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.

Friday, 24 February 2017

An Alderman's Pudding

What drew me to try this pudding was the fact that
a) it was written in one of my recipe books and
b)  Eliza Acton had deemed it to be more refined and therefore superior to Bakewell Pudding.

One of my grandsons is rather fond of Bakewell, I had to explore this, put it to the taste test.

I'd also quite like to know why the pudding was named thus.
Here is an Alderman, I borrowed his image.
He was quite a superior Alderman, just as Eliza Acton described the pudding, he was Alderman David Stone.  A Southerner, you will see why I mention that, later!

An Alderman
Image Borrowed from internet.

The recipe according to my book:

Line a dish with thin puff-paste, then put in raspberries, strawberries, or any other rich preserve about half an inch in depth.   Then beat up the yolks of 8 eggs and the whites of 2.   1/2lb sugar and 1/2lb butter melted and clarified.   Beat all well together then add a few drops of almond flavour, pour it on the preserve and bake it in a slow oven for an hour or perhaps less may be sufficient.

Meanwhile, Eliza Acton gives her recipe for Bakewell Pudding (which I haven't tried, but it does look rather different from how I would normally make one) and an observation that Bakewell is a rich and expensive, but not very refined pudding.   A variation of it, known in the south as an Alderman's Pudding, is we think, superior to it....

North/South divide.   Hmmmmn.   Red rag to a bull for this northerner.

I did not use puff paste, we prefer shortcrust.   I also reduced the proportions a by roughly a quarter because it sounded like an awfully big pudding mix.  Of course there was no dish size specified, oven temperature, etc.     Perhaps I am a little crazy, but I really enjoy that freedom.    My brain roamed around the dishes I had to hand and selected a quite deep nine inch enamelled one.   It was guesswork. It fitted perfectly, I'm getting better at this game!

Here it is just before I popped it into the Rayburn.   The oven thermometer read approx 150 degrees.   I baked it for an hour, until it looked and sounded right.

We let it cool quite a lot, but then we could wait no longer.  Time to dive in.

It was very jammy - remember that half inch of preserve?
Remember, too, that there were no breadcrumbs or flour used in the mixture.  

How to describe the taste and texture?   Well, when it was still slightly warm it reminded me of banana fritters, which is very strange because I have not eaten any for almost sixty years.    It was delicious, just unusual.

My husband thought it tasted almost pancake-like and I could see what he meant.

The following day I tried a slice which had been chilled.    It was very nice indeed!   The pastry was crisp, the jam oozed, and the 'fritter/pancake' had subtly changed, although I couldn't explain the taste or texture.

I cajoled my daughter into trying a slice - she enjoyed it and described it as being like a firm egg custard in taste and texture.   She came back for seconds, so I think we can chalk up a success for the experiment.

Still not convinced about the 'superiority' thing though.

It was nothing like a Bakewell Tart!   More refined?  Perhaps.  Different?  Definitely.   Superior?  Never!

ps  Despite this, I would make it again.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Treasured Recipe Books - A Family Receipt Book

Lined up like this they don't look particularly impressive, I know.   However, these are my most treasured books and whole reason this blog exists.   It is my collection of handwritten recipe books.   Some are beautifully bound, others could do with rebinding and this is something which I must investigate when time permits, although I have no idea of how much such a job would cost.   I would like to preserve and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Note to self:  Find a local bookbinder and discuss!

I had to start somewhere, so I chose this one as it is the one I used most recently.

Leather-bound, nicely tooled and with a thin gilt decoration.   The spine is deteriorating and I must get something done about it.

The endpapers are beautifully marbled, I remember watching them create paper like this when I visited Florence, quite a number of years ago.   So simple, but so effective.

This book has an index, which is quite useful, many of the others either don't have one, or they are partial ones, perhaps begun with an enthusiasm which waned.

Page 107 is the final recipe - Medlar Jelly.     I wonder why this is the final one.   The handwriting looks quite firm and strong, not at all as though the writer were ill.   Quite often a book will then be taken over by another person but not this one.   About half the book remains empty.   The book has obviously lived quite a life and has been handled a lot.  

I like that.

