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, 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.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A Nut Loaf for Nutting Day

September 3rd was traditionally known as Nutting Day, which is when children would go out into the local woods to collect hazelnuts.

Nut Loaf

6 oz/175 g butter
6 oz/175 g caster sugar
3 eggs
8 oz/225 g self raising flour
1 oz/25 g ground almonds
3 oz/75 g mixed chopped nuts
2 tablespoons milk

To Decorate
4 tablespoons apricot jam
3 oz/75 g walnut halves
3 oz/75 g whole brazil nuts

Heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3

Beat the butter and caster sugar together, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of the flour with each egg.
Stir in the ground almonds and chopped nuts with the rest of the flour.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk, to make a soft consistency.
Turn into a buttered and lined 2lb/1kg loaf tin and bake for 1 1/4/1 1/2 hours.   Turn out on to a wire rack to cool slightly.
Warm the apricot jam and pass through a sieve.  Brush half on to the warm cake and decorate with the nuts.  Brush with the remaining jam and leave to cool.

The cake is light and moist, beautifully textured with the chopped nuts.   Will definitely make this one again.

Recipe found in A Calendar of Feasts Cattern Cakes and Lace by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, published 1987.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Recipe Book Cover Fun

As well as making and baking plenty of food and cakes, this summer has also featured a bit of fun as I played around with echoing some recipe book covers.

The most fiddly bit is getting things set up at the right levels, varying heights so that the photograph looks good, rather than slavishly following what is on the cover.   Just go for the spirit of the cover and suddenly it becomes very easy and it is surprising just how many 'props' are to be found around the home.

I hope you have had some summer fun.

ps Plenty more book cover art can be found over on my Parsonage Cottage blog.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Village Show

On Sunday our tiny village hall came to life for the Annual Village Show.  After months of meetings and trying to generate some interest, it finally all came together and the tables were filled with fruit, vegetables, cakes, jam, pickles, craft works, photography and fabulous flower displays.

What a relief.

It is one of those quintessentially English events where outwardly calm facades hide those deeply competitive streaks.    Many of the village people have nothing to do with the event, so thank goodness we have some fabulous people who do take the time and trouble to grow, make, bake, jam, pickle and create things for the show.

One year we had the infamous 'Sconegate' incident... involving a judge firmly rooted in WI standards and our fabulous local foodblogger, Dom of belleaukitchen.com, who had baked the most sumptuous and beautiful scones - alas, he had baked them man-sized - and they were therefore demoted because of this.  This led to murmurings of witchcraft and/or skulduggery of some kind and there has never since been a 'Scone' class...

How much poorer our village would be without his wonderful support and participation.

This year it was especially difficult to keep things going because our committee numbers are so depleted.   Fortunately, on the day, several people who had not been able to help with the preparations turned out to help with the general work of selling tickets, filling in forms and helping with the refreshments.  Phew!

The doors were closed at 11am, the judges had arrived and they took their work very seriously indeed.   Jams and pickles were tasted, salad dressings, ditto.  Cakes were cut and nibbled, notes made.  Bread was sawn open and prodded, poked and sampled.  Judgement made, the certificates were filled in and best of category selected.

By 2pm the work of judging had been completed, so had the paperwork, and the doors were opened.  In rushed the crowd to scan for prizes, assess the judging, cakes and tea were consumed and raffle tickets drawn.

It was fun!

Without events like this, which do take a lot of work, but which draw a community together, the village would be a much duller place.     People come together and have fun, they sit and drink tea, chat and wait for the awards and raffle.

They turned out and they participated and the hall was buzzing with conversation and fun.

The tradition of the Village Show has been maintained.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Boodle's Club Cake Good.

I should state here and now that brandy has nothing whatsoever to do with this recipe!

I was just trying  to convey a sense of Boodle's Club, which is a private Gentlemen's Club and the second oldest club in the world.   It was founded in 1762 and has had some illustrious members.   Membership is strictly by nomination and election - no riff-raff allowed!

I can, however, bring you a recipe for their special fruit cake.

I took delivery of this old, 1930's recipe book, yesterday morning - Caviare to Candy by Mrs Philip Martineau.

