A Christmas dinner with all the trimmings

A roast turkey dinner, 18th century style! This spit-roasted bird is stuffed with a tasty chicken forcemeat and served up with a rich white wine gravy, flavoured with anchovies, oysters, celery, mushrooms, artichokes and mace.

A Georgian recipe for spit-roast turkey with a rich white wine and oyster gravy

A Georgian recipe for spit-roast turkey with a rich white wine and oyster gravy

A Forc’d Turkey

Take a large turkey. After a day kild, slit it down ye back, & bone it & then wash it. Clean stuf it as much in ye shape it was as you can with forc’d meat made of 2 pullits yt has been skin’d, 2 handfulls of crumbs of bread, 3 handfulls of sheeps sewit, some thyme, & parsley, 3 anchoves, some pepper & allspice, a whole lemon sliced thin, ye seeds pick’d out & minced small, a raw egg. Mix all well together stuf yr turkey & sow it up nicely at ye back so as not to be seen. Then spit it & rost it with paper on the breast to preserve ye coler of it nicely. Then have a sauce made of strong greavy, white wine, anchoves, oysters, mushrooms slic’d, salary first boyl’d a littile, some harticholk bottoms, some blades of mace, a lump of butter roll’d in flower. Toss up all together & put ym in yr dish. Don’t pour any over ye turkey least you spoyl ye coler. Put ye gisard & liver in ye wings. Put sliced lemon & forc’d balls for garnish.

Bread sauce for turkeys: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Bread sauce for turkeys: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Bread Sause for Turkeys

Take stale bread & crumble it in as much water as will cover it. Shred a large onion in it & a little pepper, then give it a scald to heat & soften it. Then put as much cream as will make it very white, a little bit of butter, & set it over ye fire & let it stew, stirring it all ye while till you see it look thick & taste well.

How about some vegetables? This recipe for creamed celery would add a touch of indulgence to the meal:


Take your sallary and cut it small. Then boyle it tender in fair water. Then take it and stew it in fresh cream and a little nutmeg. And when it is so stewd, put in a little white wine and gravy and melted butter as you think proper, and so serve it up.

And here are two suggestions borrowed from the Regency cookery writer Dr William Kitchiner. Red beetroot will bring some colour to the plate, while ‘potato snow’ sounds fitting for a winter-time feast…


Red Beet Roots

Are dressed as carrots but neither scraped nor cut till after they are boiled. They will take from an hour & half to three hours in boiling. Send to table with salt fish, boiled beef &c.


Potato Snow

The potatoes must be free from speck[s] and white. Put them on in cold water. When they begin to crack, strain them and put them in a clean stewpan by the side of the fire till they are quite dry and fall to pieces. Rub them thro’ a wire sieve on the dish they are to be sent up in, and do not disturb them.

Merry Christmas to all of our Cookbook followers! xxx

A monster plum pudding at St Marylebone Workhouse

Archivist Jo Buddle explores the extraordinary story of a giant plum pudding and reveals the darker reality of life in Britain’s Victorian workhouses:

Members of the United Cooks' Society preparing a monster plum pudding at Marylebone Workhouse

Members of the United Cooks’ Society preparing a monster plum pudding at Marylebone Workhouse

This image from the Illustrated London News of 3 January 1863 records a ‘monster’ undertaking at Marylebone Workhouse.  It shows a plum pudding being made by the London United Cooks’ Society for cotton workers in Manchester, who were struggling with supply because of the American Civil War. The Marylebone Union lent their boiler and facilities for the job

This was no ordinary plum pudding. The finished pudding was over 10 ft in circumference and the list of ingredients was breathtaking. It contained 130 lb of currants, 130 lb of sultanas, 210 lb of flour, 130 lb of suet, 80 lb of peel, 80 lb of sugar, 1040 eggs, 8 gallons of ale, 4 lb of mixed spice and 1 lb of ground ginger. The final result weighed in at 900lb!

The kitchens at Marylebone Workhouse were well set up for mass catering. At its height, Marylebone workhouse had capacity for 1921 inmates. Its dining room was was 120ft long and the kitchen was equipped accordingly, with two 50 gallon beef-tea boilers and a 200 gallon tea infuser. The potato steamers had a total capacity of three quarters of a ton.