No recipe tried out here, but don't worry.   More food trials to come!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Superb Coconut Pudding from Jamaica, 1880

Sometimes it takes a while for a particular recipe to come to my attention.   
Max really likes coconut, so I am always looking for recipes which incorporate it,
so it is strange that I hadn't noticed it before.

It was written in this book in 1880, when it was noted that it was "given
to M.L.K. by a Cook in Jamaica".

This is how it is written up:

 Cocoanut Pudding

Grate 3/4 of a cocoanut on a fine grater.   Beat to a cream 2oz of butter with 4oz of sugar.   Then add 1 egg and beat for a few minutes, add another, and so on till you have put in 4, also the whites of 2 additional eggs.    Take 1 breakfast cup of finely grated bread soaked in a pint of boiling milk.    Mix all together adding the the cocoanut, juice of a lemon and 1 glass of brandy.  Pour the pudding into a mould.   Boil for 2 hours and serve with Brandy Sauce.

This morning I recklessly, and suddenly, decided to serve it as a pudding for a big Sunday lunch I was preparing for family and friends.   

When I tipped it out onto a serving plate it felt surprisingly light and I began to feel hopeful that it would be a success.

It was.   I could have done a Happy Dance, so could Max.   It was coconut heaven, most definitely unlike an English steamed pudding.

Coconut flavour with a definite hit of brandy - well, I had been quite generous with the glass-size!

The recipe suggested serving it with a Brandy Sauce, but as the others had some long hours of driving ahead of them, I decided that custard would be a safer option.

Everyone loved it and the dishes were soon empty, but not before I had time to grab a camera and take a few snaps.   Rough and ready snaps because I hadn't planned to post about the pudding but it was so light and scrumptious that it merits the post with bells and trumpets.

Well done that wonderful Jamaican Cook and well done the woman who thought to ask for the recipe.

The photographs are awful, but the pudding was delicious.  I will be making this pudding regularly, it was wonderful.  

It may make it easier if I write it up in a more modern style:

Coconut Pudding

3/4 of a coconut grated - I simply used dessicated, but I will try fresh next time.
2 oz butter
4 oz sugar
4 eggs plus  2 well beaten egg whites
1 breakfastcupful of finely grated breadcrumbs (white)
1 pint of boiling milk
Juice of a  lemon
1 glass of Brandy

Soak the breadcrumbs in a pint of boiling milk.
Cream the butter and sugar, gradually add four well beaten eggs, beating thoroughly between each addition.    Add the lemon juice, brandy, coconut, as well as the bread and milk.
Fold in the lightly beaten egg whites.

Pour into a buttered mould, tie down and steam for two hours.

I am already thinking about perhaps replacing the brandy with Bacardi or rum, just to test it out...     

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hunting Nuts v Ginger Nuts

I know very little about most of my old handwritten recipe books, which is a shame.    However there is one, which I posted about here, which was used by successive cooks in a country vicarage. 

Here is a photograph of one of the early pages, before the writing becomes much trickier to decipher.    When I first bought it, at a local auction, where it had been described as a 'school dinner ladies book', I was barely able to read more than a few pages.

I got it very cheaply, probably because no one else could read it either!    Oh what a little gem of a book.   Tatty, worn, grubby from almost two hundred years of use, but I get great pleasure from reading through it - because now, after all these years, I can read the various hands.

I have done some research and I know that it was a wealthy parish, I also know that the Vicar came from a monied background, but not much more.  

The Vicarage provided vast meals for school outings and celebrations, cook made lots of pickles and preserves and lists just how many she had made one year - very impressive, I'll list them sometimes.

It was a rural parish and yet, unlike most of my other recipe journals, 'Mock Turtle Soup' and Sheep's Head Broth do not feature.   More expensive cuts of meat are used.

Enough of my musings.

Today I decided to take pity on Max.   The biscuit tin was empty and he really wanted some gingernuts, like the ones I made last week.

Well that was ok, but I do like to try out new recipes.   I decided to make a batch of Hunting Nuts, too.    Of all the biscuit mixes which I have ever made, the Hunting Nut one is the most wonderful one to make.    It felt like a little magic happened as I mixed them.