It is the kind I book I love - lots of recipes which don't call for a million ingredients, minimal instructions and few illustrations.   You have to rely on your back knowledge and instincts.  I don't always get it right, but it does make baking fun.

I was drawn to 'Boddle's Club Cake' first of all because the name appealed to me - but mainly because the word 'Good' had been written next to it.

That is another thing I like about these old books, the notes, the splashes, the evidence of years of use.

A cake was required for the weekend - my choice was made for me.

"One pound of flour, half a pound of butter or margarine, half a pound of Demerara sugar, half a pound of raisins, two eggs, one and a half teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, one gill of milk.

Beat butter and sugar together, then the eggs, chop raisins (I didn't) and mix with flour, stir in gradually; dissolve soda in the warm milk and beat all well together.   Bake in a moderate oven for two and three-quarter hours.  (Very good.)"

What a wonderful cake!   It is a light fruited sponge cake, but with a sort of butterscotch/caramel flavour.   It goes perfectly with a cup of tea - no brandy was consumed - I was still playing with the Gentlemen's club theme when I took the photographs.

The family loved it.

I loved it.

This has gone straight to the top of my 'easy bakes' list.

You can now find me on Instagram as parsonage_cottage_kitchen.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cheese and Olive Bread

This is a bit fancier than the bread which I normally bake, but it turned out to be a really easy recipe to follow and the resulting bread was delicious - crisp, flaky outer shell with cheese and olive filling - think a very large, crisper, savoury croissant and you are almost there.  

Delicious warm/hot straight from the oven, or reheat later.

9 oz bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 sachet yeast
3 1/2 fl oz hand-hot milk
1 egg, beaten
2 oz butter, chilled and cut into very small cubes

2 oz stoned olives, sliced
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together the beaten egg and warmed milk and then add them to the dry ingredients.   Turn the dough on to a board and knead until smooth and elastic.     (Compared to the vast batches of bread which I normally make this was a tiny amount and I found it a joy to knead such a small quantity!)

Place in a clean, greased bowl and cover.  Leave to double in size - about 30-40 minutes, depends how warm your kitchen is.

Turn the dough out and roll into a 6x12 inch rectangle.    Dot the bottom two-thirds of the dough with half the butter.   Fold the top third down over the centre third and then the bottom third up.  Seal the edges.   (All much easier than it sounds.)
Place the dough on a plate and chill for about 20 minutes.

Mix together the filling ingredients, save a little egg for glazing.
Roll the dough out into an oblong about 8x12 inches.   Spread the filling over the surface.  Roll along the long side, like a Swiss roll.   Shape into a ring.  Mine was more like a horseshoe, but never mind!
Place on a greased baking sheet.  Make a series of cuts around the ring, brush with beaten egg.   Leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Plae in a preheated oven 220C/fan oven 200C or gas mark 7.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and wait for the gannets to descend.

I found the recipe in a WI book - Best-kept Secrets of the WI.

The outer bread case was crisp and flaky, the filling was like a savoury croissant.    When I make it next time I'll use a more mature cheese for a stronger flavour, but that is down to personal taste.   The grandchildren thoroughly enjoyed it, even if one did pick out all the olives.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Chocolate and Rhubarb Tart

Chocolate pastry with a layer of chocolate custard topped with rhubarb which has been gently poached in red berry coulis.

I served it with an extra portion of the berry coulis - sharp, tangy, and delicious.   

Indulgent?  Yes!   

Sweet chocolate and tangy fruits, unctuous custard over a lovely crisp pastry base.   If you are not so keen on the sharper notes just add more sugar to the fruit.

I used a Victorian recipe for the pastry.   I am tweaking the balance of ingredients at the moment because I found it very difficult to handle.    Once I have it perfected I will post it here.     This pastry makes the most delicious and crisp base for a tart or pie.

Make a thick chocolate custard and spread it on the base of the baked pastry shell, top it with the poached rhubarb and add a little of the red berry coulis.    Chill.  Serve with extra red berry coulis.  Simple!

Because I made this up as I went along, I haven't got any accurate weights and quantities to share with you, next time I make it I will take note.