On occasion, at Christmas, inmates at Marylebone might be granted a special meal by the workhouse guardians, supplementing their regular meagre diet with a festive cake or pudding. The usual fare at Marylebone was much more simple, featuring cheap dishes such as pea soup, mutton broth and Irish stew. Food was simple and strictly rationed. 

This view of St Marylebone Workhouse was originally drawn by a pauper inmate of the institution in 1866.

This view of St Marylebone Workhouse was originally drawn by a pauper inmate of the institution in 1866.

Although the Marylebone workhouse did not rank amongst the severest of the poor house institutions, life within it was nevertheless hard and uncomfortable. Those who had lost the means to house and feed themselves turned to the shelter of the workhouse as a very last resort. Men, women and children were segregated and those who were able were expected to work for their living. All able inmates were employed in menial tasks, from stone-breaking to oakum-picking (unravelling old ropes, which would then be sold on to the Navy).

Plan of St Marylebone Workhouse in 1881, showing the separation of male and female dormitories (wards)

Plan of St Marylebone Workhouse in 1881, showing the separation of male and female dormitories (wards)

In some workhouses, the regime descended into cruelty. Rather than providing a living for inmates, the imbalance of exacting physical labour and a nutritionally-poor diet at these institutions was leading to starvation and death. In 1845 a scandal broke out at Andover, where workhouse inmates were found gnawing on animal bones due of a lack of food. 

The work of high-profile campaigners such as Charles Dickens, along with news stories such as the scandal at Andover, led to a growing unease about the workhouse system. By late 19th century it was recognised that the dietary regimes of the nation’s workhouses had to change. From 1900 onwards, workhouse unions were encouraged to provide a more varied and balanced diet for their inmates. In 1901, the distribution of an official workhouse recipe book by the National Training School of Domestic Cookery ensured that workhouse kitchens were producing better meals with greater nutritional value.

In 1930, the system of poor law administration changed and, with the abolition of the Board of Guardians, many workhouses closed or became public assistance institutions. However, many people consider that workhouses didn’t truly disappear until the establishment of a Welfare State and the foundation of our National Health Service in 1948.

[Jo]

Apple pudding, two ways…

If you’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of apples this year, you’re probably still trying to find good recipes for using them up. If you’ve already had your fill of apple pie and have stocked up your cupboards with apple jams and jellies, then here are another two ways with apples for you to try…

Recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, as transcribed from The Cook's Oracle in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Regency recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, transcribed by our Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s  The Cook’s Oracle

Boston Apple Pudding

Peel one dozen and a half of good apples. Take out the cores, cut them small, put into a stewpan that will just hold them with a little water, a little cinnamon, two cloves and the peel of a lemon. Stir over a slow fire till quite soft. Then sweeten with moist sugar and pass it through a hair sieve. Add to it the yolks of four eggs and one white, a quarter of a pound of good butter, half a nutmeg, the peel of a lemon grated and the juice of one lemon. Beat all well together. Line the inside of a pie dish with puff paste and bake half an hour.

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Baked Apple Pudding

Take twelve […] large pippins. Coddle them over ye fire very slowly that they do not crack. When the are soft, peel, core them & pulp them through a cullander. Add to this three sponfuls of orange flower water, ten eggs well beat, all ye whites left out & strained, ½ a pound of butter melted. Make it very sweet. Grate the peel of two lemons & the juic of one. Half a hour will bake it.

And, if you’re still in need of inspiration, why not take a look back at another  apple pudding recipe we shared earlier in the year, which uses cream and crushed biscuits. One of our readers, Catherine, gave it a go – you can see the results by taking a look at her Georgian puddings, recreated

Sweet treats from the Georgian kitchen

Today we take a look at two sugary treats.

The first is for ‘clear cakes’, little jellies with a sugar crust which were generally made of fruit juice finely powdered sugar. They could be cut into any number of decorative shapes – lozenges, rounds, squares – and incorporate any number of flavourings.