Hunting Nuts

Put 8 oz Treacle
8 oz Raw Sugar
8 oz Butter
into a pan on the fire.   Let them melt and simmer and then pour them into a hot pudding basin and put in as much flour as you can mix comfortably.   Add ginger to your taste.   When cold roll them into balls about the size of a marble.   They will keep uncooked one or two months.

The photograph above shows the four Hunting Nuts which I couldn't fit onto the baking sheets - of course I have to use them to test out the claim that they will keep, uncooked, for one or two months.   Watch this space!

As ever, not all measurements are given and cooking instructions non existent.    What fun.   

Back to the recipe, I added 1 oz ground ginger, you may prefer a less fiery flavour, so add less.    For once I was careful to measure the amount of flour which was needed.    I used exactly 1lb 2oz.   As I added the final two ounces the mixture suddenly all came together in one easily managed lump of deep, dark, glossy dough.

It was wonderfully simple to make the marble-sized balls.   I suppose you could bake them in that shape, but I decided to flatten them a little.

Terrible photograph, but here we have  Hunting Nuts
and Ginger Nuts.

I baked them for 15 minutes at 180 degrees.   They came out shiny and beautiful, my daughter thought I had been making macaroons!

This quantity of mix yielded more than four dozen Hunting Nuts.

They firmed up as they cooled and it wasn't long before Max came by to filch a couple.    He loved them.

I also made a batch of Ginger Nuts, I wanted him to compare the two biscuits.

As you can see, one is smooth, the other has chopped peel and a completely different appearance.   

Almost before I had taken the final biscuits out of the oven, my granddaughter Merry came bursting into the kitchen and wanted to help me make a chocolate cake.

It wasn't quite what I had planned (a cup of tea and a rest would have been nice) but how could I refuse?

So we made chocolate cake, from scratch.   It was carefully mixed by Merry (with a little help) iced by Merry and decorated in her favourite way with Smarties, of course.   

Granny's little helper is becoming quite proficient for a five year old.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Insects or E Numbers?

My granddaughter desperately wanted to make pink, as in 'VERY PINK' cakes today.   We made some last weekend but they were not quite pink enough.    I tried really hard to get some food colouring which is stable in baking but does not contain any of the dreaded 'E' numbers.    I would have settled for good old fashioned cochineal,  but I couldn't find any.

Which is a shame because I just happen to have stumbled across a recipe for home-made food colouring based upon

those little cochineal beetles.

To make Colouring
One ounce of cochineal, boil it in half a pint of water, five or ten minutes the add half an ounce of Cream of Tartar and half an ounce of Alum* add two ounces of loaf sugar, give it a boil, let it settle then pour it off and bottle it for use.

*Alum is also used in Baking Powder, so I suppose we have all ingested it at some point and it is considered to be safe.

Cochineal is a scarlet dye made from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect.   Sounds yummy, but on balance I think I'd rather use cochineal than some of the awful artificial colourants and E numbers which are put into modern food dyes, but that is my personal preference.

We made pink cakes, following a handwritten recipe in another one of my old books.

Rose Almond Cakes

4oz butter
4oz sugar
4oz flour
4oz ground almonds
2 eggs
Essence of Almonds

No method or baking instructions were given.  I simply followed the usual method of creaming the butter and sugar, gradually beating in the eggs, then add the flour, almonds, 'cochineal' and Almond Essence.

We baked them in a mix of cupcake wrappers and silicone heart-shaped moulds, at about 160 degrees.   However,  you know your own oven.

She was very happy with the results, the cakes are definitely pink on the inside.   The big heart-shaped ones are for daddy and Grandpa, of course.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Indulging my Husband

The forecast today was for wintry showers and grey skies so I decided to stay indoors and do a little baking.     I opened the pantry door and almost fainted at the mess within.   Some naughty little elves have been at work in there flinging things around for I'm sure I put things back in their correct place after my last baking session.

Spring is somewhere just beyond the horizon and I can feel that almost irresistible urge to spring-clean which jars with the equally strong desire to do some baking.

In the end I compromised by cleaning up my baking ingredients, sorting spices, consolidating half-used packets of caster sugar into one clean jar, and so on.   I ignored the rest of the pantry.

