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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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Pickling Plums and Other Indigestibles

My cloak is come home. I like it very much, and can now exclaim with delight, like J. Bond at hay-harvest, “This is what I have been looking for these three years.” I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only 4d. a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in guest of something for you. I have never seen an old woman at the pump-room.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 2, 1799

In his work on period fruits, Mark Harris provides the following information:

“Plums (Prunus domestica) originated around Armenia in Asia Minor and are only botanically distinguished from cherries by their size. Plums were first cultivated in western China. Wild plums, the Bullace (Prunus instititia), Cherry Plums (Prunus cerasifera) and the Sloe (Prunus spinosa) now grow wild throughout Europe and have hybridized extensively. Cultivated plums arose as a cross between the sloe and the cherry plum in the Caucasus region. Damsons are a variety of bullace plum well known in Roman times, and imported from Damascus in Syria, hence its name. At the time of Cato, Romans were familiar with prunes but not the plum tree itself. Besides the Damson, Pliney described 12 varieties of plums growing in Italy in the 1st century A.D. Plums have been cultivated in Europe since the 8th century and are recorded in England from the 13th century. Chaucer described a garden with “ploumes and bulaces” in 1369; “Damaske or damassons” (damson) plums are mentioned in the 1526 Grete Herball of Peter Treveris.

Blue Pérrigon or the Précoce de Tours was both a blue-black prune and dessert plum grown in Italy and France near the Basse Alps. It was first imported to England in 1582.

Another French bullace was the Reine Claude (103), dating in France from the reign of Francis I (1494-1547). It came from Italy, where it was called Verdocchia (104); it came to Italy from Armenia via Greece. This plum is better known by its English name of Greengage.”

To preserve this delicious summer fruit, one could either dry them, creating prunes, or pickle them, as the following recipe from Martha Lloyd’s Household book records:

To Pickle Dutch Plum or White Damsons and Orleans Plum
(also melons and cucumbers)
To a gallon of white wine vinegar put 3 pints of mustard and heads of garlick, a good handful of shallots, a good handful of horse radish, when it is sliced, three races [roots] of ginger sliced, half and oz of Jamaica pepper, and what salt you think fit. The plums must be gathered before they are quite ripe, when they are turning yellow. They must be cut a little on one side to let in the liquor. Put them in a row. Your mustard must be made as to eat. You may do melons or cucumbers the same way, only take ou the inside and rub them with salt.

Pickled Damsons or Plums
2 lb Damsons or Plums
1 lb Granulated sugar
½ pint Malt Vinegar
½ Lemon, zest only
2 Cloves
1 Small Piece Root Ginger, peeled and bruised

Place all the ingredients except the fruit in a saucepan.

Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, strain.

Return the vinegar to the saucepan and bring to the boil.

Prick the fruit, place into a deep bowl, pour over the vinegar.

Cover and leave in a cool place for 5 days.

Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to the boil.

Pour over the fruit.

Cover and leave in a cool place for 5 days.

Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to the boil.

Place the fruit into jars, pour over the boiling liquid.

Immediately seal with airtight lids.

Leave for 6 weeks to mature before using. Serve as a side to cold meats.

Recipe reprinted with Permission from The Foody.

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The Spices of Life

 

The kitchen-garden was to be next admired, and he led the way to it across a small portion of the park.
Northanger Abbey

“Season the gravy very high,” advised Thomas Jefferson in a household recipe for beefsteak pie. Such instructions sound a bit vague to modern cooks, but the colonial kitchen-master no doubt understood how to proceed.

A recipe might state, “first make your coffin,” referring to the fact that “pyes” were baked in rectangular, narrow pans (“coffins”) similar to our loaf pans. The British adored their “pyes”, and of course when they settled in [America], whenever feasible, prepared comforting foods reminiscent of those served in merrie old England.

Favorite pies included those containing plovers’ eggs, sparrows, robins, pigeons, pheasant, turkey, veal mutton, pork, “leman” rind, and dates.

A smaller version of the pie was the “pastie” or “pasty” or “fried pie” or “turnover.” These portable pies were handy (and tough-crusted enough) to slip into a saddlebag for journeying, and added variety to other travel fare like journeycake (or johnnycake) and corn bread.

