This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Monday, 12 October 2020

2020, A Good Quince Year at Parsonage Cottage Kitchen

I had to harvest the quince a little earlier than I would have liked because high winds and heavy rain were forecast - quince bruise very easily so I didn't want them to fall from the tree under such a vicious assault.    Much better to harvest them gently then let them ripen in the house.

I have given away six large carrier bags of them, but I still have all of these in store.   These are stacked in the outer porch, where it is fairly cool, others are ripening in the kitchen.   The riper they become, the more the wonderful scent of quince develops, which is an added benefit.

I have made a couple more batches of quince marmalade, but there we can only eat so much marmalade in a year.   I also add them to crumbles and fruit pies, they add a delicious extra dimension.    The favourite mix at the moment is a combination of apple, quince and windfall pears.  

Ordinarily I cook fruit in very little water, however one of my old recipe books suggested using more water and, when the fruit is cooked, drain the water off and retain it as a drink.   It sounds strange, but it is surprisingly delicious.

Just as apples are used in baking cakes, so can you use quince.   My most recent cake bake was quince and ginger, a particularly nice combination.

We are still harvesting our own tomatoes, lots of them.   Roast tomatoes with roughly chopped onion, slice in some quince, drizzle the whole with olive oil and add black pepper.   I normally serve this dish with bruschetta.    I must admit that I will be quite sorry to move on to the heavier food of autumn, but then again it is nice to eat seasonally and the leeks are ready to harvest, which makes me think of soup, so perhaps it's not all bad.

It is yellow in colour, as if it wore a daffodil tunic

and it smells like musk, a penetrating smell.

(Taken from the Jane Grigson Fruit book of 1982) 


Monday, 28 September 2020

Quince Marmalet - early 18th Century Recipe

One of the quince trees has been exceptionally prolific this year, which is marvellous.    Lots of quinces to play around with.     I love experimental cooking - trying out old recipes.     I decided to make a batch of Quince Marmalet to an early 18th century recipe which can be found in Florence White's 'Good Things in England'.

Lots of people seem to struggle to peel and cut quinces, I'm not quite sure why that is.   Yes, they are much harder than a pear or an apple, but no tougher to handle than a swede.   I peel them with my usual vegetable peeler, slice them up with my regular knives.    They do discolour very quickly, so have a bowl of water and lemon juice handy to drop them in.

I made my marmalet quite chunky - see the first photograph.   One of the most magical things about quinces is the way they turn such a beautiful rich red colour, if you cook them for long enough.

For each pound of quinces you will require one pound of sugar and one pint of water, plus a little brandy.    I also added some finely grated ginger root but that is optional.

Wipe the fuzz off the quinces, peel and cut into quarters, throw them into cold water.  Put the peelings and cores into cold water and boil them till tender.  Strain off the liquid - and retain it!   When it is cold put the peeled quinces into it, weighing one pound of fruit and one pound of sugar to a pint of water, add extra if necessary.   Boil them all together until tender keeping them close covered.  'Beat them until they be of a right thickness.'

Pour it into warm sterilised pots, cover and label.

I let mine cook for about three hours on a fairly low heat, just giving it a stir now and then to check that nothing was sticking to the bottom of the pan.

That first pot has gone down remarkably quickly so I think we can call that a success.

Back soon with lots more quince recipes.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Alaskan Whale Stew & Other Delights

Alaska Whale Stew     (Serves 347,161)

1 x 52 ton blue whale
948 lbs tinned tomatoes
7326 lbs potatoes
2276 lbs carrots
104 lbs sat
52 gallons tabasco hot sauce
1896 lbs onions
927 lbs celery
76 lbs black pepper

Place whale in pot with tomatoes.   Cook at 300 degrees (gas mark 2) for four hours.

Add potatoes, carrots, salt, hot sauce, onions, celery and black pepper and simmer for 36 hours.

If you care for hare in your stew add a 2 pound rabbit.

Anonymous     Recipe taken from "Recipes from the Rectory & The Rest"   -  circa 1970's/80's sold in aid of a church roof restoration project.    Apparently every couple getting married in the parish was presented with a copy of the book (the rest of the recipes are all very standard).

Perhaps slightly more palatable:

Paradise Pudding (1830)

If you'd have a good pudding
Pray mind what your're taught
Take two pennyworth of eggs
When they are twelve for a groat.

Take of that summer fruit
Which Eve once did cozen
Well pared and well grated
At least half a dozen.

Six ounces of bread
Let your maids eat the crust
The crumbs must be grated
As fine as small dust.

Six ounces of currants
But pray pick them clean
Lest they grate in your teeth
You know what I mean.

And if you've a mind
To be clever and handy
Put in good lemon rind
And a large glass of brandy.

Six ounces of sugar
Won't make it too sweet
With some salt and some nutmeg
To make it complete.

Three hours let it boil
Without peeps or flutter
And then serve it up
With some good melted butter.

Adam tasted the pudding
T'was wondrous nice
So Eve cut her husband another large slice.

Taken from Recipes from Wrawby, a Lindsey (Lincs) Federation of WI's book, 1937.

Batchelor's Nightcap

Take one bottle of whisky.  Remove cork.   Pour contents into cut glass tumbler.  Half fill.   Add water to taste and consume immediately!

This one was taken from 'Hunting Cook' compiled by Rosemary Eustace.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

A Note of Sadness

One of the problems about getting so involved with these m/s recipe books is that I feel as though I almost know the women who wrote them.

