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Mr. Darcy’s Favourite Beef-Steak Dinner

Mr Darcy’s Favourite Beef-Steak Dinner

“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.

Serves 4


Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

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.



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The Elegance of the Breakfast Set

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table… He was enchanted by her approbation of his taste, confessed it to be neat and simple, thought it right to encourage the manufacture of his country; and for his part, to his uncritical palate, the tea was as well flavoured from the clay of Staffordshire, as from that of Dresden [Germany] or Save [France].
Northanger Abbey

Surprisingly, many of the recognizable names in china and dinnerware were already established by Jane Austen’s Day. Sèvres (France, 1740), Villeroy & Boch (Germany, 1748), Royal Worcester (1751), Wedgwood (England, 1759), Spode (England, 1770), Minton (England, 1793) and others trace their roots back to the china making heyday of the mid seventeen hundreds (Royal Doulton was a bit late to the [tea]party, being founded in England, in 1815, the same year Emma was published)

A French Silver Dinner Service 1819-1838

Chinese porcelain had long been a staple import of the East India Companies and manufacturers in Europe were wild to discover just how it was made. Experiments abounded, some more successful than others, and for centuries it simply could not be replicated. Those who could not afford porcelain services imported from the East ate from silver, pewter, tin or wooden dishes.

A Delftware Urn

Finally, during the 1600’s, artisans in Europe began producing passable imitations of Chinese porcelain. With an interruption in Asian exports, due to the death the Wanli Emperor in 1620, the Dutch had the opportunity they needed to take a foothold in the market, with their Chinese inspired Delftware. These earthenware pieces at first featured the blue and white patterns so popular in the Chinese imports, though later pieces incorporated other colors as well. The patterns were created by drawing sketches on the shaped pottery, and then coating it with a white enamel finish, before hand painting the final design and firing the piece to preserve the paint and give the piece it’s glassy finish.

The first earthenware (also known as Stoneware) pieces were certainly crude compared to later innovations and each successive generation refined the process. The goal was a white porcelain base on which to add colors and patterns. Earthenware tended to be darker, creamy…earthy. The Dutch fought this with a lead based white enamel coating until 1707, when a German, Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered the secret to hard paste porcelain, like that used by the Chinese. Known as Meissen China, it was characterized by an extremely high firing temperature, something earlier innovators could not duplicate with the resources available to them. The high temperatures made the porcelain glossy and water resistant without the addition of glaze, and this process continues to be used today by companies such as Hummel and Royal Worcester.

Meissen China dominated western markets until the mid 1750’s when Josiah Wedgwood (grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin) broke on the scene, changing the face of “China” forever. His experiments with porcelain, carried out in his factory in Staffordshire (hence General Tilney’s famous quote) led to cleaner, whiter earthenware, in particular Creamware, a line of which became known as ‘Queen’s Ware’ when Queen Charlotte ordered  ‘A complete sett of tea things’ in 1765. This “sett” included a dozen cups for coffee, six fruit baskets and stands, six melon preserve pots and six hand candlesticks.

Part of Wedgwood's Creamware (Queen's Ware) Green Frog Service, on display at the Hermitage.

In 1766, a notice, run in the Aris Birmingham Gazette announced: “Mr Josiah Wedgwood, of Burslem, has had the honour of being appointed Potter to Her Majesty.”  This notoriety brought an onslaught of orders for his creamware, and later his pearlware (earthenware whitened further by the addition of a cobalt overglaze) Empress Catherine the Great, of Russia, ordered a complete set of Queen’s Ware (the Green Frog Service, now on display at the Hermitage) and by the turn of the century, Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper to the Wardrobe of Queen Charlotte, was able to write “Our tea and coffee set were of common India China (known today as Chinese Export Porcelain), our dinner service of earthenware, to which, for our rank, there is nothing superior. Chelsea porcelain and fine India China being only for the wealthy. Pewter and Delft ware could be had, but they were inferior.”  In fact, creamware was so widely used that it became known as ‘Common Wedgwood’.

