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 Activity, Fashion History, History, Vintage

Make Do and Mend – Recycling Fashion 1940s Style

My 2011 twist on the 1940s Make Do and Mend ethos. Take one length of 1940s dress fabric.
Add modern trimmings and buttons. Transform spare fabric into a matching purse.
Turn rest of spare fabric into a rose brooch with button detail.

Recently my friend and I found ourselves flicking through the rails in our favourite vintage clothing store, Foxtrot Vintage Shop in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  My friend found a lovely 1940s summer dress, with knitting motifs on the fabric and matching belt detail.   It fitted her perfectly, the only problem was that it was just too long.  Sensing my friend’s disappointed and possible decline to purchase, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration.   I could cut the excess fabric off of the bottom and turn it into a matching purse and rose brooch, the latter perfect for pinning on to a matching cardigan.  Both of us left the shop thrilled, my friend had purchased a charming dress that fitted her like a glove and I had a craft project on my hands. This got me thinking just how relevant the 1940s government campaign, Make Do and Mend, was to us today in these cash strapped times.  

What was the Make Do and Mend campaign?   By Spring 1941 the amount of clothing reaching Britain was in short supply.  On 1st June 1941 the UK Government introduced clothes rationing, allowing each person 66 clothing coupons per year.  In 1943 The Ministry of Information distributed the pamphlet ‘Make Do and Mend’, supported by advertisements in magazines and on newsreels.  DIY fashion was born.  One advertisement issued by the Board of Trade in 1942 declared:

‘If you care for clothes you naturally want to take care of your clothes.  This is a really important War job for every woman to take seriously today.    Fortunately, you are rewarded for the extra trouble, not only by feeling that you are helping to win the War, but also by looking your best all the time.  And you save money as well as coupons.’

Here are a few examples of 1940s Make Do and Mend advice:
  • Turn worn-out sheets into tea-towels or glass cloths;
  • Join a Make Do and Mend class;
  • Rayon – don’t soak, dip them.  Don’t boil them, use lukewarm water, don’t wring or twist them.  Hang evenly so they do not pull out of shape;
  • Always keep a needle and thread handy.  Deal with a ladder or tear straight-away;
  • Old bath towels can be turned into flannels and the more badly worn towels can be used for dusters or floor cloths.  A swimsuit can also be made out of bath towels;
  • Unpick dog biscuit or sugar bags and turn into tea towels;
  • Hat netting can be made into fish net stockings;
  • If your suspenders need renewing, knit 4 inch-wide bands and replace worn suspenders.  Re-attach old grips to knitted bands;
  • Sew loops on your towels and hang them up, they will last longer.

Clothing and shoe exchanges were also very popular.  These would have been run by local schools or women’s organisations such as the WVS/WRVS.   Clothing rationing ended on 15th March 1949.

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 American Civil War, American Civil War Medicine, History, History of Medicine

American Civil War Medicine – Part 1 – Field Medicine

US Medical Company (Union Regiment), Southern Skirmish Association (So.Sk.An).

‘The Northern men are not only of stronger bone and muscle than the men of the South, but a very large proportion of them are mechanics and agriculturists, who are inured to labour and fatigue; whereas few, or none of the Southern men have been brought-up to bodily exertion or fatigue.’

(Extract from a ‘Letter from New York’, by J. Outram, dated 23rd April 1861 and published in The Glasgow Herald, Tuesday 7th May 1861)

One of several research projects I am working on at present is a study of the career of Dr Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919), a female Surgeon in The American Civil War.   During the course of my research I have become increasingly interested in the broader topic of American Civil War medicine, so I thought I would share with you a few basic details of this incredibly interesting subject.

