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Partridges…Remarkably Well Done

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The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’ last week; and even Mr Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least.
Pride and Prejudice

Pigeons, partridges and other small game birds were easy to hunt or raise in the yard and along with the traditional chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, formed a staple of the Georgian table. The following recipe, from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book is easy enough to follow in any modern kitchen. Substitute Cornish Game Hens or other small poultry for the birds, if partridges are not available.

To Stew Pigeons Brown
Take a piece of fat & lean bacon, and a piece of butter, let this brown in a stew pan, and when you have stuffed four pigeons put them into the pan and brown them. When they are brown all over, put to it an onion, a bundle of sweet herbs. Put to them warm water enough to cover them, with an anchovy, put the giblets in it, this will help the gravy. When it is cooked enough strain it and add a piece of butter and a little flour.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

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Roasted Pork Ribs

Silhouette of summer garden BBQ isolated against fire

My father furnishes him with a pig from Cheesedown; it is already killed and cut up, but it is not to weigh more than nine stone; the season is too far advanced to get him a larger one. My mother means to pay herself for the salt and the trouble of ordering it to be cured by the sparibs.
Jane Austen to Cassandra

When Mr. Woodhouse talks of killing a porker (Hartfield pork is so superior to any other kind) he is talking of a pig raised specifically to be eaten as pork. Pigs reared to be eaten as ham or bacon would have been fed on a different diet as they were wanted as large as possible; 40-50 pound hams and sides of bacon were not unusual. Porkers were killed when just grown and used fresh or salted.

Roasted Pork Ribs
Take the ribbes of a boor… and parboyle hem tyl thai byn half sothen, then take and roste hem, and when thai byn rosted, take and chop hem and do hem in a pot, and do thereto gode fresshe brothe of beef and wyn, and put thereto clowes, maces and pynes, and raisynges of Courance, and pouder of pepur, and take onyons and mynce hem grete, do hem in a panne with fresshe grees, and fry hem and do hem in the potte, and let hit wel sethe al togedur, and take brede stepet in brothe, and drawe hit up and do
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Early Macaroni and Cheese

mac & cheese copy

While it was once thought that Marco Polo discovered macaroni in China and brought it back to Europe in 1274, modern scholars believe the true origin lies somewhere in Sicily, where it is mentioned in manuscripts as early as 1188. However it arrived, macaroni (and pasta in general) soon became a staple in the Western diet.

What, though, of the famous line in Yankee Doodle, “stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni”. Did it actually resemble a noodle, as so many children imagine? Not in the mid-1700’s.

“The Macaroni Club consisted of young, wealthy British gentlemen who traveled to France and Italy and adopted the ostentatious and flamboyant fashions popular in those countries during the eighteenth century. The Macaronis, not members of a true club but rather a new generation of continental society, were often ridiculed by the British establishment.

The Macaroni moniker was a tongue-in-cheek reference to their import of foreign cuisine as well as fashion. Macaronis wore form-fitting trousers and short waistcoats with ruffles and braiding, and sported superfluities such as tasseled walking sticks, spy glasses, and nosegays. They wore elaborate toupees and wigs topped by tiny tricorn hats that were definitely form over function. These trends may have been en vogue at the Court of Versailles, but they didn’t go over well back home with the more staid Brits, who perceived the Macaronis’ style as extreme, effeminate, and silly.

What’s worse than a pretentious British fop? How about a Yankee with aspirations to the (more…)

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A Ragout of Beef

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Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards, who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.
Pride and Prejudice

By Georgian times, Roast Beef* had become the staple of the Englishman’s diet. The subject of song and legend, this particular dish was credited with everything from Englishmen’s courage and stout hearts to their victories over France. A traveler of the 1700’s observed:

“Roast meat is the Englishman’s delice and principal dish. The English roasts are particularly remarkable for two things. 1. All English meat, whether it is of ox, calf, sheep, or swine, has a fatness and delicious taste, either because of the excellent pasture…or for some other reason. 2. The English men understand almost better than any other people the art of properly roasting a joint, which also is not to be wondered at; because the art of cooking as practiced by most Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding.”