I set to making a cottage loaf because I haven't made one for ages - it turned out looking like an enormous chariot wheel -  so I must try harder and could do a lot better.   I'll enjoy playing around with the recipe until I get it right.

The other thing I decided to bake was something which only my husband will enjoy - Coconut Cones.   He has a very sweet tooth and coconut is a favourite with him.   When I first met him he was addicted to Bounty Bars.   We gradually got him weaned off those, but he still adores coconut.

I used a recipe which I found in an old recipe book without covers, so I can't credit it to anyone in particular.   I get the feeling that it may have been produced by the WI, a long time ago, but I could be wrong.   It has the feel of a 1950's book.

Four simple ingredients:

1 egg
4oz sugar
4oz coconut
1 tablespoon ground rice

Simply beat the egg, stir in the sugar, coconut and ground rice and mix well.

Here comes the fun bit - fill an egg cup with the mixture and shake out on to a greased baking sheet.  Bake in a moderately hot oven until golden brown on top.

Don't press your mixture too firmly or you may struggle to get it out of the egg cup.   I also decided to push the boat out and decorate them with half a glace cherry, simply because he also likes them.  

Spoilt, or what?

He loved them; ate two almost as soon as they were cool.  They look a bit dry in the photograph, but I checked and the inside is moist and very delicious - if you like sweet coconut cakes!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dinner at Uffington House, November 1883

This morning was taken up with boring, but essential, shopping.  A quick snack for lunch and then we spent a couple of hours working on the hen prison,

We decided that as they still have at least three more weeks of  enforced confinement we would add some extra roofing to their compound to try to improve things for them.    Poor hens, they are used to roaming around the Owl Wood with occasional forays into our gardens. 

Their compound is large enough but because the soil around here is heavy clay, with poor drainage, it soon becomes something akin to how I imagine the terrible conditions of the Somme.

We have done our best, I hope they will be a little happier and a lot less muddy.

Chores done, I managed to sneak in a tea break, time to indulge in reading one of my old recipe books, the large black one.  

The page I opened it up at today, contained a gold edged card.

It is headed "Uffington House"
"Diner du 8 Novembre 1883"

Potage aux profiteroles
Merlans Guilles  tartare"
Riz de veau en cassis
Quenelles de Volaille fareau
Gigot de Sept heures
Celeris a la Creme
Perdreaux rotis
Gateaux Gunois a la Creme
Oeufs en Sardines
Glace aux Ratafias

They certainly didn't stint themselves.   The kitchens must have been busy that night.

Uffington House, which was in Lincolnshire,  was designed in 1675.   Building work started in 1681 and was completed in 1688.

Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1904, with only the Ballroom, Orangery and outbuildings surviving.   These were eventually demolished in 1978 so that the materials could be used to repair the estate walls.

So once again my lovely old book has thrown up an interesting little thing for me to ponder.   

I must dig and delve a little more.  Perhaps one day I'll find out a little more about the woman who gathered the recipes, perhaps not.  Somehow it doesn't really matter.  I have her book and I get great pleasure from reading it and preserving it, sharing it with blogging friends.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Gingerbread Nuts for Ginger Lovers

Handwritten Recipe Books

These are some of my old recipe books, the oldest and most treasured ones.     Today I am sharing a recipe that I found in the large black volume, the one with the date 1840 on the spine.    It's a massive book and is filled with handwritten recipes.  There is no indication of who collected and wrote them, which is a shame.

Ginger was definitely a favourite flavour in that household.     Ginger biscuits, gingerbread and ginger cakes and wine feature frequently.     The recipe which tempted me today is one for Gingerbread Nuts.      You may be surprised at just how much ground ginger is put into the mix!

Here is the recipe exactly as it is written.

Gingerbread Nuts

Take half a lb of treacle, half a lb of pounded white sugar, qt lb of fresh butter, one oz of ground ginger, some bruised cloves or some other spice which may be preferable, some pieces of candied lemon peel and a glass of brandy.  Work a small quantity of flower into the above but not too thick.  bake them in a hot oven.
Mrs Jackson.

Perhaps I should translate it a little.