A Wedgwood imitation of the Portland Vase, now on display at the V&A

Wedgwood, by now the most famous name in porcelain, was not satisfied in having transformed English dining, and making prized porcelain available to the burgeoning middle class. He also developed Jasperware, the famous “Wedgwood Blue” porcelain consisting of a colored (most often blue or sage green) base with a raised, white motif, often of a scene or portrait. Later in life, Wedgwood dedicated himself to reproducing the Portland Vase (one of the earliest known examples of porcelain, dating from the first century, BC) Wedgwood labored for year, recreating the vase, finally perfecting it in 1790. This marked his last major achievement in porcelain production.

By this time, a newcomer, Josiah Spode, had improved Wedgwood’s creamware recipe, creating what is known today as Bone China (a soft paste porcelain), by literally adding bone ash to the clay mixture. In 1783, Spode perfected transferware—this method of decoration involved stamping an engraved design onto tissue paper and applying the still damp tissue to the porcelain dish, literally “transferring” the pattern from the paper to the dish. The tissue was washed off in water and the piece was then given a coating of clear glaze and fired. While allowing for “mass production” in place of previously hand painted designs, it was nonetheless a tricky business, as each piece of tissue had to be meticulously hand cut and applied to the curves and contours of each piece of porcelain. Color choices in transferware were limited to shades that could withstand the heat of the furnace, with cobalt blue being the most commonly used (you can also find red or pink, green and brown transferware from this period.)

Clockwise from the Top: Creamware by Wedgwood, Blue Willow by Thomas Minton , Blue Onion by MeissenBlue Italian by Josiah Spode

Blue and white transferware became a hallmark of the Staffordshire potteries (Wedgwood, Spode, Minton and others all set up factories in this county) and many of the patterns they created, from Blue Willow (created by Thomas Minton in 1790) to Blue Italian (by Josiah Spode II, introduced in 1812) evoke exotic locals and hearken back to the original Chinese patterns imported centuries before. Even the Blue Onion pattern, first created by the German Meissen factory in 1740, was based on extant Chinese pieces, with the unknown Asian flowers being replaced by more recognizable European Peonies and Asters (some experts believe that the “onions” depicted were mutations of the Chinese representations of peaches and pomegranates.)

Regardless, by 1797, English pottery was so well established as superior to any other kind that a visting Frenchman remarked , “Its excellent workmanship, its solidarity, the advantage which it possesses of standing the action of the fire, its fine glaze, impervious to acid, the beauty, convenience and variety of its forms and its moderate price have created a commerce so active and so universal, that in travelling from Paris to St Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the furthest points of Sweden, from Dunkirk to the southern extremity of France, one is served at every inn from English earthenware. The same fine articles adorn the tables of Spain, Portugal, & Italy, and it provides the cargoes of ships to the East Indies, the West Indies and America.” (Voyage en Angleterre by Faujas de Saint Fond)

If one wished to purchase ‘English Earthenware’, you had only to visit the showrooms, like those set up by Josiah Spode and Josiah Wedgwood. Here you might peruse a selection of ready made articles, and see displays of porcelain artistry, such as a Portland Vase reproduction, which was on display in Wedgwood’s London showroom.

The Austens were loyal Wedgwood patrons and owned many sets of china, some ordered by Jane herself, who wrote to her sister after one visit, On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking, and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely, and upon the whole is a good match…There was no bill with the goods, but that shall not screen them from being paid. I mean to ask Martha to settle the account. It will be quite in her way, for she is just now sending my mother a breakfast set from the same place. I hope it will come by the Waggon tomorrow; it is certainly what we want and I long to know what it is like: and as I am sure Martha has great pleasure in making the present, I will not have any regrets.
(Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, June 6, 1811)

Wedgwood & Byerley showrooms, York Street, London, taken from Ackermann's Repository of Arts, 1809

On visiting one of the China show rooms, you might be greeted by a manager (in 1771, Wedgwood’s Bath shop was managed by the father of Ann Radcliffe, Austen’s contemporary in women’s literature and author of The Mysteries of Udolpho) If you could not be tempted by the wares on display, you could always search the catalog of available patterns (Spode offered close to 2000 assorted pieces and patterns at the time) and create your own special set of dinner ware, as Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, did, in 1813. Jane described the purchase of this china, which was, until recently on display at the Jane Austen Chawton House Museum: “We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set. I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold, and it is to have the Crest.” (Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, September 16, 1813)

The Austen-Knight China, which was recently on display at Chawton cottage, until being sent up for auction.

