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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.

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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

 

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Blanc-Manger: A dainty dish, fit for Kings

Blancmange , from French blanc-manger, is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss (a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colours. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, vanilla pudding (in US usage), panna cotta, the Turkish muhallebi, and haupia.

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Image from freeimages.com, Photo by Nathalie Dulex.

The historical blancmange originated some time in the Middle Ages and usually consisted of capon or chicken, milk or almond milk, rice and sugar and was considered to be an ideal food for the sick. Tavuk göğsü is a sweet contemporary Turkish pudding made with shredded chicken, similar to the medieval European dish.

The true origin of the blancmange is obscure, but it is believed by some that it was a result of the Arab introduction of rice and almonds in early medieval Europe. However, there is no evidence of the existence of any similar Arab dishes from that period; though the Arabic mahallabīyah is similar, its origins are uncertain. Several other names for related or similar dishes existed in Europe, such as the 13th-century Danish hwit moos (“white mush”), and the Anglo-Norman blanc desirree (“white Syrian dish”); Dutch calijs (from Latin colare, “to strain”) was known in English as cullis and in French as coulis, and was based on cooked and then strained poultry. The oldest recipe found so far is from a copy of the oldest extant Danish cookbook, written by Henrik Harpestræng, who died in 1244, which dates it to the early 13th century at the latest. The Danish work may simply be a translation of a German work which is in turn assumed to have been based on a Latin or Romance vernacular manuscript from the 12th century or even earlier.

The “whitedish” (from the original Old French term blanc mangier) was an upper-class dish common to most of Europe during the Middle Ages and early modern period. It occurs in countless variations from recipe collections from all over Europe and is mentioned in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in an early 15th-century cookbook written by the chefs of Richard II. The basic ingredients were milk or almond milk, sugar and shredded chicken (usually capon) or fish, and often combined with rosewater, rice flour, and mixed into a bland stew. Almond milk and fish were used as substitutes for the other animal products on fast days and Lent. It was also often flavored with spices like saffron or cinnamon and the chicken could be exchanged for various types of fowl, like quail or partridge. Spices were often used in recipes of the later Middle Ages since they were considered highly prestigious. The whitedish was one of the preparations that could be found in recipe collections all over Europe and one of the few truly international dishes of medieval and early modern Europe.

On festive occasions and among the upper classes, whitedishes were often rendered more festive by various colouring agents: the reddish-golden yellow of saffron; green with various herbs; or sandalwood for russet. In 14th-century France, parti-colouring, the use of two bright contrasting colours on the same plate, was especially popular and was described by Guillaume Tirel (also known as Taillevent), one of the primary authors of the later editions of Le Viandier. The brightly coloured whitedishes were one of the most common of the early entremets, edibles that were intended to entertain and delight through a gaudy appearance, as much as through flavour.

An illustrated Victorian Cookery Book suggested this "modern" mould.
An illustrated Victorian Cookery Book suggested this “modern” mould.

In the 17th century, the whitedish evolved into a meatless dessert pudding with cream and eggs and, later, gelatin. In the 19th century, arrowroot and cornflour were added and the dish evolved into the modern blancmange.

By the 18th century, noted chef Antonin Carême remarked:These delicious sweets are greatly esteemed by gastronomes, but, to be enjoyed, they must be extremely smooth and very white. Given these two qualities (so rarely found together), they will always be preferred to other creams, even to transparent jellies. This is because almond is very nourishing and contains creamy, balsamic properties which are just right for sweetening the bitterness of humors.”

Blancmange was considered both a delicate dish for the table as well as a wonderful food for invalids. In her 1800 book, The Complete Confectioner, Hannah Glasse offers several varieties of Blanc Mange (“a fine side dish”, she later notes). Jenny Underwood of  National Trust has adapted Hannah’s recipe, for Jerseylovesfood.com. Hannah’s recipes follow.

Jenny's recipe for Hannah's Blancmange, pictured here, can be found at jerseylovesfood.com.
Jenny’s recipe for Hannah’s Blancmange, pictured here, can be found at jerseylovesfood.com.

