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.

Sunday, 26 June 2016


Earlier in the week, after my baking session, I found that I had a decent chunk of pastry leftover so I decided to rustle up a savoury flan/tart for lunch.    

The choice of a savoury filling was something of an experiment for me, because the potato pastry mixture was slightly sweetened with a little sugar.  (ie leftover from the Apricot, Raspberry and Potato Tart which I posted about previously.)

I hesitated for a moment, but then decided that if I added some sharp cheese to the custard mix, it could work, in the way which fruit cake and cheese work together.   I crossed my fingers.

I used a deep pie dish of about 7 inches  diameter, simply because that was to hand and I had enough pastry to cover it.   I baked it blind for 15 minutes while I prepared the filling.

Two field mushrooms were roughly chopped and sauted in butter, along with a couple of sliced spring onions and some snipped chives.  I set them aside to cool while I made the custard.

There are lots of 'rules' about what proportions of egg, cream and milk to use, what should and what should not be put in, none of which I follow.   I just made the custard in the way which my family like eating it.

I used 3 eggs, approx 12 fl oz of milk, a good handful of grated Wensleydale cheese and a generous pinch of good old English mustard powder.   (Max hates English mustard, so I keep that little secret to myself, but I think it adds a little extra to the taste.)   Just whisk them all together.

Place your sauteed vegetables into the pastry case, pour on the custard, sprinkle with a few more chopped chives  and bake  at 180C for about 40 minutes.

I could hardly wait to try this.   Would the pastry be too sweet and overwhelm the rest of the dish?

However, it turned out to be very flavoursome and the very slightly sweetened potato pastry worked really well with the savoury filling.  

I would definitely make this again, the mix of sharp cheese and ever-so-slightly sweet pastry worked well.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Apricot, Raspberry and Potato Tart

The pastry is made with mashed and sieved potato, so is the topping.   Both taste wonderful, have a great texture, and do not taste of potato.

A pastry base, raspberry filling and a sponge topping with apricots and ground almonds.  Scrumptious and very easy.    Can you tell that I am still enjoying my small forays into the use of vegetables in sweet dishes?

My real life is filled from morning to afternoon with cottage renovations;  in less than three weeks Miles, Poppy and the cat will be home from China and living in their cottage.    

Playing about with these old recipes is how I choose to relax - Max enjoys eating the fruits of my labour.

Potato Pastry

12oz plain flour
3oz butter
3oz vegetable fat or lard if you prefer
6oz potatoes mashed and sieved
30g caster sugar

Raspberry Jam (or any flavour you prefer)
Pre-soaked apricots, soft and moist - as many or as few as you like

Sponge Topping

3oz mashed and sieved potatoes
4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tsp almond extract
4oz sr flour
3oz ground almonds
Milk if required to give a good consistency - you could also add the grated rind of a lemon for a little extra zip.

Make the pastry by mixing all the ingredients together, no liquid required.  You could use a food processor, a fork, or my favourite implement, no idea what it is called, it has a wooden handle and several sharp and mean blades to cut through the fat.

Merry's favourite is the flour shaker...

Roll out the pastry and line a 10 inch flan tin.  I used my perforated flan tin, so need to bake blind, otherwise I would suggest baking it blind for 10-15 minutes.

Spread the pastry base with jam and then add the soft apricots.

Cream the potato, butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy and then gradually beat in the eggs and almond extract.  Gently fold in the flour and ground almonds, add a couple of tablespoons of milk if necessary.

Spread the mixture on top of the jam and apricots, smooth the top.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 200 degrees C/400 degrees F or until golden brown.

Delicious eaten hot or cold, served with cream, custard or ice cream.

I had some pastry leftover, I'll tell you what I made with it next time - and for once it wasn't a sweet dish, despite the sugar in the pastry mixture.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Chip Butty Loaf

I haven't had much time for baking, although I have had time to write down a list of things I would like to have a go at.  

