Lemon cheese

This is a zesty cream cheese, flavoured with fresh lemon peel. You can add as much sugar as you like, but we think the unknown ladies of our Cookbook may have liked it pretty sweet: they recommend serving it with candied oranges or a dab of currant jelly on the side.

18th century for lemon cheese from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century for lemon cheese from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Lemmon Cheese

A qurt of good thick sweet creame. Put to it the juce of four lemons as as mutch peel as well give it an agreeable flavour. Sweeten it to your taste & add a littile peach or orange flower water if you like it. Whip it up as you would for sellabubs but very solid. If you have a tin vat, put a thin cloath in it & pour in your cream. If not, put it in a napkin and tye it pritty close. Hang it up to let the whey run from it. Make it the night be fore you use it. Garnish it with currant jelliy or candied oranges.

A salad for Europe

Tips from the kitchens of France, Italy and Holland offer this simple salad some sophisticated continental twists.

Today’s recipe originally appeared in William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oraclefirst published in 1817. This cookery manual was aimed at British and American ‘plain cooks’, and was principally concerned with the preparation wholesome meals with good economic sense. However, Kitchiner was also careful to acknowledge new fashions in food, and many of his recipes showed how the cook could balance gastronomic tastes with abstemious habits in household management.

Suggestions for a boiled salad, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Suggestions for a boiled salad, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Boiled salad

Boiled or baked onions, some baked beet root, cauliflower or brocoli, and boiled celery and French beans, or any of these with the common salad dressing. Also a small quantity of raw lettice &c strewed on the top. This is much more wholesome than the raw salad and is much eaten when on the table.

The French add to the above black pepper and some savoury spice. The Italians mince the white meat of chickens into the sauce. The Dutch add cold boiled turbot or lobster – or sometimes grated cheese.

As another cheap but flavoursome variation, Kitchiner also suggests that meat jelly could be used instead of an oil dressing. It’s very likely that our unknown ladies may have had  jelly ready from preparing cow heel, another recipe in the Cookbook. It is another example of the Georgians’ knack for balancing a passion for good and exciting food with a tendency for thrift.

Cow heel

Despite the current culinary revival of using offal and cheap cuts of meat, there are some recipes in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies which only the most adventurous of cooks are likely attempt today.

Among these intrepid cooks is historical food expert Annie Gray, who gave nineteenth-century cow heels a try.

A nineteenth-century recipe for fried cow heel, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A nineteenth-century recipe for fried cow heel, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cow Heel

This will furnish several good meals. When boiled tender, cut it into handsome pieces. Egg and bread crumb them, fry them a light brown, lay them round a dish and put in the middle sliced onions, fried.

The heel ready for boiling

The heel ready for boiling

Annie boiled the cow’s heel with a little carrot and leek to add flavour to the stock. Once cooked, she chopped the heel into pieces and coated them in breadcrumbs before frying up the whole lot in a deep pan of oil.

Once fried and drained of excess oil, the cow's heel is ready to serve

Once fried and drained of excess oil, the cow’s heel is ready to serve

What did she make of them?

It was not vile. Indeed, at first, they were rather pleasant. I would say that deep fried pigs’ ears, which are beginning to appear more and more on menus now, are better, as they have more crunch. These are a bit more gooey, and you do need to like the taste of cow – pork, I think, is a bit more accessible. As a starter or snack, they’d be great

Annie served her cow’s heel with cream and horseradish – a popular Georgian accompaniment. Alternatively, you could try it with ‘Mr Kelly’s Sauce for Boiled Tripe, Calf Head or Calf Heel’:

Garlick vinegar, a tablespoonful – of mustard, brown sugar & black pepper, a teaspoonful each stirred into half a pint of oiled melted butter.

Like many Georgian and Regency dishes, cow heel was highly economical to prepare. The stock formed when boiling the heel could be used to make jelly, and whole of the boiled heel could then be eaten, skin and all, with no waste.

If you take a liking to cow’s heel, you can even serve it as a sweet dish! In the following eighteenth-century recipe, the boiled heel is finely chopped and added to a fruited suet pudding mix:

Neat’s foot pudding, made with cow heel, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Neat’s foot pudding, made with cow heel, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a Neat Foot Pudding

Let your feet be well boyled. Take half a pound of them chopd small, half a pound of beef shuit, half a pound of currants, four eggs well beatten, some sugar, three or four spoonfulls of flower, salt, sack, brandy and nutmeg. Mix all to gether. An hour will boyle it.

Mrs Bracken’s recipe for orange jelly

Fine Sevil oranges, fine lemon, fine;
Round, sound and tender, inside and rine

(An old street cry of London)

Seville oranges have been a familiar taste in English cookery since the late Medieval period. But it wasn’t until the mid 17th century that sweet oranges, commonly known as ‘China oranges’, became part of the English culinary landscape. Their sweet flesh contrasted pleasingly with the better-known bitter oranges of Spain, and they quickly became popular.

Nell Gwyn (c1651-1687). Image property of Westminster City Archives

Nell Gwyn (c1651-1687). Image property of Westminster City Archives

Bitter and sweet oranges were widely available in London from the late 17th century onwards. Nell Gwyn famously sold oranges at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane before taking to the stage, and orangeries sprang up at aristocratic houses across the country. By the time our ladies were compiling the Cookbook, oranges were being grown in glasshouses on many landed estates.

Despite their popularity, oranges remained expensive and were regarded as a delicacy. The authors of our cookbook’s recipes are careful to avoid any unnecessary waste. In this one for orange jelly, both the flesh and the zest are used:

An eighteenth-century orange jelly recipe from the 'Cookbook of Unknown Ladies'

An eighteenth-century orange jelly recipe from the ‘Cookbook of Unknown Ladies’

Making Mrs Bracken’s orange jelly (modernised text)

Grate the rind of 2 China oranges, 2 Seville oranges, 2 lemons. Put it in to steep in the juice of 9 Seville oranges. Put half a pound of fine sugar, a quarter of a pint of water. Boil it to candy. When almost cold, mix the juice with 2 ounces of isinglass well boiled in a quart of water. Leave it till it is mixed. Then, mix it all together and strain it. Stir it till almost cold, then fill your moulds. You may add the juice of lemon or China orange if you like it.

Mrs Bracken uses Isinglass as the jelly’s setting agent. Derived from fish bladders, it has fallen out of common usage today, but is still sometimes used in viticulture to clarify wines. If you fancy making your own version of Mrs Bracken’s jelly, you might want to substitute it for gelatin.

The writer also asks you to boil the syrup to candy. 18th century cookbook writer Susanna MacIver  says you can recognise this stages “by the sugar boiling thick like pottage” (Cookery and Pastry, 1789 p.205)

The recipe gives us our first clue as to the social circle in which our unknown cookbook writers were living in. We don’t know whether Mrs Bracken was a fellow domestic servant, or a well-known local cook, but she is our first named reference in our search for the identity of our mystery recipe writers…

Fancy giving this orange jelly a go? If you do, make sure you let us know how you get on!