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, 31 August 2016

Lead Cook not into Temptation

It has been a summer of visits, friends, family and other distractions.  Time for experimental cookery, non existent.    What has continued though, has been the reading of old recipe books and household management books ... not Mrs Beeton's.

10/- a Head for House Books, An Indispensable Manual for Housekeepers is just one of several which I am enjoying right now.

It was written about 120 years ago, when ten shillings (50p) had the purchasing power of approx £50, so not an ungenerous budget.    There are many woeful tales of how much food is probably wasted by 'Cook' and how this may be reduced by creating a new dish out of leftovers.

"The remains of milk puddings must not be thrown away, for if beaten up with some more milk and re-baked in a smaller dish, with perhaps the addition of a layer of jam or marmalade, the family will be unaware that they are not being regaled on a brand-new pudding.   Wise is the woman who thus bamboozles her family."

Bamboozles, I love that word!

She says:    "the man who will turn with disgust from the orthodox rice pudding will eat with pleasure precisely the same concoction if baked in a cup or mould, turned out and served with a little finely chopped preserved ginger in a sauce composed of the ginger syrup slightly diluted with water and made hot."...mmmn.

I'm not convinced of that one, sorry Mrs Peel.

In the chapter dealing with Luncheon Dishes

"Let us suppose we are catering for a family of eight, consisting of master, misstress, two children, and four servants.   The orders for butchers and poulterers for the week would probably be as follows:

Week 1: Sirloin of beef, neck of mutton, two rabbits, shoulder of mutton.
Week 2: Silver side (fresh) of beef, one chicken, loin of mutton, 2.5 lb steak, one chicken."

Her tip for making the most of a chicken:

"..the chicken is then stuffed with minced veal, ham, tongue and sausage meat until it regains its original shape...One chicken thus treated will suffice for eight people, without touching the pinions or legs."

Finally, "A great temptation is offered to cooks by rag and bone merchants, who are ready to buy every kind of article.  These persons should not be allowed inside the area or back yard."


  1. I love old recipe books - as long as they are written in a language I can understand ie not too olde English. I have an Australian cooking book from the late 1800s and a nz one from about 80 years ago. Both have a lot of great recipe - and healthy, before the days of supermarkets. Looking forward to reading more about your books

    1. Hello, and welcome! It sounds like you have two very special books and it is wonderful to know that they are with someone who appreciates them. One of the things which always amazes me is how they turned out such great food using very basic cooking facilities and without access to many of the things which we take for granted.
      It is nice to occasionally take a little step back into time and follow the old recipes. My family have certainly enjoyed tucking into the results, well, most of the time. There was one memorable failure with a sweet cauliflower recipe, but we won't go into that one!

  2. My four servants can jolly well cook for themselves!

    1. Hello Cro, Suggested menus for both the dining room and the kitchen are also shown, the servants got very basic rations indeed. I hope they managed to snaffle a few treats now and then.