A surf and turf soup

Oysters, crab and lobster are the stars of this rich stew, which is based on a thick broth of mutton and veal.

To make crab and lobster soup: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To make crab and lobster soup: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Crab & Lobster Soop

Take a neck of mutton & a nuckle of veal. Put them over the fire and make some strong broath with a bunch of time, 2 whole onyons & a little whole pepper. Then take all the fish out of 6 lobsters & as many crabs and put it in the strong broath & let them stew one hour over a slow fire with a pint of clarret. Then, strain yr liquor through a hair sieve, put it over the fire with 4 handfulls of grated bread, about a score of oysters & let them stew all together with a qr of a pnd of fresh butter melted in a little flower, with half a greated nutmeg. So thicken it over the fire then serve it up with a broyled crab in the middle & garnish yr dish with sliced lemon and crabs claws.

Lobsters fished from British waters could be bought more cheaply in the 18th century than they are today, and oysters were also used liberally in the Georgian kitchen.

Mutton and oysters were a celebrated combination of the period. Several Georgian cookery books include a recipe for roast mutton, in which oysters are stuffed into slits in the meat before cooking.


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.