Parbake & Prose is a project created by sibling bibliophile and chef team, Daniella Rossi and Eric Upper.
The concept is pretty simple: Parbake & Prose takes a look at great works of literature, from Greek epic poems to modern classics, and creates recipes based on the dishes in them. Daniella lives in London and is a committed bibliophile, having studied languages and literature at New York University and receiving a doctorate from the University of Cambridge. After graduation, she spent years working at one of the world’s oldest rare book specialists in London. So books are her thing. Eric lives in New York. He studied at the French Culinary Institute there, and has chefed at Michelin-star restaurants including Charlie Palmer’s Aureole and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. He is currently working on a restaurant startup in NYC. Eric creates the recipes.
The blog explores intriguing books with important food references that help to either progress the storyline, showcase character development or reveal history. Then it provides a step-by-step recipe and cooking guide so you can recreate each dish. Eric and Daniella spend hours conceiving and testing the recipes and balance staying as true as possible to the literary reference with the tastiness of the end product.
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.
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.
Turducken is a dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, which is in turn stuffed into a deboned turkey. The word. turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken. The dish is a form of engastration, which is a recipe method in which one animal is stuffed inside the gastric passage of another.
In his diary (1752-1802) Parson Woodforde recounts, with a gastronome’s delight, the details of many a meal. These peeks into the past give a wonderful feeling of what life must have been like for the Austen family, social as well as historical contemporaries of the parson.
The following entry from June 4, 1777, describes one such meal:
How to roast a Pike with a Pudding in the Belly
Take a large pike, scale and clean it, draw it at the gills. To make a pudding for the Pike, take a large handful of breadcrumbs, as much beef -suet shred fine, two eggs, a little pepper and salt, a little grated nutmeg, a little parsley, sweet marjoram and lemon peel shred fine; so mix it altogether, put it into the belly of your pike, skewer it all around, place it in an earthen dish with a lump of butter over it, a little salt and flour, so set it in the oven. An hour will roast it.
Perhaps one of the most famous recipes in literature begins, “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–“. This is, of course, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but when I came across the following recipe in Eliza Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery, it seemed as if it might fit right in to the list of inedible ingredients. “Cold Neat’s Tongue”, as it was called, was suggested as an appropriate side dish for a supper party in 1807,
Hot suppers are not much in use where people dine very late. When required, the top and bottom, or either, may be Game. Fowls. Rabbit. Boiled Fish, such as Soles, Mackerel. Oysters stewed or scalloped. French Beans. Cauliflower, or Jerusalem Artichokes, in white Sauce. Brocoli with Eggs. Stewed Spinach and ditto. Sweetbreads. Small Birds. Mushrooms. Potatoes. Scallop, &c. Cutlets. Roast Onions. Salmagundy. Buttered Eggs on Toast. Cold Neat’s Tongue. Ham. Collared things. Hunter’s Beef sliced. Rusks buttered, with Anchovies on. Grated Hung Beef with butter, with or without Rusks. Grated Cheese round, and Butter dressed in the middle of a plate. Radishes ditto. Custards in glasses with Sippets. Oysters cold or pickled. Potted Meals. Fish. Birds. Cheese, &c. Good plain Cake sliced. Pies of Bird, or Fruit. Crabs. Lobster Prawns. Cray-fish. Any of the list of sweet things. Fruits. A Sandwich set with any of the above articles, placed a little distance from each other on the table, looks well, without the tray, if preferred.
The lighter the things the better they appear, and glass intermixed has the best effect. Jellies, different coloured things, and flowers, add to the beauty of the table. An elegant supper may be served at a small expense by those who know how to make trifles that are in the house form the greatest part of the meal.
The well appointed Georgian table relied heavily on a variety of meats served at each course of every meal. This included not only your run of the mill beef, mutton and poultry, but also game such as venison and hare. In her letters, Jane Austen mentions receiving gifts of meat, such as the “a pheasant and hare the other day from the Mr. Grays of Alton” in 1809 and the “hare and four rabbits from G[odmersham] yesterday”, claiming that they are now “stocked for nearly a week.” (November 26, 1815). Perhaps the most famous recipe for Hare is, of course, Jugged Hare.
Jugging is the process of stewing whole animals, mainly game or fish, for an extended period in a tightly covered container such as a casserole or an earthenware jug. In French, such a stew of a game animal thickened with the animal’s blood is known as a civet.
One common traditional dish that involves jugging is Jugged Hare (known as civet de lièvre in France), which is a whole hare, cut into pieces, marinated and cooked with red wine and juniper berries in a tall jug that stands in a pan of water. It is traditionally served with the hare’s blood (or the blood is added right at the very end of the cooking process) and port wine. Continue reading Hannah Glasse’s Jugged Hare
…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; …
Pride and Prejudice
Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The rich flavor of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions (typically, the pot is full of sliced onions, which will shrink down to less than half the volume on cooking). Caramelization, in this case, is the procedure in which the onions are cooked slowly until the melting sugars approach burning temperature, becoming brown. Some recipes suggest a half an hour of cooking time, but many chefs and cooks allow for hours of cooking to bring out the flavors of the onions’ sugars.
A penny bun or a penny loaf was a small bread bun or loaf which cost one old penny at the time when there were 240 pence to the pound. A penny loaf was a common size loaf of bread in England regulated by the Assize of Bread Act of 1266. The size of the loaf could vary depending on the prevailing cost of the flour used in the baking. The nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down has a version which includes the line “Build it up with penny loaves”. John Earfield hypothesizes that a one penny loaf in Jane Austen’s day would have weighed about one pound.
The following recipe comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s cookery book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, which begins with a dedication to Lady Elizabeth Warburton after fifteen years of service as her housekeeper. One of the most popular cookbook writers of the eighteenth century, she also owned and managed two taverns, a sweet shop, and cooking school. It is different from French Onion soup, which traditionally uses beef broth and sherry or wine (in place of water) and finishes with toast and/or cheese under a broiler. French Onion soup, so the story goes, was created by Louis XIV, who returned to his hunting lodge, famished, only to find the cupboards bare apart from some stale bread, onions and champagne.
This recipe can be followed almost in it’s given form, and produces a lovely warming soup of caramelized onions. The key with this soup is found in the final line, “before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way.” By mixing the egg yolks, vinegar and few spoonfuls of soup together on the side (called “tempering”) you allow the eggs to cook slowly in a liquid form, before being poured into the soup. If you do not do this, the eggs will cook as soon as they are poured into the broth and providing a lumpy, poached egg soup, instead of a smooth thickened soup.
To Make Brown Onion Soup
Skin and cut round ways in slices six large Spanish Onions, fry them in butter till they are a nice brown, and very tender, then take them out and lay them on a hair sieve to drain out the butter, when drained put them in a pot with five quarts of boiling water, boil them one hour and stir them often, then add pepper and salt to your taste, rub the crumbs of a penny loaf through a cullender, put it to the soup, stir it well to keep it from being in lumps, and boil it two hours more; ten minutes before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way, put in a few cloves if you choose it.
– N.B. It is a fine soup, and will keep three or four days.
Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769
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. Historical information about Onion Soup and Penny Loaves and onion image from Wikipedia.com.
“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.
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.