Some of it is weather-dependent.  
The flowers I require should be gathered dry and in the sunshine.   I live on the east coast of Lincolnshire where the weather has been far from summery and sunshiney.   Right now it is very cold, grey and breezy.   Darn it.

I was stuck at home, waiting for a parcel to be delivered so I decided to have a go at making a recipe which I had seen in a Dan Lepard book.    (Despite my definite preference for browsing around and playing about with the recipes from my old books, I do own quite a few modern ones.)

The recipe was for Flash Bread, or Bread in a Flash - something like that.  It can be found in Dan's book, Short and Sweet.     It took about 2 hours from start to finish and was very easy.

What I loved about it was that the recipe called for malt vinegar and grated potato...need I say more, you know how much I enjoy using vegetables in my baking.      I have a wide range of vinegars in the pantry but I used bog-standard malt vinegar.

The resulting loaf had a wonderfully crisp crust.    The bread itself was moist and delicious.  I can't say that it really tasted of potato and vinegar, for it didn't, although the flavour was excellent for such a quick loaf.

I had a good slice of it decently slathered in butter and it was really tasty.   It didn't taste of potato, nor did it smell of vinegar.  

However, my brain kept feeding me images of chip butties (years since I had one of those, perhaps it is time for another) so perhaps you wouldn't want to eat it with jam or lemon curd on top, but served with butter or cheese, or perhaps with soup, it really adds flavour in a subtle way.

I will be making it again, it was quick, easy and tasty.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Victorian Flavour

These biscuits won't win any prizes for their beauty, that is for sure.

However, one bite reveals their inner beauty - a wonderful combination of dark chocolate, lemon zest and spice, all wrapped up in a crumbly and delicious, chocolate chip studded cookie.

I was out walking the dog (of course!) when I had the idea for using that fabulous flavour combination which I wrote about here to spice up my next batch of cookies, for the people who are working down at Cowslip Cottage.

This quantity makes an enormous batch, so you may want to halve the quantities, although they should store pretty well, given the chance.

Rich, Spicy, Chocolate Chip Cookies        Oven Temp 350 degrees

400g butter
50g good quality dark chocolate, melted
250g icing sugar
450g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g good quality cocoa powder
600g chocolate chips
freshly grated zest of a lemon
1 rounded tsp cinnamon

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in the melted chocolate, sift in flour, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon and then stir in the lemon zest and chocolate chips.  Treat the dough just as you would do for shortbread, work until it all comes together in a nice lump.

Take a dessertspoonful of dough, roll into a ball, place on a baking sheet, flatten, mark with a fork and then pop them into the oven for approximately 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack.

I hope you enjoy the flavour combination as much as my family do.   The cinnamon is not overpowering and the lemon zest simply becomes 'citrus' which works so wonderfully well with the rich, dark chocolate.

They are good.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Parsnip and Rosemary Biscuits

I am continuing to have fun as I explore and develop some of the recipes to be found in those really old cook books.

This particular idea sprang from Delights for Ladies, 1594, Sir Hugh Platt.   It was a recipe for 'sweete cakes without either spice or sugar', using dried parsnip as a main ingredient.   I haven't made them yet but I'll let you know how I get on.

However, I decided that I would try to make savoury biscuits from a similar base, just for fun and because I love the idea of incorporating vegetables into baking.   Parsnip and Rosemary seemed a good combination, so I developed the idea from there.

Forgive my ramblings, but this is how the biscuits came into being.   Nothing so straightforward as a clear idea, just playing as I went along.

First I had to dry my parsnips.

Luckily, the weather has been so foul, cold, wet and utterly miserable, over here on the east coast - that we have continued to use the Rayburn for heating, so the warming oven has been available to use too. Very useful for gently drying my parsnips.

I peeled two very large parsnips and then cut them into ribbons, using my vegetable peeler.  These ribbons went onto trays and into the warming oven overnight.  By morning they were crisp and light, totally dry and ready to be made into parsnip flour.  

