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Steventon Roasted Potatoes

potatoes

Potatoes were grown at Steventon as early as 1773. In this, Mrs. Austen was decades ahead of her time, and the wonder of her neighbours who supposed them to be a dish fit only for gentry. Puddings had served as the main source of starch in English diets, but a wheat shortage in 1794 led the Board of Agriculture to advise all clergy “to encourage, as much as they can, the farmers and cottagers to plant potatoes this spring, in order that the kingdom may experience no scarcity…”

mrsausten
A silhouette of Mrs. Austen.

Though nearly seventy when the family moved to Chawton Cottage, Mrs. Austen “found plenty of occupation for herself, in gardening and needlework. The former was, with her, no idle pastime, no mere cutting of roses and tying up of flowers. She dug up her own potatoes, and I have no doubt she planted them, for the kitchen garden was as much her delight as the flower borders, and I have heard my mother say that when at work, she wore a green round frock like a day-labourer’s.” (Fanny Caroline Lefroy, great-granddaughter of Mrs. Austen)

There was, at the time, some difference of opinion about the preparation of potatoes, as voiced by Susannah Carter: “Some pare potatoes before they are put into the pot; others think it the best way, both for saving time and preventing waste, to peel off the skin as soon as they are boiled.” I chose the former manner for this recipe as an easier alternative to handling boiling hot potatoes.

potatoes

To Dress Potatoes
You must boil them in as little water as you can, without burning the sauce-pan. Cover the sauce-pan close, and when the skin begins to crack, they are enough. Drain the water out, and let them stand covered for a minute or two; then peel them, lay them in your plate, and pour some melted butter over them. The best way to do them is, when they are peeled to lay them on a gridiron till they are of a fine brown, and send them to table.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

  • 900 g / 32 oz / 2 lbs All Purpose potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 3 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons Flour (see recipe)

In a large sauce pan, place the potatoes in enough water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Allow them to boil furiously over a medium to high heat for 20 minutes or until they are fork tender.

Melted butter was perhaps the most common sauce to be served with any number of dishes. To make your own, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat. Quickly whisk in 2-3 tsp of flour and remove the butter from the heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the sauce will separate, thus becoming “oiled”.

Preheat your oven to 218° C / 425° F. Drain the potatoes and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Pour the melted butter over them and bake them until they are brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.

Serves 4-6

Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

 

 

 

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Chateaubriand Steak

Chateaubriand with Bearnaise by FotoosVanRobin from Rotterdam, Netherlands - Chateaubriand with Bearnaise Uploaded by FAEP. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons -

François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand (September 4, 1768 – July 4, 1848) was, in his day, a celebrated author, however his name lives on in the tender beef dish named after him. That he was the inspiration is not in doubt, however, the history of the dish gets muddled from that point on. Was it created by his chef, Montmireil? Was it prepared by the Champeaux restaurant in honor of Chateaubriand’s celebrated 1811 work, Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem). Still others claim that it derives its name from the famed Chateaubriant beef cattle, raised by the family.

Regardless, this dish, once made from a sirloin, now refers to meat from the tenderest part of a beef tenderloin (the most expensive cut in the whole cow) with a sauce made from broth, butter, shallots, wine and herbs.

Chateaubriand with Bearnaise by FotoosVanRobin from Rotterdam, Netherlands - Chateaubriand with Bearnaise Uploaded by FAEP. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons -
Chateaubriand with Bearnaise @ Urola, San Sebastian. 16 April 2007.

The following recipes, from The Royal Cookery Book (Jules Gouffé, 1869) give some idea of the complexity that goes into preparing this classic French dish.

"The
The basic recipe and it’s “footnote”.
Now for the sauce...
Now for the sauce…
Espagnole Sauce, one of Careme's four "Mother Sauces"
Espagnole Sauce, one of Careme’s four “Mother Sauces”
Maitre d'Hotel Butter
And finally, the Maitre d’Hotel Butter.

 

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Rendering Lard, the Regency Crisco

800px-Homelard

While researching Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, I found many recipes that called for lard or suet (the beef alternative). It was often not immediately clear whether or not the authors were talking about straight, diced lard (like the kind used for adding fat and flavor to drier cuts of meat, as in “larding your roast”) or rendered lard, however a trip the local living history museum helped put my questions to rest. A basic rule of thumb when looking at period recipes, if it goes into the food (larding your meat, dicing it for mincemeat, etc.) you are talking about lard straight off the meat, often with tiny bits of meat still attached. If you are using it for frying or in pie crust, basically anywhere you might substitute modern Crisco or solid shortening, use rendered lard.