During the Regency, however, British cooking had changed. French recipes became the rage. Indeed, Mrs. Bennet supposed Mr. Darcy to keep “…two or three French cooks at least.” With this change came a desire for more “exotic” dishes. Fricassees and Ragoo (ragout) began to appear on English tables. Though merely stewed meat and vegetables, they were (more…)

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Mock Turtle Soup

Mr. J. Plumptre joined in the latter part of the evening, walked home with us, ate some soup, and is very earnest for our going to Covent Garden again to-night to see Miss Stephens in the “Farmer’s Wife.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Henrietta Street: Saturday, 5 March, 1814

Martha Lloyd, by kind permission of private owners collection. At Valentine’s day, it’s easy to think of foods that promote love and romance. Strawberries, chocolate, Champagne, Turtles. Turtles?? But of course. Tradition has long held with the aphrodisiacal properties of this meat, along with such standards as oysters, honey and almonds. Stranger items have been sought throughout history, most of them expensive and only available to the upper classes.

Regency wives loved to show off at dinner providing the most expensive and exotic of every dish they could afford. Turtle soup, made from the meat and the green cartilage lining of a Green Turtle’s shell, certainly fit the bill. This gelatinous dish suggested oppulence and wealth: turtles had to be imported to England from the Cayman Islands especially for this meal. In fact, it was so popular that it was always included on the menu for a banquet of the Lord Mayor of London.

Heavy harvesting of the Green Turtle caused near extinction. Around the turn of the 19th century, cooks got busy experimenting with less expensive ways to create the same effect. The result was (more…)

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The Sandwich Tray

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“…it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray…”
Mansfield Park


1783 Portrait of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, by Thomas Gainsborough.

Tradition holds that the Sandwich was born sometime around 1765 when “A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it.“* That Minister was, of course, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

There is doubt as to whether this was the actual origin, though no one seems to be too keen on disproving the Earl. It is just as possible, however, that he requested this favorite dish while spending hours at his desk with papers of State rather than at the gaming tables. He was a busy man, known for his early rising, with duties as Politician, Naval Administrator, Duke of Bedford, Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of state, and patron of Capt. James Cooke (who named the Sandwich Islands–Hawaii– in his honor.) At a time when dinner was the large meal of the day (more…)

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Roast Michaelmas Goose with Apples and Prunes

800px-Greylag_Goose_in_St_James's_Park,_London_-_May_2006

“Mr. Rob. Mascall breakfasted here; he eats a great deal of butter. I dined upon goose yesterday, which, I hope, will secure a good sale of my second edition. Have you any tomatas? Fanny and I regale on them every day.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra,
October 11, 1813

September 29, the Feast of Saint Micheal is one of the extant quarter days which survive from the agricultural calendar. In medieval England it was the start of the fiscal year,and even through the Regency and Victorian times it was celebrated as an end of Harvest holiday with feasting and special food. In Ireland and northern England, it was thought that if you ate goose at Michaelmas you would have good fortune for the rest of the year.


This image was selected as picture of the day on the English Wikipedia for August 27, 2006.


‘Green’ geese which had fed on pasture, made a traditional feast for Michaelmas, in late September, and were less fatty than Christmas geese. The roast bird was always accompanied by apples, as windfalls were plentiful. Geese are in season from September to December but are not so widely available nowadays.

You will roast a [Goose] after it has been well plucked, cleaned and washed; and after roasting it, put it into a dish (more…)

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A Dish of Mutton

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And it all ended, at last, in his telling Henry one morning that when he next went to Woodston, they would take him by surprise there some day or other, and eat their mutton with him. Henry was greatly honoured and very happy, and Catherine was quite delighted with the scheme.
Northanger Abbey, 1818

For hundreds of years, mutton was the staple meat of the British household, considered superior in both texture and flavor to lamb.

According to legendary cook Fanny Farmer (The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, 1918) Lamb is the name given to the meat of lambs; mutton, to the meat of sheep. Lamb, coming as it does from the young creature, is immature, and less nutritious than mutton. The flesh of mutton ranks with the flesh of beef in nutritive value and digestibility. The fat of mutton, on account of its larger percentage of stearic acid, is more difficult of digestion than the fat of beef.

Lamb may be eaten soon after the animal is killed and dressed; mutton must hang to ripen. Good mutton comes from a sheep about three years old, and should hang from two to three weeks. The English South Down Mutton is cut from creatures even older than three years. Young lamb, when killed from six weeks to three months old, is called spring lamb, and appears in the market as early as the last of January, but (more…)