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The Perfect Jane Austen Teacup Cupcakes!

teacup cupcake cases

Our new re-usable Jane Austen Teacup Cupcake Cases have proved a huge hit, and a number of you have asked us if we had any cup cake recipes that would be perfect for use with the little cups…

… and indeed we do!

 

Ingredients:

50g caster sugar

50g butter/margarine 

50g self-raising flour

1 egg

A few drops of vanilla essence

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
  2. Cream together the sugar and the butter until smooth.
  3. Beat the egg and then add it to the sugar/butter mixture a little at a time.
  4. Stir in the sifted flour and vanilla essence.
  5. Grease the teacup insides and place onto a baking tray.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the four teacups.
  7. Bake for between 15-20 minutes or until the cakes look golden brown.
  8. Wait until cool and then decorate!

 

For coffee cake: 

Add 5ml (one teaspoon) of instant coffee, dissolved in hot water, to the cake mixture along with the flour and instead of the vanilla essence.

 

We’d love to see how you get on! Feel free to email photographs of your creations to us at austensocialmedia@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook or Twitter!

 

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Hot Cross Buns

I still remember my piano lessons, which began at age three (and ended soon after!) The first song I learned was “Hot Cross Buns”. I recently taught it to my six year old son, when he became aware of these treats, which appeared (ironically) in stores as soon as Lent began.

Hot Cross Buns at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, April 2010, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hot Cross Buns at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, April 2010, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One a penny two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

The commonly known (and now heard throughout my house) cry actually appeared in print no earlier than 1798, published in London in that year’s Christmas Box. An earlier version, however, appeared in 1733 in in Poor Robin’s Almanack, and ran as follows,
“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns.”

A vintage illustration of a Hot Cross Bun seller.
A vintage illustration of a Hot Cross Bun seller.

The price is stated quite clearly in this verse and remarkably, remained constant for over 200 years—a fact pointed out by Charles Dickens’s son in his 1889 edition of All the Year Round.

Buns marked with a cross on top had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks and the spiced, fruited buns now associated with the name, were once sold throughout England, where the cry of street hawkers could be heard all down the streets. They were, however, by Elizabeth’s newly puritan era considered “too popish” (i.e. Catholic) to be sold on any day except Good Friday (owing to the cross on the top), Christmas, and at burials. Anyone found violating this law forfeited their entire stock of buns for the nourishment of the poor.

On Good Friday, however, Christians who had been observing Lent by self-denial of dairy and egg products, found good reason to rejoice. Christ was raised from the dead and that was cause enough for celebration. The spices used in the buns were reminiscent of those brought by the women to the garden tomb. Somewhat surprising to me was the fact that early crosses in the buns were made of simple cuts, or pastry dough, rather than the frosting which now decorates bakery buns.

To those who had endured 40 days of fasting from such delights, the anticipation of Hot Cross Buns could not be put off past breakfast. In The Life Of Samuel Johnson (1791), which Jane Austen is known to have been familiar with, Boswell writes: “On the 9th of April [1773], being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him on tea and cross-buns …” Later, he notes, “April 18 [1783], (being Good-Friday) I found him at breakfast, in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross bun to prevent faintness”.

To quote one slightly post Regency source,

This is the season at which all good Christians devour hot cross buns for breakfast, under the comfortable impression that a religious duty is being performed; and in this instance we are happy to find a spirit of faith and religion in the rising generation, for the little boys devour hot cross buns with a most sacred Gusto, which shows that if there is any virtue in the act, the youth of the present day are the very best performers of the religious duty. It is a most comfortable thing, when any kind of eatable commanded by religion happens to be Nice, and we must say even we feel a holy and comfortable glow come over us, when we feel that we Ought to substitute for the plain baker’s bread, the more savoury, and more sacred substance, called Hot Cross Buns.
‘Figaro In London’, Published 1836

Surprisingly, recipes for Hot Cross Buns are scarce before the 18th Century. The following one is from an 1825 source. A more modern, open source version can be found below it.

