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Partridges…Remarkably Well Done

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; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least.
Pride and Prejudice

Pigeons, partridges and other small game birds were easy to hunt or raise in the yard and along with the traditional chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, formed a staple of the Georgian table. The following recipe, from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book is easy enough to follow in any modern kitchen. Substitute Cornish Game Hens or other small poultry for the birds, if partridges are not available.

To Stew Pigeons Brown
Take a piece of fat & lean bacon, and a piece of butter, let this brown in a stew pan, and when you have stuffed four pigeons put them into the pan and brown them. When they are brown all over, put to it an onion, a bundle of sweet herbs. Put to them warm water enough to cover them, with an anchovy, put the giblets in it, this will help the gravy. When it is cooked enough strain it and add a piece of butter and a little flour.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

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Roasted Pork Ribs

My father furnishes him with a pig from Cheesedown; it is already killed and cut up, but it is not to weigh more than nine stone; the season is too far advanced to get him a larger one. My mother means to pay herself for the salt and the trouble of ordering it to be cured by the sparibs.
Jane Austen to Cassandra

When Mr. Woodhouse talks of killing a porker (Hartfield pork is so superior to any other kind) he is talking of a pig raised specifically to be eaten as pork. Pigs reared to be eaten as ham or bacon would have been fed on a different diet as they were wanted as large as possible; 40-50 pound hams and sides of bacon were not unusual. Porkers were killed when just grown and used fresh or salted.

Roasted Pork Ribs
Take the ribbes of a boor… and parboyle hem tyl thai byn half sothen, then take and roste hem, and when thai byn rosted, take and chop hem and do hem in a pot, and do thereto gode fresshe brothe of beef and wyn, and put thereto clowes, maces and pynes, and raisynges of Courance, and pouder of pepur, and take onyons and mynce hem grete, do hem in a panne with fresshe grees, and fry hem and do hem in the potte, and let hit wel sethe al togedur, and take brede stepet in brothe, and drawe hit up and do thereto, and colour hit with saunders and saffron, and in the settynge doun put thereto a lytel vynegur medelet with pouder of canell, and take other braune and cut smal leches of two ynches of length, and cast into the pot and dreue up tone with tother, and serve hit forthe.

From Carodiac’s Miscellany

Preparing Pork to taste like Wild Boar
This marinade is rather strong, but the result is really quite good. If you like wild boar, this does taste a lot like it. We used ribs, although the recipe calls for a fresh ham leg of pork, not smoked or salted). You need to vary the time you marinade the pork according to its thickness I left the ribs in 24 hours and that seemed to be about right. Marinade for 5-6 lbs pork ribs or leg:

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • 2 sliced carrots
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 2 shallots minced
    (or add an extra onion and a touch more garlic)
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 parsley stalks
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 2 tsp saltPut all the ingredients in 8′ sauce pan bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.Allow to cool.Put the meat in a deep china bowl and pour the marinade over it. Place in the refrigerator and turn the meat at least once a day. Or, you can put the meat in a boiling or roasting bag with the marinade and turn it once a day. A pork leg should marinate for 4 days.At the end of the marinading period, remove the meat and wipe it off.At this point you can:
    1. Roast the meat as usual (350 degrees for ½ hour per pound).
    2. Place the meat in a roasting bag and cook for the above time.If you wish you can reserve the marinade, mix with the cooking juices and 1 cup of beef stock and add a flour and water paste to make sauce. Boil the sauce for several minutes to evaporate the alcohol

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Early Macaronis and Cheese


Early Macaronis and Cheese

While it was once thought that Marco Polo discovered macaroni in China and brought it back to Europe in 1274, modern scholars believe the true origin lies somewhere in Sicily, where it is mentioned in manuscripts as early as 1188. However it arrived, macaroni (and pasta in general) soon became a staple in the Western diet.

What, though, of the famous line in Yankee Doodle, “stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni”. Did it actually resemble a noodle, as so many children imagine? Not in the mid-1700’s.

“The Macaroni Club” consisted of young, wealthy British gentlemen who traveled to France and Italy and adopted the ostentatious and flamboyant fashions popular in those countries during the eighteenth century. The Macaronis, not members of a true club but rather a new generation of continental society, were often ridiculed by the British establishment.

The Macaroni moniker was a tongue-in-cheek reference to their import of foreign cuisine as well as fashion. Macaronis wore form-fitting trousers and short waistcoats with ruffles and braiding, and sported superfluities such as tasseled walking sticks, spy glasses, and nosegays. They wore elaborate toupees and wigs topped by tiny tricorn hats that were definitely form over function. These trends may have been en vogue at the Court of Versailles, but they didn’t go over well back home with the more staid Brits, who perceived the Macaronis’ style as extreme, effeminate, and silly.

