Posts Tagged ‘Cookery’

Harvest Festival

In an era before refrigeration and long term food storage, people ate produce that was fresh and in season. When fresh fruits and vegetables were in poor supply, dishes were heavy in meat and protein. This situation was less likely to be true for the wealthy, who were able to replenish their tables with fresh fruits and vegetables grown in their own greenhouses.

Mrs. Hannah Glasse lists fresh foods by month in her classic cookery book, The Art of Cookery. Here is her list of available foods for November.

FISH.—Brill, carp, cod, crabs, eels, gudgeons, haddocks, oysters, pike, soles, tench, turbot, whiting.

MEAT.—Beef, mutton, veal, doe venison.

POULTRY.—Chickens, fowls, geese, larks, pigeons, pullets, rabbits, teal, turkeys, widgeons, wild duck.

GAME.—Hares, partridges, pheasants, snipes, woodcocks.

VEGETABLES.—Beetroot, cabbages, carrots, celery, lettuces, late cucumbers, onions, potatoes, salading, spinach, sprouts,—various herbs.

FRUIT.—Apples, bullaces, chestnuts, filberts, grapes, pears, walnuts.

    BBC Food also lists fresh foods in season: parsnips, beetroot, pumpkins, swede*, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, teal, goose, venison, grouse, oyster, chestnuts, cranberries, pears, and quinces. Click on the link to find recipes using these ingredients. *Swedes are a traditional British food. You can read more about them in The British Kitchen, and find a few recipes for preparing them as well. Click here for a Heritage recipe for fish pie. Whether in the U.S. or across The Pond, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day.These links discuss the Harvest Festival in more detail.

  • Harvest Festival

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The Historic Foods website offers a splendid Georgian recipe of gooseberries cut as hops and preserved in syrup.

The first printed version of this once popular recipe is found in Elizabeth Smith’s The Compleat Housewife (London: 1727). The instructions seem complex, but the results, as you can see, are visually delightful. In earlier times gooseberries were dried and candied, or made into a sauce served with fish or goose meat.

For a detailed history of the gooseberry, click on the link above.

Watercolour of Gooseberries by Pamela Sweda

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Cookery Books

Although England was at war with France during the Regency Era, the upper crust considered it fashionable to hire a French chef. This common practice was considered a folly by cookery book author, Hannah Glasse, who said her fellow Englishmen “would rather be impos’d on by a French Booby, than give Encouragement to a good English Cook!”

For the more ordinary households, the most popular cookery books of the era were written by women: Eliza Smith,1727; Hannah Glasse, 1747; and Elizabeth Raffald,1769. Hanna’s wildly popular book was reprinted 17 times between 1747 and 1803! In those days, the authors borrowed recipes liberally from each other, but Mrs. Glasse’s recipes were more detailed and clearly written than most. “I have attempted a Branch of Cookery which Nobody has yet thought worth their while to write upon…My Intention is to instruct the lower Sort [so that] every servant who can read will be capable of making a tolerable good Cook.” Tipsy Cake
Reading Hannah’s recipes, we can see how much our tastes in food have changed. Her Cookery Book included recipes for Jugged Pigeons, Potted Venison, Fried Celery, Tipsy Cake, and Salamangundy (a salad made with cuccumber, apples, grapes, herring, red cabbage, hard boiled eggs, and cooked fowl.) As to how the food of the day tasted, here are Jane Austen’s words, scribbled to Cassandra in 1808:

“The Widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone …”

From Food: and Cooking in 18th Century Britain: History and Recipes, Jennifer Snead, English Heritage, ISBN 1 85074 084 4

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Street Pie Men

Whenever Jane Austen came to visit London, her ears would have been assaulted by the din of London street noise. This would include the distinctive cries in the evening from street vendors such as the pie men shouting, “Pies all ‘ot! eel, beef, or mutton pies! Penny pies, all ‘ot–all ‘ot!”

