A salad for Europe

Tips from the kitchens of France, Italy and Holland offer this simple salad some sophisticated continental twists.

Today’s recipe originally appeared in William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oraclefirst published in 1817. This cookery manual was aimed at British and American ‘plain cooks’, and was principally concerned with the preparation wholesome meals with good economic sense. However, Kitchiner was also careful to acknowledge new fashions in food, and many of his recipes showed how the cook could balance gastronomic tastes with abstemious habits in household management.

Suggestions for a boiled salad, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Suggestions for a boiled salad, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Boiled salad

Boiled or baked onions, some baked beet root, cauliflower or brocoli, and boiled celery and French beans, or any of these with the common salad dressing. Also a small quantity of raw lettice &c strewed on the top. This is much more wholesome than the raw salad and is much eaten when on the table.

The French add to the above black pepper and some savoury spice. The Italians mince the white meat of chickens into the sauce. The Dutch add cold boiled turbot or lobster – or sometimes grated cheese.

As another cheap but flavoursome variation, Kitchiner also suggests that meat jelly could be used instead of an oil dressing. It’s very likely that our unknown ladies may have had  jelly ready from preparing cow heel, another recipe in the Cookbook. It is another example of the Georgians’ knack for balancing a passion for good and exciting food with a tendency for thrift.


Traditional teatime treats: Sally Lunn and tea cakes

As we promised yesterday, here are two teatime treats: Sally Lunn buns and tea cakes. In the 18th century Sally Lunns were eaten hot and buttered for breakfast, but we think they are just as good with a mid-morning cup of tea…

"To make Sally Lun": a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“To make Sally Lun”: a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Sally Lun

Get the yolks of two eggs, beat very well, then put to them two spoonfulls of very good barm and beat them together. Get a pint of new milk and about the size of a large turkey egg of butter and about two ounces of sugar. Melt them together and brew it by pouring it in two vessels, backwards and forwards till cool enough not to curdle the eggs. Then brew all together well, get a pound of flour and beat it into it. Have a tin pan and butter it and put it into it. Have your oven heated smart and half an hour will bake it. If you choose to have a griddle cake, it will answer by putting a little more flour to it.

Early nineteenth-century recipe for tea cakes, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Early nineteenth-century recipe for tea cakes, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Tea Cakes

One pint of milk quite warm, a quarter of a pint of thick small beer yeast. Put in a pan with flour to make it as thick as batter. Cover it over and let it stand about two hours. Add two ounces of lump sugar dissolved in a quarter of a pint of warm milk, a quarter of a pound of butter rubbed into the flour, then make your dough as bread. Let it stand half an hour or till it rises, & bake.

Tales of a Bath bakehouse

The City of Bath was an extremely fashionable resort for the upper echelons of Regency Society. Hordes of tourists descended on the spa town to take the famous healing waters. The spa water served up at the Pump Room was high in sulphur and notoriously foul-tasting, but for those not following an abstemious diet of Bath Oliver biscuits, there were culinary compensations nearby.

Queen Caroline taking the waters at the Pump Room in Bath, 1817

Queen Caroline taking the waters at the Pump Room in Bath, 1817

The Sally Lunn bun was a popular treat for people visiting Bath even in Jane Austen’s day. The legend surrounding its origins continues to draw visitors to North Parade Passage, and the old house where the story of Sally Lunns is said to have started…

The story goes that Solange Luyon was a French Huguenot refugee who fled to the city of Bath in 1680. She found work as a baker and started making her famous buns: well-risen, round, sweetened loaves, which are similar to a rich brioche. News spread of the young French baker, and the buns were soon in high demand. As the people of Bath found it difficult to pronounce her name, she became known locally ‘Sally Lunn’.

The tale of Sally Lunn survived the centuries, and in 1937 Marie Byng-Johnson acquired the house in which ‘Sally’ was said to have lived. Some 250 years after Luyon is said to have arrived in the City, Marie Byng-Johnson came across an ancient recipe, hidden in a secret cupboard. Byng-Johnson claimed this was the original Sally Lunn recipe, and she founded a teashop on the site dedicated to the Sally Lunn bun.

If you find the story of Solange Luyon a little hard to swallow, consider this other theory… Some believe that the name Sally Lunn is a corruption of ‘Solileme’, a rich French breakfast bread. A popular Alsatian pastry, it featured in Marie-Antoine Carême’s cookbook of 1815, Le patissier royal parisien. Just like the Sally Lunn, the solileme’s golden crust encased a pale and fluffy moist crumb, recalling a golden sun and pale moon or ‘sol et lune’.