I used two sticks of rhubarb, washed, trimmed, stringy bits removed, sliced about half an inch thick and very gently poached in red berry coulis.

The coulis was simply made with some red berries from the freezer, I defrosted them and then gently heated them in a saucepan, along with a dessertspoonful of dark brown sugar.     I just let them do their own thing on the slow plate of the Rayburn, so the heat was very gentle.

Push the berries through a sieve and discard the seeds.   The resulting coulis didn't look quite enough to poach the rhubarb in, so I added a small glug of blackcurrant juice and then tumbled the rhubarb into the pan and left them to slowly and very gently poach.  The key to this is a really low heat.   The rhubarb will cook through but will also keep its shape and take on the most beautiful ruby red colour.

Pile the cooled rhubarb on top of the custard, pour over a little of the coulis.   

Chill the tart for an hour or so and then enjoy those taste and texture sensations!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Stuffed Monkey

Stuffed Monkey - how could I resist?
I found the recipe in 'English Food' by Jane Grigson, 1974.
My initial reaction was to wonder what on earth such
a recipe could be doing in the 'Teatime' section
along with cakes, scones, bread and buns.

Rest assured, no monkey was harmed in the making of this dish.

It is something of a mystery as to how it got such a name.
Jane Grigson got the recipe from a Jewish Cookbook
written by Florence Greenberg.

My interest was piqued, not least by the unusual name
also by the apparent simplicity of the dish.


6 oz flour
Half tsp cinnamon
4 oz butter
4 oz soft brown sugar
1 egg, separated

Make a dough with the flour, cinnamon, butter, sugar and egg yolk, mix it as though making pastry.
Roll it out and cut into two rounds to fit into an 8 inch cake tin.
Fit the first round into the buttered tin.

1 1/2 oz butter
2 oz chopped peel
1 oz caster sugar
2 oz ground almonds
1 egg yolk

Melt the butter and then beat in all the other ingredients.
Spread the mixture over the pastry.
Cover with the second round.
Tuck the edges in neatly.
Brush with the egg white.
Bake at 190 C/375F for about 30 minutes.
Cool in the tin and then turn out carefully.

The outer case is crisp and flavoursome while the filling is almost marzipan-like,
 very dense, rich.
It is a fabulous teatime treat
a coffee-time treat.
Any time treat.
Indulge yourself!

Easy to make.
Stores well.
Tastes delicious.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Herb Pudding for Spring

This first pudding was traditionally made in Staveley Village, in Westmorland - the North West of England.    It can only be made in Spring, when the nettles are young and tender and when wild green herbs grow in abundance.

You will need:

Any kind of edible young green herbs, wild ones
such as Easter ledges (none available around here, I used wild garlic instead)
young nettle tops (wear rubber gloves!)
young dandelion leaves
lady's mantle (alchemilla)
or your choice of spring herbs - several handfuls.
One hard-boiled egg
One raw egg
Half an ounce of butter
pepper and salt.

We have lots of nettles, plenty of dandelions, lady's mantle, wild garlic and chives, so that's what I settled for.   Easier said than done, though.  

The first problem I encountered was that of finding enough young dandelion leaves, preferably located in places where the dog could not possibly have lifted his leg...     The nettles came from Owl Wood and so did the wild garlic.    Lady's mantle came from where the old summerhouse was located and the chives from the herb garden.

Wash them thoroughly!    Really thoroughly, it is amazing what comes out of those greens.    I'm squeamish, I know, but I also know what runs around our gardens and the woods at night time.    Just saying!

Put the greens into boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Drain.    I drained and squeezed until the greens looked like dry boiled spinach.   (I should have squeezed a third or fourth time, for I ended up with a small puddle around the pudding.)   Then chop the leaves and add the finely chopped boiled egg.

Next, add the beaten egg, the butter and seasoning.

Return the whole to the pan and cook through briefly.

Put the (tiny) mixture into a hot pudding basin to shape it, then turn it out and serve.

I popped a wild garlic flower on top for decoration.       You can see that pesky liquid around the base.

