The Cooking Up History Sessions – 7: Shrove Tuesday pancakes

‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ Pancakes versus Pancakes and Fritters 

Christina and David were once again the willing volunteers who joined Kim and Trish for our seventh cooking challenge. And what better way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday than with a cook-off with two unique takes on the classic pancake.

The Duchess of Cleveland’s pancakes

Beginning our pancake cook off with a recipe for the ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes, we were struck by the quantity of eggs and butter involved – eight eggs in one batter? The quantities were overwhelming!  We decided to downsize the recipe, roughly halving each of the quantities. While we beat up the batter, David regaled us with tales of the Duchess of Cleveland, Barbara Villiers; a Catholic who maintained an infamous relationship with Charles II as his mistress from 1660 to 1668.

Getting busy with the batter for 'Dutches of Cleaveland' pancakes

Getting busy with the batter for ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes

We mixed the batter thoroughly; David expertly folding the butter into our mixture. With this completed and our pan heated, Trish was given responsibility for flipping our pancake. Our first attempt stuck stubbornly to the pan, even though there was a good deal of butter in the mixture. We were dry frying the batter as the recipe suggested, but it seemed to be ruining our chances of getting the perfect pancake flip! Thankfully, things got better… the second and third batches were easier to cook now that the pan had been ‘seasoned’ by our first fritter.

As the pancake was cooking, Christina remarked that neither of our recipes made no mention of lemons or oranges – nowadays we are so used to having pancakes served up with a squeeze of lemon juice a little grate orange zest. We had a chat about our expectations, all agreeing that it was easiest to picture the end result when we could compare the Georgian dishes to a modern day equivalent. David, however, raised the point that the modern pancakes were were used to would inevitably colour our opinion of these historical recipes.

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Chatting over, it was time for the tasting! The pancake looked appetising but, served up on its own, it was not sweet enough for us. David compared it to a ‘mini Yorkshire pudding’ in both taste and texture, and wondered whether this was now what we’d regard as a pudding pancake. We were glad that no additional butter had been added to the pan as the result was rather oily.

Furthermore, with no definite measure of nutmeg in the recipe we felt this flavour was a little muted in this first attempt. Were our palates missing the stronger flavours of perfumed rose water from other recipes?! We decided to add an additional sprinkle of nutmeg to each subsequent batch of batter we cooked, and with some success: it considerably enhanced the flavour.

Pancakes and Fritters

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our second batch of pancakes was inspired by a 19th century recipe with the title ‘Pancakes and Fritters’, sourced again from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. The recipe allowed a ‘walnut’ of butter to be used in the pan, but contained no butter in the actual mixture. Our pancake flipping was eased by this additional butter – Trish making many successful flips – but unfortunately the end result was a much drier affair and almost rubbery in texture. We added sugar and lemon to this round of pancakes to enliven the taste and bring our own traditional view of pancakes into the mix.

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

With pancakes such a well-loved treat in Britain today, our Unknown Ladies had a lot to live up to. Our Cooking Up History group enjoyed comparing our recipes with the pancakes we’ve re so used to today. Although both recipes had their pros and cons, we definitely felt the second batch of ‘Pancakes and Fritters’ was the more successful of the two. If you’re tempted to have a go at the Georgian pancake challenge, try out one of our recipes today!

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.

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!

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.

The bitter taste of tansy

“[Mince pies are] as essential to Christmas as pancake to Shrove Tuesday, tansy to Easter, furmity to Midlent Sunday or goose to Michaelmas day”

Lionel Thomas Berguer in The Connoisseur (1754)

The traditional Easter dish ‘tansy’ has largely been forgotten today, but for the Georgians it was as integral to the Easter festival as mince pies were to Christmas.

Members of the Tansy family, including common tansy (fig 11680) from J.C. Loudon's Encyclopaedia of Plants (1828)

Members of the Tansy family, including common tansy (fig 11680) from J.C. Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Plants (1828)

The dish takes its name from the tansy flower, tanacetum vulgaris, the bitter flavour of which was a reminder of the bitter herbs (maror) eaten by Jews at Passover. In our recipe, tansy leaf extract is combined with spinach juice and then added to beaten egg yolks, sugar and naple biscuits. Cream, nutmeg, sack and rosewater are all and added to the mix before being put over the fire to cook.

To make a tansie Mrs Haynes way: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To make a tansie Mrs Haynes way: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a Tansy –  Mrs Hayne’s Way (modernised spelling)

Take 12 yolks of eggs and beat them very well. Put half a pound of naple biscuit, a quarter of a pound of white sugar, a pint of spinach and tansy juice, a quart of cream, a nutmeg […] into a gill [¼ pint] of sack, the same of rose water. So, beat it up, put it into a skillet and put it over the fire till it is thick. So put it in the pan and fry it.

The result: a sweet, green-coloured omelette with the bitter undertone of tansy.

As time went on, the term ‘tansy’ was applied to a whole range of egg-based dishes, whether they contained tansy juice or not. One such recipe is a fruit fritter known as ”apple tansies’. We’ll be trying that one out later in the year…