TO MAKE CROSS BUNS
Put two pounds and a half of fine flour into a wooden bowl, and set it before the fire to warm; then add half a pound of sifted sugar, some coriander seed, cinnamon and mace powdered fine; melt half a pound of butter in half a pint of milk; when it is as warm as it can bear the finger, mix with it three table spoonsful of very thick yeast, and a little salt; put it to the flour, mix it to a paste, and make the buns as directed in the above receipt … [for common buns … make it into buns, put them on a tin, set them before the fire for a quarter of an hour, cover over with flannel, then brush them with very warm milk, and bake them of a nice brown in a moderate oven] put a cross on the top, not very deep.
‘Five Thousand Receipts’, By Colin MacKenzie, Published 1825

  • 1 cup (240 mL) milk
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) water
  • 1 cakes fresh yeast
  • 3 cups (720 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) nutmeg, grated
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) melted butter
  • 1 cup (240 mL) currants
  1. Heat milk and water to lukewarm.
  2. Crumble yeast. Mix with 1/2 cup (120 mL) flour. Stir in tepid milk/water and mix well.
  3. Cover and set aside in warm place until yeast is active and frothing, about 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Mix remaining flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Stir egg and butter into the yeast mix, add the flour mixture and fruit. Mix well.
  6. Put dough onto a floured surface and knead. Return to bowl, and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
  7. Turn onto a floured surface and knead again.
  8. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
  9. Divide dough into twelve pieces and shape into buns. Mark a deep cross on the top of each bun.
  10. Arrange on a baking tray, cover with tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes. Cook in preheated 375° F (190° C) oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: 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 (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

 

 

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Serle’s Soft Boiled Eggs

220px-Egg_spiral_egg_cupBoiled eggs have been a mealtime staple probably since boiling anything was invented. In fact, egg cups (you know what these are: those adorable little cups perfect for holding hard or soft boiled eggs) have been found during archaeological explorations of Crete dating to as early as the 18th century BC. An early silver version from 74 BC was even found in the ruins at Pompeii.

Soft boiled eggs were, by Jane Austen’s time, not only served at breakfast, as the broken egg shells on the table at Mansfield Park suggest, but also served throughout the day, as a healthy, plain food for children and invalids. In Emma, they are one of the few foods that even invalid Mr. Woodhouse can recommend with grace:

“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 any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you.”

Soft boiled eggs in adorable cups, with, perhaps, little hats or “cosies” on top are a favorite childhood memory for many. Paired with hot, buttered toast “soldiers” (narrow strips of toast for dunking in the runny yolk) they can make the most important meal of the day a comfort food feast.

soft boiled eggs would look good in this
This silver egg service for 6 dates to 1820 and was recently sold by waxantiques.com

To make soft boiled eggs, bring 3 inches of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once the water is rolling, turn down the heat to a simmer and add your eggs, allowing them to cook for six minutes (you may wish to set a timer) Remove the eggs to an ice water bath (a bowl of ice water will do) to halt the cooking process while you make and butter your toast. It couldn’t be simpler.

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 (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

 

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Steventon Roast Potatoes Recipe

Jane Austen News

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 roast potatoes 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

This roast potatoes recipe is an excerpt from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

 

 

 

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The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

Candy-Cane-ClassicFor some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it.

According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.

 

“According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity. As such, according to this legend, the candy cane became associated with Christmastide.

A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844 in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson. The “candy cane” has been mentioned by name in literature since 1866.

Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s. Meanwhile, in 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local children. By the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities. The canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape, and breakage often ran over 20 percent. It was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a seminary student in Rome named Gregory Harding Keller, who used to spend his summers back home working in the candy factory. In 1957, as an ordained Roman Catholic Christian priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, Keller patented his invention, the Keller Machine which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and then cutting them into precise lengths as candy canes.

Candy_cane_William_B_Steenberge_Bangor_NY_1844-1922

In celebration of Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers themselves allude to the Good Shepherd, a title associated with Jesus.”

Pulled Peppermint Candy Sticks (1844)

Clove, Ginger, or Peppermint Candy.—These are all made in the same way as raspberry, using the essential oil of each for flavour. For clove, the mixture, whilst boiling, is coloured with cochineal; ginger with saffron; but the peppermint must be kept perfectly white, except the stripes, which is done by cutting off as many pieces from the bulk as you have colours, which should be in powder; put a sufficiency in each piece to give the desired tint, and keep them warm. When the remaining portion of the sugar is pulled, lay them over the surface in narrow stripes, double the roll together, and the face each way will be alike. Pull them out into long sticks, and twist them; make them round by rolling them under the hand, or they may be cut into small pieces with a pair of shears or scissors.

