Victory: the tour

New book! New book! New book! (Ok, there have been a FEW others since Greedy Queen but hey).

If you are keen to hear me speak, have a book signed and personalised, and fancy a jolly evening out, I am doing a tour. Dates marked ** are hardcore theatre gigs, i.e. with an interval and everything – expect a greatly expanded talk, with recipes and oodles of time for lovely audience questions. Others are book festivals and such like, where you can expect around 40-45mn of a sort of ‘Georgina-lite’. But every event varies, be warned.

This is a work in progress, so do check back, or keep an eye on the speaking pages of my website for up and coming dates.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Everything from March 24th to June has now been cancelled (book festivals) or postponed (independent talks). I will update this page as and when they are rescheduled. In the meantime, if you want a signed, dedicated book, I will shortly have a stash of bookplates which I can send out. Simply buy your copy through an independent bookseller, and ask them to contact me. I am in contact with Kirstie at Fox Lane Books, Georgia of Imagined Things and the team of Toppings (Ely, Edinburgh etc). Please, please support the lovely dedicated booksellers of Britain through this.

February 6th: official publication date

February 18th: Toppings, Ely

February 19th: The Spring, Havant, Hampshire**

March 2nd: Toppings, Edinburgh

March 8th: Words By The Water, Windermere (12.30pm)

March 24th: Chartwell, Emmet’s Garden & Quebec House (CEQ) National Trust Volunteers’ Group (private event) + book signing @ Chartwell. Rescheduled to October 27th

March 26th: Leyburn Garden Rooms, Yorkshire**. Postponed, to be rescheduled.

June 12th: Otley Courthouse**

July 6th: Buxton International Festival (2pm). Cancelled. Possible online content to follow.

July 18-19th: English Heritage: A Taste of History @ Walmer Castle

Sept 26th-27th  English Heritage: A Taste of History @ Audley End

October 22nd – 24th 37th International Churchill Conference, London

Georgina Landemare, c.1922

PLUS – media appearances

The Spectator Book Club Podcast & blog here.

Woman’s Hour – February 4th – podcast here.

Travels through Time podcast – out now, via podcasting apps or here.

History Today podcast – forthcoming

History Hit podcast – available here.

James Martin’s Saturday Morning – May 2nd, with FOOD

Illustration from Georgina's 1958 Recipes from No.10

EXTRA PLUS – reviews and articles

Reviews

Lucy Lethbridge in The Spectator

Alastair Mabbott in The Herald Scotland

Constance Craig Smith in The Daily Mail

Lawrence James in The Times 

Anne Courcy in The Telegraph

Articles

Me, writing for The Telegraph

Me, writing for the i Paper

 

 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. I have not updated this blog for years. To be fair (is it fair? It’s an excuse, really), I started it because I wanted to develop a writing style and practice writing about things I enjoyed, and then I got a book deal so I suppose that was a bit of a job done. And then it turns out that writing books so completely swallows every second of time you thought you had that doing a PhD looks like a walk in the park. 100,000 words in three years?! Ha! Pretender. Try 90,000 words in 10 months, and yes, that was researched from scratch, and written in a much more readable style than anything academic I’ve ever turned out.

Anyway, I’ve come back, probably not the start of something very regular, but I felt a Need. The Need is to add some supplementary information to the forthcoming Official Downton Abbey Cookbook, which I wrote (some years ago), and which is out in September. (Buy it from an independent book shop please, and if you don’t have one, try Imagined Things or Big Green Bookshop or Pritchards, all of whom will deliver and are much nicer than Amazon – use it, or lose it, folks). I wrote it partly because I was offered the chance, partly because I fancied writing a cookbook, and partly because the show is, let’s face it, rather problematic if you work in public history. It’s not always terribly accurate in its storylines and setups, although the costumes are gorgeous, and it is essentially a pretty soap (and that’s fine, clearly, it does not pretend to be anything more) – except that some people think it’s a documentary too, and therein lies the issue. Yes, it’s been researched, yes there is much that draws upon ‘real’ history there, BUT STILL.

Soz. I’m of the view that anything which gets people into history is brilliant, though I did wince at Henry VIII’s boxers in The Tudors, and don’t get me started on the Churchill film when he travels on the Tube. Anyway, I have no major beef with the series, but it has taken on a life of its own, and when you start seeing melamine fake pewter plates sold off the back of it, and deny weeny light up snow globes with Highlclere in quality plastic, really, it’s join them and anchor the power of a very popular series for good, or die screaming at Amazon.

When I worked at Audley End and the series was on, we knew all of the plot just from the visitor comments. We’d hear the words ‘Oh! It’s just like Downton‘, or ‘Look, isn’t she like Mrs Patmore’, a zillion times a day, to which our usual muttered responses were, ‘no, that’s set 40 years ahead of us, history, people, so very long’ and ‘not really, as Mrs Patmore was fictional and women were really rare in aristocratic kitchens before the war so she’s a bit of a misnomer, and also no, because she’s fictional‘. Cutting a rather ranty story short, I wanted to be part of what has become a truly a global phenomenon (the cookbook is out in France, Germany and Italy, as well as the UK and USA), specifically so that I could make sure that the cookbook reflected the actual food of the time, in England, and was not a hack job which would further complicate the lives of costumed interpreters everywhere. There are various UN-official cookbooks which are exactly this bad – and worse – the one which repeatedly talks of food ‘at the historic British abbeys’ when I presume it means ‘early twentieth century English country houses’ is particularly dreadful, but in the main it’s a tedious run of stuff like ‘Lady Mary’s favourite buns’, with nary a date nor a fact in sight.