What’s worse than a pretentious British fop? How about a Yankee with aspirations to the Macaroni Club? The famous pasta line of Yankee Doodle pokes fun at unsophisticated New Englanders and their attempts to be stylish. “American fashions followed the English, though at some distance, as is usual in the provinces,” states Alison Lurie in her book The Language of Clothes. The entire Yankee Doodle lyric, one of America’s most beloved patriotic songs, is a joke at the expense of the Colonists.”

This recipe, from Martha Lloyd’s Household book, looks as though it could be an early version of baked macaroni and cheese. It is actually a form of pasta in Alfredo sauce. Use any type of pasta (shells, elbows, etc.) though it looks beautiful with penne.

Stew a quarter pound of pipe macaroni in milk and water until it is tender, then lay it on top of a sieve to drain. Put it into a stewpan with two large spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, a quarter pint of cream, a small piece of butter and some salt. Stew it gently ’till the whole seems well done and then put it into a dish. Strew grated Parmesan cheese over it, and brown it with a salamander or in a Dutch oven. It may be done with gravy instead of cream if preferred.

Historical information provided by Harry Montgomery.

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A Ragout of Beef

Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards, who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.
Pride and Prejudice

By Georgian times, Roast Beef* had become the staple of the Englishman’s diet. The subject of song and legend, this particular dish was credited with everything from Englishmen’s courage and stout hearts to their victories over France. A traveler of the 1700’s observed:

“Roast meat is the Englishman’s delice and principal dish. The English roasts are particularly remarkable for two things. 1. All English meat, whether it is of ox, calf, sheep, or swine, has a fatness and delicious taste, either because of the excellent pasture…or for some other reason. 2. The English men understand almost better than any other people the art of properly roasting a joint, which also is not to be wondered at; because the art of cooking as practiced by most Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding.”

During the Regency, however, British cooking had changed. French recipes became the rage. Indeed, Mrs. Bennet supposed Mr. Darcy to keep “…two or three French cooks at least.” With this change came a desire for more “exotic” dishes. Fricassees and Ragoo (ragout) began to appear on English tables. Though merely stewed meat and vegetables, they were certainly a change from the boiled or roasted beef that had been the meal of choice for over 1,000 years. Still, though it shows a bit of country naivety on her part, who can blame poor Elizabeth Bennet, who, when put on the spot by Mr. Hurst, admits to preferring the food of her youth– a “plain dish”, to all these strange new recipes. She may not be on the the cutting edge of society’s gastronomic delights, but then again, isn’t this same innocent lack of pretension the reason Mr. Darcy– and readers of the last 200 years have fallen in love with her?

Beef and Roasted Vegetable Ragout

    The Vegetables:

  • olive oil
  • 2 to 3 medium red potatoes, peeled if desired, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 small carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 small turnip, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper or a combination of red, yellow, orange, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 3 small zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, sliced about 1/4-inch (remove seeds if larger squash are used)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 fresh pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • coarsely ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • dash of fines herbs (optional)
  • sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)
    The Beef:

  • olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs London Broil steak, cut in thin slices then diced in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup beef broth (if commercial is used, cut back on salt)
  • coarsely ground pepper and kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 small bay leaf, fresh, or two dry bay leaves

Divide sliced and diced vegetables into 2 plastic bags. In one, the root vegetables: potatoes, turnip, and carrots. Put the remaining vegetables in the other bag. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of good olive oil in each bag, then divide seasonings to each bag. Shake them all. Place the root vegetables on a large baking sheet (with sides) or wide baking dish. Bake at 375 ° for about 20 minutes before adding the remaining vegetables. Roast another 20 minutes, or until vegetables are browned and tender. Find the 3 garlic cloves and squeeze the garlic out of the skins; refrigerate the roasted vegetables. This can be done the night before.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add the diced meat; stir until well browned. Sprinkle with scallions and flour; stir and cook for another minute. Transfer meat mixture to the crockpot; add bay leaf, pepper, and salt. Add beef broth to the pan the meat was cooked in; bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan; pour hot broth over meat in the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Add roasted vegetables; cook an additional hour on high, or until mixture is hot. Serve with hot rolls or biscuits.

*For a full history of Britain’s Beef, visit Jim Comer’s fascinating page.