Taste test:   Surprisingly delicious!
Would I make it again - Yes, I probably would.

Another Herb Pudding,   this one comes from a different Westmorland village,  Burnside.

The basics are the the same, but you leave out the raw egg and add a couple of tablespoons of boiled barley.

I am a fan of pearl barley, I like it in soups and I liked the addition to this pudding.   It just added a little more body to the dish.   Less juice dribbled out of this one, I had almost wrung it out sufficiently!

The dish is really intended to be served as a side dish to meat.
The recipe came from Florence White's book - Good things in England (1932)

Playtime over, I got down to the real business of the day...

Four individual apple crumbles and a loaf of no-knead bread.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Baking and Cooking

It has been a busy time, here in Parsonage Cottage Kitchen.
Lots of cooking and baking, virtually no photographs because I was too busy.
This one more than makes up for it, for me.

Young Merry made a batch of koulourakia, Greek biscuits.   Thanks, Linda.   They were enormous fun to make and were enjoyed by all the visitors.

I set aside my personal scruples, roasted a large ham.   I made sure that it was British and outdoor reared, I had to at least have the consolation that the poor pig had had some quality of life.    I also roasted a large chicken - free range, of course.   That was the less than pleasant stuff out of the way.


A very large quiche, mushroom, wild garlic and cheese.
A vast Lemon Meringue Pie
Chocolate Cake, with frosting.
Carrot Cake
Two varieties of bread
Hot Cross Buns

Roast Ham
Roast Chicken
Mixed Salads
Boiled New Potatoes with Mint, Butter and Sea Salt
Crudites and Hummus

plus all the things which I bought rather than made - cheeses(!) ice cream, pickles, etc, etc.

We were feeding all three of our adult children, their partners and children.   The party was twelve in number and food disappeared at a rate of knots.   Even so,  there was plenty left over.

I made sure that they all took parcels of their favourite left overs, but there is still a fridge full of deliciousness.   No need for me to cook or shop for quite a while yet.

I need to lie down in a darkened room to recover.

p.s.  Everyone sends their love, Ian.   They wanted to know about the boat and your adventures!xx

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Rhubarb and Ginger Lattice Tart

I came across this recipe a long time ago.    The original recipe calls for apples and cloves, but I am using rhubarb and ginger.       Our rhubarb is coming in thick and fast now, and although Max would be delighted if I were to serve rhubarb crumble every day, I like to ring the changes.

It is a delicious mixture of soft and crumbly, slightly gingery, cake base with fairly tart fruit and then topped with crisp ginger lattice-work.     The only trouble is, Max would also be happy to eat this every day, too.     Now I need to find another way to use the rhubarb.

Rhubarb and Ginger Lattice Tart

7oz self raising flour
5oz butter
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3oz brown sugar
1 egg
12oz rhubarb cut into short lengths
2/3 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
1 tablespoon sugar

I baked mine in an 8 inch square, loose-bottomed tin.  Grease the tin and line the base.  160C

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light  and fluffy, add the beaten egg, a little at a time and then gently mix in the flour and ginger.

Reserve about a quarter of the mixture and spread the rest of it on the base of the tin.

Lay the rhubarb on top of the mixture.    Warm the redcurrant jelly and then brush it over the rhubarb and sprinkle that with the tablespoon of sugar. (more if you like things to be sweet)    It probably won't spread evenly, but it will be fine!

Take the rest of the mixture, and roll it out so that you can cut it into strips for the lattice-work.  Then decorate the top of the rhubarb with strips of the dough.   Tuck in and tidy the edges and then bake it for approx 75 minutes.

Allow it cool in the tin for a while because it will be quite fragile, but it will firm up as it cools.

Dust with icing sugar, or not, according to taste.

Delicious warm, or cold.   You could also add a dollop of your favourite creamy indulgence, or custard.

Pretty to look at, delicious to eat.

The redcurrant jelly and sugar combine and lightly caramelise and yet the slight tartness of the rhubarb cuts through it, the cake is crumbly and slightly gingery, a wonderful combination.

It is a big favourite in our house.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Clean Your Windows with Dandelions!