My version uses only recipes published (or written) between c.1875 and 1930. The show is set between 1912 and 1925 (the film is set in 1927 and yes, I have been to the Royal Archive to do some background research in case I get asked anything and I’m now a huge fan of Henri Cédard, the Royal Chef at the time – but that is a whole other post). The recipes therefore span a period of time during which a real Mrs Patmore type would have trained and then been working at the fictional Downton. Unfortunately, due to the requirements of space and, I suspect, a desire to slightly remove some of my nerdiness, the sources for the recipes are listed as one long bibliography, without each title having a reference. I suspect very few readers will really mind, and it’s hardly important in the wider view of things, but for anyone who has bought a copy to cook from for their historic project and is wondering which recipes are Victorian, and which are 1920s, I have emerged from my hole to present you with a full list. Enjoy.

Kedgeree – Catherine Frances Frere (ed.), The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie (1909)

Truffled eggs – Charles Herman Senn, The New Century Cookbook (1904)

Health bread – John Kirkland, The Modern Baker, Confectioner and Caterer (1907)

Devilled biscuits – Frank Schloesser, The Cult of the Chafing Dish (1905)

English muffins – Anon. [Maria Rundell], Domestic Cookery and Household Management (nd. c.1911)

Pikelets – Mollie Stanley Wrench, Complete Home Cookery Book (1930)

  

Sardine salad – Dorothy Allhusen, A Book of Scents and Dishes (1927)

Lobster cutlets (rissoles) – Margaret Black, Superior Cookery (1887)

Ham with red wine and almonds – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1929)

Cornish pasties – May Byron, How To Save Cookery Book (1915)

Eggs à la St James – Dorothy Allhusen, A Book of Scents and Dishes (1927)

Macaroni with a soufflé top – Fortune Stanley, English Country House Cooking (1972)

An Italian way of cooking spinach – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1929, first published 1925)

Vegetable curry – Katharine Mellish, Cookery and Domestic Management (1901)

 

Madeira cake – Theodore Garrett (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery (c.1885)

Dundee Cake – M. M. Mitchell, The Treasure Cookery Book (1913)

Games cake – George Cox, The Art of Confectionery (1903)

Pineapple and Walnut Cake – Florence Jack, The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (1925)

Chocolate cake (‘super-chocolate cake’) – Agnes Jekyll, Kitchen Essays (1922)

Fairy Cake baskets – Mary Fairclough, The Ideal Cookery Book (c.1911)

Victoria sandwiches – Isabella Beeton, The Book of Household Management (1888 (first published 1861))

Orange layer cake – Margaret Black, Superior Cookery (1887)

Madeleines – Charles Herman Senn, The New Century Cookbook (1904)

Best Grantham – Frederick Vine, Saleable Shop Goods (1907)

Scones – George Cox, The Art of Confectionery (1903)

Macaroons – Anon, Be-Ro Home Recipes (nd. 1930)
Sausage rolls – Alfred Suzanne, La Cuisine et Pâtisserie Anglaise et Americaine (1904)

Pork pie – M. M. Mitchell, The Treasure Cookery Book, (1913)

Veal and ham pie, rich shortcrust pastry – Frederick Vine, Savoury Pastry (1900)

Chicken stuffed with pistachios – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925)

Potted cheese – Anon. [Maria Rundell], Domestic Cookery and Household Management (nd. c.1911)

Sandwiches and ideas on filling them – Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert, Picnics and Suppers (1901); John Kirkland, The Modern Baker, Confectioner and Caterer (1907); T. Herbert, Salads and Sandwiches (1890)

 

Stuffing for turkey or goose – ‘A Cordon Bleu’, Economical French Cookery for Ladies (1902)

Brussel sprouts with chestnuts – X. Marcel Boulestin, Simple French Cooking For English Homes (1923)

Christmas Pudding – Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845 and later editions)

Lemon mincemeat – Charles Elmé Francatelli, The Modern Cook (1896)

Yule Log – Frederick Vine, Saleable Shop Goods (1907)

Hot Cross Buns – Mabel Wijey (ed.), Warne’s New Model Cookery (1925)

Simnel Cake – Mrs S. Beaty-Pownall, The ‘Queen’ Cookery Books, no.11: Bread, Cake and Biscuits (1902)

Plum Cake – Margaret Black, Superior Cookery (1887)

 

Oysters au gratin – Theodore Garrett (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (c.1885)

Caviar croutes – Charles Herman Senn, The New Century Cookbook (1904)

Stuffed tomatoes – Florence Jack, The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (1925)

Chicken vol-au-vents – Frederick Vine, Savoury Pastry (1900)

 

Cucumber cream soup – Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)

Consommé à la Jardinière – Anon., Recipes for High Class Cookery, as used in the Edinburgh School of Cookery (1912)

Palestine soup (Jerusalem artichoke) – Alice Martineau, Cantaloup to Cabbage (1929)

Apricot and marrow (zucchini) – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1929, first published 1925)

 

Shrimp curry – Anon., Unpublished manuscript cookbook (c.1860-1890)

Trout in port-wine – Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1878)

Sole à la Florentine – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

Turbot with hollandaise sauce – Georgina Ward, Countess of Dudley, The Dudley Recipe Book (1913)

Fish cream – Aubrey Dowson (ed.) The Women’s Suffrage Cookery Book (c.1908)

Salmon mousse with horseradish cream – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

 

Filet mignon Lilli – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

Duck with apple sauce and calvados glaze – Agnes Marshall, Cookery Book (c.1888)

Duck with olives – Charles Herman Senn, The New Century Cookbook (1904)

Pork cutlets with sauce Robert – Charles Herman Senn, The New Century Cookbook (1904)

Poached gammon ham with parsley sauce – Florence George, The King Edward’s Cookery Book (1901)

Chicken a la crème paprika – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1929, first published 1925)

