Posted in Activity, Fashion History, History, Mrs Beeton, Museum, Vintage, World War One, World War Two

Vintage Pinboard – Make & Bake – Be Inspired In 2013

Vintage Cooking 2Happy New Year to you all, I hope that 2013 brings you good health and happiness in equal measure.

I say a fond farewell to 2012 –  what an incredible year it was. During the past twelve months I have experienced the usual highs and lows of everyday life as well as a number of unexpected media opportunities which may not have come my way had I not written this blog.

I am hoping that 2013 will be full of adventure and new experiences. I cannot wait to share my news with you about one of these exciting media opportunities, a primetime television series that I have recently been involved in. However, I have to keep my ‘secret squirrel’ promise for a little while longer before all can be revealed and the series finally airs on British television.

The start of a new year is, for many, a time of new beginnings, setting resolutions and making plans for the future. This year, one of my creative aims is to improve my knitting and crocheting skills which at present can best be described as of a basic level. I began my first knitting project in December, a plain scarf for my parents’ dog. A hit I think, but not quite as much as the packet of tasty treats and squeaky ball which were also in the dog’s Christmas stocking!

Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!
Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!

Last year, I purchased a selection of vintage knitting patterns from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The pattern books contain many inspiring projects. Although, fifty or so years ago most knitters were pretty accomplished at their craft and some of the patterns do look fiendishly difficult but I like to have something to work towards.

My grandmother's 1948 Singer sewing machine.
My grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine.

Whilst home for the holidays, I took the opportunity to have a rummage in my parents’ attic and was not disappointed by my search. Amongst the assortment of heirlooms and vintage treasures, I found a real gem – my late grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine (Serial No. EE617052).  Mum told me that grandmother had ordered the machine in 1945 and due to the shortage of materials following World War Two, waited three years before taking delivery of it. Mum said that it was grandmother’s pride and joy.

Detail of my grandmother's 1948 sewing machine.
Detail of my grandmother’s 1948 sewing machine.

In 2013, I would like to bring the Singer back to life, perhaps using it to make a vintage outfit. I thought I might use it to make a copy of Christian Dior’s, 1948, New Look – similar to the outfit I wore to the first Goodwood Revival meeting in 1998. (Featured in 1950’s Britain – Part Three)  However, it will have to wait for a short bit as I am currently making a 1950s evening gown for one of my ongoing media projects and anyway, I will need to get the Singer properly serviced first.

I wanted to find-out more about Singer sewing machines. During the course of my research I found a really interesting website, Love to Know Antiques: Advice Women Can Trust  CLICK HERE. The article on Singer machines was very helpful, particularly when it came to identifying the exact production date of grandmother’s machine.

There are now a growing number of collectors and vintage enthusiasts who are using antique sewing machines for their crafting and dressmaking. Artist Sarah Harper, owner of Rowan Tree Studios, collects and uses them for teaching sewing courses at her workshop in Clovelly, Devon. CLICK HERE. The February issue of Homes & Antiques magazine (on sale in the UK, 3rd January) also includes an article on ‘Vintage Sewing Machines’, exploring why they are becoming increasingly popular and desirable to collect. CLICK HERE. So what are you waiting for, treat yourself to a secondhand sewing machine, you will be so glad you did. Many of the models can be brought for less than £100. Sarah Harper also sells and reconditions old machines so do check-out her website before you begin your search. CLICK HERE.

I discovered there is a Museum dedicated to sewing machines.  The London Sewing Machine Museum can be found on the first floor of Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company’s premises (292-312 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7AA – Tooting Bec tube stop using the London Underground) which is owned by Ray Rushton.  The Museum has over seven hundred industrial and domestic machines, many of which are incredibly rare, including one owned by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, HRH Princess Frederick of Prussia (1840-1901).  The machine was made in 1865 by a German company to a Wheeler & Wilson pattern, it had been given as a wedding present to the Princess. (Homes & Antiques, February, 2013, Sorrell, K., p.62).

The Museum is open on the first Saturday of every month, between 2pm and 5pm. The next two openings will be on Saturday 2nd February and Saturday 2nd March.  Admission to the Museum is free but donations, upon entry, towards The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Leukaemia Research, would be much appreciated. One point I must alert you to, is that due to the fact the Museum is located on the first floor of a building, access is via approximately forty steps. Unfortunately, they do not have a lift, so access for the disabled and those with limited physical ability, is restricted.  For views of the Museum’s interior, CLICK HERE.

Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: 'Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were close based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond's patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin's only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: ‘Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were closely based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond’s patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin’s only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke  has a wonderful collection of domestic bygones to help inspire you. This museum is the perfect day-out for social historians and vintage enthusiasts. In my opinion, Milestones has the best collection of vintage kitchenalia on display of any museum outside London. They also have a nice selection of vintage sewing machines, including models produced for children. For more information on the museum, please see my previous article, CLICK HERE.

The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG - SH.1986.122). The display label reads: 'The first 'toy' machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG – SH.1986.122). The display label reads: ‘The first ‘toy’ machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Further Reading

To help inspire your inner ‘creative god(dess)’ I have compiled a selection of craft projects for you to have a go at. All chosen from my own collection of vintage magazines and books. Some vintage patterns and sewing instructions tend to be quite tricky, presuming prior ability and knowledge of the craft in question. However, I have selected ones that are fairly straightforward to follow. If crafting isn’t your thing, then why not have a go at one of the vintage recipes instead.Vintage  cooking


If you do make/bake any of the items featured below I would love to see the end result, so too will other readers of Come Step Back in Time.  Please e-mail me a photograph (JPEG format), your name and a short paragraph about your experiences making/baking it – which may be good, bad or humourous. I will select the best examples to showcase in an article, here on Come Step Back in Time, in Spring 2013.  My e-mail address can be found on the ‘About Me and Media Contact’ page.  Deadline for receipt of e-mail and image, is midnight (GMT) on Friday 1st March 2013 – so you do have plenty of time to complete your chosen project. I cannot wait to see how you all get on.

From the examples showcased in the article I will select one winner to be the ‘best in show’.  The ‘best in show’ winner will receive one of my vintage, secondhand books.  I will send it to you wherever you are in the world – postage paid by myself! I have a large collection of incredible books so it will be something special, I promise. So, what are you waiting for, get creative…….

Peg-top kite diagram.
Peg-top kite diagram.

The Peg-top Kite

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.700-701)

The best-known simple kite is the peg-top pattern.  It is of fairly small size and covered with tissue paper gummed to the frame; such a kite, a foot long, can be flown on stout thread as a line.  The frame consists of a relatively stiff wooden backbone, and a thin, flexible piece of split cane bent to a semicircle by a string arranged like a bowstring.  The centre of the bow is lashed to the top of the backbone, and strings are run from the horns of the bow to the bottom of the back-bone; these strings, however, are not too tight, as the strain is to be taken on the bowstring.

After the frame is covered, a piece of string double the length of the kite has its two ends tied to the backbone, one near each end.  This is the bridle, and the kite line is tied to it so that the upper arm of the bridle is shorter than the lower.  The rig of the kite is completed by a tail, to which convention consigns the form of a string two or three times the length of the kite, tied to the bottom of the backbone and having screws of paper tied to it at intervals; a strip of fabric, however, answers the purpose equally well, being more durable and less trouble to fix.

Home-made peg-top kites sometimes have a rigid wooden member instead of the bowstring.  This is a mistake, as it tends to prevent the horns of the bow from bending backwards under the air pressure, as they must do to give the dihedral angle effect needful for stability.

The adjustments that have to be made consist in varying the amount of tail to be carried and the point of the bridle at which the line is tied on; the kite will not fly unless these adjustments are made suitable to the speed at which the wind is travelling.

The peg-top pattern is inconvenient in large sizes, as it cannot well be taken to pieces for travelling.  A modified form of it is therefore used in which the bowstring is replaced by a straight and particularly flexible stick and the bow omitted, the frame thus consisting of two wooden members arranged in the form of a cross, with a surrounding edge of string tied in succession to the four ends of the sticks.  If this frame is covered with a light cotton fabric it can easily be arranged so that the sticks may be removed and the whole rolled up for transport.  The same adjustments as in the case of the peg-top kit are needed in order to secure for it a satisfactory stability.Finished toy rabbit.

Rabbit Soft Toy

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.670-671)

The main part of the body and the head are cut in one, but the under part and the ears are added separately.  A quarter of a yard of cloth, 48 inches wide, is needed, together with a little pink silk material for lining the ears.

Pattern for toy rabbit.
Pattern for toy rabbit.

When cutting out, use the cloth folded with the selvedges together, and arrange the pattern, cut to the shape shown, in the positions seen.

It is necessary first to join the long straight seam of the base or under part; then take it, still folded, so that the seam runs along the top, but with the wrong side inside, and slip it between the two layers of the main body.  The latter should be so put together that the right sides face.

Stitch the edges of each layer of the base to the edges of each layer of the main part, matching edges neatly, and also drawing the curved back part of the base down to the lower edge of the main part.  Next stitch the two main parts of the body together above the inserted base portions, commencing at the front just below the head, and working around this along the top of the body to the back of the inserted base.Rabbit toy diagram

Leave a small opening in the part of this seam, however, so that the stuffing may be put in.  Turn the shape inside out, stuff it tightly with kapok;  and sew up opening.  Line each ear with silk; then make a pleat in the straight edge and sew it to the head.  Insert two eyes. [Plastic animal eyes are easily brought from a craft shop or on-line store. These modern eyes will need to be inserted before you commence stuffing the toy. If you intend making the toy to give to a child/baby then not all man-made or natural stuffing is safe. I found an interesting article on the website ‘FunkyFriendsFactory‘, about toy-making which you may find helpful when choosing materials for your rabbit. CLICK HERE.].

Knitted Bed Socks

(Woman’s Weekly, November 4th, 1911, p. 4)

Cast on eighty stitches for lady’s and ninety for gentleman’s socks.  Knit four plain rows, increasing one at each end of the rows.  Then knit ten or twelve rows (knit two, purl two) to form the width of the foot.  Begin the intakes by knitting two together twice in the centre of every row.  Do this for about eighteen or twenty rows, afterwards knit without decreasing, ten more rows, cast off, and sew up.Finished knitted bath mat

Knitted Bath Mat

(Stitchcraft, September 1947, p.9)

The original mat measures 20 by 26 inches.  It is knitted from end to end in an easy loop stitch, and can be made very quickly by even the most amateur worker.

12 ozs of thick knitting cotton are used here, but you may find the quantity you use may be slightly different, as these knitting cottons vary very much.  So we give you here the stitch you use first of all; just try a bit to make sure. Tighten loops as you knit.

Cast on 8 stitches on the largest needles you have, about size 5 will do; use the yarn double.  1st row: Work loops thus: – k. 2 border sts., * put needle into next st. without knitting it, put forefinger of left hand under point of right needle and wrap yarn over right needle point and round finger in opposite way to knitting, then round needle again, draw through stitch on left needle, put these on left needle, then knit all sts. again as 1 st.; repeat from * to last 2 sts., k. 2.

2nd row: k. 2, purl to last 2 sts., k. 2. These two rows form the pattern. Repeat them in a few times to make a piece about 2 inches.

Now measure the tension of your work over the back, and work out how many sts. you will need to cast on to get a width of 20 inches.  For example, if you have 3 sts. to an inch you will need 60 sts.  The mat you see here had just under 2 sts. to an inch, so 45 sts. were cast on.

When you have done 9 inches in pattern, work 5 sts. in centre of the work in plain stocking-stitch, keeping remainder in pattern as before, for 8 inches, then finish off with another 9 inches of pattern. Cast off.

With a length of contrasting wool, embroider ‘bath’ across the plain centre piece, then work all round the edge in buttonhole-stitch.His and Her's Scarves

Knitted Scarves

(What’s New in Knitting by Patons & Baldwins Ltd, 1958, p.24)

Tubular knitting on only 2 needles. The secret is how you can knit on one pair of needles a double fabric often used for scarves which has the appearance of a tube of stocking stitch seamed together at both ends. This fabric is easy to knit, and simply consists of one row.

Cast on double the number of stitches required for the finished width, e.g. if you are working at a tension of 8 sts. to the inch in stocking stitch (3-ply on a size 11 needle), you would need 80 sts. for a 10-inch width in ordinary stocking stitch, therefore would cast on 160 sts. for tubular knitting.

Cast on an even number of sts.

1st and every row – * K. 1, bring wool to front, slip 1 purlwise, take wool to back; repeat from * all across row.

Suggestions for scarves:

For a light-weight scarf in 2-ply, use No. 9 needles. Cast on 160 sts.

Work in tubular knitting for 46 inches. Cast off, knitting, 2 together, all across row. Fringe ends.