Raspberry Candy.—This may either be made from raw or refined sugar. Boil it to the crack, and colour it with cochineal; pour it on a stone rubbed over with a little oil or butter, cut off a small piece, and keep it warm to stripe or case the other part, when finished; to the remainder add a little tartaric acid (not so much as for drops), and some raspberry-paste, sufficient to flavour it. The residue of raspberries used for making vinegar, and preserved with an equal quantity of sugar, or even less, as for raspberry cakes, does very well for this purpose. Fold the edges over into the centre, and attach it to a hook fixed against the wall: pull it towards you, throwing it on the hook each time after having pulled it out; continue doing this until it gets rather white and shining, then make it into a compact long roll, and either stripe it with the piece you cut off, or roll it out in a sheet with a rolling-pin, and wrap it round it so as to form a sort of case; then pull it into long narrow sticks, and cut them the required length.

Historical information from Wikipedia.com, recipe from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson.

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Preserved Ginger

When Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra of the holiday visits they enjoyed (endured?) in 1808, she included a delightful word picture of one of their guests. As the letter is dated Tuesday, December 27, we can assume that Christmas was the previous Sunday and the visit occurred on December 22. It gives a glimpse into the Austen’s dining and entertaining menu while they lived in the Castle Square neighborhood of Southampton, before moving to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, the following July.

Our evening party on Thursday produced nothing more remarkable than Miss Murden’s coming too, though she had declined it absolutely in the morning, and sitting very ungracious and very silent with us from seven o’clock till half after eleven, for so late was it, owing to the chairmen, before we got rid of them.

The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here, and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square, December 27, 1808

Continue reading Preserved Ginger

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Sally Lunn Buns or Solilemmes

A Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with a yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France. Served warm and sliced, with butter, it was first recorded in 1780 in the spa town of Bath in southwest England, though it is not the same as Dr. Oliver’s Bath Bun.

A selection of Sally Lunn buns on display.
A selection of Sally Lunn buns on display.

The origins of the Sally Lunn are shrouded in myth – one theory is that it is an anglicisation of “Sol et lune” (French for “sun and moon”), representing the golden crust and white base/interior. The Sally Lunn Eating House claims that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

There is a passing mention of “Sally Lunn and saffron cake” in a 1776 poem about Dublin by the Irish poet William Preston. The first recorded mention of the bun in Somerset is as part of a detox regime in Philip Thicknesse’ 1780 guidebook to taking the waters at Bath. Thicknesse describes how he would daily see visitors drinking 2-3 pints of Bath water and then “sit down to a meal of Sally Lunns or hot spungy rolls, made high by burnt butter!”. He recommends against the practice as his brother died after this kind of breakfast- “Such a meal, few young men in full health can get over without feeling much inconvenience”.

There is little historical evidence for Sally Lunn as a person. The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1798 uses Sally Lunn as an example during a discussion of foods named after people – ‘a certain sort of hot rolls, now, or not long ago, in vogue at Bath, were gratefully and emphatically styled “Sally Lunns”‘. But it is not until 1827 that a historical person is described by a correspondent of William Hone using the pseudonym “Jehoiada”, who says she had sold the buns on the street “about thirty years ago”. A baker called Dalmer had bought out her business and made it highly successful after he composed a special song for the vendors, who sold the buns from mobile ovens. The earliest evidence of commercial production is an 1819 advert for the Sally Lunn “cakes” sold by W. Needes of Bath, bread and biscuit maker to the Prince Regent.

Westmorland Gazette - Saturday, 23 December 1826.
Westmorland Gazette – Saturday, 23 December 1826.

The Sally Lunn is mentioned alongside muffins and crumpets by Charles Dickens in The Chimes (1845). The same year Eliza Acton gave a recipe in Modern Cookery for Private Families, describing it as a version of “Solimemne – A rich French breakfast cake, or Sally Lunn”. Solilemmes is a kind of brioche that is served warm and popularised by the great Parisian chef Marie-Antoine Carême in a book of 1815. Carême claimed the “solilem” originated in Alsace but there is no evidence to support that claim; he may have taken the idea from contacts in Bath and then tried to disguise the origins of a recipe that came from France’s great enemy.

Sally Lunn's Tea Room in Bath.
Sally Lunn’s Tea Room in Bath.

The medieval building now known as the Sally Lunn Eating House is at 4 North Parade Passage (formerly Lilliput Alley) in Bath (51.3808°N 2.3582°W). The site was originally occupied by the south range of Bath Abbey and the lowest floor level dates to the reconstruction of the abbey after a great fire in 1137. The masonry oven in the basement dates from this time. After the Reformation it came into the hands of the Colthurst family of Wardour Castle who sold it to John Hall of Bradford on Avon in 1612. In 1622 Hall leased the site to George Parker, a carpenter who built the current house. The Hall estate was later acquired by the 2nd Duke of Kingston, who sold the house to William Robinson in 1743. There may have been baking on a small scale during the 1700s but it only became the main commercial use of the building around the turn of the century.

The building was acquired in the 1930s by Marie Byng-Johnson who opened it as a tea-room specializing in Sally Lunn buns, promoted with a story that she had discovered an ancient document in a secret panel above the fireplace explaining that Mlle. Sally Lunn was a young French Huguenot refugee who brought the recipe to Bath around 1680. The building is now Grade II.

This original recipe for Sally Lunn Buns comes in verse form from ‘The Monthly’ Magazine, vol 2, 1796. It is reminiscent of Mrs. Austen’s boiled pudding poem.

RECEIPT TO MAKE A SALLY LUN
A well-known cake at Bath
Written by the late Major DREWE, of Exeter

NO more I heed the muffin zest
The Yorkshire cake or bun
Sweet Muse of Pastry teach me how
To make a Sally Lun.

Take thou of luscious wholesome cream
What the full pint contains
Warm as the native Mood which glows
In youthful virgin’s veins

Hast thou not seen in olive rind
The wall-tree’s rounded nut
Of juicy butter just its size
In thy clean pastry put

Hast thou not seen the golden yolk
In Chrystal shrine immur’d
Whence brooded o’er by sostring wing
Forth springs the warrior bird?

Oh save three birds from savage man
And combat’s sanguine hour
Cush in three yolk, the seeds of life
And on the butter pour

Take then a cup that hold the juice
Fam’d China’s fairest pride
Let foaming yeast its concave fill
And froth adown its side

But seek thou first for neatness sake
The Naiad’s crystal stream
Swift let it round the concave play
And o’er the surface gleam

Of salt more keen than that of Greece
Which cooks not poets use
Sprinkle thou then with sparing hand
And thro the mass diffuse

Then let it rest disturb’d no more
Safe in its steady feat
Till thrice Time’s warning bell hath struck
Nor yet the hour compleat

And now let Fancy revel free
By no stern rule confin’d
On glittr’ing tin in varied form
Each Sally-Lun be twin’d

But heed thou west to lift thy thought
To me thy power divine
Then to the oven’s glowing mouth
The woud’rous work consign

Modern recipes abound, but Eliza Acton’s 1845 recipe from her “English Bread Book for Domestic Use” is considered a standard:

To make a Sally Lunn, dissolve three ounces of good butter, cut small, in less than half of the milk with which the sponge is to be set; cool it down with the remainder; and, if a sweetened preparation be liked, stir three ounces of pounded sugar to the flour before it is moistened; pour gradually the milk and butter to the yeast, of which there must be a full ounce, and proceed in all else as above. Three hours will sometimes be required to bring this sponge to its height. When it is ready add the second pound of flour to it, put it into a round buttered tin or tins, which it should not more than half fill, and when it has risen nearly to the edge let it be put without delay into the oven, and baked a nice brown. An egg or two, when they are considered requisite, can be mixed with the milk and butter either for the Sally Lunn, or to convert the dough into buns; but, to allow for the addition, a few spoonfuls of the milk should be omitted. Carrawayseeds, currants, or candied citron or orange-rind, can be kneaded in with the other ingredients when the second pound of flour is mixed with the sponge, or immediately after it is worked in. Two or three ounces more of sugar may, for many tastes, be thought needful for the buns.