Mutton with caper sauce – Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1878)

Veal cutlets perigourdine – X. Marcel Boulestin, Simple French Cooking For English Homes (1923)

Quail and watercress – Agnes Marshall, Cookery Book (c.1888)

Mint Sauce – Ruth Lowinsky, Lovely food (1931)

Bread Sauce – Alice Martineau, Caviare to Candy (1927)

Yorkshire Puddings – Alfred Suzanne, La Cuisine et Pâtisserie Anglaise et Americaine (1904)

 

Asparagus cups – Agnes Marshall, Cookery Book (c.1888)

Cabbage as they serve it in Budapest – Florence Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925)

Artichoke salad – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925)

Fried potato cakes – Lillie Richmond, Richmond Cookery Book (1897)

Haricot beans with maître d’hôtel sauce – X. Marcel Boulestin, Simple French Cooking For English Homes (1923)

 

Fruit in jelly – Alice Martineau, Caviare to Candy (1927)

Champagne jelly – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

Chocolate and vanilla striped blancmange – Brown and Polson (n.d., late 19th century)

The Queen of Trifles – Theodore Garrett (ed.) The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (c.1885)

Syllabubs – Theodore Garrett (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (c.1885)

Raspberry meringue – Alice Martineau, Caviare to Candy (1927)

Bananas au café – Hilda Leyel and Olga Hartley, The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925)

Peaches Nellie Melba – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

Pear charlotte – Charles Elmé Francatelli, The Modern Cook (1896)

Charlotte Russe – Anon., Recipes for High Class Cookery, as used in the Edinburgh School of Cookery (1912)

Ginger soufflé – M. M. Mitchell, The Treasure Cookery Book, (1913)

Crepes Suzette – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

Chocolate and coffee eclairs – Margaret Black, Superior Cookery (1887)

 

Cheese bouchées – Mabel Wijey (ed.), Warne’s New Model Cookery (1925)

Devilled kidneys – Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)

Marmalade water ice – Agnes Marshall, The Book of Ices (1885)

Banana ice cream – Agnes Marshall, The Book of Ices (1885)

Punch romaine – Auguste Escoffier, Le Guide Culinaire (1921)

 

Toad-in-the-hole – Marion Harris Neil, How to Cook in Casserole Dishes (1914)

Lamb stew with semolina – Mary Fairclough, The Ideal Cookery Book (c.1911)

Beef stew with dumplings – Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1878)

Steak and kidney pudding – Edith Milburn (ed), Cookery Book (1913)

Cauliflower cheese – Isabella Beeton, Everyday Cookery (1913)

Steamed treacle pudding – Margaret Black, Household Cookery and Laundry Work (nd, c.1899)

Treacle tart – Mabel Wijey (ed.), Warne’s New Model Cookery (1925)

Rice pudding – Ruth Lowinsky, Lovely food (1931)

Summer pudding (picnic pudding) – Edith Milburn (ed), Cookery Book (1913)

Spotted DickMrs E. W Kirk, Tried Favourites (1929)

Jam and custard tarts – Isabella Beeton, The Book of Household Management (1888)

 

Cottage Loaf – Courtesy of John Swift, of Swift’s Bakery

Digestive biscuits – Theodore Garrett (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (c.1885)

Gingerbread cake – Avis Crocombe, Unpublished manuscript cookbook (c.1870-1910)

Seed cake – Arthur Payne [Sarah Sharp Hamer], Cassell’s Shilling Cookery (1909)

Porter cake – Mrs S. Beaty-Pownall, The ‘Queen’ Cookery Books, no.11: Bread, Cake and Biscuits (1902)

 

Apple cheese – Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery (1855

Marrow and ginger jam – Lucy H Yates, The Country Housewife’s Book (1934)

Piccalilli – Mabel Wijey (ed.), Warne’s New Model Cookery (1925)

Pickled green tomatoes – Mabel Wijey (ed.), Warne’s New Model Cookery (1925)

Flavoured butters – Mary Jewry, Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book (c.1870)

 

 

The Sweet-Makers: The Recipes

2017-03-01 16.15.10
The stuff that sweets are made of

Oh dear. It’s been nearly a year since my last post…. SIGH. It does say ‘occasional’ in the title though. In the meantime, The Greedy Queen was published, and I’ve done lots of book talks, and it’s all been lots of fun. (Insert obligatory BUY MY BOOK style comment here).

I also filmed a follow-up to Victorian Bakers in Jan-Mar 2017, which aired in July 2017 and which was about confectioners, though it ended up being called The Sweet-Makers which is sort of the same thing but not exactly due to the confusing and changing nature of what we call sweets now, vs in the 1930s and the 19th century and the 18th century, and what we call confectionery now, vs in the 1930s and – well, you get the general gist. Like Bakers, there were three episodes, with four professionals from the trade, but this time it was a slightly broader scope, for the episodes covered early modern confectionery, late Georgian confectionery and late Victorian to mid-20th century ditto. Again like Bakers, it also covered the social context of the core product, which meant sugar, so slavery, Britain’s involvement with, and reliance on, the slave trade and slave-produced products, and the way in which sugar slowly came to be perceived as a staple food for the British.

The series was made by Wall to Wall, for BBC 2, and will be on iPlayer (here – with clips in permanence) for a bit, and then not. It’s currently being repeated, I’m told, but it’s a sort of Watch Now Or Forever Regret It kind of a deal. The confectioners, who were all amazing, can be found across Britain making cakes and chocolates and boiled sweets, and if you get a chance to eat their wares, do jump at it.

2017-01-20 17.00.01
Left to Right: Paul A Young, Cynthia Stroud, Emma Dabiri (my fellow presenter), Andy Baxendale and Diana Short. And someone doing something lovely to the set.

