Posted on

To Make Brown Onion Soup

 

…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

Elizabeth Raffald, from the frontspiece of her 1789 edition of The Experienced English Housekeeper.

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.

Posted on

Searching for Captain Wentworth: A Review

 

For those who love, time does not exist

 

searching for captain wentworthSearching for Captain Wentworth is unlike any Jane Austen inspired novel I’ve ever read. I suspect it’s unlike any Jane Austen novel ever written! Part love story, part time travel fantasy, part Austen biography, it’s all about the author’s (Jane Odiwe) love for Jane Austen and the city of Bath, her ‘Fairyland’ city.

Reading it (in 24 hours! I couldn’t put it down!) was like taking a walk with friends through old, familiar places. Jane’s use of Bath (both in the present and during the Regency) and Lyme, coupled with her deft weaving of historical fact and Austen lore, Austen novels (especially Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion) and films made for a book that felt like there was a cameo appearance on every page. It is truly a book written by someone who knows Austen’s life, novels and films inside out, and though any and all might enjoy the wonderful story she has crafted, for those in the “know”, Easter eggs abound, almost like the many inside jokes, shared by the Austen family, that made their way into Jane Austen’s writing.

Jane Odiwe’s descriptions of Bath, both past and present, make the city come alive, reviving happy memories for those who have visited the beautiful white limestone city, and painting a vivid tour of city highlights and must visit stops for anyone contemplating a visit. Equally compelling are the settings in Lyme Regis, from Cobb to country house to assembly room.

In the story, heroine Sophie Elliot moves into her great-aunt’s flat in Bath, while she recovers from a broken heart, determined to put the past behind her and move on with her life and writing. The house, adjacent to the home occupied by the Austen family in 1802, proves to be full of secrets and surprises, and once her adventure begins, she transports between present day Bath and a hopeful friendship with her new neighbor (and perhaps something more?) and 1802, where she slips into the life of her ancestor Sophie Elliot, and a friendship with Jane and Cassandra Austen.

searching for captain wentworth
Charles Austen’s portrait, the “Rice” Portrait of Jane Austen and a Regency Era inlaid rosewood box all feature prominently in the story.

When Charles Austen, a young Naval officer, enters the scene, Sophie’s life becomes decidedly complicated. Persuasion may be the initial inspiration for the story, a novel many feel was Jane Austen’s attempt to rewrite history in her own life, however, questions remain, “Can the past be changed? Should the past be changed? Are happy endings only to be found in fiction?” A rosewood box and pair of gloves may hold the key to all the secrets of the novel, and in finding them, Sophie discovers the truth about herself and her heart.

It is known that Jane Austen drew her characters from the traits she noticed in those around her, and recognizable characterizations abound including the snobbish Elliot family themselves…oh-so like their “fictional” counterparts. Conversations and scenes from Austen’s novels are woven together in new and unexpected ways, providing a canvas that the “real” Jane Austen might later use in her writing. Additional portrayals of Cassandra Austen, Charles Austen and even Henry and Eliza Austen ring true and offer glimpses of family life that are not only faithful to the recorded history we have, but also all any “ardent admirer” of Jane Austen’s works and life could hope for.

The magically beckoning gate in Sydney Gardens that transports Sophie into 1802.

Moving along at a brisk pace, the story jumps quickly from the present to the past and back again, and readers will visit the amusements, pleasure gardens and assembly rooms of Bath and Lyme and the countryside beyond in both 2012 and 1802. Odiwe cleverly ties up her threads by the end of her story, though readers are left to wonder if Sophie is the only one of her family to have enjoyed the company of L’amiable Jane…leaving room, perhaps, for future stories.

I, for one, certainly hope so!

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (7 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 095457222X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954572228

Jane Odiwe is an author and an artist. She is completely obsessed with all things Austen and is the author of is the author of Mr Darcy’s Secret,  Lydia Bennet’s StoryWilloughby’s Return and the newly published Searching For Captain Wentwort. She lives with her husband and three children in North London and Bath, England.


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.

Posted on

In Love with “La Pomme D’Amour”

tomatoesHave you any tomatas? Fanny and I regale on them every day…”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 11, 1813

 Tomatoes

The first tomatoes are beginning to come in from my garden now, and if the green fruit on my vines is any indication of the bounty to come, my family will, like Jane, be “regaling on them every day”. I can’t wait! This is the first year we’ve actually had a successful crop (possibly due to my new raised beds next to the house that actually get watered!!) We’ve also tried a topsy-turvy planter– which looks odd, but seems to be thriving as well. This, at least keeps the cherry tomatoes away from the Early Girls so that we are finally getting large and small versions this year– instead of the cross pollinated medium sized fruits from years past.

Of course, tomato season also brings the onset of canning season. In the past we’ve canned peach and strawberry jam, apple sauce, pepper jam, pickles, beets and relish– this year though, I have high hopes of enough fruit to finally can tomatoes. To that end I’ve been reading up on recipes and found a fascinating one in Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell’s “New System of Domestic Cookery” (originally published in 1806) Ms. Rundell actually boasts recipes for Tomato Sauce à la française (2), à l’italienne (2), Tomato Ketchup (2), Marmalade, Preserves, Stewed Tomatoes, and Preserved Tomatoes for Soup.

What makes this list so impressive is that “tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1597, and largely plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed it was poisonous (in fact, the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous). Gerard’s views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies.By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated the tomato was “in daily use” in soups, broths, and as a garnish.”*  So much so that by 1813, Jane Austen was regaling on them daily at Godmersham.

To Preserve Tomatoes for Soup
The tomatos should be perfectly sound and quite ripe. Peel them, take out the seeds and lay them in a large wide pan with plenty of pepper and salt. Lat them remain twenty-four hours for the juice to run out; then put the whole into a stewpan, and boil it very gently for an hour and a half, frequently stirring it. Put it into small jars, and when cold, tie them down; small jars are preferable to large ones, as frequent opening would spoil the tomatos.

This recipe calls for “hot packing” the tomatoes and tying the lids tight with paper and string. This, I would strongly discourage– although tomatoes are very acidic and usually keep well, when properly canned, it is important to make sure that you *do* properly can them to avoid botulism (unknown at the time of the recipe’s printing)

If you are unfamiliar with the canning process, pickyourown.org has a wonderful step by step instruction page with photographs for everything. If you are an experienced canner, then this will be an easy recipe to try– I know I’m looking forward to it! The salt and pepper will be a different taste from the garlic and lemon juice used in traditional tomato sauces, and just think of how delicious it will be to whip up some hearty soups this winter using your own canned fruits.

  • Since there are no suggestions for number of tomatoes used, it should be noted that 7 large tomatoes will fill 1 quart or 4 half pint jars.
  • Peeling the tomatoes is fairly easy with either a vegetable peeler, or by cutting an X into the bottom and scalding them in boiling water for a few seconds. Run them under cold water and the skins will slide right off.

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.

*Quoted from Wikipedia.com