The American Civil began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12th 1861 and ended on 9th April 1865, with the final shot being fired on 22nd June.  The Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons in the US Medical Army faced a daily struggle on the battlefield to keep their soldiers alive.  There has been much written about the manner in which Surgeons often ‘mangled to death’ the wounded soldiers,  earning them the less than flattering nickname of ‘Sawbones’.  Although this did happen in certain cases, it is pretty much a distortion of the truth.  The Surgeons were highly skilled and found themselves working in unimaginable conditions on the battlefield with limited resources.  The growing number of casualties simply overwhelmed a lot of the Surgeons and facilities in the field hospitals were pretty rudimentary.   Knowledge of germ theory was not yet fully developed and it wasn’t until after the Civil War had ended that the germ theory of disease was discovered by Louis Pasteur.   Then in 1867 Joseph Lister proved his theory on the importance of aseptic surgery.   If more had been known about these two important discoveries at the time of the American Civil War, then many, many thousands of lives could have been saved. The Surgeons were simply unaware that holding bloody instruments in their unwashed hands and performing amputations on one soldier then wiping the blood off onto their apron and gown before moving on to the next procedure, was the cause of cross-contamination and infection.   However, even with the advent of aseptic surgery, physicians simply sprayed an antiseptic solution in the operating room prior to procedure believing this would kill all germs.  Many Surgeons still carried on performing operations with dirty aprons and unsterilised instruments, a practice that continued in many places  throughout the rest of the nineteenth century.

Surgeon’s on both sides in the American Civil War faced a daily battle with disease, the silent but deadly ‘third army’.   Approximately two thirds (63%) of fatalities among Union troops were from disease rather than  battle wounds.  Surgeon General William A. Hammond of the Union Medical Corps kept excellent records and his statistics support this fact.  In J. Outram’s ‘Letter from New York’, an extract of which is quoted above, he states that soldiers from the North were likely to be physically stronger than the ones from the South.  Medically speaking the statistics blow Outram’s theory clear out of the water.  Physical strength may equate to a  developed immune system but if you are living and fighting in insanitary conditions you are just as susceptible to disease as any soldier would be whether from the North or the South.  Soldiers often urinated and defecated near to the water source and would then bathe or drink from the same source, unaware of the implication of their actions.

Scurvy was also common due to the Scorbutic effect of a limited diet.  The solder’s daily ration consisted of salt pork which was often rancid, stale crackers (hardtack) and coffee.   Typhus infection and lack of sleep affected a majority of soldiers at some point too.  The nights were often freezing and to keep themselves warm the soldiers would sleep with all of their changes of clothes on and as you might imagine body lice was very common.

Malaria was rife in the South and hospital staff tried everything to control its spread.  One method involved placing heated irons into bowls of vinegar in the hope that the vapours would deter the lethal, ‘Anopheles’ mosquito.  Emetics were readily prescribed to cure diarrhea, dysentery and jaundice, a popular prescription was simply warm water and honey.   Not all prescribing was so mild, blue mass (a mix of mercury, honey and licorice)  lead acetate and silver nitrate were also  popular remedies.  Blue mass was extremely dangerous and resulted in mercurial gangrene, tooth loss and gum damage.   The South suffered quite a bit with shortages of medical supplies due to the Union naval blockade.  Desperate for ligatures for sewing-up wounds, one Southern doctor improvised by using the hair from a horse’s tail which was softened by boiling it in water.  Statistics detailing cause of death amongst soldiers of the Confederacy are much trickier to come by.   Many of the Surgeon General’s office records were destroyed during the burning of Richmond at the end of the War.

American Civil War medical instruments owned by members of the UK Re-enactment Group So.Sk.An.

Further Resources

There are too many books and resources on this topic to list them all here.  However, here are a selection that you may find useful if you wish to read further on this topic:-

The UK based Re-enactment Group,  The Southern Skirmish Association (So.Sk.An), have a US Medical Company in their Union Regiment.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, USA.

Alfred Jay Bollet M.D., (2001) Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs (Galen Press)

H. H. Cunningham, (1993), Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press)

George Worthington Adams, (1996), Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press)

Posted in History, Vintage, Vintage Retail

Two recommendations for fans of all things Vintage

1950s room exhibit, Museum of 51 Exhibition, South Bank

If you are a fan of all things Vintage, I have two recommendations for you:

  • Vintage Life Magazine– This monthly magazine (£3.70) is perfect if you are a fan of 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s nostalgia.  Regular features on beauty, fashion, lifestyle, music and food.  Good news is that the publication is easier to source than before, since WHSmith now stock it.  I love this magazine and the classifieds section at the back is great for sourcing Vintage goods.
1950s Scarf, exhibit in the Museum of 51 exhibition, South Bank


  • Blitz Vintage Department Store Opened earlier this month in London.  A huge five-room Victorian warehouse has been turned into a department store to cater for all of your vintage fashion and lifestyle needs.  Situated just off Brick Lane, 55-59 Hanbury St, London, E1 5JP. Tel: 0207 377 0730. E-mail:
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 History, Museum, Review

Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire

Members of the Hungerford Household Tudor re-enactment group delight visitors with glimpses of Tudor life.