The ideal needle for 3-play is a size 8; 4-play a size 7, and double knitting a size 5.Make Do and Mend Coat

Make Do And Mend – Two Old Dresses into a Coat-Frock

(Make Do and Mend by The Board of Trade by The Ministry of Information, 1943, p. 25)

Here is an idea for a dark woollen dress that is worn in front and is too tight for you.  Open it from neck to hem and finish the edges neatly, turning hem in and rounding them up to the neck, unless you like to turn down the points at the neck as revers.  Then use the best part of the silk from an old printed dress or any other material you may have in a contrasting colour, and gather it in a panel down the front, fastening it under the edges of the dark material to give the effect of a Redingote worn over a dress.  This is very suitable for maternity wear.

You could use the bodice of the figured silk frock to make a blouse.  It will probably be worn under the arms, or you wouldn’t be cutting it up, but there should be ample material left over in the skirt after making the panel for the coat-frock to put in new short sleeves and a yoke to the blouse.

Edwardian home sweetmaking.
Edwardian home sweetmaking.


Tipped to be THE sweet of 2013, be on trend!

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, p. 77)

Ingredients: 10 ozs granulated sugar; 1/4 pint water; 3/4 oz powdered gelatine; 1 dessertspoonful glucose and 1/4 pint water and orange flower water mixed (4 dessertspoonfuls orange flower water is sufficient).

Method: Put the gelatine in the water and orange flower water, then dissolve it in a fairly large pan over gentle heat, and set it aside.  In another pan put the sugar, water, and glucose, dissolve in usual way, and boil to 260 degrees.  Rewarm the pan containing gelatine and pour the boiled sugar into it, beating briskly with an egg whisk; after a minute or two add the stiffly beaten white of an egg, then whip the batch till it gets white and stiff (takes about 15 minutes), leave it in pan for half an hour, then run a thin knife round the sides of pan, and turn it out on to dry sifted icing sugar.  Leave it for an hour or  for some hours, then rub it over with icing sugar, then with large scissors cut it into squares, and rub each square with icing sugar.  Leave these exposed to the air in a warm room for two or three days, then keep in a tin lined with kitchen paper.  Any kind of nuts, if ground, can be added to the batch while beating it.  Various flavours can be used, such as vanilla, rose, chocolate, strawberry, or coffee.

To Mould Chocolate Eggs

Get ready for Easter, which this year is on Sunday 31st March, 2013

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 55-6)

Have [melted chocolate] covering at same temperature as for dipping.  Pour some into the mould, and run it all round the mould to line it well, then empty out the surplus chocolate.  When almost setting, with a knife push some of the chocolate up round the edge – to form a wider rim. Then when the chocolate is quite firm and set take a very sharp knife and pare the edge of the mould quite clear, then give lightly a little jerk or squeeze to the mould each way, then turn it upside down and tap the edge on the marble, and the chocolate egg will drop out.  Fill inside of egg with toy, sweets, motto, etc. Damp round edges of shell with warm chocolate, insert a loop of ribbon or cord to hang egg by, and press the moulds together and let set.

Rich Cream Chocolates

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 64-5)

Ingredients: 1 dessertspoonful of glucose; 1 and 1/4lb granulated sugar; 1/2 oz fresh butter; Saffron [yellow] colouring; 1/2 pint good cream; small 1/2 pint cold water; vanilla flavour.

Method: Dissolve the sugar in the water in usual way, add the glucose and butter, and the cream poured in slowly, and carefully stirred all the time, until the thermometer registers 236 degrees.  Pour into a basin which has been rinsed out with cold water, and when half cold, add colour and flavour and stir with a wooden spoon until it creams.  Cover it with wax paper and a towel and leave for twenty minutes, then work it soft and mellow, and make into centres, and when these are cold and firm cover them either with chocolate, or make them into suffed fondants.

I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are examples of some of my blancmanges.
I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are some of the results.

Orange Blancmange 

Another hot trend for 2013 – Jelly has had its revival, now it is all about blancmange.

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.406 – original recipe was for lemon blancmange.)

Ingredients: 1 pint milk; zest of two oranges; pinch of salt; 1  oz sugar;  1  oz cornflour;  1/2  oz custard powder.

Method: Pour about three-quarters of the milk into a saucepan, add the orange zest, salt and sugar and bring to the boil slowly.  Mix the cornflour and custard powder to a smooth paste with the remaining cold milk. Pour the boiling milk on to the mixed cornflour, stirring well.  Return to the saucepan over a low flame, and boil, stirring continuously for a few minutes – until it thickens.  Pour into a lightly oiled mould.  When set, turn out on to a table dish and serve when ready.

My version of a strawberry blancmange.
My strawberry blancmange with a vintage twist.
Another version of my crème de menthe blancmange.
My crème de menthe blancmange.

Orange Sauce for Blancmange

(Brown and Polson’s Recipe Book, c.1920, p.12)

Ingredients: 1/4 oz cornflour; 1 orange – juiced and zested; 2 ozs loaf sugar; juice of half a lemon; 1/2 pint water.

Method: Rub the sugar on the orange to absorb the zest.  Put sugar and zest into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil slowly and boil for three minutes. Strain through muslin, return to the saucepan, and add the lemon and orange juice. Blend the cornflour with a little cold water, and add it to the liquid when boiling.  Boil for three minutes. When cold, pour round the blancmange.

My crème de menthe blancmange with antique gold (edible) cake decoration on top.
My crème de menthe blancmange gilded with antique gold (edible) cake decoration.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.

Marrow Chutney

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.480)

Ingredients: 3lb Marrow; salt; 12 peppercorns; 1/4 oz bruised ginger; cinnamon and allspice; 1/2 lb shallots; 1/2 lb green apples; 1/2 lb sultanas; 1 1/2 pints vinegar; 8 0zs sugar.

Method: Cut up the marrow and put it into a basin.  Sprinkle two teaspoonfuls of salt over it and leave for twelve hours.  Drain well and rinse. Tie the peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon and allspice in a muslin bag. Peel the shallots and apples and chop them finely.  Place all the ingredients except sugar in a saucepan and bring them slowly to the boil.  Allow to simmer gently until almost cooked, add the sugar and boil until a syrupy consistency. Remove the bag of spices. Pour the mixture into a [sterilised] jar and cover.

Redcurrant and Cherry Jam

(French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David, 1963 [1951], p. 189)

Put 4lb of redcurrants into a pan without any water and stir them over a gentle flame until the juice comes out.  Strain through a muslin without pressing the fruit so that the juice is clear.  There should be about 2lb of juice.  For this amount stone 4lb of cherries, and make a syrup with 6 lb of sugar and 3 glasses of water; put the cherries into the syrup and let it boil gently until the syrup sets, when put on to a cold plate.  Now add the redcurrant juice, let the whole mixture boil again, and the jam is ready to put into [sterilised] pots. These jams made of mixed fruits are very much liked in France, and are often served, with fresh cream, as a dessert.

Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.
Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.

Pineapple Ice Cream – 1970s style

(Popular Freezer Cookery by Mary Berry, 1972, p. 94)

Ingredients: 1 medium-size fresh pineapple; juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons; 1/4 pint water; 6 0zs castor sugar; 1/2 pint double cream, lightly whipped.

Method: Cut the pineapple in half lengthways, and cut out the hard-core down the centre of each side.  Keep the pineapple shells. With a grapefruit knife or a sharply pointed spoon, scoop out all flesh and chop finely, saving the juice.  Mix the chopped pineapple, juice, and lemon juice together.  Dissolve the sugar with the water in a pan over low heat, then cool.  Add the sugar syrup to the pineapple and pour into a rigid container. To Freeze: cover and freeze until almost set then turn mixture into a bowl and whisk until broken up and light. Fold in the cream and return to container.  Cover, label and freeze until required. To Thaw: thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. To Serve: scoop out ice-cream with a metal spoon that has been dipped in boiling water. Serve in pineapple shells. Note: a blender speeds up this recipe. Put the pineapple flesh, any juice and lemon juice in a blender, switch on for 2 minutes, then add cooled sugar syrup. (Serves 6).Lyle's Golden Syrup

Russian Gingerbread

(More Everyday Dishes by Elizabeth Craig (Ed.), for Tate & Lyle, c. 1935 p. 47)

Ingredients:  1/2 lb flour; 2 ozs castor sugar; 1 oz blanched almonds; 1 egg (well beaten); 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves; 3 ozs melted butter; 2 tablespoons golden syrup; 2 ozs crystallized ginger; pinch of salt; 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice; 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger; milk.

Method: Grease a shallow baking tin. Sift flour into a basin with spice, salt and soda.  Stir in other dry ingredients and ginger finely minced.  Add syrup, egg, butter and enough milk to make a running batter. Beat till smooth. Pour into tin, dredged with flour.  Decorate with split blanched almonds.  Bake in a slow oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Raisinet – A Preserve For Winter

(A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles E. Francatelli, 1861, pp.54 – 55)

Ingredients: 12 lbs of fruit, consisting of peeled apples, pears, plums, and blackberries, in equal proportion; 6 lbs of raw sugar; one quart of water.

Method: Bake three hours in a slack or slow oven; First, prepare the fruit, and put it in mixed layers of plums, pears, berries, apples, alternating each other, in stone jars.  Next, put the 6 lbs of sugar in a clean saucepan, with the quart of water, and stir it with a spoon on the fire till it comes to a gentle boil; remove the dirty scum from the surface of the sugar; and, after allowing it to boil for ten minutes, pour it in equal proportions into the jar or jars containing the fruits, and place them in a moderate heat to bake slowly for three hours at least.  When boiling the sugar for this purpose, remember that it is most prudent to use a saucepan capable of containing double the quantity, as sugar is very liable to boil over and waste.  When the fruit is nearly dissolved, the raisinet will be done; it must then be removed to a cool place until it has become thoroughly cold and partially set firm; the jars should then be tied down with thick paper and kept in the cellar for winter use, either for making puddings or tarts, or for spreading on bread for the children.

Good Woman’s Soup

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.129)

Ingredients: 1 quart of white stock, 1 white-heart lettuce, 1 thick slice of cucumber (the length of which must equal the breadth, so that a square block may be cut), a little tarragon and chervil (these may be omitted when not procurable), 1 oz of butter or good dripping, the yolks of 2 eggs, 1/4 of a pint of cream or milk, salt and pepper.

Method: Wash and shred the lettuce finely, cut the block of cucumber lengthwise into thin slices, and the slices into match-like strips.  Melt the butter or dripping, and fry the vegetables for about 5 or 6 minutes, then add the stock, salt and pepper, and boil slowly until the lettuce is tender (10 to 15 minutes).  Beat the yolks of the eggs, add to them the cream or milk.  Let the soup cool slightly, then pour in the yolks and cream, and stir until the soup thickens, but it must not boil or the eggs will curdle. Take 40 minutes to prepare and is sufficient for 4 persons.

Simnel Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.575)

Ingredients: 1/2 lb of castor sugar, 6 ozs of butter, 1/2 lb of eggs (weighed in the shells), 1/2 lb of flour, 6 ozs of currants (cleaned), 2 ozs of peel – shredded; for the almond paste: 6 ozs of castor sugar, 3 ozs of ground almonds, 1 egg.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar to a cream, add each egg separately, stir in as lightly as possible the candied peel, currants and flour.  Work the sugar, ground almonds, and egg to a stiff paste, and roll out to the size of the cake-tin.  Put half the cake mixture into a lined cake-tin, add the almond paste, and lastly a second layer of cake.  Bake in a moderate oven from 1 to 1  1/4 hours.  If preferred the cake mixture can be divided into three layers and the almond paste into two. Takes 2 hours to make and bake.

Aunt Betsey’s Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p. 565)

Ingredients: 5 teacupfuls of flour, 2 teacupfuls of sugar, 1/2 a cup of butter, 1 cup of golden syrup, 1 cup of water, 2 eggs, 1/2 lb of chopped raisins, 1 teaspoonful (each) of bicarbonate of soda, cloves, cinnamon, and mace.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar together; add the eggs, dissolve the soda in the water, then add the golden syrup, flour, spices and fruit, and work the mixture in the bowl.  Turn it into a greased flat square tin baking-dish and bake in a moderate oven, or if preferred in small crinkled patty-pans. Takes 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours to make and bake.

Baroness Pudding

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, pp. 436-437)

Ingredients: 6 ozs of finely chopped suet, 6 ozs of flour, 6 ozs of raisins (stoned), 1/4 pint of milk, 1/2 saltspoonful of salt.

Method: Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the milk and stir well.  Put into a well-greased basin, and boil or steam for about 3 hours.  Serve with any suitable sweet sauce, or with a little sugar. Takes about 3 and 3/4 hours to make and is sufficient for 4 persons.Vintage Cooking 4

Posted in History, History of Medicine, Mrs Beeton, Vintage

Jelly, Blancmange & Junket

Claret jelly, on display in the Victorian Kitchen exhibit at Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire.