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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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The Sandwich Tray

“…it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray…”
Mansfield Park

1783 Portrait of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, by Thomas Gainsborough.

Tradition holds that the Sandwich was born sometime around 1765 when “A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it.“* That Minister was, of course, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

There is doubt as to whether this was the actual origin, though no one seems to be too keen on disproving the Earl. It is just as possible, however, that he requested this favorite dish while spending hours at his desk with papers of State rather than at the gaming tables. He was a busy man, known for his early rising, with duties as Politician, Naval Administrator, Duke of Bedford, Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of state, and patron of Capt. James Cooke (who named the Sandwich Islands–Hawaii– in his honor.) At a time when dinner was the large meal of the day (served at 4 p.m.) and lunch not yet invented, it would make sense that a busy man would need some sort of pick-me-up in the late morning or early afternoon.

Unfortunately, this popular story does not account for the mention found in Edward Gibbons’ (author, scholar and historian) journal on November 24, 1762: “I dined at the Cocoa Tree….That respectable body affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty of the first men in the kingdom….supping at little tables….upon a bit of cold meat, or a Sandwich.” This quote gives credence to the theory that the sandwich was actually invented by cooks at London’s BeefSteak Club in 1762. This was a popular Gaming Club that met at the Shakespeare Tavern and claimed such famous members as Hogarth, Garrick, the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of Clarence and Sussex. Then again, who’s to say that Sandwich wasn’t also a member and Grosley had his dates wrong?

The real Heroine of the Sandwich story, is, of course, Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford who popularized afternoon tea, and with it the sandwich tray composing a variety of cakes, savories and small sandwiches.

Today’s sandwiches have evolved from the early ‘Bread & Beef’ into everything from Peanut Butter and Jelly to towering Club sandwiches and Grinders. In the end, it doesn’t matter when they were invented or where. We can smile at the stories and then sit down to lunch, ordering “…the same as Sandwich.”

*Grosley’s Tour to London, 1765

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Roast Michaelmas Goose with Apples and Prunes

“Mr. Rob. Mascall breakfasted here; he eats a great deal of butter. I dined upon goose yesterday, which, I hope, will secure a good sale of my second edition. Have you any tomatas? Fanny and I regale on them every day.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra,
October 11, 1813

September 29, the Feast of Saint Micheal is one of the extant quarter days which survive from the agricultural calendar. In medieval England it was the start of the fiscal year,and even through the Regency and Victorian times it was celebrated as an end of Harvest holiday with feasting and special food. In Ireland and northern England, it was thought that if you ate goose at Michaelmas you would have good fortune for the rest of the year.

This image was selected as picture of the day on the English Wikipedia for August 27, 2006.

‘Green’ geese which had fed on pasture, made a traditional feast for Michaelmas, in late September, and were less fatty than Christmas geese. The roast bird was always accompanied by apples, as windfalls were plentiful. Geese are in season from September to December but are not so widely available nowadays.

You will roast a [Goose] after it has been well plucked, cleaned and washed; and after roasting it, put it into a dish before it cools off and pour over it either orange juice or verjuice with rosewater, sugar and well-ground cinnamon, and serve it to your guests.
Cariadoc’s Miscellany

Roast Michaelmas Goose with Apples and Prunes
Oven-ready goose with giblets – 4-5 kg (9-11 lb), thawed if frozen
Butter – 15g (½ oz)
Onion – 1 large, chopped
No-soak prunes – 450g (1 lb)
Port – 4 tbsp
Fresh sage – 1 tbsp, chopped
Fresh breadcrumbs – 110g (4 oz)
Cox’s Orange Pippin apples – 6, cored and cut into 8 pieces
Dry white wine – 300 ml (½ pint)

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 °C / 400 °F / Gas 6.

2. Prick the skin of the goose all over with a sharp skewer or fork and pull the inside fat out of the bird and reserve.

3. To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened. Separate the goose liver from the giblets and chop finely, then add to the onion and cook gently for 2-3 minutes.

4. Remove the stones from half the prunes and discard. Chop the prunes roughly and stir into the onion with the port. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the sage and breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly together.

5. Spoon the stuffing into the neck end of the goose, then truss with strong cotton or fine string. Weigh the bird.

6. Put the bird on a wire rack placed in a roasting tin. Cover the breast with the reserved fat and then with foil. Roast for 15 minutes per 450g (1 lb) plus 15 minutes, basting frequently.

7. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, drain off the fat and discard. Add the apples to the tin with the remaining prunes. Add the wine. Place the bird on top, standing on the roasting rack. Remove the foil and fat and cook, uncovered, for the last 30 minutes.

