Pumpkin inspiration from a Regency kitchen

The supermarkets are full of pumpkins for Halloween. If you’re not one for jack-o’-lanterns you can still join in the fun… Here are four tasty Regency dishes from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, all of them perfect for using up small pumpkins or squashes: 

Early 19th century recipe for a warming gourd stew

Early 19th century recipe for a warming gourd stew

Gourds (or Vegetable Marrow) Stew

Take off all the skin of six or eight gourds. Put them into a stewpan with water, salt, lemon juice and a bit of butter or fat bacon. Let them stew gently till quite tender and serve up with a rich Dutch sauce or any other.

This recipe for Gourd Soup was transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner's The Cook's Oracle.

This recipe for Gourd Soup was transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle.

Gourd Soup

Should be made of full grown gourds but not those that have hard skins. Slice three or four and put them in a stewpan with two or three onions and a good bit of butter. Set them over a slow fire till quite tender. Be careful not to let them burn. Then add two ounces of crust of bread and two quarts of good consommé. Season with salt & Cayenne. Boil ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. Skim off all the fat, pass through a tammis. Make it quite hot & serve up with fried bread.

Regency recipe for fried gourds in breadcrumbs, borrowed from William Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle for the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Regency recipe for fried gourds in breadcrumbs, borrowed from William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle for the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Fried Gourds

Cut five or six gourds in quarters. Take off the skin and pulp. Stew them in the same manner as for the table. When done, drain them quite dry. Beat up an egg and dip the gourds in it, and cover them well over with bread crumbs. Make some lard hot and fry them a nice colour. Throw a little salt & pepper over them and serve up quite dry.

These pumpkin slices are fried in hot lard and seasoned with salt and pepper: a tasty Regency treat from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

These pumpkin slices are fried in hot lard and seasoned with salt and pepper: a tasty Regency treat from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Fried Gourds Another Way

Take six or eight small ones nearly of a size. Slice them with a cucumber slice. Dry them in a cloth and then fry them in very hot lard. Throw over a little pepper & salt and serve up on a napkin. If the fat is hot they are done in a minute and will soon spoil.

Advertisements

Shin of beef stewed

As southern Britain is buffeted by strong, wintry winds, here’s some hearty, comforting fare to warm us up:

Shin of beef stewed: a Regency recipe by William Kitchiner, transcribed here in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Shin of beef stewed: a Regency recipe by William Kitchiner, transcribed here in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Shin of Beef Stewed

Have the bone sawed into three or four pieces. Just cover it with water. When it simmers, skim it clean. Then put in a bundle of sweet herbs, an onion, a head of celery, a dozen berries of allspice, same of black pepper. Stir very gently for about four hours. Boil till tender some carrots, turnips & button onions. About fifteen minutes will do. Carrots twice as long cut in dices. When the beef is ready, thicken a pint & half of the gravy. To do this, mix three tablespoonsful of flour with a teacup full of the broth. Stir it well together. Scum & strain. Put your vegetables in it to warm, season. Make soup of the rest as directed for Bouilli…

It’s a while since we last took a look at one of William Kitchiner‘s Regency recipes, which our unknown recipe compilers lifted from his domestic manual The Cook’s OracleThis method for stewed beef is another fine example of how Kitchiner’s work paved the way for writers such as Isabella Beeton later in the 19th Century. His recipes often betray the same concern for good household management for which Beeton herself would become famous. Here, he puts the leftovers to good use by turning them into a Bouilli Soup:

Kitchiner's recipe for Soup Bouilli, written into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Kitchiner’s recipe for Soup Bouilli, written into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Soup Bouilli

Cover your meat [with water] and a quart more, set it on a quick fire to get the scum up, which take off, then put in 2 carrots, turnips, onions, heads of celery, some parsley and sweet herbs. Set it by the side of the fire to simmer gently for 4 or 5 hours. Put a large carrot and turnip, an onion into the soup whole and some whey. Take them out when done enough, and when cold cut them in square. Strain the soup into a clean stewpan, remove the fat & warm the vegetables in it. If you thicken the soup, take 4 large tablespoonsful of the clear fat from the top of the pot and 4 spoonsful of flour. Mix it smooth together by degrees. Stir it into the soup, which simmer ten minutes longer at least. Skim it well and strain, then add the vegetables. Ox tails and heels make excellent soup. Two hours will do the first, the meat to be taken off the bone.