The inspiration for this article comes from two completely unconnected sources. My husband’s recent dental problems and synchronised swimming.  I will spare you the details of the former, suffice to say that an operation this Wednesday will hopefully remedy the situation once and for all.  On each occasion the problems have flared-up, he requests a meal of jelly or blancmange which is easy for him to eat and soothing on his gums.  I have become quite good at making blancmange, which can be easy to burn during preparation if you leave it unattended, even for a split second. My second source of inspiration has a slightly stranger link with this article. I am a fervent admirer of synchronised swimming, a skillful, beautiful sport and one which I made sure to watch all Olympic sessions for.  Whilst watching, I became increasingly fascinated by the swimmers’ super-glossy hair and wondered how this look had been achieved?  A quick on-line search revealed that it is created by painting layers of melted gelatine onto the head using a hair-dye brush. It apparently takes years to perfect the skill and at least four sachets of gelatine to achieve the finished look.  The only other athletes, that I can think of, who use a food product as part of their preparation are cross-Channel swimmers. The swimmers smear goose fat all over their bodies prior to the start of their marathon open water swim.  Although, some Channel swimmers now use a grease mixture made-up of Lanolin and Petroleum Jelly.

Gelatine I use in my cooking.

The history of jelly, blancmange and junket is extremely interesting and gelatine plays an integral part.  Jelly (or known as jello in America) used to be made by boiling bonestock or calves’ feet. This process releases collagen, the substance gelatine is formed out of. Originally, jelly was a savoury dish. I always love to eat the turkey jelly left over from the Christmas dinner, spread on toast it is delicious!  Historically, jelly was sometimes made sweet by adding honey, sugar, wine or fruit puree.  Jelly has long been thought of as a food suitable for the sick or convalescing.  I found an interesting article ‘Food in Typhoid Fever’ by Dr William Ewart, published in The British Medical Journal, May 1897.  Dr Ewart advocates jelly and also blancmange as a suitable food for patients recovering from typhoid:

As soon as the “typhoid” condition has been overcome by medication and this is well borne, a yolk of egg and a little later the white of egg also, or calves’ foot or chicken jelly. Yet later blancmange, custard, honey, which is specially indicated in constipation, or even chocolate may be enjoyed.

Mrs Beeton devotes a whole chapter to ‘Invalid Cookery’ in her Book of Household Management, which includes many recipes for jelly.  Her advice on suitable food for patients states that:

Savoury jellies are more nourishing when made from veal or calves’ feet, for they then contain not only gelatine, but also other extractives of considerable dietetic value. When variety, and not the amount of nourishment afforded, is the chief consideration, jelly may be more easily prepared from isinglass or gelatine, the purest forms of which should alone be used for the purpose.

(Beeton, E., 1915 edition, p. 1349)

Here is her recipe for calves’ feet jelly:

Ingredients: 2 calves’ feet, 5 pints of water, 1/2 a pint of sherry, 1/4 of a pint of lemon-juice, 6 ozs of loaf sugar, the rinds of 3 lemons, the whites and shells of 2 eggs, 1 inch of cinnamon, 4 cloves.

Method: Wash and blanch the feet, and divide each one into 4 pieces. Replace them in the stewpan, add the water, and boil gently for 6 hours, skimming when necessary.  Strain and measure the stock, and if there is more than 1 quart, boil until reduced to this quantity. When cold remove every particle of grease, turn the jellied stock into a stewpan, and add the lemon-rinds, pared off in the thinnest possible strips, the lemon-juice, sherry, sugar, the stiffly-whisked whites and crushed shells of the eggs, and the cinnamon and cloves.  Whisk until boiling, then draw the stewpan to the side of the fire, and let the contents simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain through a scalded jelly-bag, or scalded tea-cloth tied to the legs of a chair reversed, and turn into moulds rinsed with cold water.  Turn out when firm, and served. Takes 12 hours to make.

Victorian French chef Alexis Soyer, in his, A Shilling Cookery For The People (1855), wrote of calves’ feet jelly:

It is possible, even in the poorest family, that jelly [calves’ feet] may be recommended in cases of illness, and they may be at a distance from any place where it could be purchased.

(Soyer, A., 1855, p.133)

Edwardian advertisements for isinglass and gelatine from my Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

Isinglass has been available as a cooking aid since Tudor times when it was boiled with new milk to make ‘white leach’.  Isinglass, a pure form of gelatine, came from Russia and was extremely expensive, only the wealthiest of households would have been to have afforded its use in their cooking.

Edwardian advertisement for gelatine from my Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).
Edwardian advertisement for gelatine from my Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

Isinglass is found in the swim bladder of the sturgeon.  Historian Kate Colquhoun, in Taste: The Story of Britain through its Cooking, describes the process of making ‘white leach’:

..’white leach’ was made by boiling new milk with Russian isinglass, sugar and sometimes rosewater, leaving it to cool and set firm until it could be cut into subtle, lubricious squares that might be gilded.  Cream was thickened, or clouted, by heating it very gently and leaving it to stand and form a crust overnight, ready to be used in tarts and custards or keep safely for up to two weeks – clotted cream today is made in the same way.

(Colquhoun, K., 2008, p.109)

Isinglass began to be commercially produced in the sixteenth century and by the eighteenth century was combined with aspic to create elaborate, edible, table displays. There was a craze in Georgian and Victorian times of preserving everything in aspic. A large range of moulds were produced, made out of pottery, brass, copper or tin and Victorian cooks couldn’t own enough of them.

Edwardian moulds from my Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).
The blancmange I use.
The fruit pattern inside my great, great grandmother’s china Wedgwood mould that I use to make my blancmange.
A blancmange I made recently, using the above mould.

Blancmange, like jelly, originated as a savoury dish until late the Tudor period when it became a milky rice dish. Blancmange is made from a combination of milk/cream, sugar, gelatine and cornstarch or Irish moss. In the Prologue of Geoffrey Chaucer’s (1342-1400) Canterbury Tales, the Cook mentions blancmange:

A cook they had with them just for the nonce/To boil the chickens with the marrow-bones/ And flavour tartly and with galingale./Well could he tell a draught of London ale./ And he could roast and seethe and broil and fry/ And make a good thick soup, and bake a pie./ But very ill it was, it seemed to me/ That on his shin a deadly sore had he/ For sweet blanc-mange, he made it with the best./

Victorian blancmange mould on display in the Kitchen exhibit at Avebury Manor, Wiltshire.
Edwardian Brown & Polson advertisement.

In the Middle Ages blancmange was made with milk or almond milk, sugar, shredded chicken or fish, mixed with rosewater and rice flour.  Blancmange began to be made without meat from the start of the seventeenth century and by the nineteenth century arrowroot and cornflour were added to the milk and sugar mixture to give it extra stability and a silky smooth appearance and texture. Blancmange made for a very fashionable and attractive centrepiece on the Victorian dining table.

Vintage junket packaging on display in the Village Shop exhibit at Breamore Countryside Museum, Hampshire.

In Medieval times junkets were made with sweetened milk and rennet, a popular dish with the nobility. Medieval cooks would add rosewater, spices and sugar to the basic junket.  During Tudor times junkets were not as popular as syllabubs.  By the eighteenth century junkets became a sweet, street food. According to Kate Colquhoun junkets were particular popular in the Georgian period: ‘Junkets were produced by curdling milk, flavouring it with flower waters, sweetening it, setting it with rennet and decorating the dish with comfits.’ (Colquhoun, K., 2008, p. 229).

Below are a selection of Mrs B’s jelly, blancmange and junket recipes, from her great tome. For more blancmange and jelly recipes, please see my previous article on the Georgian ‘Queen of Jellies’, Elizabeth Raffald. CLICK HERE.

A selection of Victorian moulds on display in the Kitchen exhibit at Avebury Manor, Wiltshire.

Aspic Jelly from Gelatine

Ingredients: 2 1/2 ozs of leaf gelatine, 1 quart of water, the whites and shells of 2 eggs, 1 lemon, 1/4 of a pint of malt vinegar, 1 tablespoonful of tarragon vinegar, 1 onion, carrot, 2 or 3 strips of celery, a bouquet-garni (parsley, thyme, bay-leaf), 10 peppercorns, 1 teaspoonful of salt.

Method: Whip the whites of eggs slightly, pare the lemon rind as thinly as possible, and strain the juice.  Put them with the rest of the ingredients into a stewpan, whisk over a brisk fire until boiling, and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes.  Strain using a jelly-stand and bag. Takes 1 hour to make.

Claret Jelly

Ingredients: 1 pint of claret, 3/4 of a pint of water, 1/4 of a pint of lemon-juice, the thinly cut rind of 2 lemons, 6 ozs of loaf sugar, 1 1/2 ozs of leaf gelatine, the whites and shells of 2 eggs, a few drops of cochineal.

Method: Put all these ingredients into a stewpan, and whisk over the fire until it boils.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain through a scalded bag or cloth, add a few drops of cochineal to improve the colour, pour into a wet mould, and put in a cool place to set. Takes about 40 minutes to make.

Punch Jelly

Ingredients: 1 pint of water, 1 wineglassful each of rum, sherry, and kirsch, 1/2 a lb of loaf sugar, 1 1/2 ozs of French gelatine, 2 lemons, 1 egg, 1/2 an inch of cinnamon, 20 coriander seeds.

Method: Put the water and sugar into a stewpan, and boil to a syrup.  Add the finely-cut rind of the lemons, the gelatine, previously softened in a little cold water, and stir until the latter dissolves.  Now put in the lemon-juice, rum, sherry, kirsch, cinnamon and coriander seeds, bring to the boil, and let it cool.  Beat up the white and shell of the egg, add the mixture to the contents of the stewpan when sufficiently cool, and whisk by the side of the fire until boiling.  Simmer very gently for 10 minutes, then strain through a hot jelly-bag or a cloth until clear, and pour into a mould rinsed with cold water. Takes about 1 hour to make.

Victorian glassware moulds on display at Avebury Manor, Wiltshire.

Carrageenan Blancmange

Carrageenan is now used as a vegetarian/vegan alternative to gelatine.

Ingredients: 1 teacupful of carrageenan (Irish sea-moss), sugar to taste, vanilla-essence to taste, 1 saltspoonful of salt, 1 quart of milk.

Method: Pick and wash the moss, let it lie in cold water for 15 minutes, then drain well, and tie it loosely in coarse net or muslin.  Put it into a double saucepan with the milk and salt, cook until the milk will jelly when a little is poured on a cold plate, and sweeten to taste.  Strain, add vanilla essence to taste, and pour the preparation into small moulds previously rinsed with cold water. Takes 1 hour to make.

Arrowroot Blancmange

Ingredients: 4 heaped tablespoonfuls of arrowroot, sugar to taste, 1 1/2 pints of milk, lemon-rind, vanilla or other flavouring.

Method: Mix the arrowroot smoothly with a little cold milk, bring the remainder to boiling point, put in the flavouring ingredient, and infuse for 20 minutes.  Strain the milk over the blended arrowroot and stir, replace in the stewpan, sweeten to taste, and boil gently for a few minutes.  Rinse the mould with cold water, pour in the preparation, and put aside until set. Serve with stewed fruit, jam, or cold custard sauce. Takes about 35 minutes to make.

Banana Blancmange

Ingredients: 2 bananas, 1 quart of milk, 2 ozs of cornflour, 2 ozs of castor sugar, 2 yolks of eggs, 1/2 a teaspoonful of vanilla essence.

Method:  Mix the cornflour with a little milk, boil the remainder, add the sugar and blended cornflour, and simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Let it cool, add the beaten yolks of eggs, and stir by the side of the fire until they thicken. Now put in the bananas thinly sliced, and the vanilla essence, and pour the preparation into a wetted mould. Takes 35 minutes to prepare.

Isinglass Blancmange

Ingredients: 1 oz of patent isinglass, sugar to taste, 1/2 a pint of cream, 1 pint of milk, 1 wineglassful of sherry, 2 or 3 thin strips of lemon-rind.

Method: Soak the gelatine in the water for 1/2 an hour, then add the lemon-rind, and simmer gently until the gelatine is dissolved.  Strain into a jug containing the yolks of eggs, add the wine and lemon-juice, and sweeten to taste.  Place the jug in a saucepan of boiling water, stir until the contents thicken, and, when cool, pour into a mould rinsed with cold water.


Ingredients: 1 pint of milk, junket powder, or 1 dessertspoonful of essence of rennet, 1 teaspoonful of castor sugar.

Method: Warm the milk (the exact temperature should be 98F, the natural heat of the milk), put it into the bowl or deep dish in which it will be served, add the sugar, and stir in the rennet or junket powder.  Let it remain in a moderately warm place until set.  The amount of junket powder required is stated on the wrapper; its use may be recommended in preference to the liquid essence, which, in consequence of its, varying strength, is uncertain in its results. Takes about 1 1/2 hours to coagulate the milk.

Devonshire Junket

Ingredients: 1 pint of new milk, 1 dessertspoonful of brandy, 1 dessertspoonful of castor sugar, 1 teaspoonful of prepared rennet, whipped or clotted cream, ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg.