Whatever the real story, the buns are just one example of a long tradition of enriched and sweetened tea breads. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies for Sally Lunn buns and teacakes!

An eccentric epicurean: the life of William Kitchiner (c1777-1827)

Many of the nineteenth-century recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies were transcribed from Dr William Kitchiner’s best-selling cookery manual, The Cook’s Oracle. First published in 1817, this comprehensive guide for the domestic cook took the UK and US by storm, and made Kitchiner a household name.

Dr Kitchiner’s cookery writing provided inspiration for Mrs Beeton later in the century. Although she never formally acknowledged Kitchiner as her source, she lifted a number of her recipes directly from his work. But while Beeton continues to be a household name, Kitchiner is a largely overlooked figure. In today’s blog article, our Archives Assistant Jo Buddle seeks to rectify this. Here, she shines the spotlight on William Kitchiner, epicurean, eccentric and son of Westminster…

A brief biography of William Kitchiner 

Kitchiner's baptism recorded in the register of St Clement Danes, May 1778

Kitchiner’s baptism recorded in the register of St Clement Danes, May 1778

William Kitchiner was baptised at the Church of St Clement Danes, Westminster, in 1778. His family had strong ties to the local area: his father operated a very successful coal merchant business from the Strand and owned several properties in the vicinity.

The London that Kitchiner knew: extract from Faden's revision of Richard Horwood's map (1813) showing St Clement Danes.

The London that Kitchiner knew: extract from Horwood’s map (1813)

Following the death of his father, Kitchiner inherited a considerable fortune: about £60,00o. These comfortable financial circumstances allowed him to dedicate his life to subjects that really interested him, rather pursuing a career in a more conventional profession.

Kitchiner was a man of eclectic interests, with music, telescopes and fine food among his principal passions. He wrote extensively on each of these subjects, and his research in the field of optical science saw him elected a member of the Royal Society. But it was his skill in cookery – and most particularly, cookery writing, for which he became best known.

Title page from the 1830 edition of The Cook's Oracle

Title page from the 1830 edition of The Cook’s Oracle

In 1817, Apicius Redivivus, or The Cook’s Oracle appeared. It was written in an easy-to-read style and covered all aspects of managing the domestic kitchen: from the planning and preparation of dishes to how to clean up. Kitchiner even included shopping tips: Butler’s herb and seed shop at Covent Garden features several time, and Lambert’s Oil shop at Ludgate Hill also gets a mention.

Kitchiner shopped at Butler's, a herb and seed shop in Covent Garden. This print shows the market in the 1820s.

Kitchiner shopped at Butler’s, a herb and seed shop in Covent Garden. This print shows the market in the 1820s.

Most of the recipes in the book had been tried and tested by Kitchiner. Some had even been invented by him! Wow-wow sauce was among his most popular creations.

People lapped up Kitchiner’s practical home economics, and by the 1820s he was something of a celebrity. He ran weekly meetings of a ‘Committee of Taste’ at his home, 43 Warren Street, Camden.  Invitations to these gastronomic dinner parties were highly prized, but Kitchiner could be a rather gruff host. His guests were instructed to “arrive at seven, go at eleven”. Those who arrived late would find themselves locked out, and those who wished to linger after the party were firmly ushered into the street!

View of St Clement Danes Church in the 1890s

View of St Clement Danes Church in the 1890s

Kitchiner died unexpectedly at the age of 51. He suffered a heart attack on the way home from dining with his friend John Braham, and died the next day, on 27 February 1827. He was buried at St Clement Danes.

Kitchiner’s fame was not so short-lived. The Cook’s Oracle ran to several posthumous editions, and his recipes inspired generations of cooks after him.

Today, there’s little official recognition of the man. His home at Warren Street has long since been demolished, and the site is now occupied by a large office block. There’s no surviving trace of Kitchiner there, no plaque or monument to this giant of the Regency culinary world.

If you look carefully though, you might spot the references to Kitchiner in some surprising places. Ever wondered where Terry Pratchett found the inspiration for explosive wow-wow sauce in his Discworld novels? Look no further…


Pastry perfection

If you’ve been following the culinary adventures of our Cooking Up History team, you’ll have noticed we’ve taken a couple of short-cuts here and there when recreating our Regency recipes in the Archives kitchen. The Unknown Ladies  of our Cookbook didn’t have access to kitchen luxuries such as the electric blender or the fan-assisted oven, and when it came to pastry-making there was only one way to go about it: by hand.