When preparing savory colonial pies and pastries, the cook had but to step outside to the nearby herb garden to gather savory, rosemary, marjoram, sage, thyme, chives, garlic, onions, etc. In winter, dried herbs hung from the kitchen rafters ready for use. To add flavor and fat to the dry, lean meat of venison, elk, and moose, sugared racoon fat was utilized.

Other colonial flavor enhancers included an abundance of imported nutmeg, ginger, vinegar, and wines. Moreover, the basic flavor of olden-times meat and fowl was more distinct than much of that served today. After all, the fat hen destined to be the prima donna of the chicken pot pie had actually seen the light of day, eaten tasty earthworms and grubs, and known the attentions of a rooster.

Some food critics claim that early American foods were heavily spiced and seasoned to disguise rancid meat and dairy products, and old, dried-out vegetables and fruits. Though there were periods when hot weather did cause food to spoil quickly, and seasons of long winters when the stored root vegetables began to wrinkle from age, colonial meals were not normally dismal repasts of poor-quality foods disguised with herbs.

The prosperous colonists actually ate an enviable diet — home-grown, “organic,” whole foods; no chemicals, no peculiar-sounding additives. The preservatives used were natural, like salt, vinegar, and particular herbs. (Sage and rosemary are natural preservatives, and mustard seeds also inhabit the growth of mold, bacteria, and yeasts.)

In “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse (1796), a recipe is represented “For Captains Of Ships” which is also billed as “very useful in Families.” This concoction is a heady mixture of ale, anchovies, shallots, mace, cloves, pepper, ginger, and mushrooms, and is entitled “To make Catchup to keep twenty years.”

No nasty added nitrates or nitrites in that list of ingredients! The colonial family was able to enjoy a nutritious diet, most of which was produced on their own land, the result of individual expenditures of time, energy, skill, and attention. That hearth-baked, steaming pot pie had not hibernated in the local supermarket’s frozen food section, or suffered the abuse of a crowded check-out line food conveyor belt and the crushing constriction of a plastic grocery bag. Its experience was very personal and loving.


For Captains of Ships: To Make Catchup to keep Twenty Years
Take a gallon of strong stale beer, one pound of anchovies washed from the pickle, a pound of shallots peeled, half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of cloves, a quarter of an ounce of whole pepper, three or four large races of ginger, two quarts of large mushroom flaps rubbed to pieces; cover all these close, and let it simmer til it is half wasted, then strain it through a flannel bag; let it stand til it is quite cold, then bottle it. You may carry it to the Indies. A spoonful of this to a pound of fresh butter melted makes a fine fish-sauce, or in the room of gravy sauce. The stronger and staler the beer is, the better the catchup will be.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy
Hannah Glasse, 1796

According to the authors at About.com, the word ketchup is derived from the Chinese ke-tsiap, a pickled fish sauce. It made its way to Malaysia where it became kechap and ketjap in Indonesia. Seventeenth century English sailors first discovered the delights of this Chinese condiment and brought it west. Ketchup was first mentioned in print around 1690. The Chinese version is actually more akin to a soy or Worcestershire sauce. It gradually went through various changes, particularly with the addition of tomatoes in the 1700s, and by the nineteenth century, ketchup was also known as tomato soy. Early tomato versions were much thinner and more like a soy or Worcestershire sauce. F. & J. Heinz Company began selling tomato ketchup in 1876. By the end of the nineteenth century, tomato ketchup was the primary type of ketchup, and the descriptor of tomato was gradually dropped. Catsup and catchup are acceptable spellings used interchangeably with ketchup, but ketchup is the way you will find it listed in the majority of cookbooks.”

 

This article by Patricia B. Mitchell was first published as part of her “A Fork in the Road” column in The Register and Bee, Danville, Virginia, Sunday, March 3, 1991. Paticia Mitchell is the author of numerous period recipe cookbooks when she’s not managing the Sims-Mitchell House Bed and Breakfast. Copies of her various cookbooks can be purchased from her website: www.foodhistory.com. Please contact the Mitchells for information on international shipping.

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