Wedgwood and Spode, and to a lesser extent, their contemporaries remain highly collectible, and easily obtainable—‘Fine China for the Masses’. Many of the patterns available to Jane Austen on her visits to the London showrooms are still manufactured today and used by households around the globe, including mine. Most of the dishes used in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, were from my personal collection of Spode dinnerware, added to by friends and family over the years; many are reproductions of pieces available during Austen’s lifetime. It fascinates me to think that she might have eaten off these same patterns, or have seen them on display as original works of art during her time in London. Eating foods made from their own recipes on what might have been her dishes feels about as close to dining with the Austens and their friends as you can get.



Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop.
Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

Historical information from Wikipedia and The Wedgwood Museum.

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Mrs. Musgrove’s Christmas Pudding

 Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr. Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.

Plum Puddings have long been associated with the Christmas Season. In this recipe, as in most other “Plumb” recipes of the time, raisins take the place of the plums or prunes modern cooks would expect. Christmas pudding really came into its own in Victorian times, finally being immortalized in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

This recipe calls for a melted butter sauce; the flaming brandy sauce now so common was a later addition.  It is also a lighter color than later recipes, with their treacle, molasses and brandy; it is meant to be served fresh, instead of kept for weeks and weeks like other versions. If garnishing with fresh holly, remember that the berries are toxic and best replaced or removed before serving.

Boiled Plumb Pudding
Shred a pound of beef suet very fine, to which add three quarters of a pound of raisins stoned, a little grated nutmeg, a large spoonful of sugar, a little salt, some white wine, four eggs beaten, three spoonfuls of cream, and five spoonfuls of flour. Mix them well, and boil them in a cloth three hours. Pour over this pudding melted butter, when dished.
Susannah Carter,
The Frugal Housewife, or,Complete woman cook; wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands is explained in upwards of five hundred approved receipts, in gravies, sauces, roasting [etc.] . . . also the making of English wines. (London: Francis Newbery, 1765)

454 g/ 1 lb Beef Suet, finely chopped
397 g / 14 oz / 2 ½ Cups Raisins
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
½ tsp Salt
180 ml / 2/3 cup White Wine
4 Eggs
5 tbsp Flour, plus extra for dusting
3 tbsp Cream
60 cm x 60 cm /2 ft x2 ft muslin cloth and kitchen string

Set a large stockpot of water on to boil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, wine, cream and nutmeg. Add in the suet and flour. When this is incorporated, add the raisins and continue mixing until a stiff batter is formed.

Thoroughly wet the cloth and dust it with flour on both sides. Lay this cloth across a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate all your batter. Spoon the batter into the center of the cloth and tie it up securely (with a little room for expansion) with kitchen string, being sure to leave long ends to hang the pudding in the water. The pudding should look like a ball wrapped in fabric.

Submerge the pudding in the boiling water by suspending it from a wooden spoon placed across the top of the pot. Boil vigorously for 3 hours, adding additional water as necessary.

Remove the pudding from the water after three hours. Allow it to drain in a colander and then store it in a bowl (to preserve its shape) overnight or for several hours before serving. Reheat before serving. Serve with melted butter.

*Melted Butter
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”.

Serves 8

Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.


