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 Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton Goes Vegetarian

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

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

The Preston Guardian, Saturday 20th November, 1847

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotchpotch Soup

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

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

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

Asparagus Soufflé

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

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

Macaroni and Cream

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

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

 Onion Pudding

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

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

Savoury Semolina

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

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

Vegetable Goose

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

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

Lentil Porridge

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

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

Pea Fritters

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

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

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


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

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

Pastry Without Butter

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

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

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

Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton – Cooking Around The World

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

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

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

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

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


Brown Onion Soup (Potage Soubise Brune)

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

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


Sacher Torte

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

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


Wiener Schnitzel

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

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


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

Polenta Alla Bologna

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

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


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

Estafado (Stewed Chicken)

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

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


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

Frimsel Soup

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

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


Fricassee of Kangaroo Tail

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

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

Peach and Pineapple Marmalade

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

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


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


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

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


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

Quoorma Curry (We know it as Korma today!)

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

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

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


Oysters Cooked in a Chafing Dish

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

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

Rye Pop Overs

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

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

Washington Pie

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

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

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

Heroines from the History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Rundell

Victorian cast iron, coal-fired, cooking range. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire.

I am delighted to be able to bring you another domestic cookery treasure, recently unearthed from my secondhand bookshop trawl. The publication is Mrs Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principles of Economy and adapted to the use of Private Families, 1862 edition, published by Milner & Sowerby. The publication was very popular in both England and America.  First published in England in 1806 and in America the following year. Until 1844 the American edition was reprinted 15 times and the English edition a staggering 67 times! In the recipes I have selected you will see there is a distinct American influence, ‘dough nuts’ and ‘New England pancakes’ for instance. The final edition to be published in England appeared in 1893.

So, who was Mrs Rundell? Maria Eliza Rundell (née Ketelby) was born in Ludlow, Shropshire in 1745, the only child of barrister Abel Johnson Ketelby.  In 1766 she married Thomas Rundell, who practiced as a surgeon in Bath and the two of them set-up home together there. The couple raised 2 sons and 3 daughters.  Unfortunately, Thomas Rundell died in 1795 and this tragic event prompted Maria to move to Swansea, Wales. She began feverishly collecting recipes and household management tips to pass on to her daughters, so that they too would be able to run successful households of their own once married. Maria also sent her collection to an old family friend, the well-respected publisher John Murray. He thought the collection would make for an excellent publication.

The first edition was printed in 1806 under the title Domestic Cookery. The book became a publishing sensation and in addition to the numerous English language editions, was also translated into German in 1841. The target readership for Mrs Rundell’s book being the middle-class household. In the introduction she states, ‘….When young ladies marry, they frequently continue their own maids in the capacity of house-keepers; who, as they may be more attached to their interest than strangers, become very valuable servants. To such, the economical observations in this work will be as useful as the cookery; and it is recommendable in them to be strictly observant of both, which, in the course of a year or two, will make them familiar in the practice. It is much to be feared, that for the waste of many of the good things God has given for our use, not abuse, the mistress and servants of great houses will hereafter be called to strict account.’ (1862:xxxiii)

Her book was a lot more sophisticated in content than Mrs Mary Holland’s The Complete Economical Cook and Frugal Housewife.  Interestingly, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was first published in 1861. Following the success of Mrs B’s infamous tome, it is not surprising Mrs Rundell’s book was reprinted again in 1862 to cash-in on the renewed interest in household management advice. I have included here a selection of recipes that particularly caught my eye.

  • Cucumber vinegar;
  • Pilchard and leek pie;
  • Dutch pudding or Souster;
  • New England pancakes;
  • Bockings;
  • Podovies or beef patties;
  • Baked custard;
  • Dough nuts;
  • Snow cream;
  • A very fine Somersetshire syllabub;
  • Hard biscuits;
  • Vendor, or milk punch;
  • Restorative pork jelly;
  • Refreshing drink in a fever;
  • Draught for a cough;
  • Paste for chapped hands.

