Kitchiner’s cure for an upset stomach

If you overindulged at a barbecue over the weekend, you’ll probably emphasise with the sickly soul for whom today’s ‘stomachic tincture’ was intended.

This home-made medicine includes Peruvian bark. Its source is the cinchona tree, from which bitter-tasting quinine is also produced. Catholic missionaries to South America were introduced to its medicinal properties by the indigenous peoples of Peru, and so by the 18th century it was also widely referred to as ‘Jesuit’s bark’.

Like so many of the active ingredients used in Georgian home remedies, it was believed to cure any number of ailments. Well known for its sobering, tonic and astringent properties, it was also given to patients to bring down a fever.

In this Regency recipe from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, it is made into a concentrate with orange peel and brandy, and then taken with water to settle the stomach.

Regency recipe for a home remedy, "stomachic tincture"

Regency recipe for a home remedy, “stomachic tincture”

Stomachic Tincture

Peruvian bark bruised, an ounce & a half; orange peel [bruised], one ounce; brandy or proof spirit, one pint. Let these ingredients steep for ten days, shaking the bottle every day. Let it remain quiet two days and then decant the clear liquor. Dose, a teaspoonful in a wine glass of water twice a day, before dinner & in the evening.

Kitchiner refers to this medicine as an ‘agreeable aromatic tonic’, but, with no sugar to offset the bitterness of the bark, it doesn’t sound too palatable to us. However he does offer an alternative stomach calming remedy, which is somewhat more appealing :

Tea made with dried and bruised Seville orange-peel, in the same way as common tea, and drank with milk and sugar, has been taken by nervous and dyspeptic persons with great benefit“.

Maybe an orange tea like this before bed would see off the stomach cramps? We’ll bear it in mind next time we feel the worse for wear…


Salad dressings for summer days

As the warm weather shows no real sign of abating, are you starting to tire of summer salads? Today’s three recipes, taken from Dr Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, offer Regency-era tips for giving your lettuce an extra lease of life.

The first dressing is subtitled the ‘oxoleon’, a word of Hellenistic Greek origin that signifies a mixture of oil and vinegar. The term had fallen out of popular usage by the time The Cook’s Oracle was being compiled, but the archaism is easily explained: Kitchiner lifted both the recipe and its title from an earlier text, John Evelyn’s Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets (1699):

Kitchiner's oxoleon dressing owes much to Evelyn's recipe in his Discourse of Sallets of 1699

Kitchiner’s oxoleon dressing owes much to Evelyn’s recipe in his Discourse of Sallets of 1699

Dressing for a Salad (the oxoleon)

Take a good oyl olive, three parts of vinegar, lemon or orange juice one part, and steep  them in some skins of horseradish & a little salt. Some in a separate vinegar. Bruise a pod of ginny pepper and strain it on the other. Then add as much mustard as will lie on a half crown piece. Beat and mingle these well together with the yolks of two new laid eggs boiled hard, pouring it over your salad.

So faithful is Kitchiner to Evelyn’s work (or plagiaristic, depending on your outlook) that he even retains the wording ‘ginny pepper’. Guinea pepper is nothing more than an early term for Cayenne pepper, an ingredient which Kitchiner uses in a great number of his dishes. As indeed he does in our next recipe, where a dressing for cold meat is spiced up with a hot dash of Cayenne:

A dressing for cold meat or fish, transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

A dressing for cold meat or fish, transcribed into The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

A Salad or Sauce for Cold Meat, Fish &c.

Pound together an ounce of scraped horseradish, half an ounce of salt, a tablespoonful of made mustard, four drachms of minced eshallots, half a drach of celery seed and half a ditto of Cayenne, adding gradually a pint of vinegar. Let it stand a week in a jar and then pass it through a sieve. The salad mixture much improved by a little jelly of cold meat

And finally we have a creamy, mustard vinaigrette, which can be sweetened or salted to taste:

This dressing with mustard and cream is the most indulgent out of the three. Any surprise that it's our favourite?

This dressing with mustard and cream is the most indulgent out of the three. Any surprise that it’s our favourite?

Boil a couple of eggs twelve minutes. Rub the yolks (when quite cold) through a sieve with a wooden spoon and mix them with a tablespoonful of cream, then add two of oil or melted butter. When well mixed, add by degrees a teaspoonful of salt or powdered lump sugar and the same of made mustard. When united, add three tablespl. of vinegar. Garnish with white of egg.

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…

Summer drinks

As London wilts in the current heatwave, how about a refreshing Regency tipple to help you keep cool?

This recipe for lemonade in a minute creates a citrus concentrate, which can then be diluted with water to make a thirst-quenching drink. There are also suggestions for alcoholic versions – stirring the lemonade into brandy or rum to make a ‘shrub’.

Whip up a cooling lemonade 'in a minute' with this quick Regency recipe

Whip up a cooling lemonade ‘in a minute’ with this quick Regency recipe

Lemonade in a minute

Pound a quarter of an ounce avoirdupois of citric, i.e. crystallized lemon acid, with a few drop of quintessence of lemon peel and mix it, by degrees, with a pint of clarified syrup. If you have no quintessence, flavour your syrup with thin cut lemon peel. 

