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 teeny 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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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Boiled sweets a -go-go

All of the books (OK, nearly all of them) are available through either GoogleBooks, or, 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.



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.

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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!



In praise of the pudding

Puddings have been in the news a bit recently. Apparently there’s a puddings only restaurant opening somewhere in London, and it’s hitting the zeitgeist. I was quite excited by this idea, and then I read this article, which gives more details, and shows that there is one fundamental problem. The restaurant only serves sweet dishes. What? What is this infantile bollocks, quoth I, enraged. This is not pudding!

Puddings are not sweets, or desserts. Desserts – in the modern world – can be puddings, as can sweets, but they can also be not-puddings. They can be cakes, or tarts, or patisserie, or ice cream, or jellies, or blancmanges, or trifles. Puddings are puddings, and, although I fear I might be a rather lonely voice in the wilderness, I think when we conflate the word pudding with sweet stuff after dinner, we lose something very vital in doing so. Puddings, you see, can be sort-of-tarts, and they can be a-bit-like-cake, and you can certainly get some stunning iced puddings which head down the ice cream route – oh and blancmanges started life as kind-of-puddings…but puddings are so, so much more. Most importantly, they don’t have to be sweet. Indeed, my favourite puddings aren’t sweet at all. Sausage roly poly pudding, steak and kidney pudding, chicken and ham pudding… I mean, treacle pudding and that 1890s chocolate pudding I really like are all very well, but nothing – really, nothing – can truly beat a good suet crust (especially when baked, in my view: all that crispy exterior and gooey interior and sense of wellbeing).

So what is a pudding? Well, it’s hard to define, it’s anything you want it to be, really. Puddings probably started life as sort-of-sausages, and the word may or may not be related to the French boudin. Haggis is pudding (sheep’s pluck pudding, an early modern favourite was cooked all over the place, and not just in Scotland where it would find its eventual apogee). Black pudding is pudding, as is white pudding (sometimes savoury, sometimes custard-based and sweet). Batter pudding, originally cooked under the roast on a spit, and, like haggis, eventually associated only with one region (Yorkshire), is pudding. Plum pudding, once eaten with the roast and now a sad reminder of more broad-minded attitudes to food in the past; that’s a pudding. And so is sticky toffee pudding, and sponge cake pudding, and toad-in-the-hole and pigeon-in-the-hole), and Eve’s pudding, and bread and butter pudding (try adding marmalade; oh my word), and dumplings, and rice pudding. Man alive! I hear you cry! What is a pudding? For me, it’s a feeling. And it’s very, very British. (The French, the leaders of cuisine from the 18th century onwards, don’t have a word for pudding. It’s le poudding – a bit like le five o clock, for afternoon tea).

Anyway, definitions are for the faint-hearted. I was recently asked to write the foreword for a brilliant book on puddings, by the photographer, writer, cook and blogger Regula Ysewijn (@missfoodwise on Twitter). It’s an absolutely gorgeous book – I hadn’t realised how fabulous it would be, old master-style photography and all, when I penned my minor contribution. If you are into puddings, it’s definitely worth a look. Regula’s book explains puddings from the point of view of a self-confessed Anglophile (she’s Belgian), and, to me, this outsider’s view of a British culinary staple brings a real richness to the text. We don’t celebrate our food heritage enough, still, in this country. Puddings are a joke: we have ‘pudding stomachs’ (we don’t. Stop it. Grow up), and people are ‘pudding-shaped’. What a shame. Puddings are fab. We should celebrate them, and love them, and treat them like as the endless source of delicious delight that they are.

In typically perverse form, having salivated all over my advance copy of Regula’s tome, I went away and cooked one of my own favourite puddings. It’s not in a published book, but in a handwritten manuscript from Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. It belonged to Jemima, Marchioness Grey (1723-1797), so the recipe probably dates to the mid-18th century. It took me a while to work it out, and there’s no doubt that the result could be called a lemon tart as much as pudding, but it was a pudding to Jemima, so it’s pudding to me.

This is the original recipe:

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Stunningly readable handwriting. Georgians win vs Victorians on that score nearly every time.

Take 2 lemmons, scrape ye inside clean out, boyle ye rinds til they be tender. When they are cold, beat the, to a pulp with 3/4lb of butter, then mix up with 10 yolks of eggs and 3/4lb loaf sugar, finely powdered. Beat them together half an hour. Butter the dish and paste it to set it in ye oven. Half an hour will bake it. You may make orange pudding the same way.

If you want to cook it, it’s both ridiculously easy and fiendishly difficult. For the lemons I use lemons I’ve previously juiced – and I sometimes use 3 if they are the very small ones you get in modern supermarkets. Also, eggs were smaller then, so use pullets’ or bantams’ eggs, or halve the amount stated here. The full amount of mixture will easily fill two standard sized flan tins, so scale accordingly. And yes, a food processor works just fine for the beating part.


Proper pastry. A faff, but its worth it.


