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 all of them.

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.

Sunday 31 October 2021

Mincemeat and Quince

The days are getting shorter and the trees are beginning to shed their leaves.      The quince tree has done magnificently this year.  The fruit enormous and abundant.   I try to leave them on the tree as long as possible, but the severe winds of the last few days have meant that I had to pick them before they fell - quince are very easily bruised and I didn't want to waste any of them.

A few slices of quince really elevate the flavour of an apple crumble and my family love apple crumble for pudding.    Quince are also very good roasted in with a lot of root vegetables and onions.   This time of year I also drop a few slices of quince into the pot when I make a vat of spinach soup just to add a bit of punch.   

Quince Vinegar is my favourite and I have already made 5 litres of it.   Allowed to mature, meld and mellow for a few weeks, it will be perfect for making salad dressings and for seasoning food.   I plan to make another brew which can be put into pretty bottles and given away as a small additional Christmas gift.

Quince Marmalade, Membrillo, and Quince Jelly are also on the list of things to make.  Quince will be used in puddings and cakes and some will be frozen for future use.   I may even make a bottle or two of Quince Vodka to go along with the gifts of Quince Vinegar.

The remainder will be given away to neighbours, family and friends.

Today, however, I really wanted to get started on making mincemeat, ready for Christmas.

A quick rummage through the pantry and store cupboard soon showed me that I had lots of tail ends of bags of dried fruits which needed to be used up.   So if this years mincemeat is a success it can never truly be replicated because it is a real mixture of the conventional and the exotic.  The usual spices, some veggie suet, brown sugar,  zest and juice of a couple of large oranges, a very large dollop of home made bitter orange marmalade, and some home-grown Bramley apples went into the mix (I could have used quince).

As I came to add the apples it became apparent that I needed to get out my really enormous mixing bowl.  

The smaller bowl is very large; the other one is huge and very old. It belonged to my late uncle.  Quite why he had such an enormous bowl is a bit of a mystery as he only cooked for himself and my aunt and they were frugal eaters.

The bowl has some cracks, one of them quite large, but I cherish it because he used it; he was my favourite uncle.

The orange juice, chopped apples and deliciously bitter orange marmalade were stirred into the mix before I clingfilmed it and set it aside in the pantry for the night.

Earlier this morning I decanted it into a large roasting pan, covered it with foil ready for a two-and-a-half hour bake in a very low oven.    Recipe and photographs to follow in a day or two.

This is Millie in her favourite kitchen perch.  She likes to oversee all food prep from her vantage point.   I'm not sure how much longer she will be able to squeeze her rather ample self into that basket.    

Saturday 15 May 2021

Four Noggins/Gill = One Imperial Pint = Twenty Fluid Ounces

My daughter likes to use cup measurements, I prefer pounds and ounces.    She teaches Reception and first year children, so her baking classes are designed to make life easy for her and the children, I understand that.      I am always perplexed at the very idea of measuring out a cup of butter, for example.  It sounds very messy, not that the infants in her classes would be bothered, the more mess the better!    

Of course many of todays recipes are given in grams, another alien concept to me; difficult for me to visualise.    Wherever possible I stick to good old Imperial pounds and ounces, although I must admit that digital scales make using the alternative very easy.   

I stick to my beloved Imperial measurements.  Is one allowed to say that these days?

I celebrate Pecks, Gills, Bushels, Noggins and Ounces and I delight in the fact that my mother taught me that a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter.  Pounds, ounces, stones.

How agile our minds must have been as we answered arithmetic questions which called for  money to be calculated in £'s, shillings and pence - with 12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the £, and 21/- to the Guinea.    

I am old enough to remember being able to purchase some sort of small sweetie from the corner shop for the princely sum of one farthing, four of which made one old penny.   This stimulates other memories of Black Jacks, Fruit Salads and a sour sherbet sweet like yellow sugar,  into which we would stab a  wet finger, delighting in the sharp sour taste and the fun of ending up with a finger which became yellow stained and made us look as though we smoked forty cigarettes a day.     

I digress.   Forget the sweets, celebrate the old Imperial measurements.   Mini rant over, my granddaughter has arrived.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Hunting for a Recipe

A few years ago I was whizzing through the abebooks website when my eye was caught by the artwork on one of these recipe book covers.   I clicked on the listing, looked at the photographs, and decided to order the book.  

I should state here and now that I am not pro-hunting, so let's not have any nonsense about that.    They are recipe books, plain and simple.

One book grew into a small collection within my general collection.

Originally they were sold to raise funds for the hunts they represented, but that was thirty or forty years ago.  

The recipes are many and varied, often presented in the donor's own handwriting, on their headed notepaper...surely something which people wouldn't dream of allowing these days?    (I have clipped it off this recipe.)

The recipes are many and varied, heavily weighted on the alcohol side.  Take this recipe for 'Batchelors (sic) Nightcap'  Take one bottle of whisky.  Remove cork.  Pour contents into cut glass tumbler.  Half fill.  Add water to taste and consume immediately.  

Ginger Brush - 3/4 dark Barbados rum with 1/4 King's Ginger Liqueur  (sounds delicious) but I am not sure I would like to try the Coleman Mix which is equal measures of cherry brandy and sloe gin, nor do I like the sound of the Percy Special which is equal measures of whisky and cherry brandy.   

A contributor gave her recipe for a concoction to go into her hip flask, she named it: Sabina's Dutch Courage: Half a bottle of Bell's whisky and half a bottle of Tio Pepe sherry - stir and pour.   It goes straight to the head, is tasty and thirst quenching and fills me with courage as I gallop towards an obstacle.  A good drink out of season too - a good slug before putting the bikini on for the first time is a great help.  Sabina.

Most books also contain hints and tips to do with horses and hunting kit.

It is quite a while since I wrote a blog post and goodness have I become rusty.   This small offering has taken almost a week to write.   In the old days I could dash off a post very quickly.  

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.