Nutritious, economical and full of flavour… what’s not to like?

London’s market gardens: the Neat Houses

Today, Pimlico is a bustling , diverse and densely-populated part of London. It occupies the north bank of the Thames between Vauxhall Bridge and Chelsea Bridge and is perhaps best known for its handsome white stucco buildings, part of Thomas Cubitt’s distinctive development of the area in early 19th century.

Cubitt’s building plan for Pimlico was implemented in 1820s, and radically changed the nature of this area of London. Before his famous residential terraces were built, much of the land had been dedicated to the growing industry and Pimlico was famous as the home of the Neat House Gardens.

This extract from a map of 1812 shows the site of Neat House Gardens

This extract from a map of 1812 shows the site of Neat House Gardens

In the 17th and 18th centuries, market gardens surrounded London and provided the fruit and vegetables on which the city’s inhabitants thrived. The Neat House Gardens were named after the Manor of Neyte and occupied approximately 100 acres, with cauliflowers, asparagus, artichokes, spinach, radishes and melons featuring among its produce. The land was ideal for gardening as it was low-lying with a high water table. Pasture was not far away, so there was also easy access to large quantities of manure.

Horwood's map of late 18th century London shows the ornamental layout of Pimlico's market gardens

Horwood’s map of late 18th century London shows the ornamental layout of Pimlico’s market gardens

Alehouses cropped up all around the gardens, and Neat Houses became known as a place of recreation and revelry. Many people travelled from the city to the many tea gardens in the area, and among them was one Samuel Pepys:

After the play, we into the house, and spoke with Knipp, who went abroad with us by coach to the Neat Houses in the way to Chelsy; and there, in a box in a tree, we sat and sang, and talked and eat; my wife out of humour, as she always is, when this woman is by.

Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1August 1667

The Monster Tavern was one of the many tea gardens and ale houses nearby Neat House Gardens. This watercolour shows the tavern circa 1820.

The Monster Tavern was one of the many tea gardens and ale houses nearby Neat House Gardens. This watercolour shows the tavern circa 1820.

Henry Wise, Royal Gardener to Queen Anne and designer of Kensington Gardens had gardens at Neat Houses, but many of the gardeners were tenants who farmed just a small patch of land.

This section from an estate map of 1725 shows Mr Wise's Estate next to the Bailiwick of Neat. Much of the rest of the land was divided into small tenancies.

This section from an estate map of 1725 shows Mr Wise’s Estate next to the Bailiwick of Neat. Much of the land was divided into small tenancies.

At the turn of the 19th Century the population of London was expanding rapidly and there was increasing pressure on the gardeners to give up their land to prospective builders. John Johnson bought the lease for much of the land in Pimlico in 1817 but found his proposals constantly thwarted by the gardeners. In 1825 Johnson gave up his battle against the gardeners, but threat to Neat Houses remained as real as ever as he sold his interest in the land to Thomas Cubitt.

By 1827 the urban sprawl surrounded Neat House Gardens. It wouldn’t be long until these too would fall victim to the city’s expansion.

By 1827 the urban sprawl surrounded Neat House Gardens. It wouldn’t be long until these too would fall victim to the city’s expansion.

The writing was on the wall for the Gardens and it was now only a matter of time before roads and large-scale building works would change the character of Pimlico entirely. Today nothing remains of The Neat House Gardens, but if you come along to Westminster Archives Centre you can relive their glory days through our collections of books, maps and prints.

[Jo]

A turnip rice and noodle soup

When the BBC broadcast its famous spaghetti tree hoax for April Fool’s Day 1957, it revealed how little the British knew about the source of so-called ‘exotic’ foods such as pasta. Thousands of viewers were taken in by the report, which showed strings of spaghetti being harvested from trees in Italy before being laid out to dry in the sun. The day after the broadcast, the Corporation was inundated with queries about spaghetti cultivation.

It may come as some surprise, then, that our Georgian ancestors were fairly well versed in the finer points of pasta. This recipe for turnip soup calls for vermicelli: thin, cylindrical strings of pasta (the Italian term translates as ‘little worms’). The pasta both thickens the broth and adds interesting texture. Think of this dish as an 18th century rice and noodle soup, or perhaps a turnip minestrone…

Turnip Soop

Take 12 large turnips & 2 heads of cabbage cut small & slice ye turnips, 4 onions. Fry the turnips & onions in butter, put all down & some pepper, allspice & a large handfull of rice, a bunch of sweet herbs & parsley & 8 qrt of water. Let these stew close cover’d over a slow fire till it coms to 3 qrts. Than have some raw turnips cut small, a little vermicelly stewed tender. Strain the soop over it, give them a boyle together, season it with salt. So serve it up.