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Cassandra Austen’s Baked Custard

“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 anybody. I would not recommend an egg boiled by anyone else – but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see – one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart – a very little bit. Ours are all apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? A small half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I do not think it could disagree with you.”
Mr. Woodhouse, Emma
by Jane Austen


Cassandra Austen was Jane Austen’s dearest friend and confidant, as well as her only sister. Much of what we know of Austen’s personal life is the result of the letters exchanged between these sisters over the course of Jane Austen’s life.
Custards, rich concoctions of milk, eggs and spices have been made for centuries. The basic recipe is the base of many other dishes including baked meats, frozen ices and crème desserts. It is simple to prepare and loved by both children and adults, though Mr. Woodhouse certainly felt obliged to recommend against it.

Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends


A Custard
Sweeten a quart of new milk to your taste; grate in a little nutmeg, beat up eight eggs well (leaving out half the whites) stir them into the milk, and bake them in china cups, or put them into a deep china dish. Have a kettle of water boiling, set the cups in, let the water come about half way, but do not let it boil too fast, for fear of its getting into the cups. You may add a little rose-water, and French brandy.
Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife ( 1765)


470 / 16 fl oz / 2 Cups whole Milk

2 Eggs + 2 Egg Yolks

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp Rose water, Brandy or Vanilla if desired

Preheat your oven to 177 ° C / 350° F.

In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, nutmeg and seasoning of choice. Purée until smooth.

Place 6 porcelain ramekins or custard cups in a large, deep baking dish and divide the mixture evenly between them. Pour hot water in the dish until it reaches half way up the sides of the cups. Place the whole pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving, or serve chilled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.


Excerpted from  Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Available to buy online at The Jane Austen Gift Shop.


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Setting Your Table

Mrs. Bennet had been strongly inclined to ask them to stay and dine there that day; but, though she always kept a very good table, she did not think anything less than two courses could be good enough for a man on whom she had such anxious designs, or satisfy the appetite and pride of one who had ten thousand a year. -Pride and Prejudice

Most period cookbooks offered suggested menu ideas for different gatherings and even different months of the year, based on what would be seasonable and fresh at the time. Some cookbooks even contained suggested table settings, like this one, giving hostesses and housekeepers an idea of how to fit so many dishes onto one table. A “remove” indicated just that—after being served, the dish was to be removed and replaced by another during the same course. A family dinner might consist of a single course with fewer dishes to choose from.

A period table setting example

Naturally, it would be difficult to sample every dish on the table. In the event of a dinner party, a gentleman would help himself and his dining partner to whatever dishes were placed in front of him. If something was particularly desired from a different part of the table, a footman would be sent to retrieve the dish. Naturally, this had the potential to create a great deal of noise and confusion during dinner!

In her book, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Rundell suggests that,

“Vegetables are put on the side table at large dinners, as likewise sauces, and servants bring them round: but some inconveniences attend this plan; and, when there are not many to wait, delay is occasioned, besides that by awkwardness the clothes of the company may be spoiled. If the table is of a due size, the articles alluded to will not fill it too much.”

It is certainly something to keep in mind when planning your dinners!

To take one aspect of noise and confusion away, there were rules of protocol to be followed when conversing at the table. During the first course, the conversation would flow to the hostesses’ left (the seat of honor). Once the second course was laid, the hostess would turn to the guest on her right, thus “turning the table” and allowing uninterrupted conversations without anyone feeling singled or left out. As might be expected, far more casual manners prevailed during private family functions.

Adapted from  Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Buy online at our Jane Austen giftshop where you will also find our delightful Pemberley Collection Afternoon Tea selection.

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Randalls’ Roast Chicken Recipe

Roast chicken

Randalls’ Roast Chicken and Egg Sauce is a traditional Regency recipe which could be found on many a fine table. It’s also a nice roast chicken recipe to prepare for Sunday lunch.

The chickens are all alive and fit for the table, but we save them for something grand.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
May 29, 1811

Fowls of every size and type were to be found on Regency tables, from larks and snipes to large geese and turkeys. Most were freshly prepared and the type of bird served was dependent on the season. Some were, as they are now, associated with major holidays such as Michaelmas Goose and Christmas Turkeys. Game birds were available only in the fall and winter; all others had to be reared at home or purchased from the local poulterer.