Meanwhile, I’ve been dragged back to the computer to look guiltily at this neglected blog, and finally to write this post, because quite a few people have asked me for the recipes from the programme. (To directly answer a few queries: no, there won’t be a book of the programme, no, the recipes have sadly not been modernised anywhere for your delectation and pleasure, and no, there is no vegan alternative which anyone sane would want to eat for egg whites.). Because I am a firm believer in spreading the joy of historic food, and because no-one else will be doing it because it wasn’t really that kind of a programme, and because I am ever so altruistic, I am listing the recipes here, so you can play with them to your heart’s content. However, because I am also a firm believer in adventure, in research, in the joy of furkling out fun facts and because I am rather too busy to transcribe them all, I am merely listing where you can find the original texts, and you can, I am sure, take it from there….if in doubt, hasten back to the programme and have a look at what they did there. Or double check against something similar and modern etc.

2017-01-19 12.21.15
Paul, getting increasingly obsessed with comfits, to the benefit of us all

Episode 1:

Candied roses (the gonorrhoea cure), Comfits (the seeds in sugar), Candied Orange Peels, Preserved Oranges After the Portugal Fashion (the best thing I ate on the whole show), and Wafers (the scene with the stoves outdoors): all from Hugh Platt, Delightes for Ladies (1609)

Manus Christi (the boiled sweets), Sugarplate (the basic pastillage stuff used to make plates as well as the banqueting house): Thomas Dawson, Good Huswife’s Jewell (1596)

Quince Marmalade (yum): Gervase Markham, The English House-Wife (1631)

Medlar Tart (yes, I did say ‘open arse fruit’ on prime time TV): Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook (1665)

Marchepane (all the almonds): Hannah Woolley, The Queen-Like Closet (1670)

Candied Eryngo Roots (17th century Viagra): Anon, The Art of Preserving, Conserving and Candying (1656)

Drinking Chocolate (with chilli etc):  Colmenero de Ledesma, Chocolate: An Indian Drink (1652) (translated by Capt James Wadsworth)

 

Lady D.jpg
Marchepane, aka Lady Dorothy

Episode 2:

Parmesan Ice Cream (seriously amazing), Chocolate Sorbet, Lemon Water Ice (etc): Frederick Nutt, The Complete Confectioner (1790 + other editions)

Gilded Fish in Jelly, A Hen’s Next in Jelly, Calves’ Foot Jelly, Flummery (you can, of course, use gelatine instead of boiling calves’ feet – 1 sheet per 100ml of liquid): Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769 + later editions)

Bon-Bons (the small sugary boiled sweets), Pineapple Tablet (the twisty one), the final Pièce Montée (inspiration, rather than exact recipe): William Jarrin, The Italian Confectioner (1820 + later editions)

2017-02-10 14.02.37
The glorious Pièce Montée. Note the end of a telescope peaking out of the grotto at the back under the man-made hill. This IS the Age of Enlightenment, but in sugar.

Episode 3:

Nearly everything in this episode came from Skuse’s Complete Confectioner (1894 + other editions – but make sure you consult a pre-WW1 one), with additions from:

Sugar Drops, Acid Drops: Robert Wells, The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar’Boiler’s Assistant (1890)

Toffee (best without paraffin), Fondants, Chocolate Marzipans (mainly in the Fancy Boxes, these): Mrs M. E. Rattray, Sweetmeat-Making at Home (1904)

2017-03-03 15.02.45
Boiled sweets a -go-go

All of the books (OK, nearly all of them) are available through either GoogleBooks, archive.org or gutenberg.org, so you should be able to source the recipes fairly easily. Watch out for the editions though, and ensure you’ve got an English edition (some were translated into American), and of around the right date (later Raffalds and Skuses are quite different in some cases). To replicate the basic jelly mix, just use a base of sweetened white wine, brandy and a little lemon juice (no need for feet), and if you decide to work with hot sugar, do have a substantial burns kit on hand.

Have fun.

 

Yet more Twelfth Cake

I’m back! I’ve been lecturing like a beast, living on oatcakes and cheese as I drive around the country in my increasingly crumb-filled car. It’s Christmas, again, which means time for my annual plea to bring back the Twelfth Cake.

Really. Seriously. What IS the point of Christmas Cake? I adore it, I could wallow in it and eat it every day (always with cheese), but for many people its sort of lost its place in the world… We make them (or buy them), save them ’til Christmas’, and…then what? Friends come over – we feed them mince pies. Pre-Christmas festivities – we don’t want to broach the cake. Christmas day – we’re too full to eat it. And after Christmas there’s a slow, increasingly guilty feeling as we fail to broach the bugger and feel we should perhaps wait for some undefined special occasion. And snacking is bad, and sugar is the devil etc etc. Sigh. There is, however, a solution! This year, get your cake, unwrap it (or before you ice it – this may be a tad too late), upend it, and stick a dried pea and a bean in each side.  Plonk it back on the plate and decorate as per usual. The kicker is that you then save it, to be eaten with lovely people and lots of booze on Twelfth Night (6th January) while you all have a have a proper party to send out the season. (Obviously I am assuming no-one reading this does anything terrible like ‘dry’ January, or, even worse, ‘Veganuary’. Please. January is a TERRIBLE month. You need bacon and wine.)

Srsly, argh.
Srsly, argh.

…Ok, realistically it may be that even the thought of Twelfth Night is making you feel a bit queasy, what with next year possibly lining up to be even worse, on a global politics/world meltdown scale than this year, and in fact you want to bury your head in the cake right now, and now come up for breath – but I still feel we need to address this cake situation. How about going some way toward it?  You could still to the bean and pea thing? Right? With a crown from a cracker or the finder of the bean, or a small token of your esteem. Makes cutting the cake way cooler….

This year, I am singing the praises of Twelfth Cake in public not once, but twice. First up is Victorian Bakers at Christmas (airs Christmas Day at 9.30pm and repeated Boxing Day), and next up is a special, 12th Night themed episode of The Kitchen Cabinet on January 7th at 10.30am, recorded at the Banqueting House in London. I am bound to be asked for the recipes, so here they are. Enjoy.

For Bakers, we were looking at an 1840s Christmas, when Twelfth Cake was really at its peak (see my previous post on the subject).The bakers were tasked with making cake for all, not just the fashionable bon ton who could afford the beautiful concoctions sometimes featured at heritage sites, but  the riff and the raff and everyone in between. Their cakes needed to be quick to make and decorate, and easy to sell – bright, fun, and funky. Inspired by the lurid descriptions of the time, the results were utterly joyous, and when the shop window was dressed it was so spot on that it made me very happy.

The shop.
The shop.

The cake recipe was from The Knight Family Cookbook, which is linked to Jane Austen through her brother, and was reprinted as a facsimile by Chawton House a few years ago.

To Make a Great Cake (a note in the margin reads ‘good cake’)

Take 5 quarts of fine flower, a pound of fine sugar beaten, half an ounce of mace, 3 nutmegs, a few cloves, a little cinnamon all well beaten, 8 pounds of currance, & a pound of raisons of the sun stoned and shred, mix all of these in the dry flower; then take 3 gills of cream, 3 pounds and a half of butter melted in it, almost a quart of new ale yeast, 20 eggs which beat with the yeast well together & strained in. Then put a jack of brandy [a jack is half a gill] into the cream & butter, so pour it to the rest blood warm, & mix it lightly with your hands. It must be about as stiff as a hasty pudding, so beat it with your hands a good while, & have ready half a pound of candied lemon & half a pound of citron cut into pieces. Then put your cake into your hoop with 3 or 4 papers at the bottom. If your hoop be half a yard over it will do – when you have put in some of your cake, show in some of the candied lemon and citron, then put in more of the cake, then the rest of the sucket, then the rest of the cake, then cut t over with a knife or it will crack, but don’t prick it at all. This cake is very subject to scorch, so when it colours lay a paper over it. It must stand in the oven full 2 hours, longer if it be thick when almost cold ice it.

I love the wording of this recipe, from the hoop half a yard across (we had to commission one), to the assumption that the cook knows the texture of a hasty pudding (thick batter). It speaks volumes that the writer assumes blood warm makes perfect sense – which it did to me, who spends half my life reading recipes like this, but it confused a couple of the bakers. And teh use of the term suckets for candied lemon and citron is a throwback to the 17th century and earlier, and, along with the use of yeast as the raising agent, hints at the longevity of this kind of recipe. Clearly if you decide to make it, scale it down.

For The Kitchen Cabinet, we were going all 17th century, in keeping with the glories of the Banqueting House venue (THAT CEILING!). Thus the recipe which I chose for the show was an earlier one (though the above would have been around then, easily). I also inserted tokens into the cake, whereas for Bakers, set 200 years later, we played with cut up Twelfth Night Character cards. The tokens were based on the list given in Bridget Henisch’s Cakes and Characters, where she quotes Henry Teonge, recounting a party at sea in 1676: ‘we had much mirth on board, for we had a Great Cake made, in which we put a bean for the king, a pea for the Queen, a clove for the knave, a forked stick for the cuckold, and a rag for the slut’. (Pepys records similar shenanigans, but he rigged it so that a friend of his under investigation for fraud got the clove…)

Rubens celebrating James I as an actual god. Because the 17th century has done it ALL before.
Rubens celebrating James I as an actual god. Because the 17th century has done it ALL before.

Again, the cake is yeast-risen, and packed with fruit and booze. Neither recipe contains much sugar; a reflection of the high cost of sugar before the late 18th century. Both benefit from a little while to rise, this more than the former. This one is somewhat bread-ier, and keeps less well (hence the ground almonds, which improve keeping qualities), but it is also slightly lighter, and was eaten by the audience before any of the panellists got a look-in. It’s from John Nott’s Cook’s Dictionary (1726).

To make an extraordinary Plum Cake

Take five pound of flour, two pound of butter, put the butter into the flour, five pound of currants, a large nutmeg, three quarters of an ounce of mace, and a quarter of an ounce of cloves, finely grated and beat; take three quarters of a pound of sugar, twelve eggs, leaving out three whites, put in a pint of ale yeast; then warm as much cream as will wet it, and pour some sack to your cream, and make it as thick as batter; then pownd three quarters of a pound of almonds, with sack and orange flower water, beat them but grossly; add a pound of candy’d citron, orange and lemon-peel, mix’d all together; put a little paste at the bottom of your hoop, and put it in.

Again, the language is revealing, though less old-fashioned than the manuscript recipe: tidied up, perhaps, for a modern reading audience. The paste at the bottom of the hoop is a nifty idea to stop the bottom burning, and doubles as a cake board when the thing is served. It’s a trick I’ve found in Victorian books as well, and it’s an easy way round having to cut bits of wood to shape or find silver platters upon which to serve your cake if you are trying to be vaguely in keeping with periods before foil-covered cardboard cake boards. Agnes Marshall even has a recipe specifically for cake bottom pastry.

Oh! And to prove I put my money where my mouth is, I have made all of my Christmas Cakes into Twelfth Cakes this year, peas and beans in every one. Some have, however, already been consumed…

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Yes, they were vaguely themed: this one is vaguely Tudor (and uses Tudor sugarplate)
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C18th gum plate.
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I made myself a Greedy Queen cake, AND?
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More sugarplate, different recipe, new moulds.
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From a book from 1904. STILL a TWELFTH CAKE, OK.
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The early C18th version. M insisted we try one to check they were edible and it was gone in minutes.

 

Happy Christmas!

 

The recipes, side by side, for scaling purposes.

Knight Family Cookbook

10 pints of flour, 1lb caster sugar, 1/2oz mace, 3 nutmegs, few cloves, bit cinnamon, 8lb currants, 1lb raisins, 12 fl oz cream, 3 1/2 lb butter, 2pt ale yeast (or fresh yeast mixed into a blend of weak beer and water), 10 medium eggs (or 20 pullets’ eggs), 2 fl oz brandy, 8oz candied lemon peel, 8 oz candied citron peel,

I tend to do an eighth for a standard 12 inch cake tin. Note the liquid measurement for a dry foodstuff in the flour.

Nott

5lb flour, 2lb butter, 5lb currants, 1 nutmeg, 3/4oz mace, 1/4oz cloves, 12oz sugar, 6 medium eggs (12 pullets), leaving out 2 whites (3 whites), 1pt ale yeast (or weak beer and water mixed with fresh yeast – or dried), glug of sherry or brandy, orange flower water, 12oz ground almonds, 1lb candied mixed peel.

I quarter this and it’s pretty ample.

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Old sheep are the best sheep

pie!
pie!

The Kitchen Cabinet is back! YAY. One of the things I most love about doing the show (and there are lots and lots of things to choose from) is the opportunity it gives me to cook things I probably wouldn’t get round to otherwise. (It’s sort of provocation and ‘I dare you’ more than opportunity, actually). For those unfamiliar with the programme (HOW? WHAT? WHY?), the format is a sort of Gardener’s Question Time on LSD, with a series of enthusiastic and up-for-it audiences asking questions to a panel of culinary experts which differs each week. In every episode we cover different topics, linked to the place where we are recording, what’s in season at the time the programme will air, and burning food questions of the day. The questions we answer are submitted by audience members on the night, so we have no idea what we will be responding to until about 2 minutes before we step on stage, but we do get a heads-up on the main subject areas. For me, that means a day or so of intensive research, to find interesting facts, recipes and to create a historical narrative which will act as context to the more immediate questions around how to cook it, build it, eat it or think about it. We also have invited guests from the area in which we record, who usually bring things we can eat (it goes without saying that we are all enthusiastic eaters).

The latest run started last Saturday (the 24th September), with a show from Derry (you can catch up via iPlayer Radio, by downloading the podcast, or by going to the show’s very own website, here). This Saturday we are coming at you from Windsor, and we are talking about Queen Victoria (clearly a fabulous topic upon which it is possibly to wax lyrical for about 5 days), Ragus sugar syrups and mutton. You’ll have to listen to the show to hear its glories, but I promised several audience members that I would post the two recipes I cooked, hence this post.

For those of you who are raising an eyebrow at the thought of mutton, DO NOT DARE. Mutton, in my view, is far superior to its fatty, flaccid offspring, lamb, and has both a better taste and texture. I am not alone in thinking this, and there is a website, fronted by Prince Charles, devoted to its charms. The 19th century definition was that it was meat from a sheep of over 3 years, and the meat of those of 6 years plus was deemed the best. Generally now, sheep meat is lamb until it about a year and a half old, and hogget until it is three ish, and mutton after that. Some butchers only admit to having hogget if you ask them, as they label it as lamb, for lamb sells better. Very few sell mutton and you generally have to order it, or buy it online. It seems silly to me that, since the 1960s, we’ve largely lost the habit of eating baby cow (though veal remains easier to obtain than mutton), but embraced the habit of eating baby sheep (yes, yes, not actual babies: both veal and lamb is usually a year old unless stated otherwise). Lamb is baby food, really, as sweet and tender and juicy as is veal, although it is not quite as different to mutton as veal is to beef. Lamb is delightful to cook with if you need a hefty amount of fat, and don’t mind a bit of insipidity. Lamb chops are delightful, and delicate, and lamb roast is like putting spring in your mouth. If you actually like the flavour of it though, and want something with a tad more texture and bit more life to it, mutton is where it’s at. It’s also, in my view, more versatile than lamb: you can very very slow cook it until it falls apart, you can flash fry the chops (and the kidneys are divine), you can stick it in pies and sausages, and stews and – well. you get the picture.

These recipes are both from books by Charles Elmé Francatelli, who was – briefly – Chief Cook to Queen Victoria before he departed after some murky business involving fisticuffs and the police (also, everyone who worked from him seemed to dislike him). One, The Modern Cook, was aimed at high end chefs working in large establishments, like him. The other, The Cook’s Guide, was more middling sort. Both are good, though the Modern Cook is tediously attached to garnishes of pureed veg and a zillion annoying cross-references. Still, that’s what sold in 1842…

Mutton Pies à la Windsor (Cook’s Guide): 1lb lean loin of mutton, finely minced with a knife; finely chopped mushrooms, parsley, a small amount of shallot, lots and lots of pepper and salt; a little gravy or thick stock. Mix everything together, and put it in small pies (a fairy cake tray is ideal). Pierce the top of each pie and bake for 45mn-1hr in an over at about 160-180. Apparently they are idea for ‘the sportsman’s bag of prog’. (I used a pastry from a Larousse of 1938 – 500g flour, 125g butter, 1 whole small egg, 15g salt).