Method: Heat the milk to about 80F and stir in off the fire, the sugar, brandy, and rennet.  Pour this preparation into a deep dish, in which it will be served; put it aside until set, then cover the surface with either whipped or clotted cream, sprinkle on a little cinnamon or nutmeg and serve. Takes 2 hours to make.

Vintage blancmange packaging from the Village Shop display at Breamore Countryside Museum, Hampshire.
Posted in Country House, Decorative Arts, History, Mrs Beeton, Theatre History

Victorian Cookery Hero – Alexis Benoit Soyer

In recent years the career of flamboyant French chef, Alexis Benoît Soyer (1810-1858), has attracted considerable interest from historians. There have been a number of biographies published (see ‘Suggested Further Reading’ section) and his own writings are frequently reprinted. Soyer’s life story has also been turned into a bio-drama, Relish, written by James Graham and performed in 2010 by members of The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at Tramshed, Shoreditch, London.

Alexis packed a lot into his forty-eight years. He began his career at the tender age of eleven as an apprentice chef in the Palace of Versailles. His brother Philippe already worked there as a chef.  It made sense for young Alexis to join his brother and take full advantage of an opportunity to train amongst the world’s finest chefs.  After Versailles, Alexis worked in several restaurants in France and become second chef to the French prime minister, Prince Polignac.

Following the Second French Revolution of July 1830, Alexis fled to England to join his brother Philippe who was now working as head chef in the London household of Prince Adolphus, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850).  On 24th May 1836, the newly styled Reform Club, Dysart House, 104 Pall Mall, London, next door to the Carlton Club, opened its doors and were looking for a head chef, Alexis was offered the position.  Alexis relished the opportunities that such a role could offer to him and began working there in 1837.  Together with architect Charles Barry he designed the Club’s spectacular kitchens. He remained at the Reform Club until 1850.

Alexis married the artist Elizabeth Emma Jones (1813-1842) on 12th April 1837.  The marriage ended abruptly in 1842 when Elizabeth died of complications following a miscarriage. Alexis was completely heartbroken and threw himself into his work in an attempt to cope with his grief.  He died following a stroke in 1858 at his home 15 Marlborough Road, St. John’s Wood, London. He is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Alexis was more than a chef, he was a culinary genius, visionary, prolific writer of cookery books, entrepreneur (although he was terrible with money!), inventor of kitchen gadgets and one of the most important figures in the history of mass catering – particularly in relation to army field kitchens.  He also wrote a comic ballet, La Fille de L’Orage (The Daughter of the Storm), to flatter ballerina Fanny Cerrito for whom he had a particular fascination. However, the ballet was not one of Soyer’s finest creative achievement and its humourous content was by all accounts pretty terrible.

Below are a just a few highlights of Alexis Soyer’s career:

  • The first chef to cook using gas;
  • Catered for two thousand guests at Queen Victoria’s coronation breakfast on the 28th June 1838;
  • In 1847, during the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852), he set-up portable soup kitchens for the starving Irish at the Royal Barracks in Dublin. He cooked and served twenty-six thousand people a day.  The portable kitchen carriages were brilliantly clever and subsequently used on the battlefield in army field kitchens. The carriages were pulled by two horses and a driver. Around the driver’s seat there was a reservoir for water which could be drawn from a stream nearby to wherever the carriage came to rest.  The water is turned into steam by the heat from a lit boiler. The lower part had a circular steam boiler and the upper part an oven. ‘Within one hour after the fire is lighted the steam would be up and rations for 1000 men could be cooked by baking and steaming in about two hours and the apparatus moved on again, or it would cook whilst on the march’ (Soyer writing in 1854);
  • He set-up soup kitchens for the destitute Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields, London;
  • He created a range of bottled sauces and relishes for sale to the public – like a Victorian Jamie Oliver!;
  • He invented a range of kitchen utensils and equipment, including: a stewing pan; cooking clock; baking dish and vegetable strainer;
  • He invented the famous ‘Magic Stove’ which enabled food to be cooked at the table: ‘….his [Soyer] unique and almost equally celebrated lilliputian apparatus, not inappropriately denominated “The Magic Stove”.  The Magic Stove is as simple as it is useful and ingenious.  In it there are two spirit lamps – one which rarifies the spirit in a receptacle placed above, and the vapour, thence airing is ignited by the flame of the second lamp.  The flame then passes through a bent tube, called the chimney of the apparatus, at the top of which tube the cooking processes are conduced, without any smoke or smut.  In this manner, rapid and perfect combustion is produced, and intense heat evolved by means of a self-acting blowpipe.’ (The Leeds Mercury, Saturday February 1st, 1851);
  • He was commissioned by the Admiralty to investigate logistics of catering on long sea voyages;
  • He rented Gore House (now the site of the Royal Albert Hall, London) in 1850 and took moved in on Wednesday 1st January, 1851. Gore House was built in the 1750s with interior decoration by Robert Adam.  Between 1808 and 1821 it had been the home of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who was prominent in the abolition of the slave trade. The Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), a novelist, and Count Alfred D’Orsay (1801-1852) lived there from 1836 to 1849. At Gore House, Alexis created the ultimate ‘pop-up’ dining experience called Soyer’s Symposium. His aim was to mass-cater for visitors to the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. He said of the Symposium: ‘It will be my study to devote this establishment entirely for the display of the gastronomic, where I am now making preparations to accommodate thousands daily at my Symposium of all Nations’ (A letter written to The Preston Guardian and published on Saturday January 18th, 1851). After the Great Exhibition, the Symposium was forced to close at a £7,000 loss.  Please see the end of this article for more detail about Soyer’s Symposium;
  • In March 1855 he travelled with Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), on Lord Panmure’s full authority, to the old Barrack Hospital in Scutari, Turkey.  He had been tasked with re-organizing the Hospital’s catering. Florence said of Soyer: ‘..others have studied cookery for the purpose of gormandizing, some for show.  But none but he [Soyer] for the purpose of cooking large quantities of food in the most nutritive and economical manner for great quantities of people.’ (Florence Nightingale 1820-1910 by Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1952, p. 172).  ‘He proceeded to attack the kitchens of the Barrack Hospital.  He composed recipes for using the army rations to make excellent soups and stews.  He put an end to the frightful system of boiling. He insisted on having permanently allocated to the kitchens, soldiers who could be trained as cooks.  He invented ovens to bake bread and biscuits and a Scutari teapot which made and kept tea hot for fifty men.’ (ibid. p.172);
  • He helped redesign Wellington Barracks which opened in July 1858;


Délassements Culinaires. (1845)

The Gastronomic Regenerator (1846)

Soyer’s Charitable Cookery (1847)

The Poorman’s Regenerator (1848)

The modern Housewife or ménagère (1849)

The Symposiorama: Book of Gore House (1851)

The Pantropheon or A history of food and its preparation in ancient times (1853)

A Shilling Cookery Book for the People:Embracing an entirely new system of plain cookery and domestic economy (1855)

Soyer’s Culinary Campaign (1857)

Instructions to Military Cooks (1857) – Pamphlet.

A Few of Soyer’s Recipes

Camp Soup (For Army Catering): Put half-a-pound of salt pork in a saucepan, two ounces of rice, two pints and a-half of cold water, and, when boiling, let simmer another hour, stirring once or twice; break in six ounces of biscuit, let soak ten minutes; it is then ready, adding one teaspoonful of sugar, and a quarter one of pepper, if handy.

New Way of Making Beef Tea: Cut a pound of solid beef into small dice, which put into a stew-pan with two small pots of butter, a clove, a small onion sliced, and two saltspoonfuls of salt; stir the meat round over the fire for ten minutes, until it produces a thickish gravy, then add a quart of boiling water, and let it simmer at the corner of the fire for half an hour, skimming off every particle of fat; when done pass through a sieve.  I have always had a great objection to passing broth through a cloth as it frequently spoils its flavour.  The same, if wanted plain, is done by merely omitting the vegetables and clove: the butter cannot be objectionable, as it is taken out in skimming; pearl-barley, vermicelli, rice, etc, may be served in it if required.  A little leek, celery, or parsley may be added.

Little Fruit Rissolettes: I also make with the trimmings of puff paste the following little cakes: if you have about a quarter of a pound of puff paste left, roll it out very thin, about the thickness of half a crown, put half a spoonful of any marmalade on it, about one inch and a half distance from each other, wet lightly round them with a paste-brush, and place a similar piece of paste over all, take a cutter of the size of a crown piece, and press round the part where the marmalade or jam is with the thick part of the cutter, to make the paste stick, then cut them out with one a size or two larger, lay them on a baking-tin, egg over, place in a nice hot oven for twenty minutes, then sugar over with finely sifted sugar, so as to make it quite white, then put back into the oven to glaze and serve.

Good Plain Family Irish Stew: Take about two pounds of scrag or neck of mutton; divide it into ten pieces, lay them in the pan; cut eight large potatoes and four onions in slices, season with one teaspoonful and a half of pepper, and three of salt; cover all with water; put it into a slow oven for two hours, then stir it all up well, and dish up in deep dishes.  If you add a little more water at the commencement, you can take out when half done, a nice cup of broth.

Soyer’s Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations

The transformation of Gore House, Kensington to the people’s palace of gastronomy was an unbelievable achievement by Soyer and his team. It cost diners one shilling to enter the building, half a guinea to dine in the House and less to dine in the grounds. A French-English meal cost two shillings per diner. From 5pm each day, in the main House, private dining parties took place. Soyer produced a book on the Symposium called, The Symposiorama (Book of Gore House).  In it, Soyer enthuses about the eating experience that would await diners:

Dinner in the Temple of Danae, lunch in the vintage chamber, supper with the domains of the ice king, eating and drinking everywhere!  Why the sight is enough to turn a heart of stone, enough to make a hermit relinquish his roots and black bread, and a teetotaler break his pledge all to fragments.

Coverage in contemporary newspapers of the interior was extensive, below is an extract from The Standard, Monday April 28th, 1851:

You enter the doorway, and stand in the Vestibule de la Fille de L’Orage, you read, ‘Soyer’s Symposium’, struck by arrows of lightning from a hand clenched convulsively over the head.  From this you pass into L’atelier de Michel Ange, the walls of which are covered with the existent marvels of architectural and engineering art – the Pyramids, the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s, Pompey’s Pillar, the Tubular Bridge, and the like, shouldering each other with amusing defiance of time and concord.  Turning to the right, the visitor finds himself in what once, was the Blessington Library, but now La Salle du Parnasse in plainer and less metaphorical English, a spacious dining-room, brilliantly fitted with mirrors, marble consoles, and Grecian vases, the prevailing characteristic of white and gold being extremely effective, and affording a delicate contrast to the ‘Salle des Noces de Danaë, the speciality of which is the Alhambra spirit of the ceiling, displayed in its gorgeous varieties of colour, while gem-like tears cover the pale green walls, dropping, as it were, from the heavily gilt cornice.  The eight globes of silvered glass which are to hang here will produce an ensemble, when reflecting the floods of gas with which the salle will be charged of which, we can form but little conception….the ante-chambers of the mansion of which is striped and starred a la Jonathan.. La Cabinet de la Pompadour – embellished with  flutings of white and pink, and a triumphant arch of roses and foliage; La Foret Peruvienne, the colour of which is blue.. La Chambre ardents d’Apollon a circular apartment, intended for the Ghebirs, who can, if they like, before they eat their curried spiders, prostrate themselves before the before the brazen sun which fills half the plafond with its circumference..Grotte des Neiges Eternelles encrusted with sparkling pendents…Vintage Palazzo, Italian Saloon enclosed in a trellised gallery overhung with vine leaves, through which the eye looks upon the plains of Lombardy, the fastnesses of Calabris, and the ruins of Campagns…Bourdoir de la Valliere, enter the state bed-chamber, papered with zig-zag stripes and diagonal bands of black velvet and silver lace… Pagode du Cheval de Bronze, Chinese hall, tea-chest, crimson curtains, statuettes of Fo and Buddha, fat-bodied bronzes and lantern.

There were nine acres of gardens at Gore House and Soyer ensured that he packed every inch with dining opportunities.  He installed an American bar, serving egg noggs, shandygaffs, mint juleps and brandy smashes.  Les Pavillons des Zingari had a Grotto of Ondine showcasing cases of gold and silver fish.  The centrepiece of the gardens was the Baronial Banqueting Hall, measuring 100ft long and housing paintings produced by his late wife Emma as well as a selection by Count d’Orsay. It was also possible to dine in the Baronial Hall, a English-French dinner cost three shillings and sixpence. At 2pm, each day in the Hall, hot meat joints, vegetables, Symposium pies, mayonnaise salads, cold meats, hams, poultry, pastry, jellies and creams were served.