I can see how they start out so enthusiastically using their best handwriting, etc.    Recipes abound, interspersed with recipes for soothing babies suffering from wind, croup and the like, as well as how to treat sore breasts - presumably from breastfeeding.

Over the many pages the handwriting slowly changes and evolves, often becoming shakier, entries dwindle.

The tan-coloured book (right next to the blue)  has a high quality binding  and extremely beautiful handwriting within.    

It was begun in 1851 and was used for many hundreds of recipes and receipts, then in 1917 it was briefly used for a few dozen entries by someone else.

The entry which caught my eye today, was the penultimate one entered by the original owner, C Cooper.

Nourishment when nothing else will stay in the stomach

The white of an egg. well whisked.  then add a tablespoonful of cream to a tablespoonful of brandy.  😟  

It always makes me think of my mother, she died about 25 years ago, from stomach cancer.   It seemed a particularly cruel fate for someone who really enjoyed her food, to go.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Royal Sauce for Plum Pudding & a Kitchen Supper for 60 Persons

Plum Pudding, Christmas Pudding, call it what you will, we never eat it on Christmas Day, we simply don't have the stamina these days.   

There is, of course, the perennial question of what to serve with your Plum Pudding, our preference is for custard, but I know a lot of people prefer brandy butter, cream, or even rum sauce.     Rich and heavy pudding made even richer?  No thank you,  I'll stick to a well made custard sauce, our digestions can cope with that, but each to their own.

One of my old handwritten recipe books gives this recipe, dated December 1862, a note says that it was given by Lady Cagley's Cook.

Royal Sauce for Plum Pudding
Beat a 1/4 lb butter to a cream then add by degrees 3 oz of very fine loaf sugar.  When well beaten add 1 glass of wine and 1 of brandy.   It should be sent up in a boat and should look like thick whipped cream.

Sounds like a version of Brandy butter to me.

The same book gives a recipe for Christmas Puddings - vast quantities of them.

3 lbs flour
10 lbs currants
10 lbs raisins
3 lb bread crumbs (2 loaves)
4 lbs suet
1 oz candied peel   I wonder whether this was supposed to be 1 lb?
2 oz allspice
2 lbs sugar
1 1/2 dozen eggs
Milk to mix
1/2 pint Brandy

Boiled for 9 1/2 hours in basins.

Why such a large quantity?   Well this was a vicarage cook and my did they know how to feed large numbers of people.

Kitchen Christmas Tea and Supper - 60 persons present

Elder Wine
56 lbs Beef cooked for 9 hours - properly done(!)
1 Joint of Cold Pork
15 Puddings
2 Tarts
6 Loaves
3 lbs Butter
Plum Loaves
3 lbs Sugar
1/2 lb Tea
1 Pint Cream

Dining Room Tea - 25 Persons

Portion of above, plus
Cold Tongue
1 Pint Cream
1 lb Sugar
Bread and Butter

The above quantities were more than sufficient with regard to Meat and Pudding.   Bread, Tea, Sugar and Cream just about right.

The book was written by a cook at a vicarage.  Luckily for me, the name of the parish is mentioned once, so by the magic of internet and sheer curiosity, I have  managed to find some photographs of the vicarage in question as it is presently up for sale.   It is a big old place with enormous rooms, Grade II listed.

It gave me quite a thrill to be able to look at photographs of the old kitchen and dining room where the writing, cooking and eating took place, way back in 1848!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Books, Books, Books

As this is my 'kitchen' blog, here are some of my new books.    They are all rather battered and worn with not a single high-gloss photograph between them.  Exactly the kind of recipe book I love. 

They are not as old as some, the oldest one dates to 1930's, but the recipes within are much older.  Some have hand written notes, splashes and splodges, which all add to the charm, in my opinion. 

Before Christmas I bought a copy of Nigel Slater's new book, The Christmas Chronicles.   I have flicked through it and no doubt it is an excellent read, but somehow it doesn't call to me in the same way as these books.

Enjoy Boxing Day.   

Left-overs for us, surely the best part of the Christmas Feast...and we certainly won't be visiting the sales.   It is a day for extra-long walks with the dog and then a guilt-free hour or two spent reading by the log fire.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Parsonage Cottage Kitchen at Christmas

The older I get, the more I seem to enjoy Christmas.    Simple things, like getting out the Christmas china,  baubles and decorations for the tree, and some of my mother's favourite old cake decorations.

My helpful Kitchen Angel - a rather large, golden, papier mache cherub - also makes an appearance.  She has been watching over my festive kitchen cooking for almost twenty years and has more or less ensured that everyone is well fed and happy.

Today has been a happy, pottering kind of day and I have made mince pies, shortbread, tomato and garlic bread, regular white bread, English muffins,  and I have a large pan of red cabbage with cranberries and apple gently cooking in the Rayburn.

I had fairy lights a-twinkling, carols and Christmas hits playing on the radio.   Bah humbug! you may say, but I enjoyed it.

These days we host a Christmas Day breakfast party for the family, which means that by around midday peace descends upon Parsonage Cottage.   We could go out to eat with the family, but we enjoy this small oasis of peace and quiet, after years of hosting enormous Christmas Day lunches.     

We'll settle down in front of the fire for a quiet afternoon

punctuated only by the demands of the cats or the need to walk the dog.   My husband will tuck into his very favourite Christmas food - turkey and piccalilli sandwiches and I will indulge in a smoked salmon sandwich - as we watch the Queen's Speech and then dip into our new books.    Bliss!

Merry Christmas, however you celebrate it.