800px-HomelardAccording to Wikipedia, “Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished; however, many contemporary cooks and bakers favor it over other fats for select uses. The culinary qualities of lard vary somewhat depending on the part of the pig from which the fat was taken and how the lard was processed.

Continue reading Rendering Lard, the Regency Crisco

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Mrs. Martin’s Mashed Turnips

mashed turnips

“They must not over-salt the leg; and then, if it is not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled, just as Serle boils ours, and eaten very moderately of, with a boiled turnip, and a little carrot or parsnip, I do not consider it unwholesome.”
Emma

The turnip, while an extraordinarily humble vegetable was, like the carrot and potato, one of the few fresh vegetables that could be counted on throughout the winter without the help of a hothouse. They provided a double benefit as well, since both the vegetable root and greens could be eaten. Turnips are quite a bit sweeter than potatoes and this recipe makes a lovely, fluffy side dish. White or yellow turnips may be used.
mashed turnips

To Dress Turnips
They eat best boiled in the pot, and when enough take them out and put them in a pan, and mash them with butter, a little cream, and a little salt, and send them to table.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

Continue reading Mrs. Martin’s Mashed Turnips

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Crawford’s Crumpets for Tea

King Arthur Flour's Crumpets with Apricot Jam

 

We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
April 18, 1811

If you are traveling to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this year, you simply must stop by the Jane Austen Centre’s Award Winning Tea Room to sample their amazing selection of Regency delights. Just reading over the menu will have your mouth watering, but what selection will you choose? Will it be Tea with Mr. Darcy or the Austen’s? Perhaps you prefer Lady Catherine’s Proper Tea. Whatever you desire, be it sweet or savoury, you are sure to find it delicious and satisfying!


King Arthur Flour’s Crumpets with Apricot Jam

One delightfully English offering is “Crawford’s Crumpets” (served with butter, honey and your choice of tea) According to An A to Z of Food & Drink (2002) by John Ayto, “The origins of the crumpet are mysterious. As early as 1382, Johy Wycliffe, in his translation of the Bible, mentioned crompid cake, whose name may be the precursor of the modern term, but the actual ‘cake’ itself does not bear much resemblance to the present-day crumpet. It seems to have been a thin cake cooked on a hot griddle, so that the edges curled up (crompid goes back to Old English crump, crumb, ‘crooked’, and is related to the modern English crumple). The inspiration behind its naming thus seems to be very familiar to that of crepe, which literally means ‘curled’. Earliest recipes for crumpets, from the late seventeenth century, continue this theme, standardly using buckwheat flour, and it is not until nearly a hundred years later that crumpets as we know then today beging to emerge…During the 19th century the crumpet–toasted before the fire, its honeycomb of cavities filled with melting butter–established itself as an indispensible part of the English teatime scene.”

Alan Davidson (Oxford Companion to Food, 1999) adds, “The earliest published recipe for crumpets of the kind known now is from Elizabeth Raffald (1769).” Here for your enjoyment, is Elizabeth Raffald’s classic recipe– one which very well might have been served in the Austen home!

To make tea crumpets Beat two eggs very well, put them to a quart of warm milk and water, and a large spoonful of barm: beat in as much fine flour as will make them rather thicker than a common batter pudding, then make your bakestone very hot, and rub it with a little butter wrapped in a clean linen cloth, then pour a large spoonful of batter upon your stone, and let it run to the size of a tea-saucer; turn it, and when you want to use them roast them very crisp, and butter them.
The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, 1769

If you are looking for a more modern take on this classic Tea Time staple, search no further than King Arthur Flour’s, Butter’s Best Friend: Crumpets.

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Mr. Darcy’s Favourite Beef-Steak Dinner

steak and onionssm

Mr Darcy’s Favourite Beef-Steak Dinner

“We sate down to dinner a little after five, and had some beef-steaks and a boiled fowl, but no oyster sauce.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 24, 1798

 

Georgian England was famous for its beef. All parts of the animal were used, from the cheeks to the tail, and these in turn were prepared in any number of way: Soups, pies, puddings, sausages, roasts, ragouts, steaks and more.  Many of the recipes are still familiar to us today. This recipe, with its shallot gravy is a delicious take on traditional steak and as a bonus, cooks up in about ten minutes. This is likely to have been one of Darcy’s favourites.