Another feature in the grounds were the Pyramids of Morning Dew. Grassy mounds upon which plaster figures were placed, surrounded with layers of vases filled with flowers.  Le Pavillon Monstre d’Amphytrion, measuring 400ft long, provided an opportunity to experience Soyer’s brilliance for the logistics of mass catering.  This gigantic dining encampment could seat one thousand five hundred diners at any one time.  Covering the dining table was an enormous one-piece tablecloth that took two men to carry it across the meadow to the Pavillion and six people to unroll it.  The kitchens in the main House had the capacity to roast six hundred joints of meat each day and on the green an ox was roasted every hour. Each night there was also fireworks and music for dancing.

As you can see, Soyer was a culinary genius who has, until now, been overlooked by historians, in favour of that other Victorian cooking genius, Isabella Beeton. Finally, Soyer is emerging from Mrs B’s shadow and exciting historians with his body of work and contribution toward the evolution of Victorian social and domestic cookery. Incidentally, a quick check of my 1915 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management reveals that a number of Soyer’s recipes were included by Mrs B in her publication.  These include his recipes for goose stuffing and a sauce for plum pudding.

Suggested Further Reading

  • The People’s Chef: Alexis Soyer, a Life in Seven Courses by Ruth Brandon (2004), published by John Wiley & Sons;
  • Relish:The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer, Victorian Celebrity Chef by Ruth Cowen (2007), published by Phoenix;
  • The Portrait of a Chef: The Life of Alexis Soyer, Sometime Chef to the Reform Club by Helen Soutar Morris (1938), published by The University Press;
  • The Chef at War by Alexis Soyer (2011), published by Penguin;
  • ‘Hot on the Trail’ by Professor Thomas A. P. Van Leeuwen, Cabinet magazine, Issue 37, Bubbles, Spring, 2010. An excellent and well-written article on Soyer’s field stoves, including images of the Magic Stove, field stoves in the Crimea and the Dublin soup kitchen in 1847.  This article inspired me to research Soyer further. For article, CLICK HERE.
Posted in History, Mrs Beeton, Museum, Vintage

Vintage Ice Cream

Vintage ice-cream cart. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

Hoorah, Summer has finally arrived in Southern England.  Temperatures are reaching 30◦C and I find myself daydreaming of jelly, ice-cream and al fresco dining.

According to food historian Kate Colquhoun, in her brilliant book Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking (2007), ice cream or cream ice as it was originally known, first appeared in Britain in 1671:

….a single sweetened cream ice was served to Charles II at the Garter Feast of 1671 at St. George’s Hall – its first written record in Britain….The difficulty in Britain lay in finding ice at the height of summer.  James I had snow pits dug for storing ice cut from lakes and rivers in winter.  Two brick-lined pits were constructed at Greenwich in 1620 and another at Hampton Court five years later…Charles II, began to construct ice-houses in Upper St. James’s Park.  The Duchess of Lauderdale was one of the first to copy him, at Ham House, and by the time Celia Fiennes toured the country on horseback in 1702, she was able to note several ice-houses without surprise.


Cream-freezer illustration featured in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

A bowl containing cream mixture is placed in a bucket and the gap between the bowl and bucket is filled-in with ice.  Salt is added to the ice and the cream mixture in the bowl begins to freeze. When salt melts ice it draws heat away from anything it touches, therefore the temperature reduces around the bowl and the cream mixture freezes.

Stork fountain (1872) made by Minton & Company. Made of pottery and painted with majolica opaque glaze colour. The fountain was made for the Royal Dairy in Windsor Great Park. Jets of cold water from the fountain cooled the air in days before refrigeration was available. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

The Victorians, including Queen Victoria, loved ice-cream.  Writing in her Journal at Windsor Castle, on Sunday 24th November 1839, she mentions the economic impact to the Royal household of creating an ice cellar: ‘ …as the expense of getting ice was so enormous, and that the Queen Dowager got all hers from Hampton Court.’ (p. 81, Lord Esher’s typescript, for original CLICK HERE)

Food historian extraordinaire, Ivan Day, has a superb website, www.historicfood.coma must-read for all devotees of food history.  It is currently my favourite site, well-written, nicely illustrated and easy to navigate around.  The recipes section is a particular favourite of mine, do have a look at the section on ‘Georgian Ices’, it contains a history of ice-cream and some recipes to try (CLICK HERE). Ivan runs a wide range of historic cookery courses too, including ‘Dairy and Ices’ which includes a lesson on how to make moulded ices Victorian style.

Illustration showing the vast range of ice-cream and jelly moulds available in Edwardian and Victorian times. Illustration from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

My Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition) has a large number of ‘Recipes for Ices’. Mrs B also includes a substantial instructions on the equipment and process involved in making ice-cream.  Here are some extracts:

Freezing Machines

Recent years have introduced a variety of machines for making ices, but the ordinary old-fashioned pewter freezing pot still holds its own, and deservedly so, for it is reliable and satisfactory in every way, although its use entails a little more labour on the operator, and the process is slower than with the newly invented machines. Nearly all the machines in present use are supplied with an outer compartment constructed to hold the ice and salt, and an inner receptacle in which the mixture to be frozen is placed, and revolved by means of a handle. (p.988)

Freezing Mixture

The materials usually employed for this purpose are ice and coarse salt, or freezing salt, the correct proportion being 1lb of salt to 7 or 8lb of ice.  More salt than this is often added with a view to making the mixture freeze more quickly, which it does for a short time, but the large proportion of salt causes the ice to speedily melt, and the freezing operation comes to a standstill unless the ice is frequently renewed.  The ice tub or outer compartment of the freezing machine must be filled with alternate layers of crushed ice and salt.  A good layer of ice at the bottom of the tub enables the freezing pot to turn more easily and more quickly than if it were placed on the bare wood. (p.988)

Preparation of Ices

The mixture to be frozen is placed in the freezing machine, and the lid firmly secured.  When the vessel has been quickly turned for a short time, a thin coating of ice will have formed on the sides.  This must be scraped down with the spatula, and well mixed with the liquid contents, and as soon as another layer has formed it must be dealt with in the same manner.  This, and the turning, is continued until the mixture acquires a thick creamy consistency, when it is ready for moulding.  To ensure success the following rules should be observed:

  1. Avoid putting warm mixtures into the freezing pot;
  2. Add sweetening ingredients with discretion;
  3. Avoid, as much as possible, the use of tin and copper utensils;
  4. Carefully wipe the lid of the freezer before raising it, so as to prevent any salt getting into the mixture. (p.989)

Moulding Ices

The ice, in the semi-solid condition in which it is taken from the freezing machine, is put into dry moulds, and well shaken and pressed down in the shape of them.  If there is the least doubt about the lid fitting perfectly, it is better to seal the opening with a layer of lard, so as to effectually exclude the salt and ice.  In any case the mould should be wrapped in 2 or 3 folds of kitchen paper when the freezing has to be completed in a pail.  1 part of salt should be added to 3 parts of ice, and the quantity must be sufficient to completely surround the mould.  It should be kept covered with ice and salt for 3 or 4 hours, when it will be ready to unmould.  When a charged ice cave is available, the ice is simply moulded, placed in the cave, and kept there until sufficiently frozen. (p. 989)

Unmoulding Ices

Ices should be kept in the moulds, buried in ice, until required.  When ready to serve, remove the paper and the lard when it has been used, dip the mould into cold water, and turn the ice on to a dish in the same ways as a jelly or cream. (p. 989)

 Banana Cream Ice

Ingredients: 1 1/4 pints of custard, 1/4 of a pint of cream, 6 bananas, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice, 1 tablespoonful of Curaçoa or brandy.

Method: Pass the bananas through a fine hair sieve.  Prepare the custard as directed, and whip the cream stiffly.  When the custard is sufficiently cool, add the banana pulp, lemon-juice and Curaçoa, stir the cream in lightly, and freeze.

Biscuit Cream Ice

Ingredients: Ice-cream, Savoy biscuits.

Method: Line a plain ice mould with Savoy biscuits, put in the frozen cream ice, cover, and pack in ice until required.

Cherry Cream Ice

Ingredients: 1 pint of custard, 3/4 lb of ripe cherries, 2 ozs of castor sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoonful of Kirschwasser or other liquer, carmine (or in the 21st century red food colouring!).

Method: Stone the fruit, crack the stones, take out the kernels, place both cherries and kernels in a basin, add the sugar, lemon-juice, Kirschwasser, cover, and let the preparation stand for 1/2 an hour.  Then pour all into a copper stewpan, add 1/2 a pint of water, cook until the cherries are tender and rub through a fine sieve.  Add the prepared custard and a few drops of carmine, and freeze.

Iced Tutti-Frutti

Ingredients: 1 oz of pistachios, blanched and shredded, 1 oz of glacé cherries, 1oz of glacé apricots, 1/2 an oz of mixed candied peel, all cut into small dice, 1/2 a pint of cream stiffly whipped, 1/2 a gill of Maraschino, 2 whites of eggs stiffly whipped, vanilla essence, 8 ozs of sugar, 5 yolks of eggs, 1 pint of milk.

Method: Boil the milk, add the yolks of eggs and sugar, stir and cook very gently for a few minutes, then strain and, when cold, add vanilla essence to taste.  Partially freeze, add the whites of eggs, cream, nuts and fruit, and when the freezing process is nearly completed, put in the Maraschino.

Syrup for Water Ices

Ingredients: 2 lbs of loaf sugar, 1 pint of water.

Method: Put the sugar and water into a copper sugar-boiler or stewpan; when dissolved place over a clear fire, and boil until a syrup is formed, taking care to remove the scum as it rises.  If a saccharometer is available for testing the heat of the syrup, it should be boiled until it registers 220◦F.

Grape sorbet illustration from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

Melon Water Ice

Ingredients: 1 medium-sized ripe melon, 4 ozs of sugar, the juice of 2 oranges, the juice of 2 lemons, 1 wineglassful of Maraschino, 1 quart of water.

Method: Peel and slice the melon, simmer for 10 minutes with the water and sugar, and rub through a fine hair sieve.  When cool, add the strained orange and lemon-juice, the Maraschino, and, if necessary, a little more sugar.  Freeze.

Red Currant Water Ice

Ingredients: 1lb of red currants, 1/2 a lb of raspberries, 1 quart of syrup, the juice of 1 lemon.

Method: Pick the fruit and rub it through a hair sieve.  Prepare the syrup according to the recipe, pour it over the fruit pulp, add the strained lemon-juice, and when cold freeze.

Tangerine Water Ice

Ingredients: 6 tangerines, 2 oranges, 2 lemons, 4 ozs of loaf sugar, 1 pint of syrup.

Method: Rub the sugar on the rind of the tangerines to extract some of the flavour.  Place the sugar in a saucepan, add the thin rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 1/4 pint of cold water, and boil the mixture for 10 minutes.  Skim if necessary, add the juice of the oranges and lemons, and the syrup, boil up, then strain, and, when cold, freeze.

Illustration of an ice pudding, from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

Iced Pudding

Ingredients: 1 1/2 pints of vanilla custard, 2 ozs of crystallized apricots shredded,    2 ozs of glacé cherries shredded, 1 pint of cream, an assortment of crystallized fruit.

Method: Partially freeze the custard, and add the shredded fruit, and the cream stiffly whipped.  Continue the freezing till of right consistency, fill up a fruit shaped mould, and keep the remainder of the mixture in a frozen condition.  When ready, unmould, and arrange the unmoulded portion of the ice mixture and assorted fruit on top.

China version of an ice pudding. On display in the Victorian kitchen at Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire.

Neapolitan Ice

Ingredients: 1/4 of a pint of strawberry or raspberry pulp, 1/2 an oz of grated chocolate, 3 yolks of eggs, 1 1/2 pints of milk, 1/2 a pint of cream, 3 ozs of castor sugar, 1/2 a teaspoonful of vanilla essence, carmine or cochineal (use red food colouring in the 21st century!).

Method: Cream the yolks of eggs and 3 ozs of castor sugar well together.  Add the rest of the sugar to the milk, and when boiling pour on to the yolks of eggs and sugar, stirring vigorously meanwhile.  Replace in the stewpan, and stir by the side of the fire until the mixture thickens, then strain.  Dissolve the chocolate in 1 tablespoonful of water, mix wi it 1/3 of the custard, and let it cool.  Mix the fruit pulp with half the remaining custard, and if necessary add a few drops of carmine.  To the other third of the custard add the vanilla essence.  Whip the cream slightly, divide it into 3 equal portions, and add 1 to each preparation.  Freeze separately, then pack in layers in a Neopolitan ice-box, or, failing this, a mould best suited to the purpose. Cover close, and pack in salt and ice for about 2 hours.  Serve cut across in slices.

Neapolitan ices illustration from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition).

Further Reading

  • Icehouses by Tim Buxbaum (2008), published by Shire Library (278)
  • Ice Cream: History by Ivan Day (2011), published by Shire Library (614).
  • Taste: The Story of Britain Through it Cooking by Kate Coquhoun (2008), published by Bloomsbury PLC.

