The Georgians loved their food, and saw cooking as an opportunity to amaze and delight.
Wealthy households went all out when entertaining, creating fantastic showpieces from food. Savoury dishes were prepared with a theatrical flair. Meat was often dressed to ressemble the animal, with whole stuffed calves or hogs heads taking centre stage on the table. As for sweet dishes, French confectionery was all the rage, and the ‘best’ banqueting tables bowed under the weight of dazzling towers of sugarwork. There were blancmanges cast in elaborate moulds, colourful ices, and numerous small cakes and sweetmeats.
Cooks with more modest kitchens also turned out dishes injected with a sense of fun. One such recipe, compiled by our unknown ladies, is for ‘puddings of carriotts’.
To Make Puddings of Carriotts
First cut the roots hollow as children scoope appels. Take out all the pale yellow. Take greated bread, 4 eggs, beat them well, some pounded cinnamon, sugar to yr taste, some currants. Mix all together. Stuf yr carriots. Put in the piece you cut of the top again. Boyle them in clariot & strong greavy & a little sugar, a stick of cinnimon. When the are boiled thicken yr sauce with the whites & yolks of 2 eggs. So serve them. If for a change you may boyle them in water & nothing else. Serve them in butter, sack & sugar for sauce. Besur[e] serve them hot. This is for first course.
Food historian Dr Annie Gray was intrigued by this surprise sweet filling, so she cooked up the carrot puddings in her own kitchen:
“They were quite nice, but it was weird eating a carrot with what felt like sausagemeat in, while actually it was bread. And sweet. They are a fun thing, as one would not expect sweet puddings in the first course… The sauce (brandy, butter and sugar) was a raving success”
Annie found that the carrots were quite similar in concept to a ‘meat melon‘. For this dish, meat is dressed to resemble a melon, and served with the first course. Again, the idea is to surprise the diner with innovative presentation and unexpected tastes and textures.
Strange stuffings and disguised ingredients were just some ways in which Georgian cooks got a kick out of their cooking. Another, very popular dish was the whipped syllabub.
Take a pint of the thickest & sweetest cream you can get. Put to it the rinds of 2 lemons greated & 3 qrs of a pd of loaf sugar, the juce of 2 small lemons last of all. Whip it up one way, & as the froth rises, fill your glasses. They will keep a week. If you like, put a little sack in the bottom of yr glasses.
Whipped syllabub is all about exploring different tastes and textures. Sweet cream is whipped up with lemon and sugar to form a fluffy pale froth. Tall glasses are filled with a little sweet wine or sherry, and the foam is then placed on top. Georgian diners revelled in the contrast of the alcoholic wine with the sweet and fragrant syllabub, and in the super light texture of the foam.
These recipes are evidence that, even for relatively modest middle class households, food was far more than just physical sustenance. Alongside their practical methods for preserves, potted meats, breads and bakes, our unknown ladies have compiled recipes which are designed to delight their diners.