In 1851, Henry Mayhew published London Labor and the London Poor, Vol 1. This social history described the venerable but humble occupation of the ‘street pie men’ and ‘the street-sellers of pea-soup and hot eels.’ These pie men sold their hot food to poor working class families at an affordable price. At one time, over 600 pie men roamed London to sell meat, eel or fruit pies in streets, taverns, summer fairs and at the races. By the time of Henry Mayhew’s history, only about 50 remained, selling their pies from 6 (in the evening, I presume) and staying out all night. The best time for selling pies was between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Cornish Pastry

Eel sellers, however, largely sold their wares from stalls. Around the mid-19th century, these two trades went into a decline when penny-pie shops were established. Some street pie men did not seal off their pies properly, whereas the new shops sold food that was generally safe. Instead of selling pre-made pies, they sold live eels or food with good nutritional value for families to take home and cook. Within a few years the street sellers had almost disappeared.

Read more about this topic in the following links, especially Henry Mayhew’s. He interviewed actual working pie men and wrote down their observations:

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Antonin Careme: Chef Extraordinaire During the Regency Era

Antonin Careme, 1784 – 1833, was regarded the world’s first celebrity chef, and was credited for creating haute cuisine for the kings and queens of Europe. He made Napoleon’s wedding cake, souffles flecked with gold for the Rothschilds in Paris, and meals for the Romanovs in Russia using such esoteric ingredients as rooster testicles. On January 15, 1817, Antonin supervised the meal served at Brighton Pavilion for the Prince Regent, which included over 100 dishes.

In High Society, Venetia Murray writes:

At the Pavilion, and in other grand households, dinner was still served a la fracaise, which meant that the majority of the dishes were arranged in the middle of the table: the people were supposed to help themselves from the nearest dish and then offer it to their neighbours. If, however, someone fancied one of the other dishes, which might well have been placed at the opposite end of the table, he had to ask a fellow guest within range, or one of the servants, to pass it. It was therefore impossible to sustain a conversation because someone was always interrupting and the servants were always on the move. (p. 182-83)

The chances of the Prince Regent’s guests getting the exact dishes they wanted on the menu would not have been great. At best they would have received a random sampling of such dishes as:

Les poulardes a la Perigueux, La timbale de macaroni a la Napolitaine, La fricassee de poulets a l’Italienne, Les galantines de perdreaux a la gelee, Le petits poulets a l’Indienne, La cote de boeuf auz oignons glaces, Les escalopes de volaille aux truffes, Le vol-au-vent de quenelles a l’Allemande, La brioche au fromage, Les canards sauvages, Les genoises glacess au cafe, Les sckals au beurre, Le fromage bavarois aux avelines, and de petites souffles au chocolat.

Here is one of the recipes Antonin used for the extravagant banquet at Brighton Pavilion. (Illustration above: Banquet Hall at Brighton Pavilion)

Les Petits Vol-Au-Vents a la Nesle

Brighton Pavilion and Chateau Rothschild

20 vol-au-vent cases, the diameter of a glass
20 cocks-combs
20 cocks-stones (testes)
10 lambs sweetbreads (thymus and pancreatic glands, washed in water for five hours, until the liquid runs clear)
10 small truffles, pared, chopped, boiled in consomme
20 tiny mushrooms
20 lobster tails
4 fine whole lambs’ brains, boiled and chopped
1 French loaf
2 spoonfuls chicken jelly
2 spoonfuls veloute sauce
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mushrooms
4 egg yolks
2 chickens, boned
2 calves’ udders
2 pints cream
sauce Allemande
salt, nutmeg


Crumb a whole French loaf. Add two spoonfuls of poultry jelly, one of veloute, one tablespoon of chopped parsley, two of mushrooms, chopped. Boil and stir as it thickens to a ball. Add two egg yolks. Pound the flesh of two boned chickens through a sieve. Boil two calves’ udders — once cold, pound and pass through a sieve.

Then, mix six ounces of the breadcrumbs panada to ten ounces of the chicken meat, and ten of the calves’ udders and combine and pound for 15 minutes. Add five drams of salt, some nutmeg and the yolks of two more eggs and a spoonful of cold veloute or bechamel. Pound for a further ten minutes. Test by poaching a ball in boiling water — it should form soft, smooth balls.