For this reason, most country homes, from small rectories to the grandest houses, kept their own poultry yards containing Pheasant, Guinea Fowl, and other more exotic birds along with the usual chickens, turkeys and geese. These were tended by dairymaids, though overseen by the housekeeper or lady of the house. Larger estates also boasted Dovecotes, which guaranteed a reliable source for fresh meat throughout the winter.

To Roast Large Fowls
Take your fowls when they are ready dressed, put them down to a good fire, singe, dust and baste them well with butter, they will be near an hour roasting, make a gravy of the necks and gizzards, strain it, put in a spoonful of browning; when you dish them up, pour the gravy into the dish, serve them up with egg sauce in a boat.

To Make Egg Sauce
Boil two eggs hard, half chop the whites, then put in the yolks, chop them both together, but not very fine, put them into a quarter of a pound of good melted butter, and put it in a boat.
Elizabeth Raffald
The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1786


Roast Chicken with Egg Sauce

  • 2 kg / 4 lb roasting chicken
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 5 tbsp Flour, divided
  • 1 tsp Gravy Browning (such as Gravy Master)
  • 2 hard cooked Eggs
  • Melted Butter*


Preheat your oven to 218° C / 425° F. Remove the neck and gizzards from your chicken and set these aside. Pat your chicken dry and place it on a baking rack in your roasting pan. Sprinkle it with ¼ cup flour, rubbing it in so that it is fully coated. Melt 2 tbsp butter and pour this over the chicken, spreading it with a basting brush, if necessary to ensure even coverage.

Roast the chicken for 50-60 minutes (13-15 minutes per pound) until fully cooked and browned on top. Larger birds may be prepared in the same way. While the chicken is roasting, place the neck and gizzards in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring them to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain the broth through a colander and discard the meat and bones. Return the broth to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Add one tablespoon of butter, rolled in 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tsp gravy browning. Stir well to eliminate lumps and reduce heat to low. Keep warm until you are ready to serve your chicken.

Coarsely chop the two eggs and add them to the warm, melted butter*. Serve this sauce alongside of the chicken and gravy.

Serves 4

This roast chicken recipe is excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

*Melted Butter
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”.

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Anna Austen’s Apple Snow

One can easily imagine the abundant fruit from Steventon’s gardens being used to create this light and airy dessert.

Elizabeth Raffald offers a similar dish in her book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, and closes with this final suggestion, “Lay it upon a china dish, and heap it up as high as you can, and set round it green knots of paste, in imitation of Chinese rails; stick a sprig of myrtle in the middle of the dish, and serve it up. It is a pretty corner dish for a large table.”

Apple Snow
Core and pare a lb of apples boil or steam them until tender and put them on a strainer to drain—add six oz of find loaf sugar and two whites of eggs whipt to a froth by itself—whip up the apples also separately them put altogether and whisk it up for a full hour until it looks like snow.
Martha Lloyd

3-4 medium sized Apples

80-120 ml / 4-6 oz / ½-¾ cup White Sugar

Two Egg Whites or Meringue Powder equivalent

Peel and core your apples and place them in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Boil covered over a medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes or until they are very soft. Turn them out into a strainer to drain.

While your apples are boiling, whip two egg whites until stiff peaks form. Recently experts have begun to advise against
consuming raw eggs. For this reason, meringue powder maybe used instead. Follow the instructions on the package for the
equivalent of two egg whites.

Once your apples have drained, place them in a bowl and whip them until somewhat smooth, like applesauce. Stir in your
sugar—a little more or a little less depending on your taste—and fold in your egg whites.

You may wish to whip up the mixture again once you’ve added all the ingredients. This creates a light and fluffy dessert,
which does look like snow.

For a decorative touch, pipe the mixture into your serving dishes using a large tipped icing bag.

Serves 4


Excerpted from  Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle.