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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 “Mock” Turtle soup.

Mrs. Fowle’s Mock Turtle Soup
Take a large calves head. Scald off the hair. Boil it until the horn is tender, then cut it into slices about the size of your finger, with as little lean as possible. Have ready three pints of good mutton or veal broth, put inot it half a pint of Madeira wind, half a teaspoonful of thyme, pepper, a large onion, and the peel of a lemon chop’t very small. A 1/4 of a pint of oysters chop’t very small, and their liquor; a little salt, the juice of two large onions, some sweet herbs, and the brains chop’t. Stand all these together for about an hour, and send it up to the table with the forcemeat balls made small and the yolks of hard eggs.
From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Modern Mock Turtle Soup
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 lbs. cooked, diced beef
2 tbsp. flour
2 cups beef broth
2 cups milk
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
Salt, pepper

Melt butter in a heavy soup kettle. Add onions, celery and carrot. Saute until tender. Add meat and flour, stirring to mix well. Add broth and milk, stirring until soup thickens. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add chopped eggs, salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

For a clear soup, use chicken broth instead of milk and omit the flour.

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