A delicious late addition: gnocchi di latte

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is the latest of all the recipes recorded in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Properly speaking, it isn’t an integral part of the book: it was recorded on two separate sheets, which were then pasted onto the book’s endpapers. The handwriting and spellings are more modern in appearance than most examples in the book and the recipe itself, with its precise measurements and timings and helpful hints and tips, reads as if it could have been lifted straight out of a contemporary cookery magazine.

Our guess is that this recipe dates from the last couple of decades of the 19th century. We wonder whether its author was a descendant of the Cookbook’s Georgian contributors…

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is pasted onto the endpapers of our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is pasted onto the endpapers of our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Gnocchi di Latte

Take a quart of new milk, the yolks of 8 eggs, ½ lb of sifted loaf sugar, 2 tablespoonsful of corn flour. Grate some rind of a lemon into a bason and mix well together the above ingredients (be sure the yolks of the eggs are well beaten). Put into a saucepan to boil for ten minutes, keeping well stirred all the time to prevent curdling. When done, pour out on a flat board well floured. Let it stay till cold. Then, cut into squares or diamond shapes to be laid on a flat dish in layers, each layer to be sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, fresh butter & a little ground cinnamon. Bake a delicate brown colour in the oven.

We found it best to make the night before and cut the next day.

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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.

To stew pears red

After our quince pye recipe, here’s another way with autumn fruits.

This recipe specifies the use of warden pears, a common name for a varieties of firm-fleshed, sour-tasting pears, which need to be cooked before they can be eaten. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the name may have come from the French verb garder, ‘to keep’ and a quote from Gervase Markham’s manual on farming seems to support this theory:

Your stone-Peare, Warden-Peare, and choake-Peare [are] those which indure longest

The English Husbandman (1613)

However, others believe the name comes from the Bedfordshire village of Old Warden, where a community of monks are said to have cultivated the pears in medieval times.

Traditional varieties of cooking pear include the Black Worcester and the Catillac, but unless you’ve got these trees in your garden or have easy access to a good farmers’ market, you may need to resort to whatever you can find in the supermarket. Bosc pears are meant to be good at holding their shape but slightly under-ripe conference pears should also be a good fall-back.

How to Stew Pears Red

Take a qr of a hundred of warden pears & split them in halves or leave them whole as you like best & throw them in clean cold water as you pair them. Let them lye an hour in it, then stick a clove in every piece & put them in a stew pan with a good deal of water a bout them. Let em boyle a little, then put in a drahm of cutchinele pounded & a bit of allom ye bigness of a wallnut pounded, a stick of cinnamon & some blads of mace. Then let them boyle till very soft but take care doant brake. Take up ye pears & strain ye liquor & put in ye pears a gain & a pound of double refind sugar. Let them boyle quick till ye sirrup is very rich. Serve them hot or cold.

"How to stew pears red": a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“How to stew pears red”: a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

The red colouring for this recipe comes from pounded ‘cutchinele’ (cochineal), tiny insects from Central America. The egg yolks and dried bodies of the females yield a bright red dye, also known as carmine. If the idea of crushed cochineal bugs makes you squeamish, most supermarkets offer synthetic food colourings which would also do the trick.

The alum (‘allom’) in this recipe is a chemical compound, and it is still used today as preservative, notably in pickles. A lot of 18th century bread also included alum to keep it white and fresh. Alum powder can be bought from many Indian groceries, but the sugar content in the syrup alone should help to preserve the pears for a little while.

Recipes recreated: news from our readers

A big thank you to our reader Catherine, who has sent in these fantastic photographs of dishes she’s created from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Catherine followed our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies recipe to create this tasty gooseberry pudding

Catherine followed our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies recipe to create this tasty gooseberry pudding

The first picture shows her take on the Cookbook‘s 18th century gooseberry pudding. Not only does it look extremely appetising, but it also tasted great too. As Catherine told us:

This produces an excellent tart, with the sharp taste of gooseberries enhanced by the other flavourings, none of which dominates.  I found it produced a sponge-like layer on top with a more fool-like layer underneath.  Only putting pastry round the sides of the dish is a neat trick to avoid a soggy bottom!

Catherine’s stunning recreation of an 18th century sweet spinach tart proved to be a very enjoyable dessert

Catherine’s stunning recreation of an 18th century sweet spinach tart proved to be a very enjoyable dessert

Catherine also took the brave step of serving up our sweet ‘Spinach Tort‘ as a dessert for one of her friends:

“I rather surprised a lunch guest by serving Spinach Tart for dessert.  She always says how much she likes spinach, but she’d never had it like this before.  I had a bowl of strawberries in the fridge, just in case, but she happily finished off the portion of tart.  She said it had a subtle flavour and she wouldn’t have realized there was spinach in it had it not been green!”

We love the look of this dish, and Catherine’s beautiful decorative pastry work really sets it off nicely!

