“Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than anybody. I would not recommend an egg boiled by anyone else – but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see – one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart – a very little bit. Ours are all apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? A small half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I do not think it could disagree with you.”
Mr. Woodhouse, Emma
by Jane Austen
Cassandra Austen was Jane Austen’s dearest friend and confidant, as well as her only sister. Much of what we know of Austen’s personal life is the result of the letters exchanged between these sisters over the course of Jane Austen’s life.
Custards, rich concoctions of milk, eggs and spices have been made for centuries. The basic recipe is the base of many other dishes including baked meats, frozen ices and crème desserts. It is simple to prepare and loved by both children and adults, though Mr. Woodhouse certainly felt obliged to recommend against it.
Sweeten a quart of new milk to your taste; grate in a little nutmeg, beat up eight eggs well (leaving out half the whites) stir them into the milk, and bake them in china cups, or put them into a deep china dish. Have a kettle of water boiling, set the cups in, let the water come about half way, but do not let it boil too fast, for fear of its getting into the cups. You may add a little rose-water, and French brandy.
Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife ( 1765)
470 / 16 fl oz / 2 Cups whole Milk
2 Eggs + 2 Egg Yolks
½ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Rose water, Brandy or Vanilla if desired
Preheat your oven to 177 ° C / 350° F.
In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, nutmeg and seasoning of choice. Purée until smooth.
Place 6 porcelain ramekins or custard cups in a large, deep baking dish and divide the mixture evenly between them. Pour hot water in the dish until it reaches half way up the sides of the cups. Place the whole pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving, or serve chilled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.
Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Available to buy online at The Jane Austen Gift Shop.