Our recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is a twist on these traditional clear cakes. Instead of fruit juice, pounded almonds provide the main substance of these sweets. Rosewater is added for flavour:

18th century recipe for almond clear cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for almond clear cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Almond Clear Caks

Boyle the sugar to a candy height as you do for Clear Caks. Blansh some Jordon almonds & pound them [with] rose water. Mix them in yr candy as you do jelly. Put it in pans or cards in yr stove to dry, or in a very cool oven.

Our second recipe is derived from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle and presents something a familiar to us today: caramel.

Without sugar thermometers, cooks needed to gauge the temperature of the sugar by sight . A quick way to check it was to drop a little of the melted sugar in cold water. It it went hard and solid, it was said to be at ‘the degree called crack’.

This caramel was intended for use as a kind of ‘spun sugar’. Cast in thin threads over an oiled mould to form a decorative sugar cage, it could be placed over ‘small pastry of any description’ to give it a stylish finish.

This caramel is used to form spun sugar decorations. The original recipe was published in Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

This caramel is used to form spun sugar decorations. The original recipe was published in Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

To Boil Sugar to Caramel

Break into a small copper or brass pan one pound of refined sugar. Put in a gill of spring water. Set it on a fire and when it boils skim it quite clear and let it boil quick till it comes to the degree called crack which may be known by dipping a teaspoon or skewer into the sugar and let it drop to the bottom of a pan of cold water. If it remains hard, it has attained that degree. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and let it remain one minute longer on the fire, then set the pan in another of cold water. Have ready moulds of any shape. Rub them over with sweet oil. Dip a spoon or fork into the sugar and throw it over the mould, in fine threads, till it is quite covered. Make a small handle of caramel or stick on two or three small gum paste rings by way of ornament and place it over small pastry of any description.

If you do have a go at either of today’s recipe, do be careful when you boil the sugar as it will become extremely hot. To avoid burns, make sure you follow the caramel recipe’s advice: cool the sugar for a few moments before you handle it by placing it another pan of cold water.

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.

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?

Portable soup

Portable soup was the Regency equivalent of the modern-day stock cube.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that companies such as Oxo started mass-producing dehydrated stock. Before then, most households had prepared fresh stock from scratch and, in cases where a preserved supply was needed, made their own cubes of ‘portable soup’. This recipe, transcribed from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, shows how it was done:

A Regency recipe for 'portable soup', transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

A Regency recipe for ‘portable soup’, transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

Portable Soup or Glaze

Break the bones of a leg or shin of beef, 10 lbs weight. Put it in a digester, cover it with cold water, set it on the fire to heat gradually till it nearly boils. This should be an hour. Skim carefully, pour in a little cold water to throw up the rest. Let it boil again and again. Skim carefully when it appears clear (put in neither roots, herbs nor salt). Let it boil for eight or ten hours and then strain into a brown stone pan. Set the broth where it will cool quickly. Put the meat into a sieve. Let it drain – make potted beef – next day remove every particle of fat from the top and pour it through a fine sieve, as quietly as possible, into a stewpan, taking care not to let any of the settlings go into the stewpan. Add a quarter of an ounce of whole black pepper. Let it boil briskly, uncovered, on a quick fire. Take off all scum when it begins to thicken & is reduced to about a quart. Put it in a smaller stewpan, set it over a gentle fire till reduced to the thickness of a very thick syrup. Take care it does not burn. Try a little out in a spoon. If it sets into jelly, it is done. If not, boil a little till it does. Have some little pots an inch & half deep. Take care they are quite dry.

The ‘digester’ in which this jellied stock would have been prepared was a forerunner of today’s pressure cookers, and would have certainly helped to speed up the cooking down of the beef bones. Nevertheless, preparing portable soup was a laborious process. As it formed, the stock needed to be regularly skimmed of fat – the smallest amount could otherwise turn rancid over time and badly affect the taste of the finished product.

Prepared with care and stored in a dry place, this kind of jellied bouillon could be kept for some time. When needed, the cubes would be quickly reconstituted into soup with the addition of boiling water, herbs and seasoning. Who needs Pot Noodle when you have portable soup?