The Cooking Up History Sessions – 7: Shrove Tuesday pancakes

‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ Pancakes versus Pancakes and Fritters 

Christina and David were once again the willing volunteers who joined Kim and Trish for our seventh cooking challenge. And what better way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday than with a cook-off with two unique takes on the classic pancake.

The Duchess of Cleveland’s pancakes

Beginning our pancake cook off with a recipe for the ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes, we were struck by the quantity of eggs and butter involved – eight eggs in one batter? The quantities were overwhelming!  We decided to downsize the recipe, roughly halving each of the quantities. While we beat up the batter, David regaled us with tales of the Duchess of Cleveland, Barbara Villiers; a Catholic who maintained an infamous relationship with Charles II as his mistress from 1660 to 1668.

Getting busy with the batter for 'Dutches of Cleaveland' pancakes

Getting busy with the batter for ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes

We mixed the batter thoroughly; David expertly folding the butter into our mixture. With this completed and our pan heated, Trish was given responsibility for flipping our pancake. Our first attempt stuck stubbornly to the pan, even though there was a good deal of butter in the mixture. We were dry frying the batter as the recipe suggested, but it seemed to be ruining our chances of getting the perfect pancake flip! Thankfully, things got better… the second and third batches were easier to cook now that the pan had been ‘seasoned’ by our first fritter.

As the pancake was cooking, Christina remarked that neither of our recipes made no mention of lemons or oranges – nowadays we are so used to having pancakes served up with a squeeze of lemon juice a little grate orange zest. We had a chat about our expectations, all agreeing that it was easiest to picture the end result when we could compare the Georgian dishes to a modern day equivalent. David, however, raised the point that the modern pancakes were were used to would inevitably colour our opinion of these historical recipes.

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Chatting over, it was time for the tasting! The pancake looked appetising but, served up on its own, it was not sweet enough for us. David compared it to a ‘mini Yorkshire pudding’ in both taste and texture, and wondered whether this was now what we’d regard as a pudding pancake. We were glad that no additional butter had been added to the pan as the result was rather oily.

Furthermore, with no definite measure of nutmeg in the recipe we felt this flavour was a little muted in this first attempt. Were our palates missing the stronger flavours of perfumed rose water from other recipes?! We decided to add an additional sprinkle of nutmeg to each subsequent batch of batter we cooked, and with some success: it considerably enhanced the flavour.

Pancakes and Fritters

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our second batch of pancakes was inspired by a 19th century recipe with the title ‘Pancakes and Fritters’, sourced again from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. The recipe allowed a ‘walnut’ of butter to be used in the pan, but contained no butter in the actual mixture. Our pancake flipping was eased by this additional butter – Trish making many successful flips – but unfortunately the end result was a much drier affair and almost rubbery in texture. We added sugar and lemon to this round of pancakes to enliven the taste and bring our own traditional view of pancakes into the mix.

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

With pancakes such a well-loved treat in Britain today, our Unknown Ladies had a lot to live up to. Our Cooking Up History group enjoyed comparing our recipes with the pancakes we’ve re so used to today. Although both recipes had their pros and cons, we definitely felt the second batch of ‘Pancakes and Fritters’ was the more successful of the two. If you’re tempted to have a go at the Georgian pancake challenge, try out one of our recipes today!

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A Baked Marrow Pudding

Make the most of the chilly February weather with this indulgent Georgian-era pudding. Toasted bread, raisins, bone marrow and creamy ginger-spiced custard are layered up in a dish, topped with a puff pastry lid and baked in the oven for the ultimate in comfort food. Sounds familiar? Substitute the marrow for butter, and you’d have something along the lines of a classic British bread and butter pudding:

This 18th century baked marrow pudding bears more than a passing resemblance to bread and butter pudding, a British classic

This 18th century baked marrow pudding bears more than a passing resemblance to bread and butter pudding, a British classic

A Bak’d Marrow Pudding

Take a pint of cream & boyle in it 2 rase of ginger, a little sugar & let it cool. Put to it 6 eggs, 2 whites, half a spoonfulls of flower. Then have some sippits of bread toasted & some raisons, some lumps of marrow, & butter ye bottom of your dish very well & lay a lairer of sippits & then a layer of raisins & then 6 spoonsfulls of cream, than a layer of marrow, then raisins & sippits again & cream, & so fill yr dish. Put a lid of puff paste at top. 3 qrs of an hour bakes it.

Orange Cream

If this orange cream is any bit as delicious as the lemon version created by our Cooking Up History team, then it’s well worth a try!