I decided that the easiest way to do this was in my liquidiser, though I was slightly tempted to use an old fashioned pestle and mortar, but not for long.     One minute later I had quite a heap of powdered parsnip and the fun could begin.

Rosemary is such a wonderful herb, with those exquisite blue flowers.   I love it and often pop some sprigs into a jug, purely for decoration.    

Throughout history it has been widely used and highly valued for medicinal properties.

It was at this point that I suddenly decided to work some Parmesan cheese into the mix, so then I had to sit down and think about what proportions I should use.   I'm not a cook, I just enjoy playing around with and tweaking recipes, so it was all guess work.   Luckily, the finished biscuits have turned out wonderfully!

Here they are, ready to go into the oven.

And this is the finished biscuit.  Crisp, flavoursome and very well received.   No one could guess at the mystery ingredient though, which was a little disappointing in some ways.  Too much Parmesan, perhaps?

I made a second batch, this time using the herb thyme.   I loved this combination even more than the rosemary, although I would be very happy to make either one again.

Parsnip, Parmesan and Rosemary/Thyme Biscuits

Parsnips.   I used two very large ones.  Peel and then shred them, dry them slowly in your oven until they are so light and crisp that you can crush them/liquidise/process them into a fine powder.

Weigh the resulting flour and adjust your quantities if you need to, keeping to roughly the proportions I used which were, after all, pure guesswork.

80g dried parsnip flour
170g plain flour
100g butter
100g finely grated Parmesan cheese
Rosemary or Thyme - approx 1 tablespoonful
tiny pinch of salt
1 beaten egg, to bind

Mix the dried parsnip flour with plain flour, rub in the butter and stir in the Parmesan, salt and herb.  Mix in the beaten egg and make a stiff dough.  Knead lightly.  Roll out and cut into biscuits.

Bake in oven at 180C for approx 10-15 minutes.   Allow to cool for a minute or two and then gently place them on a cooling rack.

Today I am linking up with Karen at  Lavender and Lovage in the Cooking with Herbs 
category and her co-host Janie, from The Hedgecombers.

Cooking with Herbs

I hope I have complied with all the rules correctly.  Apologies if not.  Please do let me know.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Is this really America's Food Heritage?

Trawling my bookshelves, I came across a book which immediately made me think of my father.   It is one which he brought back from Virginia, way back in 2001 when he was doing a research trip over there.

The book is entitled 'Best of the Best from Virginia Cookbook  -  Selected Recipes from Virginia's Favorite Cookbooks'.

What I find so shocking is the way many cake and pudding recipes call for ...cake mix, cans of frosting, instant vanilla pudding, etc.   Surely this can't really be the best of the best of Virginian cooking, America's food heritage?  Serious question, by the way.

To be quite fair there were plenty of other recipes which do cook from scratch, I was simply shocked at the rest.

I set to and made a couple of recipes from the book, both have turned out well although I wouldn't necessarily make them again.

This one is Geba's Iron Skillet Chocolate Pie

2 cups sugar (you can cut by 1/3 - 1/2, so I did and it was perfectly fine for our taste)
4 rounded tablespoons flour
4 rounded tablespoons dry cocoa
1/2 cup butter/margarine
5 egg, separated
2 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 9" pie shell (I made a digestive biscuit crust instead)

Mix all dry ingredients.  Melt butter in a 10" skillet.  Add dry mixture, mix lightly.   Combine beaten egg yolks with milk, add to mixture, stirring constantly.   Cook slowly until really thick.   Remove from hat, add vanilla, blend well and pour into baked pie shell.

Cool and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Now, it says that it serves 6 chocoholics or 8 smaller servings.   I think it will go much further without anyone feeling short-changed.   I would say 8 generous portions or 10 slightly smaller.


I'll share the other recipe another time.