The common old dandelion can be used for so many things - from wine, beer, and liqueurs, to  marmalade, salad, cooked greens, pickles, you can even make coffee from the roots.

Today, however, I tried something different, Dandelion Cleanser.

I found the recipe on a single, ragged, page from an old cookery book which probably dates from a hundred years ago.  

Modern cookery books are sumptuous productions, full of brilliant photographs of beautifully staged and tempting foods, but I love these simple, very cheaply produced books from around the very early 20th century.    Often they are little more than a few pages, sometimes around 90 pages, usually they either lack their covers or have flimsy paper ones.    They cost next to nothing, people simply don't value them, and yet they contain so many fascinating avenues to explore.

Like this household cleaner - forget chemicals  - brew up some dandelions!

Dandelion Cleanser

Take four or five roots, leaves, flowers, and tendrils of dandelion and about three pints of water.  Boil until it becomes brown (see bottle in photograph) and about half the quantity.
Strain before use.

So far I have cleaned windows, mirrors, glass cupboard doors and the result has been excellent!

The sun has just begun to shine on the windows I cleaned earlier and I am happy to say that there are no smears or greasy marks left on them, it really does work.

All I did was wash them with a cloth soaked in the solution, I wiped the window dry with a cloth and then gave them a quick polish with a piece of old towel.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Parsonage Cottage Pantry

You can see from the header photograph, I don't have many cupboards in the kitchen.    What I do have, in the adjoining Boot Room, is a walk-in pantry.

I keep dried and tinned food, spices and herbs, bread, cereals, dog and cat food, glassware, some spare china and several kitchen aids in there.  

It could quite easily become a repository for 'stuff' but I fight hard to keep it reasonably well organised, after all, the cats need me to be able to put my hand on their favourite brand of cat food immediately.   

I had always wanted a large pantry and when this was finished I thought that I would never fill all those  miles of shelves...   Ha!

One thing I hadn't banked on though, was having to share the room with a cat.

Little Miss Pinkerton quietly slips in after me, goes to her favourite corner (just behind the plastic crate on the floor) and sits quietly.   She doesn't climb on shelves, so I don't mind too much.   Mostly I don't mind, because I don't notice her doing it.

Which means that she sometimes gets locked in.

The first time it happened, I was alone in the house.     Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of a door latch being rattled...never mind the latch being rattled, I was rattled.      Heart pounding, I opened the pantry door, only to have Miss Pinkerton trot out, tail in the air, with a demand for food...NOW!

"Butter wouldn't melt in my mouth, honest!"

Ha!  Just one minute after I clicked on the button to post this, the door was rattled.   Yes, she had sneaked in there again.   I thought she was outside.   Little madam.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Another Primrose Pudding Recipe

This recipe is taken from Florence White's "Flowers as Food"  Receipts and Lore from Many Sources which was published in 1934.

After the previous experiment in Primrose Pudding I really wanted to find another recipe for primroses, hopefully something which I would want to eat,  so I turned to Florence as she is normally quite reliable.  

She wrote "My own small collection of 'receipts' was begun as a literary hobby which proved full of unexpected interests."   

There is a recipe for Prymerose Potage, dating from the 15th century - I wanted to try that but, unfortunately, I didn't have the rice flour or saffron, though I could have supplied the honey, almonds and primroses, along with powdered ginger.

I didn't want to pick a peck of primroses to make several gallons of Primrose Vinegar, either.

So it had to be Primrose Pudding, again.        I reduced the quantity of ingredients down to a manageable level, so I divided everything by four until I came up with this:

Primrose Pudding

Dry cherries (I used crystalised strawberries as I had them in the cupboard)
Pistachios - didn't have any of these
Fine white breadcrumbs 2oz
Castor sugar 1 teaspoonful
Suet - 1oz
Boiling Milk 2 fluid ounces
Egg x 1
Primrose petals 1/2 cup

Butter a mould well and decorate it with the cherries, almonds and pistachios.  
Wash your primroses.