A Georgian recipe for orange cream from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian recipe for orange cream from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Orange Cream

Take the juce of 4 sivil oranges & let half a pint of water be poured over night to the peels greated, & in the morning strain it to yr juce. Take the yolks of 5 eggs & 2 whites. Beat them very well with a qr of a pd of loaf sugar. Stir them into yr juce & water, then strain it into a sliver skillet & stir it continually one way till it be pritty thick. Take it of & stir into it the bigness of a walnut of fresh butter till you cant see it. Then put it in cups. You may sometimes put white wine insteed of water.

Bogberry pudding

If you have any cranberries left over from Christmas Day, this recipe for a ‘bog berry’ pudding offers a tasty way of using them up!

This 18th century recipe is a great way to use up your Christmas leftovers: for bogberries, use cranberries.

This 18th century recipe is a great way to use up your Christmas leftovers: for ‘bog berries’, use cranberries.

A Bog Berry Pudding

Take to quarts of bog berrys and put them in a brass skilett with half a pint of water and let them stew for an hour kieping them stiring untill the be very soft. Then strain them through a fine cloath. Then put your liquire back unto your skillet with a pound of white sugar and let it boyle for half an hour. When cold, mix it up with the yolks of eight eggs, pounded cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, 2 spoonfulls of rose water, a glass of sack, lemon peel shread small with half a pinte of melted butter. Put unto your dish, with past about the brim. An hour will bake it.

The Cooking Up History Sessions – 6: festive fare

Before we knew it, Advent was upon us and it was time for us to roll out some mince pies and mulled wine for our final Cooking Up History Session this year. Our seasoned cookery volunteers Christina and David joined us to create Lemon Caudle and Mammas Mince Pyes from our Georgian-era Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. We were also delighted to welcome food historian Annie Gray to our session. With a professional in our midst, we were keen to show off the knowledge and skills we’d accumulated over the past year, as well as learning some new tips on historic cookery.

Our mincemeat pies were based on the recipe for Mammas Mince Pyes in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Our mincemeat pies were based on the recipe for Mammas Mince Pyes in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

We began with our mince pies. The recipe was met with some hesitancy by the group, as the list of ingredients included a rather hefty amount of beef tongue. Fruit, spice, sugar… and meat? It challenged our preconceived idea of a mince pie should be! But Annie allayed our fears, telling us that once we’d tasted a proper mince meat pie, we’d never want to go back to modern shop bought ones. We determined to stay true to our 18th century ladies and forged ahead with the recipe.

David kicked off our mince pie preparation by shredding the ox tongue

David kicked off our mince pie prep by shredding the ox tongue

David began dicing our meat: cured ox tongue. We’d decided against preparing the tongue from scratch, as the skinning and boiling would have taken more time and space than we had available. There was the added bonus, of course, that for the more squeamish among the group the meat looked and handled just like ham. We then added an fruity mix of apples, currants, raisins and sweetmeats (dried apricots, dried cranberries and candied peel and ginger) to the mixture, stirring well to combine. Sugar and spice were then sprinkled in, along with a good measure of sherry.

The mincemeat mixture, ready for putting in the pie cases

The mincemeat mixture, ready for putting in the pie cases

Christina had expertly rolled and lined a muffin tin with shortcrust pastry. We filled some of the pastry cases with the meaty mincemeat and others with vegetarian mincemeat so that we could compare ‘Mammas mince pyes’ with their modern day counterparts.

Annie showed us how to make and fill a hand-raised pie

Annie showed us how to make and fill a hand-raised pie

Annie then showed us how to craft a hand-raised mince pie, building up the pastry little by little to create a free-standing pie case. We were all very impressed by Annie’s expertise!

Annie’s hand-raised pie case, filled and ready for the pastry lid

Annie’s hand-raised pie case, filled and ready for the pastry lid

After just over half and hour in the oven, it was time to take out the pies and have a taste. Golden brown with crisp short-crust pastry, they were a proper festive temptation and an ideal start to our Christmas celebrations. Our concerns about the meat had been unwarranted. Much to our surprise, the ox tongue added a richness to our mince pies which really enhanced the taste.

Our golden mincemeat pies, ready for tasting!

Our golden mincemeat pies, ready for tasting!

Christina noted that there was something extremely satisfying about all the ingredients – apples, raisins, sultanas etc and that they blended surprisingly well. The sherry gave the mixture real depth, and the nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger provided the warm spice flavours that we have come to associate so closely with Christmas. But unlike the mince pies we buy in the shops today, these 18th century style ones weren’t too sweet – the sugar was really well balance by the saltiness of the tongue. The effect was really very pleasing.

Annie's hand-raised pie was the star of the session!

Annie’s hand-raised pie was the star of the session!

Lemon caudle

Mince pies baked, we went on to make our lemon caudle. It was a quick and relatively easy recipe.

