As a plant, 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. 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 (more…)
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. 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 (more…)
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:
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
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. 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 (more…)
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
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 (more…)
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 (more…)
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, (more…)