Nip off the white at the base of the primrose petals.
Put the breadcrumbs into a basin, stir in the sugar and pour the boiling milk over the mixture.
Stir in the suet and the primrose petals.
Whisk up the egg to a very light froth and whisk it into the mixture a little at a time, so that the pudding may be light.
Pour the mixture into the mould so as not to disturb the decorations.  Cover with buttered paper and steam for one hour and a quarter.
Serve with champagne or some other wine sauce - I'm afraid I only had some left-over custard to hand, so custard had to do.

The taste test:   It is a steamed suet pudding, not very sweet, a little stodgy.   Much more palatable than the previous recipe, but not really suited for the way we eat today.   I don't think that even the addition of champagne/wine sauce would have improved it a great deal.

The primroses are better left in the garden, they brought absolutely nothing to the party whatsoever.   Perhaps old-fashioned primroses had more flavour!

This definitely concludes my experiments with primroses.

Time to do some work with the wild garlic.   Owl Wood is full of it and it shouldn't be too long before the flowers begin to appear - they are beautiful, but they do herald the end of the season.   I need to make the most of them before that happens.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Primrose Pudding and Scottish Baps

Primrose Pudding

1 lb potatoes boiled and well mashed
1 lb butter
1 lb white sugar crushed very fine
The yolks of 8 eggs and
The whites of 7.
To be very well mixed before baking.

The name is what drew me to this recipe, especially since Owl Wood and the gardens are full of primroses right now...

On reading through the recipe, I was surprised to find no mention whatsoever of primroses!

It was shocking, though I should be used to it by now, to see how much butter was required, never mind the number of eggs and felt like reducing the amounts, but then the pudding would not be a true Primrose Pudding. 

No way could I justify using such quantities on an experiment, so   I divided the quantities by four (1/4 lb potatoes, etc and 2 eggs) and kept to the same proportions.

No mention of how to mix it, what size dish to use, how to bake it, of course.

I boiled and mashed the potatoes and mixed in the butter while they were still hot.   Then mixed in the sugar and when the mixture was cooler I added the very well beaten eggs.     I baked it in an individual 'casserole' dish at 160 degrees.     After twenty minutes it didn't seem ready so I left it for a further ten.

I tried a spoonful while it was warm - pleasant and fluffy, but far too sweet.

At room temperature the texture had slightly collapsed, more like a heavy cheesecake.

This morning, after a night in the fridge, the texture is leaden and it tastes disgustingly sweet - it will be going out for the hens and the birds.

It is not a pudding I can recommend - unless you want to clog up your arteries and lose your teeth.   Now, pass me a lemon.

Baps a Traditional Scottish Recipe 

Flour, salt, lard, yeast, sugar, milk, water.

Sift a pound of flour into a warm bowl and stir in a small teaspoonful of salt.   Rub in two ounces of lard.   Stir in a sachet of dried yeast and a teaspoonful of sugar.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in half a pint of tepid milk and water mix.    Make a soft dough.  Cover, leave to rise for about an hour.

Knead lightly and divide into pieces approximately 3 inches long by two inches wide.   Brush with milk or water and set aside, to prove, for about 15 minutes.

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 -20 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The Scots Kitchen, F Marian McNeill, 1929.

Not the prettiest buns in the world - but I am elated!   

In all the years I have been baking bread, trying to make bread which tasted like the bread my mother used to make, this is the first time I have almost nailed it.

I never use lard in my cooking, but I wanted the taste to be authentic, so I bought a very inexpensive half pound block, a supermarket value one, with apologies to the animals.

My first bite of a bap transported me back through the decades!   They taste exactly like my memory of the bread my mother made.    Hers were a bit lighter and fluffier, but the taste was there.

Regrettably, I think it could be the lard which gave it that particular taste, for my mother would have had no qualms about using it.

I made the baps to go with a pot of soup which I was making from an old recipe.   I'll post about that another day.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sweet Potato Pudding

Another scrumptious pudding, this one was made with sweet potatoes.

Unadorned, it looks very ordinary, but scatter a few berries and it is transformed into a thing of beauty.
I tried some while it was warm and it was a very pleasing sweet flavour and had the texture of a slightly alcoholic egg custard tart.

Today, after a night in the refrigerator, it had become slightly more dense but was just as delicious.