 

To make Blanc-mange with Isinglass.
Put an ounce of picked isinglass to a pint of water; put to it a bit of cinnamon, and boil it till the isinglass is melted; put to it three quarters of a pint of cream, two ounces of sweet almonds, and six bitter ones, blanched and beaten, and a bit of lemon peel; sweeten it, stir it over the fire, and let it boil; strain it, stir it till it is cool, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, and put it into what moulds you please; turn it out, garnish with currant jelly and jam, or marmalade, quinces, &C. If you choose to have your blancmange of a green colour, put in as much juice of spinach as will be necessary for that purpose, and a spoonful of brandy; but it should not then retain the name of blanc-mange, (white food,) but rerde-mange, (green food): if you would have it yellow, dissolve a little saffron in it; you should then call it jaune-mange: or you may make it red, by putting a bit of cochineal into little brandy, let it stand half an hour, and strain it through a bit of cloth; it is then entitled to the appellation of rouge-mange. Always wet the mould before you put in the blanc-mange. It may be ornamented, when turned out, by sticking about it blanched almonds sliced, or citron, according to fancy.

To make clear Blanc-mange.
Take a quart of strong calf’s foot jelly, skim off the fat, and strain it, beat the whites of four eggs,’put it into a jelly-bag, and run it through several times till it is clear; beat one ounce of sweet almonds, and one of bitter, to a paste, with a spoonful of rose water squeezed through a cloth; mix it with the jelly, and three spoonfuls of very good cream; set it over the fire again, and keep stirring it till it is almost boiling; pour it into a bowl, and stir very often till it is almost cold; then wet your moulds and fill them.

To make Blanc-mange with a preserved Orange.
Fill your orange with blancmange; and, when cold, stick in it long slips of citron, like leaves; pour blanc-mange in the dish; when cold, set the orange in the middle; garnish with preserved or dried fruits: or you may pour blanc-mange into a mould like a Turk’s cap, lay round it jelly a little broken; put a sprig of myrtle, or small preserved orange on the top.

 

Historical information from Wikipedia.com

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Pike with Pudding in the Belly

In his diary (1752-1802) Parson Woodforde recounts, with a gastronome’s delight, the details of many a meal. These peeks into the past give a wonderful feeling of what life must have been like for the Austen family, social as well as historical contemporaries of the parson.

The following entry from June 4, 1777, describes one such meal:

pike

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In his diaries, Woodforde often mentions fishing and Pike were often caught. This large, carnivorous fish is considered particularly good sport among anglers and is still sought after, today. Elizabeth Moxon’s 1764 cookbook, English Housewifry: Exemplified in Above Four Hundred and Fifty Receipts Giving Directions in Most Parts of Cookery … with an Appendix Containing Upwards of Sixty Receipts, offers the following recipe for this dish:

How to roast a Pike with a Pudding in the Belly
Take a large pike, scale and clean it, draw it at the gills. To make a pudding for the Pike, take a large handful of breadcrumbs, as much beef -suet shred fine, two eggs, a little pepper and salt, a little grated nutmeg, a little parsley, sweet marjoram and lemon peel shred fine; so mix it altogether, put it into the belly of your pike, skewer it all around, place it in an earthen dish with a lump of butter over it, a little salt and flour, so set it in the oven. An hour will roast it.

Continue reading Pike with Pudding in the Belly

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A Recipe for Lemon Cream

lemon cream

A Recipe for Lemon Cream

The origin of the lemon is a mystery, though it is thought that lemons first grew in Southern India, northern Burma, and China. A study of the genetic origin of the lemon reported that it is a hybrid between sour orange and citron.

lemons

The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the 15th century. The lemon was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as an ornamental plant and for medicine. In 1747, James Lind’s experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding lemon juice to their diets, though vitamin C was not yet known.

By Jane Austen’s lifetime, lemons were not an uncommon household item and many recipes in both commercially published cookery books and private collections, such as Martha Lloyd’s Household book, call for the fruit. The following recipe for lemon cream is fairly easy to replicate and offers a light and refreshing custard like dessert.