Cucumber vinegar

Pare and slice fifteen large cucumbers and put them in a stone jar, with three pints of vinegar, four large onions sliced, two or three shalots, a little garlick, two large spoonfuls of salt, three tea-spoonfuls of pepper, and half a tea-spoonful of cayenne.  After standing four days give the whole a boil, when cold, strain, and filter the liquor through paper.  Keep in small bottles add to salad, or eat with meat.

Pilchard and leek pie

Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald in milk and water, and put them in layers in a dish, and between the layers, two or three salted pilchards which have been soaked for some hours the day before.  Cover the whole with a good plain crust.  When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift-up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor, then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

Dutch pudding or Souster

Melt one pound of butter in half a pint of milk; mix it into two pounds of flour, eight eggs, four spoonfuls of yeast; add one pound of currants, and a quarter of a pound of sugar beaten and sifted.  This is a very good pudding hot, and equally so as a cake when cold.  If for the latter, caraways may be used instead of currants.  An hour will bake it in a quick oven.

New England pancakes

Mix a pint of cream, five spoonfuls of fine flour, seven yolks and four whites of eggs, and a very little salt; fry them very thin in fresh butter, and between each strew sugar and cinnamon.  Send-up six or eight at once.


Mix three ounces of buck-wheat flour, with a tea-cupful of warm milk, and a spoonful of yeast, let it rise before the fire about an hour; then mix four eggs well beaten, and as much milk as will make the batter the usual thickness for pancakes and fry the same.

Podovies or beef patties

Shred underdone dressed beef with a little fat, season with pepper, salt, and a little shalot or onion.  Make a plain paste, roll it thin, and cut it in shape like an apple puff, fill it with the mince, pinch the edges, and fry them of a nice brown.  The pastie should be made with a small quantity of butter, egg and milk.

Baked custard

Boil one pint of cream, half a pint of milk; with mace, cinnamon, and lemon-peel, a little of each. When cold, mix the yolks of three eggs, sweeten and make your cups or paste nearly full.  Bake them 10 minutes.

Dough nuts

Rub a quarter of a pound of butter into a pound of flour, then add five ounces of sugar, two eggs, about a dessertspoonful of yeast, and sufficient milk to make it into a stiff-paste.  Let it stand to rise, then roll it out, and cut it into shapes, with a paste-cutter, and boil them in lard, till they are of a nice brown colour.

Snow cream

Put to a quart of cream the whites of three eggs well beaten, four spoonfuls of sweet wine, sugar to your taste, and a bit of lemon-peel, whip it up to a froth, remove the peel, and serve in a dish.

A very fine Somersetshire syllabub

In a large China bowl put a pint of port, and a pint of sherry, or other white wine, sugar to taste.  Milk the bowl full.  In twenty minutes’ time cover it pretty high with clouted cream; grate over it nutmeg, put pounded cinnamon and nonpareil comfits.

Hard biscuits

Warm two ounces of butter in as much skimmed milk as will make a pound of flour into a very stiff paste, beat it with a rolling-pin, and work it very smooth.  Roll it thin, and cut it into round biscuits, prick them full of holes with a fork.  About six minutes will bake them.

Vendor or milk punch

Pare six oranges and six lemons as thin as you can, grate them after with sugar, to get the flavour.  Steep the peels in a bottle of rum or brandy stopped close twenty-four hours.  Squeeze the fruit on two pounds of sugar, add to it four quarts of water, and one of new milk boiling hot, stir the rum into the above, and run it through a jelly bag till perfectly clear.  Bottle, and cork close immediately.

Dr Ratcliff’s restorative pork jelly

Take a leg of well-fed pork, just as cut-up, beat it, and break the bone.  Set it over a gentle fire, with three gallons of water, and simmer to one.  Let half an ounce of mace, and same of nutmegs, stew in it.  Strain through a five sieve.  When cold, take-off the fat.  Give a chocolate-cup the first and last thing, and at noon, putting salt to taste.

A refreshing drink in a fever

Put a little tea-sage, two sprigs of balm and a little wood-sorrel, into a stone jug, having first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear from the white; slice it, and put a bit of the peel in, then pour in three pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.

Soft and fine draught for those who are weak and have a cough

Beat a fresh-laid egg, and mix it with a quarter of a pint of new milk warmed, a large spoonful of capillaire, the same of rose-water, and a little nutmeg scraped.  Don’t warm it after the egg is put in.  Take it first and last thing.