    A selection of vintage ice-cream bowls, glasses and dishes from Verrecchia’s cafe that was located in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, Hampshire. Verrecchia’s opened in 1933 and traded until 1970. Opened by Augusto Verrecchia and his father on 6th July 1933. No. 8 is for Knickerbocker glory; no 9 is for parfait; no. 10 is an ice-cream dish commissioned for Verrecchia’s in the 1930s and no. 11 is for sundaes. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

From Verrecchia’s, Portsmouth. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
Posted in Mrs Beeton, Museum, Vintage

1950s Britain – Part Four

Ration book Britain. St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire.


At the beginning of the decade, food and cookery in Britain lacked variety and failed to inspire the palette. The nation’s cooks were sick of having to keep coming-up with innovative recipe ideas for the limited range of available foods. Food rationing placed a considerable strain on the beleaguered housewife. In 1951, meat rations were meagre. Finally, in 1952, tea was de-rationed, followed a year later by eggs and cream.

Powdered egg a kitchen staple in ration book Britain. MShed Museum, Bristol.

Sugar rationing ended at midnight on September 26th 1953 after thirteen and a half years of restrictions. In the four months leading-up to the de-rationing of this essential food item, the weekly ration, per person was one pound of sugar. The de-rationing of sugar gave a much-needed boost to the manufacture and retail sales of sweets and chocolate. In 1954, at midnight on Saturday 3rd July, butter, margarine, cheese, meat and bacon were de-rationed.

American born Alice B. Toklas her cookery book, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, published in 1954. Written while living in France, it is a mix of recipes and reminiscences and it became a great success. At the time that Toklas wrote the book’s introduction, butter had just come off of ration in Britain, she commented:

Butter being off the ration now in Britain, no better use for it can be found than in cooking. The margarine-minded for whatever reason will do well to remember that margarine has a definite taste and is more watery than butter. If, in view of expense and after the chastening effect of so many years’ rationing, you feel you must adulterate my butter with part margarine, pray reserve that substitute for dishes and sauces of strong individual taste.

There are so many lovely recipes in this book but one of my favourites appears in the penultimate chapter, ‘Recipes from Friends’. Toklas had a circle of friends drawn from the high society and the arts. Cecil Beaton sent Alice his recipe for ‘Iced Apples (a Greek pudding, very Oriental)’, here it is:

Iced Apples by Cecil Beaton

Prepare syrup with 2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water and the rind of a lemon. Peel and cut in very thin slices 2lbs apples of a very good quality. Put them in the syrup and let them cook from 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Pour into a mould. Surround when removed from mould with a vanilla custard sauce. Decorate it with candied fruit. Serve very cold. Should be prepared the day before, or in the morning if served for dinner.

The housewife became the hero of the home front, keeping her family fed for fourteen years with limited provisions at her disposal. In 1953, Mr Leslie Gillitt, the President of the National Federation of Grocers’ and Provision Dealers’ Associations gave a speech at the Federation’s annual conference. He heaped praise upon the housewife and her response to dealing with the restrictions of ration book Britain:

We believe that the housewives of Britain, to whom we take off our hats in tribute to the fine job they have done throughout the years of rationed dictated dullness, deserve and will welcome a return to free choice of attractive varieties with no couponed limits on quantity.

I found in my mother’s treasure trove of vintage cookbooks, a really lovely Penguin paperback, Preserves for all Occasions by Alice Crang. My mother still uses the chutney and jam recipes today. Published in 1944, 1946, 1948 and 1953. The 1953 edition is the one my mother has. In the introduction there is another nod to the legend that was the fifties housewife:

The busy housewife, who is already trying to fit in so much extra work… this book is intended for those who have little time to spare and who have not done very much of this type of work before.

At the time this edition went to print (1953), sugar rationing still remained and the book addresses this problem in relation to preserving:

Sugar, being rationed, is the first consideration. Without it there will be no jams or jellies, for at the very least it will take half a lb of sugar to make one lb of jam or jelly. So before starting the season’s preserving it is well to take stock of the sugar supply and same some of this for the favourite jams.

Here are a few of my mother’s favourite recipes from this book:

Apple and Marrow Chutney

Ingredients: 1lb cooking apples; 2lb marrows; 1/2lb shallots; 1/2lb sugar; 1 1/2oz salt; 1/2 oz bruised whole ginger; chillies, peppercorns and 1 1/2 pints of vinegar.

Method: cut the prepared marrow into small pieces, put in a basin with the salt sprinkled over, leave overnight and drain well. Chop the peeled onions and apples finely, tie the spices in muslin, put all the ingredients except the vinegar in a pan and cook until tender. Add the vinegar and cook until it is of the consistency of jam. Remove the bag of spices and pour the chutney into jars. This yields about 3 and half lbs of chutney.

Green Tomato Chutney

Ingredients: 5lbs green tomatoes; 1lb onions; 1lb sugar; 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of salt; 1-2 teaspoons of mixed spice; 1 and 1/2 pints of vinegar.

Method: Slice the tomatoes, cut-up the onions and cook them together in a covered saucepan till they are soft. Add the sugar, spices, and vinegar and cook gently without a lid on the pan and with occasional stirring until the chutney is of the desired consistency.

Elderberry Relish Sauce

Ingredients: 3 pints ripe elderberries; 1 and half pints malt vinegar; 1/2 lb sugar; 1/4 tablespoon of cayenne pepper; 1 tablespoon cinnamon; 1 tablespoon allspice; 1 tablespoon cloves.

Method: Measure the elderberries after they have been removed from their stems and stew gently in the vinegar until soft. Sieve the pulp, add the spices and sugar and simmer until it begins to thicken. Pour while hot into hot bottles and seal. Sterilize in water as recommended above. Yield is about 1 quart.

Plum Sauce

Ingredients: 4lbs plums; 1/2lb onions; 1/2lb sugar; 4ozs currants; 1 quart spiced vinegar; 2ozs salt; 1oz mustard (dry); 1/2 oz ground ginger.

Method: Dark coloured plums are best to use. Cut up the plums and onions and cook them in half the vinegar for half an hour. Rub the pulp through a hair sieve, add to it the remained ingredients and simmer for one hour with occasional stirring. Bottle it while hot.

My copy of British Baking in 2012.

If you are still stuck for Diamond Jubilee catering ideas then I have a recommendation for you. I found this newly published, brilliant little book at my local Sainsbury’s supermarket, British Baking in 2012 published in conjunction with website.’s website also has a great section containing lots of Jubilee Baking recipes.  It costs £2.99 and has thirty recipes that can best be described as British classics: Victoria sponge; Jubilee cupcakes; Union Jack tray bake; jam tarts; Bakewell slices; Eccles cakes;  Bramley apple cake; raspberry ripple ice cream; coffee and walnut layer cake; shortbread; Welsh cakes;  Jubilee trifle; pasties; cheese party twists; cheese and mustard scones and much, much more.  If you don’t have a local Sainsbury’s then you can purchase a copy online. CLICK HERE.


The lifting of food restrictions heralded the beginning of new chapter in domestic cookery. For those who could afford it, the kitchen became a shrine to ambitious materialism. American and British designed gadgets to make the housewife’s life easier flooded the marketplace. Everything from vacuum cleaners, food mixers, liquidisers to fridges with associated advertisements that promised to reduce the time spent by the housewife on domestic chores so she had more free time to care for her husband and children.

In fact, these labour-saving devices often left the housewife chained even more to the kitchen sink and expectations of what she could realistically achieve with her daily chores were increased! For those families who couldn’t afford all the gadgets and white goods, life was a very different story.  If you want an alternative take on what life was like for women in the 1950’s, then I recommend you read the recently published Fifties Mystique by Jessica Mann (Quartet, £9.99). Mann draws upon her own experiences to highlight the many domestic and professional challenges faced by women in the pre-feminist era of the fifties.

A snapshot of my Great Aunt’s newly fitted kitchen. 1955-6.

The fitted kitchen, part of the American Dream, was made possible by the mass production of cheap units. Kitchens were no longer spaces for just preparing food, they became spaces to dine and socialise with friends and family.

Kitchen diner. 1955.

In the era of the kitchen-diner, hatches were often installed between the kitchen and dining-room. Alternatively your handyman husband could knock-up in a weekend, a large wooden structure to divide your kitchen in two, thus creating a separate dining area.  In Christine Veasey’s Pins and Needles Treasure Book of Home-Making (1955) she suggests: simple upright timbers supporting open shelves above. On kitchen side, to sink height, there are easily fixed plastic tiles to match the splash back around the sink. Note how the contrast walls of the dining alcove look. An inspiring room and project for any handyman.

Veasey also recommends that the kitchen cabinets can be re-arranged to create an area which can be used as a playpen for your toddler, so you can keep an eye on him/her ‘while mummy is working.’ On the subject of kitchen storage Veasey advises:

One of the goals of kitchen planning is to reduce the number of steps necessary in performing routine tasks. To accomplish this, modern kitchens are divided into work centres. That is, all the supplies and all the equipment for one general kind of kitchen work are grouped together. Therefore, in planning storage space for kitchens, the first thing to decide is the amount and location of the space needed for each main task.

The English Rose kitchen became the most sought after make of units in the latter part of the fifties. This brand offered high quality and style. The units were colour-coated and made of high-grade aluminium left over from the production of Spitfire nose cones and propellers. Trimmed with stainless steel and bolted together like Meccano. The English Rose kitchen is still popular today thanks to a renewed interest in 1950s vintage interiors. Re-using pre-loved fixtures and fittings also makes good green sense. Units on e-bay fetch high prices, although if you do decide to re-fit your kitchen with English Rose, remember that it can be difficult to incorporate modern appliances into the design layout. The Bath-based company Source Antiques specialise in restoring English Rose kitchen units and will can also help you design kitchen layouts. For more information about this company, CLICK HERE. For a short video clip about Source’s restoration team, Rod and his son Tom Donaldson, CLICK HERE.

In the second half of the decade, the housewife in her shiny, newly fitted kitchen needed something different to cook in her thermostatically controlled gas oven, enter the adventurous food writer. Elizabeth David’s exotic Mediterranean Food (1954), Ambrose Heath’s The International Cookery Book (1953) and the more traditional The Constance Spry Cookery Book (1956).

The first TV chefs appeared: Fanny Craddock, Robert Carrier, Philip Harben and Marguerite Patten all demonstrating dishes to inspire your culinary prowess. For the housewife without a TV then magazines such as Woman’s Weeklyprovided an alternative source of cooking inspiration with regular columns giving advice on food related matters as well as simple, tasty recipes.

Party snacks and open sandwiches featured in my 1958 Womans Weekly, bacon supplement.

I have a copy of a supplement on Bacon Cookery that came with a copy of Woman’s Weekly from September 27th 1958. I printed some recipes in an article posting in November last year. Here are few more from the ‘Party Snacks’ section. If you are planning a vintage-inspired Diamond Jubilee party in a few weeks and looking for recipe inspiration, then you could try some of these:

Ham Cornet Sandwiches

Ingredients: 2oz thinly cut boiled ham or bacon (2 slices); 4 slices of bread and butter, with the crusts removed; a few leaves of watercress; 1 small tin oven baked beans.

Method: Cut each slice of ham into four triangles. Form on into a little cornet, lay it on a slice of bread and butter and at once fill it with baked beans – this will help it to hold its shape. Make the other cornets in the same way, placing two cornets on each slice of bread and butter, with a garnish of watercress leaves between them.

Tomato Daisies

Ingredients: 4 ozs minced cooked bacon; 4 circles about 3 inches in diameter of bread and butter cut from the square slices; 1/2 level teaspoonful dry English mustard; 2 pickled walnuts; 1 teaspoonful tomato relish or ketchup; 2 tablespoonfuls single cream; salt, if necessary, and pepper; 3 tomatoes.

Method: Put the minced bacon into a bowl with the mustard and tomato relish. Chop one and a half pickled walnuts (keeping the remaining half for the decoration), add this to the mixture and bind it with the cream. Season it with salt, if necessary, and pepper, and spread it on the slices of bread. Peel the tomatoes. Cut the flesh of the tomato into petal shapes and arrange them in the shape of a daisy on each sandwich, with a little piece of pickled walnut for the centre.

Bacon Hamburgers

Ingredients: 12 oz minced cooked bacon; 6 soft round bread rolls; 1 level tablespoonful finely chopped onion; 2 teaspoonfuls tomato ketchup; pepper; 1 egg; a little fat for frying; 12 spring onions or rings of raw onion.

Method: Mix the minced bacon and the chopped onion with the tomato ketchup. Beat the egg well and work it into the mixture, then season it well with pepper – it is unlikely to require salt. Form the mixture into six flat round cakes about the size of the bread rolls. Heat a little fat in the frying pan and fry the hamburger cakes on both sides to heat them thoroughly. Place one between each cut roll and insert two spring onions or the rings of raw onion on top.

