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.