Bread.— Best flour, 1 lb.; new milk, 1 pint; little salt; German yeast, £ oz., to rise 2 hours or more; or yeast, 1 oz., 1 to 2 hours. Flour, 1 additional lb.; to rise 1/2 to 3/4 hour.

Sally Lunn. — Flour, 1 lb.; butter, 3 oz.; pounded sugar, 3 oz.; German yeast, full ounce; 2 to 3 hours, or until extremely light. Flour, in addition, one pound; to stand in tins until risen to their edges.

Buns.—Butter, yeast, and milk, as above, with an addition of sugar and an egg or two at pleasure; carraway-seeds, 1 oz.; or currants, 1/2 lb.

Information and photos from Wikipedia.com

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A Tansey for Lent

Tansey

As a plant, Tansey (or more commonly spelt Tansy) has a distinguished history of medical use dating back to ancient Greece. Used in the 8th century by Swiss Benedictine Monks to treat everything from fevers, digestive issues, worms and rheumatism, it is still listed in the United States Pharmacopeia as an acceptable treatment for fevers and jaundice.

640px-Illustration_Tanacetum_vulgare0

According to some sources, “In the 15th century, Christians began serving tansy with Lenten meals to commemorate the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites. Tansy was thought to have the added Lenten benefits of controlling flatulence brought on by days of eating fish and pulses and of preventing the intestinal worms believed to be caused by eating fish during Lent.”*

Lent is, of course, the period of fasting (either wholesale or from certain foods and activities) observed by many branches of Christianity during the forty days prior to Easter, allowing the participant an opportunity to focus more deeply on pious thoughts and deeds. As the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, Jane Austen would have participated in this ritual in some way.

In her book, Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield reiterates this line of thinking and relates how “tansy cake”, which was more commonly called simply “a tansy” served health and medicinal purposes, with deep ties to England’s Catholic heritage. She writes,

“Tansy was a bitter herb whose stalks were juiced and then mixed…with a pint or less of the juice of green wheat, spinach or anything else that is green and not strong tasted. The juice was then mixed with a pint of cream, twelve eggs, nutmeg, sugar and salt. A quantity of white bread to make it thick enough for a bread pudding was mixed in. The batter was placed in a buttered dish and put before a…fire or oven…until it was hard enough to turn out on the dish. People had been eating tansy cakes since the middle ages to purify their bodies, especially after Lent…by the 1700’s, many also ate a tansy cake at Easter in remembrance of the Jewish Passover. Religious reasoning aside, tansy was considered a vital green food for people who had spent the winger eating too much salted meat and pickled vegetables; it was a welcome harbinger of spring’s bounty.”
-Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield

In Hannah Glasse’s seminal work, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, she boasts an entire section titled “A Variety of Foods for Lent”. Variety (that spice of life) is the key word in this chapter, which includes instructions for everything from Eel-Soup to Soused Mackerel, Baked Apples, Barley Soup, Hasty Pudding, Pancakes and even Stewed Spinach and Eggs. Food for thought. With Lent bringing the removal of many meats and meat products from the table, the beef heavy diet of Georgian England was no doubt happy for any help that could be given.

Hannah rounds out her collection with instructions “To Make A Tansey”. As we have seen, this was a sort of vegetable bread pudding, however, her recipe, surprisingly, contains no actual tansy—just “the juice of spinach to make it green”. A “mock” tansy perhaps? From looking at other period recipes, “Tansy” (or Tansey) seems to have evolved into a term for any pudding baked in the same general way. Recipes for Apple Tansy abound from the period (again, no actual tansy harmed in the making of this recipe) while William Gelleroy’s 1770, The London Cook includes no fewer than eight tansy recipes, with such tantalizing names as A Tansey, Another Tansey, A Gooseberry Tansey, Another Gooseberry Tansey, A Beef Tansey…you get the picture.

And so, without further ado, Hannah Glasse’s Tansey for Lent:

tansy


Laura Boyle is the author of Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends.

Andrea L. Broomfield quoted from:
Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History
Praeger (April 30, 2007) 0275987086