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.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Sweeping the Chimney & Cleaning the Stove

The weather today has been pretty terrible, rain, rain and more rain.  

The road leading out of our village has a very large pool of water across it which catches out the speeders and the unwary.    Even our little woodland has a stream of water cascading through it - the first time I have ever seen that in the ten years we have been here.   Wet, wet, wet!

A good day for staying indoors and tackling some of those horrible jobs, like sweeping the chimney and cleaning the flue and stove.    It is one of those filthy jobs which means we have to dustsheet the kitchen furniture and move all the pots and pans from around the stove.

It's not a pretty sight!

Everything gets cleaned from the chimney, down and all the soot and mess is swept through the stove and into the ash tray.  We remove the stove top, clean the tricky bits down the back, sweep, clean and clean some more, taking care not to stir up a soot cloud.    It is dirty work.  We share the job, after all these years it is pretty routine.

It is always a relief when the job is completed and the Rayburn is gleaming inside and out.

It's even more of a relief when the rest of the kitchen has also been cleaned and the dust sheets are shaken and put away until next time.

I can't deny that sweeping the chimney is a chore, cleaning the innards of the stove is tedious and dirty work, but it is all worth it.   This wonderful stove heats the radiators throughout the house, provides endless hot water, and best of all - it is a cooker.

In the Boot Room I have an electric oven and a gas hob - mainly for use during the summer - but I don't enjoy using them.    Nothing compares to the peace I feel when I cook on the Rayburn stove, it simply feels right, for me.   It may not be pretty, but I love it.

Of course I have to link this in with an entry from one of my old recipe books...

Yesterday I came across a recipe for 'Blacking' - presumably for stove blacking, although I suppose it could be for shoe and boot blacking.

12 oz Lamb (sic) Black
12 oz Treacle
3 oz Oil Vitriol
3 oz Salad Oil
2 Pints Vinegar
2 Pints of Beer

There were no instructions, presumably they were all mixed together and used on a very regular basis, once any rust and dirt had been brushed from the stove, then the blacking would be applied and rubbed with a soft cloth.

That 's one job we don't have to do because the Rayburn is enamelled and easy to wipe down.

I smiled when I saw that the next recipe in the book is 'For the Head Ache'.

Grate some horseradish very fine, put in a muslin bag and lay over the temples tie loosely with a handkerchief.

Horseradish is said to be good for all manner of things, as well as for serving with roast beef, so perhaps I'll give that one a go.


  1. I totally agree about the enjoyment of cooking on a range… though I DO prefer a gas hob! For inside oven cooking you can't beat them. My gas fired range was by no means as difficult or messy to deal with as your solid fuel one but we are getting rid of it after around 20 years. It'll be interesting getting used to a different cooker after all that time!

    I love your old cookery book collection. My oldest one is a 1970 version of Mrs Beeton and the rest as more modern still - but the ones I collect and will keep are the ones which I can take to bed to read! A mere recipe is not enough, I love to read someone who is really into food and can talk about it in an interesting and informative manner. I look forward to reading more recipes from your collection! L x

    1. I know that you are an excellent cook, so I imagine it won't take you long to have that new cooker producing fabulous meals, especially after seeing what you can rustle up with limited facilities at the moment.

      Those old books are a joy, but I also love those very cheap and flimsy recipe booklets from the 1920's onwards, often they are recipes gathered from the community. Times were hard back then and I am forever amazed and impressed with the way those women came up with all manner of dishes created from so little, and with basic cooking facilities. These are especially useful on those days when the Rayburn is being temperamental, they make me grateful for all that we have and very happy that I don't have to feed the family with half a sheep's head, etc!