Coronation Chicken

Coronation chicken, a British BBQ and buffet staple, is an invention of fifties Chef Rosemary Hume.  Hume created the recipe for the official banquet lunch to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  The recipe appeared in the first edition of The Constance Spry Cookery Book (1956).  For more information about  Hume’s coronation chicken recipe, I found a recent article by Andrew Crowley (Telegraph on-line edition). The article also includes a reprint of the original recipe. CLICK HERE.

Curried Chicken – Mrs Beeton Style

I know that Mrs B is not a 1950s cook, however, I couldn’t resist a nod to my food heroine.  Here is her recipe for curried chicken:

Ingredients: 1 chicken, ¾ of a pint of white stock, 2ozs of butter, 1 tablespoonful of curry-powder, 1 dessertspoonful of flour, 1 teaspoonful of curry paste, 1 dessertspoonful of desiccated or fresh cocoanut, 1 dessertspoonful of chutney, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice, 2 tablespoonfuls of cream, 1 apple, 1 onion, salt, cooked rice.

Method: Divide the chicken into neat joints, and fry them lightly in hot butter.  Remove them from the stewpan, put in the onion minced, fry for 2 or 3 minutes without browning, add the flour and curry-powder, stir and cook for a few minutes, then pour in the stock and stir until boiling.  Replace the chicken in the stewpan, add the curry-paste, cocoanut, chutney, sliced apple, lemon-juice, and salt to taste, cover and cook very gently for about ¾ of an hour if the bird is young, or until the flesh of an older bird is tender.  Arrange neatly, add the cream to the sauce, and strain over the chicken.  The rice should be handed separately.


Coffee bars/houses enjoyed a revival towards the end of the decade. Cosmopolitan meeting places serving continental foods, such as Swedish-style open sandwiches and exotic drinks in coconut shells. Brightly decorated interiors and curios such as the pet monkey and exotic birds kept at El Cubano Coffee House on Brompton Road in London. Some coffee houses offered creative activities to its customers, such as painting. Although for the more conservative Briton, coffee houses were thought to be a left-wing concept where dangerous liberal thinking took place! The coffee bars were popular with young people too. By the end of the decade the coffee bar had become so popular that it threatened the survival of the traditional British pub.  Pub landlords and breweries fought back by undertaking ambitious programmes of modernisation to the interiors of their establishments in an attempt to attract a younger customer. Here are a couple of short British Pathé films featuring 1950’s coffee bars, including the El Cubano on Brompton Road:

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton, Museum, TV Programme, Vintage, World War Two

Low Energy Cooking Bygones

Queen's Pudding Boiler, 1915, featured in Mrs Beeton Book of Household Management.

I have had my Breville slow cooker for three years now, “try it,” my mum said, “it’s easy to use and very economical on the electric, it costs the same to use as an ordinary lightbulb”.  “Economical on the electric” was particularly relevant as my husband and I were just reeling from a quarterly energy bill of over £400 and we only lived in a small, one-bedroomed property. Ouch!  The recession was biting, energy tariffs were on an upward trajectory and I always had the oven on because I love to cook.  However, the slow cooker sat redundant for several months in my kitchen.  A shiny, silver and black beacon just waiting for me to embrace and welcome it into the family but to be honest it just didn’t inspire me.  Then I watched an episode of Jamie Oliver’s cookery series, Jamie’s American Roadtrip (2009).  He was at a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming and had briefly assumed the role of a ‘Camp Jack’, learning how to slow cook beef using a Dutch Oven.  This traditional method of outdoor cooking had been popular with the pioneering settlers of the Wild West.  In Dutch Oven cooking the meal is prepared in a cast iron vessel using the ‘one-pot’ method. The lid is then put on the pot and the vessel covered over with hot coals and left to slow-cook for 5 or 6 hours, depending on what type of meat is being used.  Suddenly, I looked at my slow cooker with renewed (historical!) interest.  I prepared my first beef casserole, left it on a low heat overnight for 8 hours and enjoyed one of the tastiest meals I have ever had.  I haven’t looked back since and am now in possession of a wide range of slow cooking recipe books and am now quite adventurous with this style.   I have had my fair share of failures though, my lemon curd was a disaster and sausages don’t really like being slow-cooked, they disintegrate.  But lamb, ham hocks and beef are the slow cooker’s best friend.  Oh, our subsequent electricity bills?  Well, on a bad quarter they are now £150.  Slow cookers are not just for stews and casseroles, you can also make soups in them and they are brilliant for rice pudding. It is not surprising then that since the recession began here in the UK in 2008, sales of slow cookers have sky-rocketed.  They are easy to use, economical and produce exceptionally tasty food.  As the old saying goes, ‘Mother really does know best.’

Advertisement for Welbank's Boilerette 1911. Welbank were a London-based company.
Tudor chafing dish from Saintonge, South-West France. Tudor House and Gardens Museum, Southampton, Hampshire.

The chafing dish was popular in Tudor times. These attractive cooking vessels enabled the food to be either slow cooked from scratch or just heated through at the table. The food would then be kept hot throughout the meal, like an early version of a ‘hostess trolley’.  The chafing dish method was also popular in Victorian and Edwardian times.  Chafing dishes during these periods would have consisted of four parts: the spirit lamp; the frame or stand in which the lamp is set and on top of which the chafing pan rests; a hot-water pan, with two handles, which also serves the same purpose as the lower part of the double boiler; and the blazer or pan in which the food is cooked.  In her Book of Household Management, Mrs Beeton dedicated a chapter to low energy cooking methods, ‘Chafing Dish, Casserole, and Paper-Bag Cookery,’.  She warns that this type of cooking does have its hazards: ‘The lamp is the most important part, and is furnished with either a cotton or an asbestos wick.  Spirit is the fuel commonly used, but only the every best should be purchased, as the cheaper kinds are often troublesome, and sometimes dangerous.  The lamp holds about two gills of spirit, and that quantity will burn for about half an hour. The Chafing Dish should rest upon a metal tray, for a slight draught may cause the flame to flare outwards and soil, or even set fire to the table-cloth.’ (p. 1514, 1915 edition).

1915 illustration of a chafing dish and its various parts - nos. 1, 2, 3 and 7. Bottom left - no. 9 - is an image of an Edwardian Dutch oven. From Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The pressure cooker is another, still popular, type of low energy cooking device.  My father-in-law uses it to cook the most incredible steamed artichokes that you have ever tasted.  This method is quicker than the chafing dish or slow cooker but just as economical.  Pressure cookers first appeared in the UK as early as the 17th century.  In the 19th century they were known as digesters.  The Science Museum in London has an example of a late Victorian, cast steel, pressure cooker by A. Kendrick & Sons, dated from between 1885-1895.  Click Here for image and details.

Easiwork Health Cooker, model No. 9. Cast alloy pressure cooker, brought in 1950. On display at St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire.

In the early 20th century ‘digesters’ were renamed ‘pressure cookers’. Their popularity grew amongst housewives due to their labour-saving and health giving properties.  By the 1930s they had become relatively attractive looking items of cookware in spite of their pressure gauges, spring-load pistons and warning regulators.

The Easiwork Health Cooker, Model No. 9, 1950. Cast alloy body with handles, lid, restraining bar and screw knob, pressure guage and pressure release valve, rubber gasket and original food baskets inside. On display at St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire.
Easiwork Health Cooker, 1950. On display at St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire.

The science behind the cooker is very clever, high pressure is created and this allows water to cook the contents beyond its boiling point.  During the pre and post-war period, the British company Easiwork, based at 242 Tottenham Court Road, London, was one of the many pioneering manufacturers of this item.  In one trade advertisement from 1937 they claimed that the Easiwork Health Cooker:

  • Was the ‘greatest cooking development of modern times’;
  • ‘Saves 12/6 in £ on fuel, retains vitamins, alleviates constipation, saves half the cooking time’;
  • ‘Can be used equally in a country-house or one-room flat’;
  • Used with a wide range of cooking fuels and devices ‘gas, electric, oil or primus stove or coal range’;
  • Can ‘roast, bake, steam, stew, braise and fry’.

    Easiwork Health Cooker, Model No. 6, 1932. Portsmouth City Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire

Not all low energy cooking devices require a continuous supply of fuel. In the United States Sears Roebuck & Co featured the ‘fireless cooker’ in their 1915 catalogue.  The ‘Sanitas’ was a vessel which had soapstone radiators that could be heated in a fireplace then placed in the bottom of the aluminum-lined containers.  Aluminum kettles or inset pans containing the food were then inserted and the contents cooked slowly and evenly either overnight or throughout the day.  In the UK, Grimwade’s Quick-Cooker of 1912-14, was another clever invention created by Reuben Clews of Birmingham.  Clews sold his idea to the company Grimwade who were promptly granted a patent for it and then began producing the item in, of all places, China.  The Quick-Cooker came in three sizes and did not require the aid of a pudding cloth.  Grimwade claimed that it ‘cooks the contents quickly from centre to circumference, stews – meat can be kept hot for hours without over-cooking or getting dry’.  After you had placed the food in the ceramic container, before you secured it down where indicated by string and put on the lid, you had to place a small piece of pastry, dough or bread into the central hollow thus creating a watertight seal.

Grimwade's Quick-Cooker, 1912-1914. Red House Museum, Christchurch, Dorset.

With the onset of World War Two and the introduction of fuel rationing, fuel-less cooking came into its own again.  The hay-box was born.  The portable hay-box could be made from a spare gas-mask carrier and the Ministry of Food provided the public with full instructions on how to assemble one.  The wooden boxes were insulated with hay, newspapers or blankets.  The food would first be brought to the boil on the stove and then transferred to the hay-box. Porridge took 6 hours, a meat stew 3 1/2 hours and a suet pudding 2 1/2 hours.  Interestingly, hay-box inspired cooking has recently made a comeback.  Mr D’s Thermal Cooker is a eco-friendly thermal slow cooker that needs no power. The company have even produced a Thermal Cookery recipe book to go with the product.  For further information on Mr D’s thermal cookware CLICK HERE.  Mr D The Thermal Cook will be making an appearance on Saturday 14th April, 3pm, in the Cookery Theatre, Community Centre, High Street, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire as part of this year’s Milford-on-Sea Food Week.  For more information on this event, CLICK HERE.

Mrs Beeton’s Recipe for Cooking Scrambled Eggs with Oysters in a Chafing Dish

Ingredients:  1 dozen oysters, 6 eggs, 1 oz of fresh butter, 1 teaspoonful of anchovy paste, salt and pepper.

Method: Mix the butter with the anchovy paste.  Beat up the eggs, and season with salt and pepper.  Melt the anchovy butter in the chafing dish, when hot pour in the eggs, stir lightly until the mixture begins to thicken, then add quickly the oysters, previously bearded and cut into halves or dice.  Serve from the chafing dish with fingers of toasted bread, buttered and slightly spread with anchovy paste.  Takes 10 minutes to make and is sufficient for 3 to 4 persons.

Wedgwood Pap Warmer, c. 1817 on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Earthenware. The bottom held a burner which heated water in a deep lower basin. The upper basin contained a drink or a liquid food like 'pap', a mixture of bread and milk which was given to babies and invalids.
Posted in Mrs Beeton, Museum, Rural Heritage, TV Programme

Britain’s Rural Heritage – Beekeeping

Traditional Bee Skep. On display at Breamore Countryside Museum, Hampshire.

I am enjoying the new 15 part BBC 2 series, Britain’s Heritage Heroes. It airs Monday to Fridays at 6.30pm.  The presenters, John Craven and Jules Hudson travel around Britain meeting with individuals who are dedicated to saving historic homes, national monuments, making traditional foods and keeping alive skills that are involved in rural craftsmanship.  There are a large number of Museums up and down the country dedicated to preserving and exploring all aspects of Britain’s rural heritage. Living history television series such as Tales from the Green Valley (2005), Victorian Farm (2009) and Edwardian Farm (2010-11) have all helped to rejuvenate interest in this fascinating historical subject.

There is written evidence to suggest that the Romans kept bees in Britain and that beekeeping was a part of Anglo-Saxon and Norman life. It wasn’t until the medieval era that beekeepers began crafting structures to house their bees. These structures were either made of either wood or stone.  In mid-nineteenth century Britain the movable-frame hive developed.  Previously, beekeepers had used the basket hive or skep.  Traditional skeps were made of grass or straw and sometimes these were forced through a cow horn which would help to tighten the ’round’ of material.  The finished skep would be bound with split bramble stem, after the thorns had been removed.

Hackle used as a cover for a bee skep. This one was built for use in the filming of Thomas Hardy's 'Woodlanders'. Breamore Countryside Museum, Hampshire.

