A Good Scotch Haggis for Burns Night

How better to mark the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, than with a Good Scotch Haggis! Burns famously penned an Address to a Haggis, an ode to the ‘great chieftain o’ the pudding race’, which first appeared in print in the Caledonian Mercury of 20 December 1786.

This recipe was copied into our Georgian Cookbook from The Cook’s Oracle by Dr William Kitchener, who in turn had taken it from Mrs Maciver, a cookery school teacher in late 18th century Edinburgh. Susannah Maciver was practising her art of cookery around the time when Burns was immortalising the hearty haggis in poetry. 

A Scottish recipe for haggis,  borrowed from a Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh for Dr Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

A Scottish recipe for haggis, borrowed from a Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh for Dr Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

A  Good Scotch Haggis

Make the haggis bag perfectly clean. Parboil the draught. Boil the liver very well so as it will grate. Dry the meal before the fire. Mince the draught and a pretty large piece of beef very small. Grate about half of the liver. Mince plenty of the suet and some onions small. Mix all these well together with a handful or two of the dried meal. Spread them on the table and season them with salt and mixed spices. Take any of the scraps of beef and some of the water that boiled the draught and make about a choppin (sic.) a quart of good stock of it. Then put all the haggis meat into the bag and that broth in it. Sew up the bag, but be sure to put out all the wind before you sew it quite close. If you think the bag is thin, you may put it in a cloth. A large one will take two hours boiling. From Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh.

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.

A masterclass in simplicity

One of the tenets of modern gastronomy is simplicity: allowing good ingredients to take centre stage.

Today’s recipes reveal the Georgians as the masters of this art. There are no lengthy lists of ingredients, complicated cooking processes or extravagant proposals for presentation. Instead, we are offered a masterclass in moderation, as even the cheapest meat and fish are given the space to shine on the plate. 

The first recipe, for lamb stove or stew, comes from William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle. With a little parsley and onion and a good helping of spinach and beef stock, lamb’s head and lungs are turned into a warming winter stew:

Regency recipe for Lamb Stove. Our unknown ladies borrowed this recipe from Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

Regency recipe for Lamb Stove. Our unknown ladies borrowed this recipe from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

Lamb Stove or Lamb Stew

Take a lambs head & lights. Open the jaws of the head and wash them thoroughly. Put them in pot with some beef stock made with three quarts of water and two pounds of shin of beef strained. Boil very slowly for an hour. Wash and string two or three good handfuls of spinach. Put it in twenty minutes before serving. Add a little parsley & one or two onions a short time before it comes off the fire. Season with pepper & salt & serve in a tureen.

Next comes herring pie, a simple dish of seasoned herrings, onion and butter in a puff pastry shell:

18th century recipe for 'Herring Pye' from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for ‘Herring Pye’ from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Herring Pye

Season yr herrings with pepper & salt. Put a good deal of sliced onion with then & good store of butter. Soe bake them in puff paste & eat them hot.

And finally, water souchy. The dish’s curious name comes from the Dutch waterzootje, and it seems possible that this soup may have become enshrined in the English culinary repertoire around the time of William of Orange’s accession to the throne in 1689. Today, the Belgians still enjoy a traditional fish stew known as waterzooi.

The version of water souchy given in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is another recipe taken from Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle. Flounder, whiting, gudgeon and eel are suggested as suitable fish varieties for the soup, but other fish could also be used according to availability: 

William Kitchiner's recipe for water souchy, a fish broth, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

William Kitchiner’s recipe for water souchy, a fish broth, transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Water Souchy

Is made with flounders, whitings, gudgeons or eels. They must be quite fresh & nicely cleaned, for what they are boiled in makes the sauce. Wash, gut & trim your fish. Cut them into handsome pieces. Put them into a stewpan with as much water as will cover them, with some parsley, an onion minced, a little pepper & salt. Some add scraped horseradish and a bay leaf. Skim it carefully when it boils. When done enough, (which will be in a few minutes) send it up in a deep dish with bread sippets and some slices of bread & butter on a plate.

 

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?

Pickled pork and pease pudding

Pickled pork and pease pudding is something of an English classic. Here we pair two recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, the first from an anonymous 18th century contributor, and the second ‘borrowed’ from Dr William Kitchiner’s cookery guide The Cook’s Oracle:

To pickle pork: a Georgian recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To pickle pork: a Georgian recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Pickle Porke

Make a pickle strong enough to bear an egg. Add to his one pound of brown sugar, one ounce of salt peter. Let it boyle while you can. Skim it when cold. Put it on your porke, as much as well cover it, & keep it close coverd. Cut your porke in picies the size you wold chuse to have them & pack them close. Before you put on the pickle, lay a stone on the meat to keep it under the pickle. If you make much pickled porke, you must add a nother ounce of salt peter & a nother pound of sugar.

A salty pickle mix is the starting point for this recipe. The pickle should be salty enough for a fresh egg to float on top of it (‘strong enough to bear an egg’). This pickle would have been an infusion of vinegar, salt and spices, which could be flavoured in any number of ways – with black pepper, mustard, root ginger, capsicums…  see our All in a Pickle post for more ideas.

The salty-sour taste of the pickle is balanced with a generous amount of brown sugar. Saltpetre (potassium nitrate, a curing salt) is added to further inhibit decomposition and to help retain the pink colour of the meat.

Pickled like this and stored in an airtight container, pork could be stored safely for a relatively long time. When the time came to eat it, the pickle was scraped off and the meat boiled slowly. Pease pudding was a well-loved accompaniment:

A Regency recipe by Kitchiner for a pease pudding, as reproduced in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Regency recipe by Kitchiner for a pease pudding, as reproduced in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Peese Pudding

Put a quart of split pease into a cloth. Do not tie them up too close. Put them to boil in cold water. Two and a half hours will do good pease. Rub them thro’ a sieve into a deep dish, adding an egg or two, an ounce of butter, some pepper & salt. Beat them well together for ten minutes. When well mixed, flour the cloth well. Put the pudding into it, tie up quite tight and boil an hour longer.