In an earlier post I wrote about the re-opening of the Tudor House and Garden after nearly 10 years of closure on Saturday 30th July.  I thought I would share with you some images I took at the opening weekend to entice you to visit this lovely museum which is nestled in the quiet back streets in the bustling port city of Southampton.    I have to say,  I am particularly impressed with the way in which respect has been shown to this beautiful old building whilst at the same time the latest museum technology has been used to good effect throughout to bring the House’s complex history to life.

Hungerford Household Tudor Re-enactment Group

Mention must also be made of the extremely friendly staff at the Museum.  I have now made three visits to the venue and every time the staff have been so polite, helpful and professional.  I ask a lot of questions, I am a historian it is in my nature to do so, but on each occasion the staff always did their best to answer my queries.  What also shines through is their love of the building and a genuine sense of pride to be working there, quite rare to find these days.   So, if you live in Southampton then please support your local museum and if you live elsewhere you won’t be disappointed you made the trip.  The café, overlooking the Tudor knot garden, has lots of reasonably priced light snacks, refreshments and a rather indulgent afternoon tea.

A Tudor gentlemen enjoying the delights of the restored knot garden.
Many examples of ship graffiti were discovered in 2010 during the restoration, all date between 1570 and 1620. This is a very rare discovery and the museum uses the latest technology to interpret the find.
World War II air-raid shelter exhibit, Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire.
Fireplace in the Banqueting Hall. Enjoy the clever multi-media show which will introduce you to the fascinating history of the house.


Tudor House and Garden, Bugle Street, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 2AD, Tel: 023 8083 4242,, Open: Mon-Sun 10-5, Admission prices:  children under 7 – Free,  Concessions – £3.75, Adults – £4.75, Family ticket (2 adults + 3 children) – £12.

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!
Posted in History, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton, the original domestic goddess.

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management 1915 Edition

I recently made a thrilling discovery in my parent’s attic, an edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1915 by Ward, Lock & Co., Limited.   My mother had carefully packed the treasured and well-loved hand-me-down into a storage crate.   Unfortunately, the book was put to rest as it had become a little too well-loved and fallen into a rather parlous state.  The first edition, printed in 1861, sold 60,000 copies and by 1868 sales had topped 2 million.  The 1915 edition has twice the number of pages and is four times the size of the first edition.  It includes hundreds of photographs, numerous coloured plates and over 2,000 new recipes contributed by Swiss Chef, Mr C. Herman Senn and his team. Herman Senn was a prolific writer of cookery books and one of the founders of the Universal Cookery and Food Association (UCFA), which evolved into the organisation now known as The Craft Guild of Chefs.  Many of these new recipes helped to add an international dimension to the book.    This edition also features a section on ‘Colonial and Foreign Cookery’,  aimed at ‘…Britons living under other skies’, so that they could, ‘…learn how to combine the dishes of their adopted country with those of the Motherland ……and give a complimentary and characteristic repast when welcoming guests from abroad.’ (1915:Vii)   

Isabella Mary Beeton (née Mayson) was born on the 12th March 1836 and died on 6th February 1865 after contracting puerperal fever following the birth of her fourth child.  Mrs Beeton was a working journalist and made frequent contributions to her husband’s magazine, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.  The Beeton’s first home was a large Italianate property at 2 Chandos Villas on the Woodridings Estate in Hatch End which they moved into after one month’s marriage in August 1856.    The move to Hatch End was a turning point for Isabella.  She found herself running a household and in charge of staff for the first time.  She began to write extensively articles on all aspects of household management and cooking, to help over young women who had found themselves in a similar position of running a home for the first time.  The readership for Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was predominately low to mid-level members of the Victorian/Edwardian middle-classes.  Her writing elevates mundane domestic tasks to the level of professional craft.

There are some food historians who believe Mrs Beeton’s book to have very little relevance for the modern-day cook,  I beg to differ.  Although many of the ingredients stated are no longer available, such as ivory dust, the techniques given in many of the recipes are still as useful and relevant today as they were 150 years ago.   I look forward to bringing you some of my favourite selections from this edition. 

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