Mutton cutlets with chestnut purée (Modern Cook): season the cutlets, egg them with a pastry brush dipped in the yolk, dip in breadcrumbs, then in melted butter, then in breadcrumbs again. Fry in very hot clarified butter. Serve with a chestnut purée made by simmering (previously cooked, peeled and probably in a tin chestnuts) in a bit of very good chicken or beef stock for 15-20mn, then adding a scant tsp of sugar, nutmeg and 1/2 pt of cream. Reduce this little lot on the stove and blitz or mash. Add a knob of butter just before serving.

Links…

The Kitchen Cabinet, Be in the Audience
Francatelli’s Modern Cook
Francatelli’s Cook’s Guide
Graig Farm Mutton (amazing)
The Smiling Sheep (wherein I have just obtained 10yo mutton and am very very excited)

I LOVE EUROVISION

It’s the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend. If you are not hanging up the bunting and getting in the booze, then you are missing out, in my view. Especially at the moment, watching all the mud-slinging of the Brexit/Bremain stuff, I sort of despair. I adore Eurovision. Always have. To me, it’s a chance to celebrate all the good things about Europe – cultural diversity, shared experiences, and, above all, a sense of massive fun. In the UK, we tend to look toward America for our foreign music, and I still remember the shock and mild horror when I realised that French radio played a lot of French music – and Spanish, and German, and whatever was popular in the European club scene at the time. Eventually I came to enjoy it, and I still listen to as much French music as I do English, I suspect. I shan’t rehearse all the reasons why Eurovision is BRILLIANT here, (though I shall direct you to this radio show with by the Swedish Ambassador, which is very good), but suffice to say that, while the top-rated songs are generally genuinely good (not always- I’m looking at YOU very bad Polish butter-makers in 2014 – terrible, terrible technique), it’s the mixture of great – average – dire and sheer WTF which makes the whole evening such a joy.

I am head down writing chapters of A Greedy Queen like a demon at the moment, so I shall make the rest of this post pithy. Here’re my favourite songs, and, as the point of this blog is to muse in a historically meaningful way, some suggestions of what to cook to celebrate them in a suitably ye olde way:

Austria: OK, I LIKE THIS SONG. How about Kaiser-Schmarn, from Countess Morphy’s Recipes of All Nations? It’s a pancake on LSD – 1/2lb of flour, 1/2 pint of cream, sugar, eggs, raisins, salt and butter. I ate a modern version last year while on the Great Austria Trip and it was immense. Countess Morphy is also immense, as she’s a fake Countess, and wrote what is, in my view, one of the best cookery books of the 20th century. In an amazing departure from every academic norm ever, I refer you to the Wikipedia entry, which has been edited by a crack team based around the Oxford Food Symposium, and therefore is one of only about ten accurate food history articles on the web.

France: Inevitably. I am the only person I know who liked Twin Twin’s Moustache. For France we can delve into the 18th century, as high end cooking was all French influenced at that stage. I’d like to offer up wine chocolate, published in John Nutt’s Cook’s Dictionary of 1726. The French drank a lot of chocolate, and this one has booze in, which you tend to need about halfway through the first song. Anyway, take a pint of sherry, or a pint and a half of red port, four ounces and a half of chocolate, six ounces of fine sugar, and half an ounce of white starch, or fine flour; mix, dissolve, and boil all these as before. But, if your chocolate be with sugar, take double the quantity of chocolate, and half the quantity of sugar; and so in all. I use rice flour as the starch and it’s divine.

Belgium: She’s a sort of foil-clad Kylie. Fun. Go for Brussels Biscuits, which were Princess Victoria’s favourite snack when she was recovering from illness in 1835. Essentially they are a rusk made of brioche dough. Additive. If you seriously want to try them, ping me a comment and I can send the recipe. It’s going in the book…..

Australia: good on the Australians for taking it seriously enough to send a really good song, and being undecided enough to only send her with only half a dress. We’ll plump for an 1880s Beeton recipe, which I suspect no-one ever cooked: parrot pie. It’s the same as pigeon pie (steak, egg, bird), so clearly adapted for a hypothetical Antipodean audience (or possibly just friends and family at home) based on existing recipes, and decorated in the same way with feet sticking out of the lid except….feathers. Love it. It’s as flamboyant and unreal as the whole contest.

parrot pie beeton 88
Can also be made with parakeets.

I should probably admit that my actual menu for my own evening with friends is not exactly this. It’s entirely modern, unusually for me, and rather random. I’ve got recipes representing the UK (Kay Plunkett-Hogg’s Xinjang Lamb), Sweden (Swedes are involved in about half of the entries, so it’s kind of broad – Bronte Aurell’s Cinnamon Buns), France (Pierre Hermé’s excruciatingly complicated macarons),and Israel except also France (taboulé, which I learnt to cook in Paris). I have Austrian, Spanish and French wines though…and German, British and Belgian beers.

Music should be enjoyable, right? (NOT YOU, GEORGIA), and so should food. A winning combination. Here’s to Eurovision, 2016!

 

 

Death in the loaf

Tonight’s episode of Victorian Bakers takes the history of bread forward, from the 1830-40s of episode one, to the 1870s. The bakery has changed too, from the rural surroundings of Sacrewell, near Peterborough, to the very urban Black Country Living Museum, on the outskirts of Dudley. This reflects changes in Victorian Britain. In the 1830s, most people still lived in the countryside and, although industrialisation and urbanisation was well underway, we still had an essentially agrarian economy. By the mid-century for the first time more people lived in cities than in the countryside, and by the 1860s we were entering into a second phase of industrialisation. Now it wasn’t about mills and child labour: it was about finding the balance between machinery and manpower.