I have several recipes in my books.   I contemplated making this one...

In the end I decided to make one from another book of recipes.     I couldn't resist, once I had seen that it actually had the name of the woman who had given the recipe to cook.

So here we have:    

Mrs Butler's Sweet Potato Pudding

Line a dish with puff paste 1 lb boiled sweet potatoes beaten in a marble mortar with one quarter lb of butter 4 oz sugar 1/4 pint of cream four spoonfuls of brandy candied orange peel cut thin and the yolk of 8 eggs well beaten a little salt.

No instructions about mixing or baking, but that is pretty normal.

No way was I going to use 8 egg yolks.   I reduced everything by half and also had to omit the candied peel because I had used it all up in baking a batch of gingerbread biscuits.

So, my version was:
I lined a dish with leftover shortcrust pastry and plaited the rim, just because I could.    Then I baked it blind, making sure that the base was nice and dry.

1/2 lb boiled sweet potatoes which I pushed through a sieve and then mixed with 2 oz butter, 2 oz sugar and 1/8 pint of cream.   I added two tablespoonful of brandy and 4 well beaten egg yolks.  Poured it all into the pastry dish and put it back into the oven.

I baked it (in my moody Rayburn, no wind to cheer it on) at around 170 degrees until I was happy with the degree of wobble.

Thank you Mrs Butler and thank you to the mystery woman who wrote her recipes in that particular book.  

Yes, I would make it again, it was lovely.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mrs Birrell's Marvellous Cake, and an Appeal

I have no idea who Mrs Birrell was, but her cake obviously made a big impression on the woman who wrote it into one of my books.   It appears twice.    Of course, I had to give it a go.

A short list of ingredients, no instructions other than to bake it in a slow oven - not usually a problem with a Rayburn!

"1 lb flour
1/2 lb sugar
1/4 butter
4 oz Lemon Peel & Citron Mixed
1/4 lb raisins
1/4 lb currants
2 eggs
2 teaspoonsful baking powder
1 teacupful of milk

bake in a slow oven"

Well that doesn't sound so bad.

Starting this blog has taught me many things, one of the most valuable has been how much easier it is to cook and bake if you have all your ingredients weighed and measured before you begin.  

I only started to do this because I wanted to photograph them, but it saves a lot of time, especially when you have a big kitchen, and the pantry is in the Boot Room.   Quite a trek.   These days it has become almost second nature to prepare things beforehand - even when i am not cooking for the blog.

There was no method given, so I simply creamed the butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy, then I added the beaten eggs, a little at a time.      I had already added the baking powder to the flour and I sifted them into the creamed mixture,  added the dried fruit and the milk and gave it a good stir. I had to add another tablespoonful of milk because the consistency wasn't quite right.

No cake tin measurement - I used an 8" fairly deep, loose-bottomed tin, greased and also lined at the base.

The Rayburn was showing 150 degrees when I put it in.

I went out to do some work in our little Owl Wood - planting some more wild garlic, picking fallen branches, chasing our granddaughter around in endless games of hide and seek.

I went indoors a little over an hour later to find that the Rayburn had become a little hotter - it had crept up to about 170..

The cake looked fine, phew!   I tested it with a skewer, it was fully cooked.

Can you see that darker outer ring - the extra heat had overcooked the outside, not burnt it, but it is a bit dry, darn it.     That is one of the problems with a  wood-fired Rayburn, they like their little jokes.   Never mind, Rayburn, I still love you!

The taste test:    I was very surprised, ignoring the hard outer edge, not Mrs Birrell's fault, the cake itself is light, fruity and really lovely.      I am so used to heavier fruit cakes, this one is quite a revelation.

We both enjoyed a slice.   The next test is to see how well it keeps.

ps  Max and I Love this cake.    It has instantly gone to the top of the must bake again list.

Over on my other blog I have put out an appeal for someone who would be willing to have a go at knitting up a pattern from this book.

This is the book which contains Mrs Birrell's Cake.   About half of the book is dedicated to recipes, the other half to knitting patterns.

I like experimenting with the recipes, but I am not a knitter.