Paste for chapped hands and which will preserve them smooth by constant use

Mix a quarter of a pound of unsalted hog’s lard which has been washed in common, and then rose-water, with the yolks of two new-laid eggs, and a large spoonful of honey and as much fine oatmeal or almond-paste as will work into a paste.

To find out more about the Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire. Click here.

Victorian kitchen display. Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History, Museum

Heroines from the History of English Domestic Cookery – Mrs Mary Holland

Interior of a farm worker's cottage in 19th century rural England before electricity. Countryside Museum, Breamore House, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

At the weekend I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes, rummaging around secondhand bookshops.  Having spent a considerable amount of time scouring dusty shelves, perching precariously on footstools, sitting cross-legged amongst the spiders, I am delighted to be able to share with you here extracts from some of my best finds.

There is very little biographical information available on Mrs Mary Holland the author of The Complete Economical Cook and Frugal Housewife: An entirely new system of Domestic Cookery.   Her cookbook and advice on household management was first published in the early 1800s.  It has gone through numerous reprints spanning the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.  I find much of her writing just as relevant today as it would  have been over 200 years ago, for example the impact of poor diet on your health and well-being.  Another example is her insistence on eating a proper breakfast, she states ‘…the practice is not uncommon to eat a light breakfast, and a heavy supper: but the latter of these is hurtful, often producing apoplexy, and always indigestion and nightmare.  Where this is not practiced, there will generally be found a disposition to make a more hearty breakfast.’ (1853:p.xxv) I am as guilty as anybody of skipping breakfast on a regular basis.  However,  I know that when I do sit down to a proper cooked breakfast, usually on a Saturday or Sunday, my hunger is kept at bay well into the afternoon, negating the need to snack between meals or tuck-in to a heavy supper.   The extracts below are taken from the 17th edition, published in 1853 by William Tegg & Co.  Mrs Holland’s recipes do not separate ingredients and method, unlike Mrs Beeton but seem fairly easy to follow nonetheless.  Enjoy, it really is a fascinating read.  I have selected some of her most unusual recipes.

‘The subject of cookery is, in general, either despised by women as below their attention, or, when practically engaged in, it is with no other consideration about it than, in the good housewife’s phrase, to make the most of everything, whether good, bad, or indifferent; or to contrive a thousand mischievous compositions, both savoury and sweet, to recommend their own ingenuity.’ (1853:xv-xvi)

‘The leading consideration about food ought to be its wholesomeness.  Cookery may produce savoury and pretty looking dishes without their possessing any of the qualities of food.  It is at the same time both a serious and ludicrous reflection that it should be thought to do honour to our friends and ourselves to set-out a table where indigestion and all its train of evils, such as fever, rheumatism, gout, and the whole catalogue of human diseases, lie lurking in almost every dish…..when a man at a public house dies of a surfeit of beef steak and porter, who does not exclaim, what a beast.’ (1853:xvi-xvii)

‘A house fitted up with plain good furniture, the kitchen furnished with clean wholesome-looking cooking utensils, good fires, in grates that give no anxiety lest a good fire should spoil them, clean good table linen, the furniture of the table and sideboard good of the kind, without ostentation, and a well-dressed plain dinner, bespeak a sound judgement and correct taste in a private family, that place it on a footing of respectability with the first characters in the country.  It is only conforming to our sphere, not the vainly attempting to be above it, that can command true respect.’ (1853:xvii)


‘It is allowed that coffee promotes digestion, and exhilarates the animal spirits; besides which, various other qualities are ascribed to it, such as dispelling flatulency, removing dizziness of the head, attenuating viscid humours, increasing the circulation of the blood, and consequently, perspiration; but if drank too strong, it affects the nerves, occasions watchfulness and tremour of the hands; though in some phlegmatic constitutions, it is apt to produce sleep.’ (1853:xxxvi)


  • Larks;
  • Shrimps to pot;
  • Sorrel sauce;
  • Love in disguise;
  • Cowslip pudding;
  • Tench pie;
  • Wafers;
  • Almond cakes;
  • Clarified butter;
  • Elder-flower vinegar
  • Green food colouring;
  • Yellow food colouring.