A tablespoonful of this in a pint of water will produce an agreeable sherbet. With the addition of any spirit you like, you have punch in a minute. Brandy or rum flavoured with the above will give you very good shrub.

Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies also shares a recipe for this beer cup cocktail:

A beer-based cocktail from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A beer-based cocktail from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cool tankard or beer cup

A quart of mild ale, a glass of white wine, one of brandy, one of capilliare, the juice of a lemon, a roll of the peel cut thin, nutmeg grated at the top, (a sprig of borrage, a balm) and a bit of toasted bread – cider cup is the same, substituting cider for beer.  

‘Cool tankard’ is in fact another name for the cordial herb borage. Like name, like nature, it lends a refreshing note to the cocktail, not unlike cucumber. In fact, cucumber would be quite a good substitute, if you fancy giving this drink a go.

Capillaire is also tricky to get hold of nowadays, but you can make up your own by mixing sugar syrup and curaçao – William Kitchiner recommends a pint of the syrup to a wine glass of the orange liqueur. Or if you think this recipe is already rather too boozy, a spoonful of orange flower water in sugar syrup should also do the trick.

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.

Ways with eggs

The Georgians were great meat-eaters, but over the course of the 18th century this staple of the English diet was becoming increasingly expensive. The rapid expansion of urban populations saw a rise in demand for meat, and as a consequence it both rose in price and declined in quality.

Eggs, on the other hand, were highly nutritious and more affordable than meat. Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies show how eggs could be used to eke out dishes, while still satisfying those with more carnivorous inclinations.

The first recipe is a hearty version of eggs on toast. Hard boiled eggs are stewed in a rich concoction of strong beef gravy, white wine and shredded spinach, and served on small pieces of toasted bread (the ‘sippits’ in this recipe):

18th century recipe for a fricassee of eggs, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for a fricassee of eggs, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Fricasie of Eggs (18th century)

Take 12 hard eggs. Cut ym in quarters & put ym in yr toss pan with a pint of strong beef greavy, a wine glass full of white wine, some nutmeg, a little blanch’d spinage shred, a lump of butter rol’d in flower. Let these stew a little & stir ym gently. Serve ym on sippits crispted in yr frying pan.

There are also two Regency recipes. Poached eggs give some body to a plain dish of broiled mutton, and a simple omelette is given a meaty flavour by the addition of some diced kidney:

Cold meat broiled with poached eggs: a Regency recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cold meat broiled with poached eggs: a Regency recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cold Meat Broiled with Poached Eggs (19th century)

For this dish, a leg of mutton or inside of a sirloin of beef is best. Cut the slices even and equal. Broil them over a clean fire. Lay them in a dish before the fire to keep hot while you poach the eggs.

19th century recipe for a "common omelette" from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

19th century recipe for a “common omelette” from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

The Common Omelette (19th century)

Five or six eggs. Break them and leave out half the whites. Beat them well, adding a teaspoonful of salt. Have ready chopped two drachms of onion, one of parsley. Beat all up well together. Take four ounces of fresh butter, break half of it into little bits and put it into the omelette, the other half into a clean frying pan. When it is melted, pour in the omelette and stir it with a spoon till it begins to set. Then, turn it up all around the edges and when it is a nice brown, it is done. The easiest way to take it up is to put a plate on the omelette and turn the pan upside down. Kidney, boiled first and cut in dice, is sometimes used instead of the parsley and onion.

A savoury soup (and other nineteenth-century rhubarb recipes)

Spring Fruit Pudding, Spring Fruit Tart and Spring Fruit Soup

Today’s recipes are all drawn from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, which was first published in 1817.

Our Cookbook contains transcriptions of several of Dr Kitchiner’s ‘spring fruit’ recipes, all of which use rhubarb as the main ingredient.

Some of the rhubarb recipes would not look out of place on a dining table today. Spring Fruit Tart sees the rhubarb sweetened with loaf sugar before being covered with pastry and baked in the oven. There are also Spring Fruit Pudding recipes, in which the rhubarb is flavoured with spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), reduced over heat with sugar, and combined with eggs and butter before being baked in pastry.

Recipe for a rhubarb tart from the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for a rhubarb tart from the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

However, the recipe that really caught our eye is one for a savoury soup:

Spring Fruit Soup

Peel and well wash four dozen sticks of rhubarb. Blanch it in water three or four minutes, drain it on a sieve and put it into a stewpan with two onions sliced, a carrot, an ounce of lean ham and a good bit of butter. Let it stew gently over a slow fire till tender. Then, put in two quarts of good consommé, to which add two or three ounces of bread crumbs. Boil about fifteen minutes, skim off all the fat, season with salt and Cayenne. Pass through a sieve and serve with fried bread.

The recipe has found its way into the modern cooking repertoire courtesy of Jane Grigson (Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, 1982). Grigson takes the recipe not from Kitchiner, but from 1930s cookery writer Ruth Lowinsky, who had included the dish in her menu for a “dinner to impress your publisher and make him offer ridiculous sums for the privilege of printing your next book”!

It is fascinating to find that this recipe of 1823 has survived the best part of two centuries with no alterations to quantities, flavourings or method.