Christina getting the lemon juice ready for our caudle

Christina getting the lemon juice ready for our caudle

We gently heated our milk on the stove and curdled it with freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Once we were sure that all the milk had turned, we strained off the curds and discarded them. The whey was then poured over a couple of egg yolks in a large bowl, whisked all the while, and once combined was returned to the saucepan on the hob. We were really careful to keep stirring the mixture and not let it heat up too much, as while we wanted it to thicken, we definitely didn’t want the mixture to split a second time!

Curdling milk to make lemon caudle. We turned the milk with lemon juice.

Curdling milk to make lemon caudle. We turned the milk with lemon juice.

As the caudle cooked, we began to get a better idea of what we might expect from it in terms of taste and texture. Christina thought the caudle would be a bit like custard, while Annie suggested that it would be warming and comforting – perfect for warding off the cold of winter.

Lemon caudle, ready for serving!

Lemon caudle, ready for serving!

We were pleased to find our end product a pleasant, milky drink, which led some of our group to compare it to our modern day equivalent of ‘Ovaltine’. The rose water, now so strongly associated with our Georgian cookery, still added the slightly unfamiliar taste to our drink, despite the little we had added. Still unsure of this perfumed taste, Christina and Kim agreed that one glass of this was more than enough, despite its soothing taste and texture.

As a post dinner treat, the combination of our mince pies and lemon caudle worked surprisingly well together. Christina was so blown away by our mince pies, she claimed they were the best she’d ever tasted! A comment to be cherished! Although our lemon caudle hadn’t tickled anyone’s tastebuds to quite the same extent, we had also enjoyed trying it out. Relaxing with a glass of mulled wine, we went on to discuss the pros and cons of historic food recreation with Annie…a lovely conclusion to a busy afternoon!

You can find the recipes we followed for the mince pies and lemon caudle on our Cooking Up History page. Why not give them a go?

Little plum cakes

If you’re not a fan of Christmas cake or feel defeated by Christmas pudding, these 18th century plum cakes may be for you!

Plum cakes were often presented at Georgian celebrations, from weddings to Christmas feasts. These lightly-fruited sponges were not wildly different from everyday tea-time treats such as pound cakes and tea breads. However, for special occasions they would be decorated with icing and sweetmeats. 

This recipe suggests making ‘little plumb cakes’ in individual tins or pans. Dividing the batter up into smaller portions does help to reduce the baking time, but the recipe nevertheless demands a great deal of stamina. For the required rise, the cake batter needs an hour’s beating before being baked in the oven:

These recipe should produce lovely lightly-fruited sponges - but you'll need to beat the mixture an hour to get the desired effect!

These recipe should produce lovely lightly-fruited sponges – but you’ll need to beat the mixture an hour to get the desired effect!

To Make Little Plumb Cakes

Take a pnd of flower well dryed, 1 pnd of butter & a pnd of currants well washed &  pickd, 3 qrs of a pound of white sugar well sifted, six yolks and 2 white well beaten. Beat the butter with a little orange flower water with yr hand till it cream, then put in yr corrants & a whole nutmeg. Then beat it again. Then mix the flower & sugar & put it in by handfulls, till all be in. Keep itt beating an hour after and when the oven is hot, butter yr pans. Yr oven must be as hot as for cheesecakes. 

Mrs Townley’s Cake

Our version of Mrs Townley's cake (no icing!)

Our version of Mrs Townley’s cake (no icing!)

Whoever Mrs Townley was, she certainly knew how to bake! This cake recipe produces a light, fatless sponge with lovely fresh notes of lemon and caraway seed.

The original recipe makes a lot of batter, so we halved the quantities of flour, grated lemon rind and sugar, and reduced the number of eggs to five. We also toned down the caraway flavour, adding just a couple of teaspoons of the seeds.

Mrs Townley’s 18th century recipe for a light sponge with lemon and caraway cake, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Mrs Townley’s 18th century recipe for a light sponge with lemon and caraway cake, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Mrs Townleys Cake

A pd of sugar, dryed, pounded & sifted, half a pd of flower, 12 eggs, half ye whites. The yolks & whites beat seperately. Put the sugar to yr yolks, beat them till as white as cream. Then, put in the whites by degrees. As the froth rises, great in the rinds of 4 lemons, an ounce of carray seeds. Then put in yr flower. All together mix it well. Butter yr pan. An hour bakes it.

And if you’re feeling fancy, here’s a recipe for icing your cake… There’s no call for special palette knives for piping bags: a simple feather does the trick!

This recipe suggests spreading the icing onto the cake with a feather

This recipe suggests spreading the icing onto the cake with a feather

Icing for a Cake

Beat the whites of 2 eggs. Beat to a froth, then have some dubble refind sugar sifted. Take a feather, & when yr cake is bak’d, daub it over with the egg. Then sift it thick with the sugar & set in the oven to dry.