To Fry Beef-Steaks
Take rump steaks, pepper and salt them, fry them in a little butter very quick and brown; take them out, and put them into a dish, pour the fat out of the frying pan, and then take a half a pint of hot gravy; if no gravy, half a pint of hot water, and put into the pan, and a little butter rolled in flour, a little pepper and salt, and two or three shallots chopped fine: boil them up in your pan for two minutes, then put it over the steaks, and send them to the table.
Hannah Glasse: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

  • 2- 454 g / 16 oz /1 Lb Rump Steaks
  • 2tbsp Butter, divided
  • 1 tbsp Flour
  • 240 ml / 8 fl oz /1 cup Beef Broth
  • 3 Shallots, sliced in fine rings
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over a medium to high heat. Add your steaks and salt and pepper them to taste. Fry them 3-5 minutes per side, turning once, until they are completely brown and crispy. Remove them from the pan to your serving plate

Add the broth to the pan and allow it to come to a boil. Roll the remaining tablespoon of butter in the flour and add to the hot broth, stirring well to avoid lumps. Add the shallots, salt and pepper to the gravy and boil them all together for 2 minutes. Pour this sauce over the steaks and serve them immediately.

Serves 4

 


Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family.

 

 

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The Cost of Living in Jane Austen’s England

Vulgar Economy

The orange wine will want our care soon. But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles’ dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy. Luckily the pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions, will make good amends for orange wine.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Godmersham: Thursday June 20, 1808

Regency CurrencyThe cost of postage had risen in 1784 as the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that the increases would be on the mail instead of a tax on coal. The income from letters was used to boost the funds of the Government, and the prices were raised again in 1797, 1801, 1805 and 1812.

During the wars against France (1793-1815) the income was regarded as a tax levied to help the war effort, but once Napoleon had been defeated, there was a backlash of feeling against the high rates. By this time, it was often hard to decide if it was worth sending a letter at all: the cost of a letter could be as much as a day’s wages for a working man. It became a matter of importance to get around the cost in one way or another. For instance it was cheaper to send a letter from London to Scotland by the coastal shipping – 8 pence instead of by road which cost 13½ pence (1sh.1½d).

Because the recipient usually paid the cost of the delivery, it was possible to arrange to send an empty letter (or one with an agreed error in the name or address) – so that the recipient would know the handwriting, realise that all was well with the sender, so refuse to accept it, and not have to pay.

To give some idea of comparative costs:
in 1825 on a suggested budget of £250 a year given by Mrs Rundell in her New System of Domestic Economy for ‘a gentleman, his lady, three children and a Maid-Servant’, where food took £2.11.7d a week or £134.2.4d a year, the biggest single item was:

  • 10s 6d a week for butcher’s meat (18 lbs at 7d a pound, or about ½ lb each day)followed by:
  • 7s for beer and other liquors
  • 6s for bread
  • 3s 6d for 3½ lb butter
  • 3s 6d for fish
  • 3s for sugar (4½ lb at 8d a lb) and
  • 2s 6d for tea (5 ozs at 8s a pound)

  • two pounds of candles cost 1s 2d a week in 1825
  • coal and wood 3s 9d
  • rent and taxes were allowed at only £25 a year
  • clothes (for 5) £36
  • the maid £16
  • the education of 3 children £10.10s.

There were small margins for recreation, medical expenses and savings, but although the family probably had more than enough food in total, it devoted only 3d each week a week to milk (2 pints) and 6d each to fruit and vegetables.

However, on an income of £1000 per annum the budget is quite different! Now there is an establishment of 10, for besides the same-sized family there is a cook, a housemaid, a nursery-maid, a coachman and a footman, whose combined wages are £87 a year ; there is also a ‘Chariot, Coach, Phaeton or other four-wheel carriage, and a pair of horses’, costing £65-17s a year in keep. The family consumes 52½ lb of meat a week – a daily allowance of ¾ lb for each person – there is now a guinea a week for drink, and ¾ lb of butter for each person. The smallest items are still fruit and vegetables (9d per person per week) and eggs and milk (4½d per week).*

To put this in a recognised context, in Sense & Sensibility Mrs John Dashwood, trying to dissuade her husband from giving his mother and sisters any money at all, points out that they will be so well off, they will need nothing.

… Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind!

Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it.”

The Dashwood DaughtersBut, if, in addition to feeding/clothing the four ladies of the house, they would have to provide living quarters/food/uniform for the house servant, and if they grew their own food, they would have to employ a gardener – more outlay. Allowing for the fact that they would probably make their own clothes, they would still have to buy the materials. It would not be luxurious living by any standards.