I wondered whether there could possibly be someone out there who would like to have a go at knitting up an old fashioned pattern - I've listed some of them over here.  Siberian Cuffs, Baby's Bonnet, Ladies Under Cap, Opera Cap, to name but a few.

I don't have links to any keen knitters - do you?

This is a just for fun project, there is no money in it, no pressure, no hassle.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Violets - Give them a Bruising and Pound them to a Pulp

I live in Tennyson country so please indulge me..

"From the meadows your walks have left so sweet
That, whenever a March wind sighs,
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes.."        taken from Maud Part 1 by Tennyson

A tiny jug with some beautiful violets, but these are Dog Violets, not the perfumed Sweet Violets which were so often used in recipes.      We have a few tiny patches of Sweet Violets growing in our little Owl Wood,  I would never pluck them and cook with them.

All violets are beautiful, but not all violets are blue.   They can be white, indigo, violet or pink.   Just along the road I know where there are several large patches of white violets growing and a few dog violets.

So far I have not tracked down any other patches of sweet violets.

Yes, I am the crazy woman who you may catch on her hands and knees, trying to get down far enough to sniff the violets.

Once you have stopped falling about with laughter, I'd be grateful of a hand to help me back to my feet!

Violets signified modesty and faithfulness in the Victorian language of flowers.

The scarce sweet violets have been used throughout history, in herbal remedies, beverages, syrups, conserves, pastes, salads, pastes and  pottages.     Mind-boggling, given how relatively rare they are today, you will see what I mean in a moment, when I give you a couple of old recipes.

They were made into things like:

Violet Vinegar
Violet Jelly
Syrup of Violets - Weigh out 1 lb of freshly gathered violets...
Violet Marmalade - Put 4 1/2 lb violet petals....
Violet Ice - Put 1/2 lb of cleaned violet petals...
Sirrop of Violets - First gather a great quantity of violet flowers...

Can you imagine finding enough violets to be able to pick so many?   The combined scent of them must have been pretty powerful and the sight of a carpet of violets quite wonderful.

I'll finish with a couple of old recipes.

Violet Cakes

Wet double refined sugar and boil it until it is almost come to sugar again; then put into it Juice of Violets, put in juice of Lemons this will make them look red; if you put in juice and water it will make them look green.

If you will have them all blue, put in the Juice of Violets without the lemon.
John Middleton, 1734

How about some violet marmalade for your breakfast toast?

Violet Marmalade

Put 4 1/2 lb violet petals, with the base nipped off, into a mortar, and bruise and pound them to a pulp.

Clarify 6 lb loaf sugar and boil to the blow.  (240F-245 F)
Add the pulped flowers.   Mix them well in and stir in 3 lb apple marmalade.

Let it boil up a few times.   Stir and mix well.

Put into pots and cover airtight.
Florence White

Many thanks to Blogosphere Magazine and Dominic Franks (Belleau Kitchen) for featuring the wonderful women who wrote the recipe books which feature so heavily in this blog.

They could never have imagined that so long after their deaths, they would still be 'remembered' - and not just by me, for a change!

Well done those women!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Cottage Loaf and Wild Garlic Bread

The wild garlic is growing like crazy, time to harvest a bunch and make a loaf of wild garlic bread.

We love the subtle flavour which the chopped wild garlic gives.   I love the bread toasted and spread with a little butter, but when fresh it makes a lovely bread base for a savoury sandwich.

I confess to a slight attack of laziness, I was making a white cottage loaf so I simply doubled the quantities, normally I would make a 50/50 wholemeal garlic loaf.  

I picked a handful of the leaves, washed, dried, and chopped them.    I would normally mix them in with the flour before adding the liquid, but because I was mixing a double batch, and I didn't want wild garlic in both loaves, I kneaded them into half the dough before shaping the loaf so it didn't get distributed quite so evenly.

No special old recipe today.

My wild garlic post from last year can be found HERE.

Wild garlic scones, quiche, pesto, soups... lots of delights to come.   Enjoy the wild garlic season while it lasts, but be careful not to be greedy when you harvest it.     You want to be able to come back for more next year.