Sparkle 100%
Eggs, eggs, eggs…

Through trial and error, I have worked out a method which works for me. You may well choose to do it differently, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I do. I make exceedingly excellent pastry (hand cut in the butter, full-on pâté brisée, all the care and attention in the world), as it deserves it (normally I use a food processor and it’s fine, but not exceedingly excellent); and I blind bake it for about forever. I also make a lid separately and bake that as well. (You can buy a cunning lattice lid cutter if you make it, or other cut-lid tarts, regularly. Or you can leave the lid off.) Once I’ve glooped the mixture into the pastry case, I cook it very slowly – 160 degrees for about 30-40mn until just cooked through. Any faster or hotter and it will crack and separate (mine invariably does this, except this once, but it’s is still bloody lovely, to be honest). It rises, soufflé-like, so I tend to stand a tray under it. Once done, I plonk the lid on immediately, so it fuses to it as it settles.


The final article

Warning: it is very lemony, especially when served chilled, or it should be. As my grandmother used to say, it’ll draw your arse up to your elbows, and that’s the point. There is no room for lemon with meringue in my world.


Lovely, lovely basil

About 5 years ago, M and I visited Lyon, the self-proclaimed gastronomic capital of France (along with a few other places). Altogether a grand place to sally around for a few days, for me one of the highlights was a restaurant which advertised that it specialised in la cuisine de nos ancêtres. Clearly, this was like a flame to my moth, so we booked – and in booking ended up in a conversation with the chef-patron, who was a medievalist (and I get going around 1650). Long ish story, brilliant outcome – when we rocked up a couple of evenings later, he’d done me my own menu, going as late as he felt happy with in terms of his experience of historic cookery. This wasn’t just ‘inspired by’ either – although the place offered a modern (well, standard French) menu, most of it was cooked on chafing stoves and over a wood fire, or spit-roasted. Pant-wettingly exciting to a food historian, anyway.

The point of that preamble is that as part of this rather unique meal (I can find no trace of the restaurant online now, and fear it has since disappeared, along with its scholarly and brilliant chef that night), included as an apéro, basil wine.

Basil wine may sound a bit odd. It probably is a bit odd, if you only ever drink kir or beer before a meal. But it was absolutely divine. I love basil anyway, and this was slightly honeyed (not too much – honey, ik), palette-cleansing and appetite whetting all at once. I drank, I loved, I asked where you could get it….and of course he’d made his own.

Cue about three years of obsessing. Eventually, perusing Maria Rundell, I found a recipe for clary wine. And this is where I and books diverge. Let’s face it, there’s no such thing as historic cookery, there’s just cookery. And there should be no surprise that some old recipes taste good, because some new recipes taste good. And some, old and new, don’t. And tastes change. And, a crucial point for the study of cookery in the past, recipe books don’t tell us everything. If I were to pick a load of recipes books off your shelf, would I truly get a picture of how you eat? Even if you’ve annotated the recipes you’ve done (and many people don’t), I’d never pick up all the recipes you cook and which aren’t in those books – the instinctive ones, the ones you don’t need to look up, and the ones which have moved so far from how they were originally written that no one would guess how they started. Recipe books are great! But they can only ever be a starting point and a way of generalising about experience, past and present. A recipe is a snapshot – kind of realistic, but always filtered through the viewer’s personal experience, by which I mean, in this instance, likes, dislikes, what’s in the cupboard…. There is quite simply no guarantee anyone, ever, actually cooked any recipe written in any cookery book unless you have cast iron proof to the contrary. And then they may have changed it next time they cooked it.

All that is simply justification for my total bastardisation of Rundell’s recipe in the name of wanting basil wine. Mainly, purists will doubtless point out, that fact that pretty much all herbal wines use flowers, not leaves. Yeah, well, I had leaves, ok. And I had to scale it down. A lot. So, Annie’s mash up of what is probably a very nice recipe is as follows:

4pt water – 1.5lb sugar – 2fl oz yeast – 12fl oz  basil leaves. Later – 4fl oz brandy. I take a pint to be the old pint, I.e. 16fl oz, and yes, that is a liquid measurement for dry leaves. Don’t pack them in too tightly. And yes, I use about a third of a tsp, maybe half as I’m a bit crap at measuring, of powdered yeast, with a little lukewarm water.

All you do is simmer the water and sugar together to make a weak syrup and leave to cool completely. Stick this in a demi-john and add the yeast and basil leaves, no need to tear or chop. Put one of those plastic corks with a thing with water in it on top to keep out nasties and allow bubbles to escape as it ferments (I’m sure there’s a technical term). Leave for a bit – I did 2 weeks the first time, two months the second and I can’t remember the last batch. Eventually it will stop bubbling. Strain the liquid off into a big bowl/bucket and discard the basil (see – if you’d’ve chopped it, it would be a total arse to get out of your demi-john now). Add the brandy. Bottle – kilner style bottles are safest as two of my batches underwent secondary fermentation and became basil champagne. Leave for 4 months.

I have no idea how alcoholic it is, but I get fairly happy after two glasses…..

Here, for reference, is the original.

Maria Rundell, 1818 edition