8oz treacle
8oz caster sugar
4oz butter
1oz ground ginger
1 heaped tsp ground cloves (or spice of your choice)
2oz candied peel
Glass of brandy (I used a small wineglass)
Flour - I just mixed it in until the dough felt right, approx 10oz but use your judgement.

I simply creamed the butter and sugar, added the treacle, ginger, cloves, candied peel and brandy and gave it a good stir.  Then I added the flour until the mixture was suitable for rolling and cutting.

Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter.

Bake at 180 degrees for approximately 15 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

The taste test:   Fabulous!   The ginger flavour comes through in the most wonderful way although I can't really detect the cloves so perhaps I should up that ingredient a little next time.

The one ingredient which I was doubtful about was the candied peel, I'm really not a fan.   How wrong I would have been to leave it out though.   It really works, the heat of the ginger is occasionally punctuated by a shot of lemon.

I will definitely be making these again and again.    Max reluctantly sampled one and ended up eating four.   He loves them!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Celery Cheese

Among my collection of old recipe books I have lots of tatty and tattered printed booklets and pamphlets.        Most lack their covers which  makes it very difficult to identify or date them.    

This recipe came from one such book.  I have pages 15 to 82.   I suppose it is possible that someone else has the other pages, but much more likely that they were destroyed long ago.     It is printed on cheap and nasty paper, no illustrations, and yet I really like this old book which dates from somewhere around the the end of the 19th century.

The recipes are many and varied and I'll write some more up here in time.

I still haven't recovered my appetite a month after having 'flu, but this particular recipe caught my fancy, so I cooked a portion.      It doesn't look very pretty but it was really tasty.  

Celery Cheese
Take odd bits of celery and boil them in milk till tender.   Add some grated cheese, a pinch of salt (I omitted this) and thicken with a little flour.   Bring all to the boil and and serve on buttered toast.   A very tasty dish for supper.

There you have it!     I should have diced the celery instead of slicing it but I wanted to have a little texture to the dish.

I served it on a slice of home made bread, for I find that makes the best toast.   I didn't butter the bread, I simply let the juices and the melted cheese soak into it.   I would definitely make this for myself again although I would refine it a little next time.

My mother used to occasionally make something similar although her vegetable of choice was tinned tomatoes, that worked very well but looked even less attractive than this dish.

*     *      *

I called in at Cowslip Cottage today to drop off a loaf of bread and to say 'Hello' to your boy, he's missing you,  Ming Ming,  but managed to rouse himself sufficiently to polish off a couple of treats, have a little grooming and a tickle as well as playing chase the feather duster.xxx

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Another Old Book

On the bookshelves, right next to my old recipe books, there is an old hardback notebook.     It is quite unremarkable on the outside, with ugly maroon coloured boards.   I can see from a note on the flyleaf that it cost the princely sum of one shilling and ten pence in old money, when it was purchased by my parents, in 1947.

The book doesn't contain recipes but it does list the many things which my parents purchased for their "bottom drawer"  when they became engaged to be married, way back in 1947.     One of the items listed is the knife which is perched on top of the book.    It is an old bread knife and was in use throughout my childhood and up until the day my parents died.

It is not a particularly special knife, the saw part is stainless steel and the handle is plastic, but it works as efficiently today as it did all those years ago.

It cost my parents five shillings and six pence which is less than 30 pence in today's money.

Thanks to my father's notes I can tell you exactly how much their first sofa and chairs cost them, their dining room suite, rugs, butter dish and linoleum.     I can also tell you that they spent the princely sum of £30 on their wedding in November 1947.

For me, it is a fascinating collection.

A bit further into the book and I can see that when they found they were expecting their first child, my older brother,  they itemised all their purchases and costs.  

The beautiful,  Silver Cross Pram cost them just over £16, while his high chair was £8-8-0d  and his first teddy bear was purchased for £3-0-0.    I still have that teddy bear.   He is a very old and much loved, worn and tatty old bear.

I dare say that the knife will outlive the bear but they are both treasured by me, just as this book is something which I occasionally flick through with great interest and enjoyment.

This little volume is definitely worthy of a place among my most cherished books.