When you have picked them properly, cut-off their heads, and the pinions of the first joint.  Beat the breast-bone flat, and turn the feet close to the legs, and put one into the other.  Draw-out the gizzard, and run a skewer through the middle of the bodies.  Tie the skewer fast to the spit when you put them down to roast.  Wheat-ears, and other small birds, must be done in the same manner.

Shrimps to pot

After having boiled your shrimps, season them with pepper, salt, and some pounded cloves.  Put them close into a pot, set them for a few minutes into a slack oven, and then pour over them clarified butter.

Sorrel sauce

Wash, squeeze, and chop fine, plenty of sorrel, and put into a stewpan with a bit of fresh butter; stew it till the liquor is nearly wasted, and add a little strong cullis.  The sauce must be of a good thickness.

Love in disguise

After well cleaning, stuff a calf’s heart, cover it an inch thick with good forcemeat, then roll it in Vermicelli, put it into a dish with a little water, and send it to the oven.  When done, serve it with its own gravy in the dish.  This forms a pretty side dish.

Cowslip pudding

Cut and pound the flowers of a peck of cowslips, half a pound of Naples biscuit grated, and three pints of cream.  Boil them a little, then beat-up sixteen eggs, with a little rose-water sweetened.  Mix all together, butter a dish, and pour it in.  Bake it; and when done, sift fine sugar over, and serve it up hot.

Tench pie

Cover the bottom of the dish with butter, and grate in nutmeg, with pepper, salt and mace; then lay in the tench, cover them with butter, and pour in red wine, and a little water, put on the lid, and when baked, put in melted butter mixed with rich gravy.


Beat-up for half an hour a spoonful of orange-flower water, two spoonfuls of flour, two of sugar, and same of milk.  Make your wafer-tongs hot, and pour a little of your butter in to cover your irons.  Bake them on a stove fire, and, as they bake, roll them round a stick like a spigot.  When cold, they will be very crisp, and are proper to be eaten with jellies or tea.

Almond cakes

Take two ounces of bitter and one pound of sweet almonds, blanch and beat them with a little rose or orange-flower water, and the white of one egg; and half a pound of loaf sugar, eight yolks and three whites of eggs, the juice of half a lemon, and the rind grated.  Mix the whole well together, and bake it either in one large pan or several small ones.

Clarified butter

Put some fresh butter into a stewpan, with a spoonful of cold water; set it over a gentle fire to oil; skim and let it stand till the sediment is settled; then pour off the oil, and when it begins to congeal put it over the respective articles.

Elder-flower vinegar

Put two gallons of strong alegar to a peck of the pips of elder-flowers.  Set it in the sun in a stone jar for a fortnight, and filter it through a flannel bag.  When drawn-off, put it into small bottles, in which it will preserve its flavour better than in large ones.  When mixing the flowers and alegar together, be careful not to drop any stalks among the pips.

Green food-colouring

Trim spinach leaves, boil them for half a minute in water.  Strain it off clear, and it will be fit for use.

Yellow food-colouring

Rub gambouge on a plate with a little water in it.  Or take the heart of a yellow lily, infuse the colour in milkwarm water, and preserve it in a bottle well-stopped.

Mrs Holland’s Menu Recommendations


First Course = Mock Turtle removed with Sweetbread à la Dauphine

Lamb cutlets,  Haricot of Venison, Larks

Mutton chops à la Maintenon, Fricandeau of Veal, Fricassée of Pigs’ Ears

Rump of Beef, removed with Rice Soup

Second Course = Ducklings, Pintard à la Daube and truffles

Ragout of Lambs’ Tails

Almond Cakes, Tartlets, Ribs of Lamb, Crayfish

Blancmange, French Beans à la Crême, Roasted Capon


Single Course =  Salmon Trout, Apple Tarts, Custard

Boiled Fowl, Ham, Roast Fowl, Spinach

Mince Pies, Hare, Damson Tarts.

To find-out more about Breamore House and Countryside Museum, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Click here.

The 'backhus' of a 19th century farm worker's cottage. Breamore House and Countryside Museum, Nr. Fordingbridge, Hampshire.