So, it does seem as though the parsimonious Mrs John Dashwood could have convinced herself that her four indigent in-laws could manage with no financial help from their brother.

Ron and Eunice Shanahan have collected British postal history for nearly 40 years. Though their period letters were originally purchased for the postal markings, over the years, the contents of the letters became of as much interest as the postal markings. Eunice writes for Stamp News Australasia, and has managed to sneak a fair bit of social history into the articles. The Shanahans host the Regency Postal Page.

*Taken from John Burnett, A History of the Cost of Living (Penguin Books, 1969)

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Jam Tartlets

Buy Jam Tarts online from the Cotswold Cake Company.

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
    All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
    And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
    And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
    And vowed he’d steal no more.

The Queen of Hearts” is a poem based on the characters found on playing cards, by an anonymous author, originally published with three lesser-known stanzas, “The King of Spades”, “The King of Clubs”, and “The Diamond King”, in the British publication The European Magazine, no. 434, in April 1782.However, Iona and Peter Opie have argued that there is evidence to suggest that these other stanzas were later additions to an older poem.

There has been speculation about a model for the Queen of Hearts. In The Real Personage of Mother Goose, Katherine Elwes Thomas claims the Queen of Hearts was based on Elizabeth of Bohemia. Benham, in his book Playing Cards: History of the Pack and Explanations of its Many Secrets, notes that French playing cards from the mid-17th century have Judith from the Hebrew Bible as the Queen of Hearts. However, according to W. Gurney Benham, a scholar who researched the history of playing cards: “The old nursery rhyme about the Knave of Hearts who stole the tarts and was beaten for so doing by the King, seems to be founded on nothing more than the fact that ‘hearts’ rhymes with ‘tarts’.”

The poem’s story is retold in a much expanded form in an 1805 poem known as King and Queen of Hearts: with the Rogueries of the Knave who stole the Queen’s Pies by Charles Lamb, which gives each line of the original, followed by a poem commenting on the line. In 1844 Halliwell included the poem in the 3rd Edition of his The Nursery Rhymes of England (though he dropped it from later editions) and Caldecott made it the subject of one of his 1881 “Picture Books”, a series of illustrated nursery rhymes which he normally issued in pairs before Christmas from 1878 until his death in 1886.

“The Queen of Hearts” is quoted in and forms the basis for the plot of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter XI: “Who Stole the Tarts?”, a chapter that lampoons the British legal system through means of the trial of the Knave of Hearts,where the rhyme is presented as evidence. The poem became more popular after its inclusion in Carroll’s work.

A tart is a baked dish consisting of a filling over a pastry base with an open top not covered with pastry. The pastry is usually shortcrust pastry; the filling may be sweet or savoury, though modern tarts are usually fruit-based, sometimes with custard. Tartlet refers to a miniature tart. Examples of tarts include jam tarts, which may be different colours depending on the flavour of the jam used to fill them, and the Bakewell tart.


Buy Jam Tarts online from the Cotswold Cake Company.

The following recipe is for Cassandra Austen’s (Jane’s Mother) short crust (for pies) from Martha Lloyd’s household book. Use your favorite jam filling to make tarts or follow the modern recipe below.

Short Crust
a lb of flour a 1/4 lb of butter a 1/4 lb of lard, rubbed in, wetted of a moderate thickness with hot water.
Mrs. Cassandra Austen, from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Jam Tarts
Plain flour – 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (14 oz)
Salt – ¼ tsp
Butter or margarine – 7 tbsp (3½ oz)
Margarine or lard – 7 tbsp (3½ oz)
Cold water – to mix
12 tsp. Fruit Jam

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the fats. Cut into the flour with a knife then rub in with your fingertips. The mixture should resemble fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Sprinkle water over the crumbs. Mix to a stiff crumbly-looking paste with a round-ended knife. Draw together with fingertips, turn out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead quickly until smooth and crack free.
  3. Roll out and use as required. If not to be used immediately, transfer to a polythene bag or wrap in aluminium foil and refrigerate.
  4. Roll out the pastry and cut out 12 circles with a 7.5 cm (3 inch) cutter. Line the 12 holes of a bun tin with the pastry.
  5. Place a teaspoon of the jam in each pastry case. Do not overfill or the jam will boil over and make a very sticky mess.
  6. Bake at 200 °C / 400 °F 6 for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Cool on a wire rack.Modern recipe from Helen’s British Cooking Site.

 

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