  Add neither salt nor pepper.  Cook two hours, and they will then be tender enough to press through a colander.  Season the resulting purée with salt and pepper, re-heat, and serve as a vegetable.  Or add enough boiling stock to make a thick cream, stir in carefully well beaten egg and serve as soup.

To make the cutlets, cook the lentils in the recipe already given.  When they have been pressed through a colander, add enough bread-crumbs and mashed potato to make a stiff paste, season rather highly with salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, and a tablespoonful of onion juice.  Mix thoroughly, form into neat cutlets, place in a thickly buttered bag, and cook fifteen minutes.

Cod Steak and Bacon (Beeton)

A Slice of cod (½ to ¾ of a pound), ½ a cupful of breadcrumbs, a teaspoonful of chopped parsley, 1 egg and 2 slices of bacon.  Wash and wipe the fish.  Mix the breadcrumbs, the parsley, and the egg (well beaten) together, and add a pinch of dried savour herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the mixture over the cod, cover with the bacon and then place carefully in a well-greased paper bag, which should be folded over and fastened with clips.  Bake in a hot oven for twenty minutes.

Stew (Beeton)

1lb of lean beef (rump steak or top side), 2 tablespoonfuls of flour, a teaspoonful of salt and a quarter of a teaspoonful of pepper, savoury balls.  Cut the meat into thin slices, and after mixing the flour, salt and pepper together, dip each piece of meat into it and shake well, then place inside a well-greased paper bag, fasten and cook in a hot oven on a grid for about three-quarters of an hour.  Then turn the contents into a deep dish, surround with savoury balls, and serve.

Yorkshire Pudding (Beeton)

½ a lb of flour, 2 eggs, a pint of milk, 1 oz of dripping, salt.  Sift the flour into a basin.  Beat-up the eggs with the mile, and stir the mixture gradually into the flour.  Then beat for about ten minutes.  Add a pinch of salt, and pour into a Yorkshire pudding tin, containing one ounce of melted dripping.  Slip the tin into a buttered paper bag, fasten with clips, and bake in a hot oven for about twenty-five minutes.

Veal Steak With Mushrooms (Beeton)

A thick fillet of steak cut from the leg part of veal, a thin cut slice of gammon, some cup mushrooms, a lemon, salt and pepper.  Flatten the steak with a bat, and brush over both sides with the cut side of a lemon, season with salt and pepper. Put the slice of gammon on top, place in a well-buttered paper-bag, fasten and place in a very hot oven on a grid, shelf, or trivet, and cook quickly for five or six minutes, and then slowly, allowing altogether from 12 to 15 minutes according to the thickness of the steak.  To serve slit open the bag and carefully take out the steak, place it on a hot dish, together with the slice of gammon, range some broiled cup mushrooms neatly round the dish, and send to table hot.  This dish is particularly nice if served with kidney potatoes.

Kidney Potatoes (Beeton)

About 1lb of small kidney potatoes, salt, a little chopped parsley, and a tiny piece of fresh butter.  Wash and peel the potatoes thinly, plunge them into slightly salted boiling water for a few minutes, and then drain on a dry cloth.  Place the potatoes into a thickly greased paper bag, and bake them on a grid or trivet in a brisk oven for about eighteen minutes.  When the potatoes are done, open the bag, add a good pinch of fine salt, a little chopped parsley and a tiny piece of fresh butter.  Shake the contents well, then dish up, and serve.