As you’ll see if you watch the episode, baking lagged behind other industries. There were far more bakers than were necessarily needed, so there was little incentive to install expensive machinery, when labour was cheap and plentiful. Other workers unionised and forced through changes in working hours and conditions. Bakers also unionised, and went on strike regularly, causing minor meltdown in the middle class press, but they never achieved their aims of no overnight-working and a reasonable shift length. Nor did mechanisation reach the average – still very small – bakery until after the First World War in many cases. Indeed, traditional High Street bakers still work very long hours, and they still work through the night (though they do have mixing machines). All of our bread bakers – the Johns and Duncan – shrugged off the thought of working into the night and getting up in the small hours as something they were well used to, and which they still saw as normal in that industry.

The episode was hard to film, because we all did the nightshifts, and not only fatigue, but also practical matters such as light and the fact it was freezing cold and drizzling, made it rather less pleasant than Sacrewell. It was doubly difficult for the bakers because they were confronting a period in bread’s history which in most cases shocked, and offended them to the core.

The programme is emphatically not a challenge programme – we were in no way testing the bakers, and there was never a question of success or failure. Any jeopardy the viewer feels comes out of the situations and tasks which we all tackled together. It is a living history format, which essentially means it’s based on experiential learning. Within archaeology, a field both Alex (my co-presenter) and I are trained in, there’s a strong element of experimental learning – have a go and see – which underlies both his and my academic approaches to our chosen fields. It’s why it was so important to me that the bakers were professionals, and that they knew what they were doing. There’s nothing to be learnt – by us or, more importantly bearing in mind that this is intended for a wide, general audience, by viewers – by someone who can’t do something trying to do it and finding it hard. The reaction of the team to the adulteration segment in this episode was therefore doubly telling.

Bread had always been a focus for public and official scrutiny. In medieval Britain, bakers were subject to rigid regulation, including on price. A vital piece of legislation called the Assize of Bread was passed in 1266, and set a standard price for a loaf. The loaf size could vary, as market conditions changed, but it ensured that consumers could always afford a loaf of daily bread. There were also penalties for selling underweight loaves and adulteration. The assize remained in place, albeit modified, until 1815, but regulation on adulteration remained in force.

Some things were easy to adulterate, hard to detect, and relatively harmless. Milk and beer were watered down, and potatoes or other cheap starches could be added to bread and pre-prepared cooked dishes (the pies, soups and stews which formed the bulk of working class takeout food). Even many of the adulterants which did pose a health risk – such as the chalk or the alum which we use in the programme – wouldn’t have killed you. Or rather, shouldn’t have killed you. They wouldn’t do much harm to most of us today. But this was an era of widespread and worsening malnutrition, especially in towns. The poor, then as now, had limited access to food shops, no space to grow their own fruit and veg, little time, money and, again in an echo of today, often had no real knowledge of what was nutritionally useful or of how to prepare it. They also lacked cooking facilities or money for fuel. They were utterly reliant on what they could buy, and therefore at the mercy of manufacturers. And manufacturers, especially bakers, were only one step above their customers, desperate to make a tiny profit, and under constant pressure to cut corners. The millers who supplied them were under similar pressures, which is why the end consumer faced a double whammy in the worst cases: adulterated by the miller, adulterated by the baker. It was no-one’s fault, per se, but it was a growing problem in the 1850s and 60s.

Alum is an astringent, and it can irritate the stomach lining. In the young, old, or sick, it could have been, if not fatal by itself, certainly a contribution to illness and eventual death. Additionally, substitutions, such as water for milk, removed a significant proportion of the good stuff, and replaced it with empty stuff (a bit like fat-free yoghurt today, bleurk). If you were 3, and reliant on milk and bread for your health, and your bread was an irritant, and your milk largely water, it’s easy to see the bad consequences in store. In truth, very few loaves would have had as much in as ours did, but in some cases the proportions were dangerous, and, of course, data is hard to obtain. By the mid-century there was growing pressure on the government from health officials to investigate these food frauds for the good of the whole nation – but especially the put-upon workers, without whom industry would crumble.

The Lancet, founded in 1823 as a medical journal, and still in publication (and still very important) today, spearheaded the battle against food adulteration. There were a number of crucial individuals, but particularly vital were the analyses and articles written by Arthur Hill Hassell. In the face of government disbelief, denial and vague suggestions that it would all get sorted out by market forces, they launched a campaign showing just how widespread the issue was. In the 1850s, when Hassell carried out analyses of London foods, not a single bread loaf was alum-free. Tea, mustard, pickles, beer, milk….the list of foods which seemed pure, but were potentially deadly was shockingly long. Eventually the government rather reluctantly passed the Food Adulteration Act (1860) which sort of provided sort of funding if localities really really wanted to test foods and really insisted on prosecution. It did sod all. The struggle for a decent Act was lengthy, and makes for fascinating reading (I’ve put some references below, as this is very bare bones). In 1875 an Act was finally passed which did have some teeth, and which still forms the basis of legislation today. It worked, and by the 1880s, not only were foods generally testing negative for adulterants, but canny companies were realising that marketing foods as ‘pure’ was a good way to sell them. Hence all of those PURE COCOA adverts from the late 19th century, and hence, in the end, loose products such as tea, coffee, and cocoa, being sold in nice little sealed packets with a clear maker’s mark as a brand of quality.

We haven’t entirely sorted the issues out, of course, but today adulterants have to be tested to make sure they won’t kill you, and they generally have to be declared as additives. And some things have come full circle – chalk is back in bread. Now it’s a good thing, adding calcium and making up for people consuming fewer dairy products than once they did.

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The bakers (l-r): Harpreet, John Swift, John Foster, and Duncan

Further reading:

John Burnett, Plenty and Want
Bee Wilson, Swindled
John Marchant et al, Bread
Arthur Hill Hassell’s original Lancet reports (available on Google Books)
EXARC, the Experimental Archaeology Group (website here)

The Victorian Bakers website is here – it’s on iPlayer for a little while yet.