Kitchiner’s method for puff pastry, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Kitchiner’s method for puff pastry, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Puff Paste

To a pound and quarter of sifted flour rub gently in with the hand half a pound of butter. Mix up with half a pint of spring water. Knead it well and set it by for a quarter of an hour. Then roll it out, then lay on it, in small pieces, ¾ of a pound more of butter. Throw on it a little flour, double it up in folds and roll it out thin three times. Set it by for an hour in a cold place.

Our ladies transcribed this puff pastry method from William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle. Kitchiner wasn’t content with the familiar range of puff, filo, flaky and shortcrust. His manual for the everyday cook includes pastry recipes for meat pies, ‘family pies’, boiled puddings, as well as decorative toppings for sweet pies and tarts:

Kitchiner's method for "pastry for stringing tartlets", recorded in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Kitchiner’s method for “pastry for stringing tartlets”, recorded in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Paste for Stringing Tartlets 

Mix with your hands a quarter of a pound of flour, an ounce of fresh butter and a little cold water. Rub it well between the board & your hand till it begins to string. Cut it into small pieces. Roll it out and draw it into fine strings.

To make a "croquante" of pastry: a Regency recipe by William Kitchiner, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To make a “croquante” of pastry: a Regency recipe by William Kitchiner, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Croquante of Paste

Roll out paste* about the eighth of an inch thick. Rub over a plain mould with a little fresh butter. Lay on the paste very even and equally thin on both sides. Pare it round the rim then, with a small penknife cut out small pieces as fancy may direct such as diamonds, stars &c. Let it lie to dry some time and bake it a few minutes in a slack oven. Remove it from the mould and place it on a tart or very small pasty. 

* Paste for CroquantsTo half a pound of fine flour put a quarter of a pound of sifted loaf sugar. Mix it well together with yolks of eggs till of a good stiffness 

Chicken pie

You’ll need one seriously big pie dish – and appetite – for this recipe.

Chickens, with just the legs and wings removed, are laid whole in a dish, on a bed of artichoke bottoms and hard-boiled egg yolks. Lettuce hearts and asparagus can be added to the filling for an even heartier meal and, once baked, the pie is finished off with lashings of rich gravy.

Recipe for a hearty 18th century chicken pie, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for a hearty 18th century chicken pie, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Chicken Pye

Cut of the legs & wings of yr chickens & have ye carcasses whole. Put a bit of butter in ther bellys, season them with pepper, cloves & mace & salt. Lay them in as whole as you can. Lay ye bottom of hartichokes, ye yolks of hard eggs under & over them & fill yr pye with water as full as it can hold. When it is baked, cut of ye lid & have a caudle of half a pint of greavy & the yolks of 4 eggs, a print of butter brewed in it. Pour it very hot on yr pye & lay on yr lid again. If you please, you may put in some tops of asperagus & some hearts of lectuce in yr pye.

The taste of Shakespeare

Although the recipes of our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies were compiled during the Georgian period, quite a number of the dishes made their first appearance further back in history. We’ve already seen how tort de moy graced the table of James II at his coronation feast in 1685. Other recipes have even earlier origins. Yesterday’s green pea soup or the kidney Florentine prepared at our Cooking Up History session would not have looked out of place at a Tudor banquet.

Kidney florentine, as prepared by our Cooking up History group

Kidney florentine, as prepared by our Cooking up History group

The Food of Love

The Food of Love

We’re delighted to introduce Alycia Smith-Howard, co-author of The Food of Love: The Taste of Shakespeare in Four Seasonsas our guest author today! Her research for the book highlights how, by using food as an effective theatrical device,  Shakespeare sheds light on the culinary landscape of early modern England…

“Cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast!”

Comedy of Errors

As a literary device, food encapsulates a range of significant meanings throughout Shakespeare’s plays and poems. For example, food is used metaphorically to express an extremity of feeling or longing, such as Bullingbrook’s declaration in Richard II, wherein he describes his time wandering in exile as: “Eating the bitter bread of banishment” (III.i. 21). This evocative turn of phrase immediately sets a taste in the mouth and gives us, as readers, a profoundly intimate awareness of the character’s depth of feeling. Shakespeare’s creative use of familiar food items in this and other passages are both philosophical and sensuous.