The skep was housed in a hackle.  This was conical in shape and thatched to make it weatherproof.  Hackles were, at one time, a common sight across the British countryside.  Straw skeps are much smaller than the modern hives. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries apiarists preferred to use the skeps. An eke or ring of coiled straw would sometimes be added underneath the skep so that the bees could expand honeycomb production into it. The bees would attach comb to the sides of the skep. The only way to collect the honey, was to first kill the colony by drowning or suffocation and then to cut the comb away.  The skeps were then cleaned and re-used the following season. Skeps could also be found housed in bee boles. Bole is a Scottish word that means a recess in a wall.  The bee boles protected the skeps from extremities of the weather and were usually located in south-facing walls. Bee boles were known by a variety of names in the different regions across Britain: bee shells; bee keps; bee niches; bee walls; bee houses; bee garths and bee boxes are some of the regional variations.

Honey was a valuable rural commodity and often used as currency to pay for rents and tithes.  Beeswax was highly prized by the church for its candlemaking properties. It was not uncommon for beekeepers to talk to their bees.  It was thought that if they were not kept-up-to-date with all that was happening in the main house or cottage, they would swarm.

Honey extractor. Breamore Countryside Museum, Hampshire.

In 1862, a new wooden hive structure, invented by the American Reverend L. L. Langstroth, with removable rectangular frames that hung downwards and remained clear of the walls of the hive by a bee-space, were introduced into Britain.  This frame structure is still the basis for modern hives today. Beekeeping continues to thrive in the 21st Century.  The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), founded in 1874, currently has 20,000 amateur beekeeper members.

Here are a couple of lovely honey recipes from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1915 edition) that you may like to try:

Honey Cake

Ingredients: 1/2 of a breakfastcupful of sugar, 1 breakfastcupful of rich sour cream, 2 breakfastcupfuls of flour, 1/2 a teaspoonful of carbonate soda, honey to taste.

Method – Mix the sugar and cream together; dredge in the flour, add as much honey as will flavour the mixture nicely; stir it well, that all the ingredients may be thoroughly mixed; add the carbonate of soda, and beat the cake well for another 5 minutes.  Put it into a buttered tin, and bake it from 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour, and let it be eaten warm.  Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Honey Pudding

Ingredients – 4 ozs of honey, 6 ozs of breadcrumbs, 1 oz of butter, 1 oz of florador, 2 eggs, the grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 a teaspoonful of ground ginger, 1 gill of milk.

Method – Cook the florador in the milk for 10 minutes, then pour the preparation over the breadcrumbs, add the honey, lemon-rind, ginger, warmed butter, and the yolks of the eggs, and beat well.  Whisk the whites stiffly, stir them lightly into the rest of the ingredients, and turn the mixture into a well-buttered plain mould.  Steam gently from 1 and 3/4 to 2 hours, and serve with a suitable sauce.  Takes about 2 hours to make and is sufficient for 5 to 6 persons.

Photograph of a beekeeper gathering a swarm of bees. He uses a skep and notice he is not wearing any protection. Bees normally swarm towards the end of May, beginning of June. Breamore Countryside Museum.
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, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Feast Part 2 – A Festival of Sweet Gifts

Basket of spun sugar with bon bons, featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

This year I have decided on a homemade Christmas.  In order to kick-start my creativity, I have been flicking through magazines, watching copious re-runs of cookery shows on the Food Network UK and delving into my historical cookery and craft books.  Homemade sweets make a lovely, economical gift for friends and family.  I will buy cellophane bags to put them in.  The cost of these bags vary depending on whether you purchase them on-line or at your local store. I buy mine from a local cake decorating shop and they cost 12p per unit.  Secure the bags with curling ribbon and a homemade gift tag, job done. This year I am also experimenting using fruit for table and room decorations.  I love the colour palette created by seasonal fruit and the smell is heavenly.  If you want an even more fragrant scent of Christmas wafting through your home, try filling small glasses with cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise  and liberally sprinkling the hard spices with ground ginger and nutmeg.

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

A Selection of Mrs Beeton’s Homemade Sweets Recipes

  • Almond Toffee;
  • American Candy;
  • Barley Sugar;
  • Clarified Sugar;
  • Butter Scotch;
  • Candied Chestnuts;
  • Candy Twist;
  • Chocolate Caramels;
  • Raspberry Caramels;
  • Clove Drops;
  • Fondant Cream;
  • Lemon and Acid Drops;
  • Marshmallows;
  • Marzipan;
  • Nougat;
  • Lemon Toffee;
  • Russian Toffee;
  • Turkish Delight.

Almond Toffee

1lb of loaf sugar, 5 ozs of almonds, 1/2 a pint of water, a pinch of cream of tartar, almond essence.

Blanch and skin the almonds, cut them across in halves, and dry them in the oven without browning.  Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the cream of tartar, and boil until a deep amber-coloured syrup is obtained.  Remove the stewpan from the fire, add the almonds, boil up again, and pour on to a buttered or oiled tin.

American Candy

2lb of moist sugar, 1/2 a pint of water, cream of tartar, tartaric acid, 1 dessertspoonful of golden syrup, saffron-yellow, flavouring essence.

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add a good 1/2 a teaspoonful of cream of tartar, and boil to the “large crack” degree (312F). Pour on to an oiled slab, add a little saffron-yellow or other colouring ingredient and flavour to taste. Any flavouring substance may be used, but it should agree with the colour of the candy; thus red should be flavoured with raspberry essence, yellow with pineapple, etc. Add also a pinch of tartaric acid and the golden syrup, work well in, fold up, then pull over an oiled hook, and cut into squares.

Barley Sugar

1 pint of clarified syrup (see recipe below), 1 teaspoonful of lemon-juice, 5 drops of essence of lemon, saffron-yellow.

Boil the prepared syrup to the “large crack”, add the lemon-juice and lemon-essence, and reboil until it acquires a little colour. Now add a few drops of saffron-yellow, and pour at once on to an oiled slab.  When cool, cut into drops about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide, and twist them. Keep in air-tight tins.

Butter Scotch

1lb of moist sugar, 1/2 a lb of butter, 1/2 a teacupful of cold water, essence of almonds.

Put the water and sugar into a stewpan, let the mixture stand by the side of the fire until dissolved, then add the butter and boil until the mixture becomes quite thick.  Stir occasionally until it begins to thicken, and afterwards continuously, as this preparation is liable to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Pour on to an oiled or buttered tin, and mark and divide.

Syrup for Water Ices (Clarified Syrup)

2lbs of loaf sugar, 1 pint of water.  Put the sugar and water into a copper sugar-boiler or stewpan; when dissolved place over a clear fire, and boil until a syrup is formed, taking care to remove the scum as it rises.  If a saccarometer is available for testing the heat of the syrup, it should be boiled until it registers 220F.

Candied Chestnuts

Chestnuts and loaf sugar. Remove the shells of the chestnuts, place them in a stewpan of boiling water, boil for about 10 minutes, then drain and skin them. Replace in the stewpan, cover with boiling water, boil until tender but not broken, and let them cool.  Allow 1/2 a pint of water to each lb of sugar, boil to the “crack” degree (290F), then dip in the chestnuts one at a time, and place them on an oiled slab.

Chocolate Caramels

3 ozs of finely grated vanilla chocolate, 1lb of best loaf sugar, 1/2 a pint of cream, 1/2 a pint of milk.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk, add the cream and bring slowly to boiling point.  Dissolve the chocolate in the smallest possible quantity of hot water, stir it into the syrup, and boil very gently until a little, dropped into cold water, at once hardens and snaps easily.  Pour it on to an oiled slab into a square formed by bars, or failing these, into an oiled tin.  When cold, cut into squares with a caramel cutter, or a buttered knife, and wrap each piece in wax paper.

Candy Twist

1 1/2 lb of Demerara sugar, 1/2 a pint of water, caramel colouring, almond essence.

Dissolve the sugar in the water, boil to the “crack” degree, then colour and flavour to taste. Pour the syrup on to an oiled slab, and as the edges cool fold them over. When the whole is cool enough to handle pull it over the candy-hook, cut it into 6-inch lengths, and twist them into a spiral form. If preferred, while granulated sugar may be substituted, and the candy flavoured with vanilla, or it may be coloured red and flavoured with raspberry.

Raspberry Caramels

2lb of granulated sugar, 1oz of butter, 1/2 a pint of cream, 1/2 a pint of water, 3 tablespoonfuls of glucose, raspberry essence, cherry-red colouring or carmine.

Put the sugar with the water into a stewpan; when dissolved stir in the glucose, and boil to the “ball” (237F) degree.  Add the cream and butter in small pieces, stir and boil until the syrup reaches the “crack” degree, then transfer the stewpan at once to a bowl of cold water, to arrest further cooking.  Colour and flavour to taste, pour between bars on an oiled slab or into an oiled tin, and when sufficiently cool, cut into small squares by means of a caramel cutter or a slightly buttered knife, and wrap each caramel in wax paper.

Clove Drops

Essence of cloves, a few drops of acetic acid, 1lb of loaf sugar, 1/2 a pint of water.

Boil the sugar and water to the ball (237F) degree, add a few drops of acetic acid, and clove essence to taste.  Grain the syrup by pressing it against the sides of the pan with the back of the spoon, let it cool slightly, then turn it on to an oiled sheet. Mark it in small squares with the back of a knife, and separate them when cold.

Fondant Cream

3 lbs of loaf sugar, 1 pint of cold water, 1/4 of a teaspoonful of cream of tartar, colouring and flavouring ingredients.

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the cream of tartar, and boil to the “small ball” (237F) degree.  Pour the syrup into a basin, let it remain until lukewarm, then stir well with a spatula until white and slightly hardened.  Now turn the paste on to a slab or large dish, and knead it with the hands until perfectly smooth.  Flavour and colour to taste, and use as required.

Lemon and Acid Drops

1 1/2 lbs of loaf sugar, 1/2 a pint of water, 1/2 a teaspoonful of cream of tartar, essence of lemon, 1 dessertspoonful of tartaric acid.

Boil the sugar, water, and cream of tartar together until the mixture acquires a pale yellow tinge, add essence of lemon to taste, and turn the preparation on to an oiled slab.  Sprinkle on the tartaric acid, work it well in, and , as soon as it is cool enough to handle, form into thin rolls, cut off short pieces with the scissors, and roll into shape under the hand.  Coat with sifted sugar, dry well, and afterwards store in an airtight tin.


1/2 a lb of icing sugar, 1/4 of a lb of gum arabic, 3 whites of eggs, 1/2 of a pint of water, caramel essence.

Soak the gum arabic in the water until soft, then heat gently until dissolved, and strain it through fine muslin.  Return to the stewpan, add the sugar, and when dissolved, stir in the whites of eggs, and whisk until the mixture is quite stiff.  Flavour to taste, sugar, and let it remain for about 10 hours.  When ready, cut into small squares, and dredge them liberally with icing sugar.


1 lb of loaf sugar, 12 ozs of ground almonds, 3 ozs of sifted icing sugar, 2 whites of eggs, 1 1/2 gills of water.

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.


4 ozs of icing sugar, 4 ozs of honey, 8 ozs of almonds, 2 whites of eggs, wafer paper.

Blanch and dry the almonds thoroughly. Line a box of suitable size first with white paper and then with wafer paper, both of which must be cut to fit exactly.  Put the sugar, honey and whites of eggs into a copper sugar boiler or pan, and stir by the side of the fire until the mixture becomes thick and white. Drop a little into cold water; if it at once hardens, remove the pan from the fire, and stir in the almonds.  Dredge the slab with icing sugar, turn on to it the nougat, and form into a ball.  Press into the prepared box, cover with paper, let it remain under pressure until cold then cut up into squares.

Lemon Toffee

1lb of granulated sugar, 4 ozs of butter, the juice of 1 lemon, essence of lemon.

Melt the butter in a stewpan, add the sugar, boil up slowly, stir and boil for a few minutes, and add 1 teaspoonful of lemon-juice, continue boiling to the “crack”  (290F) degree, add the rest of the lemon-juice and a few drops of essence of lemon, and pour at once on to a battered or oiled tin.

Russian Toffee

1/2 lb of loaf sugar, 1/4 of a lb of butter, 1/4 of a pint of cream, 1 tablespoonful of red-currant jelly, vanilla or other flavouring essence.

Place the sugar, butter and cream in a stewpan, and stir by the side of the fire until the mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan clean.  Flavour to taste, pour on to an oiled or buttered tin, and when cold, cut into squares.

Turkish Delight

1/2 a lb of icing sugar, 1 lb of loaf sugar, 1 oz of leaf gelatine, 2ozs of almonds or pistachios, 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 tablespoonful of rum, 1 gill of water.

Put the gelatine to soak in cold water. Blanch the almonds or pistachios, and chop them coarsely.  Remove the rinds of the orange and lemon in thin fine strips, place them in a copper sugar boiler or stewpan with the loaf sugar, water, and the strained juice of the orange and lemon. When boiling add the gelatine, simmer until dissolved, then strain into a basin and add the rum.  Let the mixture remain until on the point of setting, then stir in the almonds or pistachios, and pour at once into a wetted round tin.  When perfectly set turn the jelly out, cut it into 1-inch square pieces, and roll them in icing sugar.

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