A pair of orange puddings

Today, two orange puddings for your delectation and delight…

A recipe for orange pudding from our Georgian-era Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A recipe for orange pudding from our Georgian-era Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Orange Pudding

Take ye yolks of twelfe eggs. Beat them up with three qrs of a pound of loaf sugar till as white as cream. Ye yellow rhines of two civil oranges boyld tender & pounded very small, ten ounces of fresh butter drawn thick & pritty cool. Then, put in two spoonfuls of orange flower water, some slices of green citron. Mix all well to geather. Three qrs of an hour bakes it.

The “yellow rhines of two civil oranges” are, of course, yellow rinds of two Seville oranges.

Another 18th century method for making orange pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Another 18th century method for making orange pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make an Orange Pudding

Take sixteen eggs and take away all the whites and beat them well and take a quarter of a pound of canded orange and cut it as thin as possable you can or greate it. Put it into your eggs with half a pound of white sugar, half a pound of fresh butter melted. Bate all together well then take the dish you intend to bake it in and butter it and put some past on the bottom. Then pour in your pudding and cover it with puf paste. And but let it not be in to hot an oven and stand in about an hour and no more.

‘Sheeps head soop’

This could be considered the perfect Georgian dish: economical and flavoursome, dished up with a strong (albeit a little gruesome) performance element.

Recipe for sheep’s head soup, part 1: "Take the sheeps head and put it down with as much water as will cover it..."

Opening of our Unknown Ladies’ recipe for sheep’s head soup: “Take the sheeps head and put it down with as much water as will cover it…”

A Sheeps Head Soop

Take the sheeps head & put it down with as much water as will cover it, a faggot of sweet herbs, a little all spice & pepper. Let it stew softly till the head be very tender. Then, take up the head & strain the broth & have 2 or 3 onions cut small & an head of white cabbage cut small. Put these in the broth & let it stew till it be very tender. Than have a qrt of new milk boyled, the yolks of 2 eggs brewed in it. Stir this into the soop. You must have one side of the head kept very hot & serve it in the middle of the soop. Put a little salt in.

The method is quite straightforward. The sheepshead is stewed in water with herbs, spices and seasoning until the meat is tender and its juices have flavoured the broth. The head is then taken out, and onions and cabbage are added to the remaining liquid. When the vegetables are tender, a custard-like mixture of hot egg yolks and milk is poured in to thicken and enrich the soup.

The soup is now just about ready for serving, but there’s one final step to both visually amaze the diner and add some meaty textures to the dish. Half the sheeps head, which has been kept hot, is lowered into the serving dish and the rich soup is poured in around it. Then a sprinkle of salt, and it’s ready for the table.

This soup may not be to many modern British diners’ tastes, but there is no denying that nutritionally, economically and as a theatrical pièce de résistance, it is hard to beat!

Potted salmon with warming spices

This potted baked salmon is flavoured with cloves, mace and nutmeg: spices we’ve come to closely associate with the culinary world of our Unknown Ladies:

This potted salmon recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies produces a fish dish with distinctive 18th century flavours

This potted salmon recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies produces a fish dish with distinctive 18th century flavours

To Pot Salmon

Take a side of salmon & take all the skin of & chop it very fine with half a pnd of fresh butter. Then take half an ounce of cloves & mace, a nutmeg, half an ounce of pepper, a large ounce of salt. So season yr fish and put it in to a small close pot and let it bake an hour & half exactly. Then strain all the liquor very dry from it & then cover it with drawn butter for your use.

The melted butter which is used to cover the fish would set upon cooling, sealing the potted salmon from the air. This way, the salmon could be kept in a cool place for several days: far longer than a fresh, untreated fish ever could.

The product of this recipe is a rich, buttery fish dish, which would work very well warmed up and spread on toast. Our Cooking Up History team have come across similar spice combinations many times now: in almond puddings, as well as in veal florentine and citrus dumplings. For some of them, cloves, mace and nutmeg ‘tasted of Christmas’. So here’s an idea: why not ditch the smoked salmon blinis and mackerel pâté at your Christmas party this year, and make 18th century style potted salmon the talking point of your festive table?