Lemon Cream
Take a pint of thick cream, and put it to the yolks of two eggs well beaten, four ounces of fine sugar and the thin rind of a lemon; boil it up, then stir it till almost cold: put the juice of a lemon in a dish or bowl, and pour the cream upon it, stirring it till quite cold.
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery; 1806

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Orange Cream

The orange wine will want our care soon. But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles’ dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy. Luckily the pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions, will make good amends for orange wine.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 30, 1808

By Jane Austen’s day, oranges were no longer a novelty, though they were certainly an expensive delight. Orange Marmalade, also known as Dundee Marmalade, was developed in Scotland and so popular that, by 1797,  James Keiller and his mother Janet opened a factory to produce “Dundee Marmalade”,a preserve distinguished by thick chunks of bitter Seville orange rind. The business prospered, and remains a signature marmalade producer today. Martha Lloyd’s household book contains a recipe for “Scotch Marmalade” and the Austen’s were known to bottle their own Orange Wine.

There are no reports of sweet oranges occurring in the wild. In general, it is believed that sweet orange trees have originated in Southeast Asia, northeastern India or southern Chinaand that they were first cultivated in China around 2500 BC.

Continue reading Orange Cream

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Bread and Butter Pudding with Currants

Bread and Butter pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding with Currants

Bread and Butter pudding is a bread-based dessert popular in many countries’ cuisine, including that of Ireland, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Malta, Argentina, Louisiana Creole, and the southern United States. In other languages, its name is a translation of “bread pudding” or even just “pudding”, for example “pudín” or “budín” in Spanish; also in Spanish another name is “migas” (crumbs).

There is no fixed recipe, but it is usually made using stale (usually left-over) bread, and some combination of ingredients like milk, egg, suet, sugar or syrup, dried fruit, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace or vanilla. The bread is soaked in the liquids, mixed with the other ingredients, and baked.

It may be served with a sweet sauce of some sort, such as whiskey sauce, rum sauce, or caramel sauce, but is typically sprinkled with sugar and eaten warm in squares or slices. In Canada it is often made with maple syrup. In Malaysia, bread pudding is eaten with custard sauce. In Hong Kong, China, bread pudding is usually served with vanilla cream dressing.

This recipe for “Bread and Butter Pudding” comes from Maria Eliza Ketleby Rundell’s  A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1814, and features currants in a starring role.

 

The following recipe is reprinted with permission from “Table for 2…or More”

Butter Bread Pudding
(serves 1-2, depends on who much one can eat)
Few slices of French loaf, about ¼ of a stick
Some butter softened for spreading
150ml milk
75ml whipping cream
1 egg
Few drops vanilla extract
3 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp currants or raisins

1. Spread butter over bread slices. Oh please be generous.
2. Arrange bread slices into a lightly buttered baking dish.
3. Sprinkle raisins or currants over.
4. Combine milk, whipping cream, vanilla and egg.
5. Pour ¾ of it over arranged bread. Sprinkle sugar over bread.
6. Let the bread soak for few minutes before pouring the rest of the egg mixture.
7. Bake in a preheated oven of 160C in a waterbath  for 40-45 minutes  or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the bread soak and soak, then pour the balance of the custard in.


Wendy lives in Malaysia where she enjoys cooking  for her husband and two young daughters, sharing the recipes she creates, like this one for bread and butter pudding, on her blog, Table for 2…or more: http://wendyinkk.blogspot.com.

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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.
-Persuasion

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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Baked Apple Pudding

I am glad the new cook begins so well. Good Apple Pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
Jane to Cassandra
17 October, 1815

In 1660 Robert May published The Accomplisht Cook, which became the most important cook book of it’s time. Robert was a professional chef who had trained in Paris. Catering to the aristocracy, he introduced many new recipes at a time when English cuisine was just beginning to borrow from the French.

One of his recipes, A Made Dish of Butter and Eggs, was gradually modified (the original called for 24 egg yolks!) into Marlborough Pie (or Marlborough Pudding), and taken to the new world by the pilgrims. This recipe soon became a Thanksgiving favorite and remains so, to this day. Martha Lloyd, Jane Austen’s Sister in-law , kept a similar recipe in her Household Book.

A Baked Apple Pudding (with Pastry)
Take a dozen of pippens, pulp them through your cullender, take six eggs, sugar enough to make sweet, the rind of two lemons grated, a 1/4 of a lb of butter (melted with flour or water). Squeeze the juice of the two lemons, let the apples be cold before the ingredients are put together. Make a puff paste in the bottom of the dish, half an hour bakes it.

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Marlborough Pie
1 1/2 cup applesauce
3 Tbs. butter, melted
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon rind, grated
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Instructions:
Blend all ingredients thoroughly and pour into an unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake another hour until consistency of custard.


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