Make some balls of poultry forcemeat in small coffee spoons, dip them in jelly broth and after draining on a napkin, place them regularly in the vol-au-vent, already half filled with:

a good ragout of cocks-combs and stones (testicles)
lambs’ sweetbreads (thymus and pancreatic glands, washed in water for five hours, until the liquid runs clear)
lobster tails
four fine whole brains

Cover all with an extra thick sauce Allemande.

Learn more about Antonin Careme

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Christmas Pudding

Illustration from Jane Austen Magazine
Christmas Pudding is considered a staple in a traditional English Christmas meal. The pudding has been around since the middle ages and was then known as mince pie. In her article about these puddings, Sarah Lane writes, “In 1714, King George I re-established pudding as part of the Christmas feast even though the Quakers strongly objected. Meat was eliminated from the recipe in the 17th century in favor of more sweets, and people began sprinkling it with brandy and setting it aflame when serving it to their guests. The Christmas pudding was not a tradition in England until it was introduced to the Victorians by Prince Albert. By this time the pudding looked and tasted as it does today. ”

For more about the Christmas Pudding, click here.

Mrs. Beeton’s Recipe:


Check recipe for shopping/store cupboard purposes and grease 1 basin.
5 oz breadcrumbs
4 oz of plain flour
4 oz chopped suet or modern day equivalent
4 oz currants
4 oz raisins
4 oz soft brown moist sugar
2 oz candied peel – Cut your own or use ready cut
2 oz raw grated carrot
1 teaspoon grated rind of lemon
half salt spoon nutmeg grated
1 good teaspoonful baking powder
about quarter pint of milk
2 eggs


Mix all the dry ingredients together except the baking powder.
Add the beaten eggs and sufficient milk to moisten the whole, then cover, and let the mixture stand for about an hour.
When ready stir in the baking powder, turn into a greased mould or basin, and boil for 6 hours or steam the plum pudding for about 7 hours.
Serve with a suitable sauce. Time 6 to 7 hours.
Sufficient for 9 persons.

For more about Christmas during the regency period, click on
The Regency Christmas Feast,
Christmas Pudding from Jane Austen Magazine, and

Christmas at Carlton House. Excerpt from that site:

Fun Fact:Christmas puddings and cakes traditionally had to be prepared by the Sunday before Advent in order to be considered ready for Christmas. They were thought to improve upon keeping. Oddly enough, the day became known as “Stir Up Sunday,” not because of the great deal of stirring done to prepare the victuals, but because of the collect for the church service that day: “Stir up we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

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Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, describes a meal with his host and hostess as thus:

“The master and mistress of the house sit at each end of the table–narrower and longer than the French tables–the mistress at the upper end–and the places near her are the places of honour. There are commonly two courses and a dessert. I shall venture to give a sketch of a moderate dinner for ten or twelve persons. Although contemporary readers may laugh, I flatter myself it may prove interesting in future ages.”

First course (not in order)
Oyster Sauce, Fish, Fowls, Soup, Vegetables, Roasted or Boiled Beef, Spinage, Bacon, Vegetables

Second Course (not in order)
Creams, Ragout a la Francoise, Pastry, Cream, Cauliflowers, Game, Celery, Macaroni, Pastry.

Dessert (not in order)
Walnuts, Raisins and Almonds, Apples, Cakes, Pears, Raisins and Almonds, Oranges

“Soon after dinner the ladies retire, the mistress of the house rising first, while the men remain standing. left alone, they resume their seats, evidently more at ease, and the conversation takes a different turn–less reserved–and either graver, or more licentious.”

Click on more links to food in the Regency Era:
Historic Food Links
The Food Timeline
Food and Drink in Regency England
The Art of Cookery
History of Tea in Britain

About the Art of Cookery: ‘The Art of Cookery’, written by Hannah Glasse, was published in 1747. It was a best seller for over a hundred years, and made Glasse one of the best-known cookery writers of the eighteenth century. As Glasse explains in the preface, the book was intended to be an instruction manual for servants – ‘the lower sort’ as she called them. During the 1700s there was a fashion for books of this kind, which were designed to save the lady of the house from the tedious duty of instructing her kitchen maids.”

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