8. Serve the roast goose with the cooking juices and the apples and prunes. Plain boiled or mashed potatoes complement the richness of the goose. Braised red cabbage is also a traditional accompaniment.

Copied from Helen’s British Cookery

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A Dish of Mutton

And it all ended, at last, in his telling Henry one morning that when he next went to Woodston, they would take him by surprise there some day or other, and eat their mutton with him. Henry was greatly honoured and very happy, and Catherine was quite delighted with the scheme.
Northanger Abbey, 1818

For hundreds of years, mutton was the staple meat of the British household, considered superior in both texture and flavor to lamb.

According to legendary cook Fanny Farmer (The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, 1918) Lamb is the name given to the meat of lambs; mutton, to the meat of sheep. Lamb, coming as it does from the young creature, is immature, and less nutritious than mutton. The flesh of mutton ranks with the flesh of beef in nutritive value and digestibility. The fat of mutton, on account of its larger percentage of stearic acid, is more difficult of digestion than the fat of beef.

Lamb may be eaten soon after the animal is killed and dressed; mutton must hang to ripen. Good mutton comes from a sheep about three years old, and should hang from two to three weeks. The English South Down Mutton is cut from creatures even older than three years. Young lamb, when killed from six weeks to three months old, is called spring lamb, and appears in the market as early as the last of January, but is very scarce until March. Lamb one year old is called a yearling. Many object to the strong flavor of mutton; this is greatly overcome by removing the pink skin and trimming off superfluous fat.

A favorite dish since ancient days, meals of mutton have repeatedly been documented throughout history. In the 17th century, Samuel Pepys’ diaries often mention meals involving the meat. Indeed, his Christmas Day feast in 1660 consisted of ‘a good shoulder of mutton and a chicken’.

By the Georgian era, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables were eaten, but meat was still the most popular choice and it would not be unusual to have fish, beef, pork, mutton, venison and poultry served at the same meal. Meats, hot and cold were served at breakfast and depending on what part of the country you lived in, the lunch menu might be similar to another’s dinner.

Always looking to imitate the rich, the middle classes took no time in copying their menus and recipes. Even the servants in such houses ate well, and at a time when the poor farmer or laborer might subsist on bread and potatoes. In large eighteenth-century houses, according to the duc de La Rochefoucauld, there was “a supply of cold meat, tea and punch” on the servants’ tables “from morning to night”. Another observer considered that “servants in great families wantonly” ate five times as much meat as nature really required.*

In Victorian times, the sheep was much lauded by the legendary Mrs. Beeton in her book, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861): “Of all wild or domesticated animals, the sheep is, without exception, the most useful to man as a food and the most necessary to his health and comfort…Mutton is, undoubtedly, the meat most generally used in families. And, both by connoisseurs and medical men, it stands first in favour, whether its fine flavour, digestible qualifications, or general wholesomeness be considered.”

George Borrow, the well-renowned Victorian traveler and writer often extolled the virtues of Welsh mountain mutton in his book Wild Wales (1862) “For dinner we had salmon and a leg of mutton; the salmon from the Dee, the leg of mutton from neighboring Berwyn. As for the leg, it was truly wonderful; nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats the leg of mutton in any other country. Certainly I shall never forget the first Welsh leg of mutton I ever tasted, rich but delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble Berwyn, cooked to a turn and weighing just 4lbs. Let anyone who wishes to eat a leg of mutton in perfection go to Wales.”+

Changes in farming methods and personal tastes meant mutton went out of fashion after the Second World War. The Mutton Renaissance, a movement that was especially active in the winter of 2004, aims to put it back on the menu, not just in restaurants and pubs around the country but also in the home. You can visit their website, The Southdown Sheep Society, for a variety of mutton related information and recipes.

To Dress a Breast of Mutton
Boil your breast of mutton till the bones will come out. Take the skin and rub the meat over with the yoke of an egg. A few sweet herbs, parsley, onion, crumbs of bread with salt and pepper chopp’d altogether and strewed on the meat. Put it in a Dutch oven before the fire to brown and dish it up with rich gravy.

To Make Gravy or Glazing
Take a foreskin of beef, cut it into pieces, and lay it in a stewpan with six large onions—turnip, carrot and two heads of celery and sweet herbs—set it on a stove and draw the gravy, let it be brown and all dried up, then put water to it, skim it very well, and let it boil like very good gravy—then strain it through a sieve, when it is cold take off all the fat and take any quantity you want, set it on the side of the stove without cover, and let it boil till it is like glue—put it on anything you wish to glaze with a paste brush.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

*J. Hecht, The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth Century England 1956 + Farmers Guardian; Country View, December 3, 2004

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