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.

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Bread pudding

Bread pudding has been a mainstay of English domestic cuisine for centuries. The way it is made has hardly altered with the passage of time, as we can see from this 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies:

"To Make a Bread Pudding": an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“To Make a Bread Pudding”: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a Bread Pudding

Take a  meonshit [manchet]. Cut of the crust, slice it in thin slices the pour a quart of boyling milk on it. Then take 12 eggs, half the whites. Beat them very well with a little nutmeg, a qr of a pd of sugar, 2 or 3 spoonfulls of rose water, a glass of sack. Mix all the ingredients well together. Butter yr pan. 3 qrs of an hour bakes it. The same way for boyling, only put in a small spoonfull of flower. An hour for boyling. You may put in sewit if you please. Sack, butter & sugar for sauce. When boyled, don’t mix the pudding till the milk is cold.

The bread used, manchet, was high quality wheaten yeast loaf made with a fine crumb that could stand up to the addition of hot milk and eggs. Manchet isn’t a term much used today, but any white loaf with a regular, close crumb should fit the bill. Why not give it a go?

A tale of gambling, girls and… sandwiches

The sandwich is not an 18th century invention. People across the world had already been eating snacks of bread and cheese, or bread and meat, for many hundreds of years. But it was during the Georgian era that the sandwich gained its name and became a recognised dish in its own right.

So what is the story of the sandwich? It starts in the mid 18th century with a piece of gossip about a Member of Parliament and his curious eating habits.

One of the earliest textual references to the rumour can be found in Pierre-Jean Grosely’s Londres, which first appeared in 1770. A guide to the people, customs and traditions of London, it was based on his Grosley’s own experiences of the city during a visit in 1756:

Extract from Pierre-Jean Grosley's three volume work Londres gives one of the earliest references to the sandwich.

Extract from Pierre-Jean Grosley’s three volume work Londres gives one of the earliest references to the sandwich.

A State minister spent 24 hours in a public gambling game, constantly occupied to the point that, during these 24 hours, he only lived off a few slices of grilled beef, which he had served to himself between two pieces of toasted bread, and which he ate without quitting the game. This new dish gained favour during my stay in London: it was christened the same name of the minister who had dreamt it up to save time. 

Grosely’s anonymous minister was none other than John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Whether the rumour was true or not, it certainly gathered momentum very quickly. People began asking for their bread and meat ‘the same as Sandwich’ and soon the snack itself became known by the minister’s name.

The appellation was the source of some amusement for satirists, who adopted the term to allude to the Earl’s complicated love life. In this cartoon of 1788, the Earl is shown ‘sandwiched’ between two admiring females:

'A Sandwich': an 18th century satirical cartoon.

‘A Sandwich’: an 18th century satirical cartoon.

Sandwich died in 1792 but his name survived him as the term for this bread-based snack. By the time William Kitchiner was composing his Cook’s Oracle the name ‘Sandwich’ had well and truly stuck. Here are Kitchiner’s suggestions for some satisfying sandwich fillings:

Ideas for sandwich fillings, transcribed in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle.

Ideas for sandwich fillings, transcribed in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle.

Materials for Sandwiches

Cold meat or poultry, potted or savoury ditto, ditto cheese, or grated ham or tongue, German sausages, hard eggs pounded with butter and cheese. Mustard, pepper and salt as necessary.

Next time you tuck into your lunch, spare a thought for the 4th Earl of Sandwich…

Oysters for everyone!

Oysters today are considered a delicacy and the reserve of the rich. Back in the 18th century however, they were served up liberally and savoured by all levels of society. London’s many shellfish shops often offered an ‘oyster room’ where their wares could be sampled on site, and oyster-men did the rounds of the city’s theatres and public houses, selling produce from the oyster-beds of the Kent and Essex coasts. The shores of the Thames are still littered with oyster shells, discarded by Georgian Londoners at a time when the shellfish were considered fast, cheap food.

Whitstable is a fishing town that has that supplied the London markets for centuries. This weekend, hosts of Londoners will be making the journey over to Whitstable harbour for the start of the town’s annual Oyster Festival. It seems a fitting occasion to explore a couple of oyster dishes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

The recipes below each call for a hundred oysters, making them expensive dishes by today’s standards! While our unknown ladies’ oyster loaves recipe sees each crusty roll stuffed with 16 of the shellfish, Paul Hollywood’s modern version on the BBC website is scaled down to suit 21st century wallets.

 

This 18th century recipe for oyster loaves calls for 100 oysters!

This 18th century recipe for oyster loaves calls for 100 oysters!

To Make Oyster Loaves

Take half a dozen of French roules, cut of the top of the crust about the breadth of a shilling piece and scoop out all the crum and be sure not to breake the crust. Then take a hundred of oysters, open them and wash them very well in […] their own liquor. Then take the oysters and some crums of bread and two spoonfulls of their own liquor and a bout half a pint of white wine. Take some mace and cloves and a little nutmeg and pound them in a morter and put all these in your sause pan and stir them all together. When you find your oysters prity well stued, then take three prints of butter drawn very thick, put into your oysters. Take your Frensh roules and fry them in fresh butter, very crisp. Then put your oysters into them. Then put on the tops which you cutt of and keep them very hot till you serve them up.

Our second recipe is for an ‘oyester pye’. This is a hearty dish: oysters, sweetbreads, boiled eggs and chestnuts are just a few of the ingredients:

Extract from an 18th century recipe for "oyester pye" from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Extract from an 18th century recipe for “oyester pye” from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

An Oyester Pye

Take an hundred of the largest oysters you can get. Wash them, when opend, in […] warm water. Strain all ther own liquor and put ye water yow wash ye oysters in likewise. Cut two large sweet breads in small bits. Have an half hundred bouled chesnuts peeled, six yolks off hard eggs, two anchovys shred, some lumps of whole marrow. Intermix all these in ye pye. Pour on ye liquor & a water glass full of white wine. Fill ye pye with what liquor it wants, with greawy. If you have not marrow, put in butter. Seasone it with salt, mace and cloves.

Variations on a bread-and-butter pudding

These two variations on a bread-and-butter pudding are economical to prepare, comforting to eat, and could easily be jazzed up to make a eye-catching table piece when guests were around: perfect Regency fare.

Both of today’s recipes were borrowed by our ‘unknown ladies’ from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle.

This recipe for Newmarket pudding was transcribed by the Cookbook’s compilers from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

This recipe for Newmarket pudding was transcribed by the Cookbook’s compilers from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

Newmarket Pudding

Put on to boil a pint of good milk with half a lemon peel, a little cinnamon and a bay leaf. Boil gently for five or ten minutes. Sweeten with loaf sugar. Break the yolks of five and the whites of three eggs into a basin. Beat them well and add the milk. Beat in well together and strain through a tammis. Have some bread & butter cut very thin. Lay a layer of it in a pie dish and then a layer of currants & so on till the dish is near full. Then pour the custard over and bake ½ hour.

Kitchiner's recipe for a cabinet pudding, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Kitchiner’s recipe for a cabinet pudding, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Newcastle or Cabinet Pudding

Butter a quart basin and stick all round with dried cherries or fine raisins and fill up with bread & butter &c as in the above and steam it an hour & a half.

Although bread puddings have been eaten by the British for many centuries, it was Dr William Kitchiner who popularised the particular variation known as ‘cabinet pudding’ when it appeared  in his popular cookery manual The Cook’s Oracle.

Several decades later Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) included an upmarket variation on the original ‘plain’ cabinet pudding, substituting the bread-and-butter for layers of sponge. In this new guise, the popularity of cabinet pudding extended long into the Victorian age. It was frequently presented at dinner parties with an elaborate decoration of jewel-like candied fruits, and the sponge was sometimes soaked in liqueur for that added touch of luxury.

But Dr Kitchiner’s bread-and-butter has never gone away. It was widely eaten 1930s as a wholesome and tasty dish that respected the financial constraints of the Depression-era home.

The cabinet pudding continues to fluctuate between these two identities : refined sponge versus simple but satisfying bread and butter. Both are delicious, so the choice is yours…

Adding that final touch: Regency garnishes

If you decide to have a go at yesterday’s meat masterpiece, calf’s head hash, you may want a touch of greenery to really set the dish off. Or how about a garnish of crispy fried breadcrumbs to add that extra crunch?

These three garnish recipes were transcribed by our Unknown Ladies from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle:

Regency recipes for a selection of garnishes: fried parsley, crisp parsley and fried breadcrumbs

Regency recipes for a selection of garnishes: fried parsley, crisp parsley and fried breadcrumbs

Fried Parsley

Let it be nicely picked & washed, then put into a cloth and swung back & forwards till perfectly dry. Then put it into a pan of hot fat, fry it quick and have a slice ready to take it out the moment it is crisp. Put it on a sieve, before the fire, to drain.

Crisp Parsley

Pick  & wash young parsley. Shake it in a dry cloth to drain the water from it. Spread it on a sheet of clean paper in a Dutch oven before the fire and turn it frequently till quite crisp.

Fried Bread Crumbs

Rub stale bread through a cullander or in a cloth till quite fine. Put them into a stew pan with a couple of ounces of butter. Place it over a moderate fire and stir them about with a wooden spoon till they are the colour of a guinea. Spread them on a sieve and let them stand ten minutes to drain, turning frequently.

Lemon pudding

In its thin puff pastry case, this lemon pudding would have resembled tarte au citron, only the lemon custard is stiffened with breadcrumbs (the pith of a ha’penny loaf).

Until the 19th century, bread prices were regulated by an assize: an official scale that linked the cost of bread to the price of wheat. The weight of a halfpenny loaf therefore fluctuated over the course of the 18th century.

In 1758, the Lord Mayor of London ruled that a white halfpenny loaf weighed 3 oz 1 drachm. Wheaten bread at the same price weighed 4 oz 10 drachms. Later in the century, poor harvests and the inflation and shortages caused by the French Revolutionary Wars resulted in higher bread prices for Londoners.

Recipe for an eighteenth-century lemon pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for an eighteenth-century lemon pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A lemon pudding

Pare the outward rind of 4 lemons & squeese out all the juice clear. Take the pith of an hapenny loaf, crumble it in half a pint of whit[e] wine, bruse it very well & mix it with your juice & rine, 6 or 8 eggs, half the whites, half a pd of melted butter, half a pd or more of powder sugar. Paste yr dish very thin. A little time bakes it. Take care it dos not scortch.