If you, like Catherine, have been trying your hand at recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, do get in touch! You can leave comments here on the blog, or email your cooking experiences and photos to westminster@archives.gov.uk

We look forward to hearing from you…

Gooseberry pudding

Tangy gooseberries lend this pudding a sharp-sweet note – and it all sounds rather delicious! We’ll definitely be giving this recipe a go at home…

18th century recipe for a 'Goose Bery Pudding', from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for a ‘Goose Bery Pudding’, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Goose Bery Pudding

Boyle three quarts of goose berrys soft, and strain them through a haire sieve with the back of a spoon and when cold mix it up with some melted butter, cinaman, nutmeg, a glass of brandy grated (sic), a dust of flower, white sugar, eight eggs, three whites, two spoonfulls of rose water, half a pint of new milk. Put peast about the brim of the dish.

Based on our experience of other pudding recipes in the Cookbook, just over half  an hour at 180°C should see this cooked through nicely. Enjoy!

More lemon creams

Our Cooking Up History group really enjoyed making up lemon creams at their latest historic cookery session. It seems that this dish was rather a favourite in the household of our ‘unknown ladies’ too!

There are three entries for lemon cream in the Cookbook, but two are written in the same handwriting and are identical but for a few variant spellings.

Compare the recipe below to the ‘lemmond cream‘ method that inspired the Cooking Up History group in June… can you spot any differences?

This recipe for "Lemmon Cream" is nearly identical to the one made up by our Cooking Up History group.

This “Lemmon Cream” recipe is nearly identical to the one followed by our Cooking Up History group.

Lemmon Cream

To four large lemmons squees’d put 3 qrs of a pd of ye finest loaf sugar, 8 or 9 spoonfuls of water & a piece of ye peel. Set it over ye fire until ye sugar is melted. Put in ye whites of 4 eggs & strain it through a napkin doubled. Set it on ye fire again & stir it all ye while. When it grows thick, take it off. Put in two spoonfuls of orange flower water. Lay some shreds of boyled lemmon pele at ye bottom of yr glasses. 

The following recipe varies from the latter not only in the quantities used, but also in the level of detail in the method. The author gives full instructions for boiling the lemon peel, and even specifies that it should be boiled in ‘a silver thing’, supposedly to avoid potential poisoning from using a pewter dish.

To help create that extra wobble, a piece of isinglass is added to set the cream.

This is one of three entries for lemon cream in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

This is one of three entries for lemon cream in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Lemon Cream

Take 9 spoonfulls of fair water boyling hot & put to it the peel of a lemon all night. In the morning, strain it on the juce of 3 lemons & half a pd of loaf sugar. Then set it on the fire till the sugar is disolv’d. Then set it by to cool. When cold, put to it the whites of 3 eggs beat to a froth, & strain it through a muslin rag. Set it on the fire with 3 spoonfulls of orange flower water or 2 of honey water. Keep it continually stirring one way till it is as thick as jelly. Then have some lemon peel boyled tender & cut thin & lay in yr cups & put yr jelly at top of them. It must be boyled in a silver thing. Put a bit of Isingglass as big as ye top of yr finger.

If you’d like to try this popular 18th century dish at home, you’ll find a step-by-step method on our Cooking Up History page. Don’t forget to let us know how you get on!

Cheese-less cheesecake

Almond cheesecakes such as these may well have drawn in the punters at the popular Hyde Park ‘Cheesecake House’. The recipes yield quite different results from the American-style baked cheesecakes we are familiar with today – the first produces a fragrant kind of  frangipane, and the second a pastry tart with a dense and buttery sweet almond filling.

Neither of today’s recipes have complete instructions (both miss out the baking stage), but if you fancy a go at Georgian cheesecake, you can find an adapted recipe in our Cooking Up History section.

A recipe for almond chese cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A recipe for almond chese cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Almond Chese Cakes

Take half a pd of Jordon almonds. Pound them with rose water, but not to mash. The yolks of 5 eggs well beat with half a pd of loaf sugar pounded, a qr of a pd of butter drawn thick, prity cool. When in, 3 spoonfulls of orange flower water. Take care the almonds bent the least oyled in pounding. Mix all the ingredients well together. Ye allmond cheese cakes.

The bitter almonds and ratifia in our second recipe should be avoided if you value your health, as they can lead to cyanide poisoning. Ground almonds from the supermarket and almond essence are perfectly fine and much safer substitutes!

Another recipe for cheese cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Another recipe for cheese cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Cheese Cakes

Take half a pound of sugr well dried, pounded & sifted, half a pound of Jordon almonds, with a few bitter almonds among them, pounded but not to fine, the yolks of eight eggs. Beat your eggs & sugr well to gather before you put in the almonds. When near going into the oven, put in a little brandy and a cup of sweet cream. Drudge them well with sugar as you fill them. Wet your almonds when pounding with with a little ratifie or rose water. Keep out part of the sugar for drudging them or they will be too sweet. The paste for cheese cakes must be made with half a pound of butter and half a pound of flower.

Check out our adapted recipe for Georgian almond cheesecakes, and let us know how you get on with making them up in your own kitchen! Leave comments here on the blog or send your photos and findings into us at archives@westminster.gov.uk!