Feast held for the visit of the Spanish Ambassador to the court of James I, 1623

Feast held for the visit of the Spanish Ambassador to the court of James I, 1623

Food, in the shape of feasting and banquets, as in Macbeth, Titus Andronicus and The Tempest, provides the means of bringing people (and enemies) together, yet these occasions also serve a higher, and often darker, purpose. Banqueting, in these contexts, becomes a dark ritual. The act of ‘breaking bread’ facilitates the revelation of a horrid truth and the recognition of crimes committed.

Food is also used as a distraction, such as Richard of Gloucester’s odd request for strawberries in Richard III (III.iv.1984). A skillful manipulator, Richard keeps those around him on their toes and always guessing. His call for strawberries serves as a brilliant delaying tactic as he and Buckingham solidify their plans and alliances.

However, being the great master-revealer of life in all its myriad shapes and forms, Shakespeare’s works also provide an insight into the culinary delights of the world that surrounded him. More often than not, food in Shakespeare’s works is a symbol of home, hearth, family and community. Shakespeare repeatedly and feelingly evokes the simple, rustic pleasures of life, pleasures with which he would have been undoubtedly familiar, thanks to his idyllic, Warwickshire upbringing.  It is also worth noting that in many of these “hearthy” references, women take centre stage, as providers of sustenance and nourishment:

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick, the Shepherd blows his nail,
And Tim bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;

When blood is nipped, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, to-whoo, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing,drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
A’ Marian’s nose looks red and raw.

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, to-whoo, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Love’s Labours Lost (V.ii.2860-2875)

While conducting research for our Shakespeare cookbook, The Food of Love: The Taste of Shakespeare in Four Seasons, Chef Alan Deegan and I pored over age-old recipe books, and trawled through dusty archives to uncover the food that Shakespeare would have known and enjoyed. It was humbling to encounter the scrawled notes of countless, nameless “Greasy Joans” to whom we owe debt of thanks for preserving and passing on our culinary heritage. It is also what makes projects such as The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies so important. It is essentially a chronicle of the commonplace concerns  and knowledge of common folk.

Ellen Terry as Mistress Page in 1902

Ellen Terry as Mistress Page in 1902

Shakespeare’s autumnal comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is unique among his works as the one play that is focused exclusively on the everyday lives of ordinary, middle class, Elizabethan folk. The play’s two principal characters are the quick-witted Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. Like Greasy Joan’s simmering pot, the formidable Mistress Page reminds us of wonderfully filling foods that comfort us against a brisk chill: “Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner!” (I.i.178).

Shakespeare’s most explicit (and delightful) “food as food” reference appears in The Winter’s Tale, where we are treated to an actual grocery shopping list!

Clown. Let me see; what am 
I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound 
of sugar, five pound of currants, rice,—what will this sister of mine do with rice? But my father 
hath made her mistress of the feast, and she lays it on. I must have saffron to colour the warden pies; mace; dates?—none, that’s out of my note; nutmegs, seven; a race or two of ginger, but that I 
may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many of 
raisins o’ the sun. 


Playbill for The Winter's Tale, 1802

Playbill for The Winter’s Tale, 1802

Perdita’s extraordinary sheep-shearing feast is only outdone by the celestial celebration in Shakespeare’s last, and some would argue, his greatest work, The Tempest, where he depicts a feast hosted by the great goddess Ceres herself (“Most bounteous lady of wheat, rye, barley, oats and peas!” IV.i.1771). The word ‘feast’ itself, in fact, appears over 100 times throughout Shakespeare’s plays.  And, for me, Shakespeare has always been a feast for the senses.

Samuel Johnson called Shakespeare’s works “a Map of Life.” Without a doubt, food is an essential part of the journey, and there are over 2,000 culinary references in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Working alongside Chef Deegan to produce The Food of Love: The Taste of Shakespeare in Four Seasons afforded me the enviable opportunity to explore these references and the works of Shakespeare from a fresh and delectable perspective. And, what a delicious treat it has been!

[Alycia Smith-Howard, PhD]

The Food of Love

The Food of Love

Try recipes inspired by Shakespeare’s plays and Tudor tastes with Alycia and Alan’s beautifully-produced cookbook The Food of Love, or find out more about Alycia’s work at www.alyciasmithhoward.com