Monday, December 29, 2008

Cowardly custard? Never!

Remember how I made the coffee custard and it was a disaster... a tasty disaster but a disaster no less...

So it was with some trepidation that I approached making the custard for my trifle.

However, all my fears were for nothing. Never again shall I fear the custard pot. Never again shall I be ashamed to show my face in the custard halls of fame...for I got it! I finally got it!

Admittedly this was a boiled custard not a baked custard like last time, but I think it was a success!


INGREDIENTS - Vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 pint of milk
1 oz. of sugar

METHOD - Bring the milk nearly to boiling-point, pour over the eggs and sugar previously beaten, stirring meanwhile, return to the stewpan and stir by the side of the fire until the mixture thickens. Considerable care is needed to cook custaqrd in this manner without curdling it, and anyone inexperienced should, instead of replacing the preparation in the stewpan, pour it into a jug or double saucepan, place whichever is used in a saucepan of boiling water,, and stir until the custard coats the spoon. Add the vanilla essence and allow to cool.

TIME - From 35 to 45 minutes. SUFFICIENT for 1 pint.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who's a Swiss Miss?

So, after my trifle research I decided it would be best to make my own sponge, but considering my husband was so insistent on having Swiss roll, I decided to make one of them instead.

I have a pretty awesome recipe myself, but first I thought I'd see how Mrs B does it.

4oz of flour
4 oz of castor sugar
1 teaspoonful of baking-powder
a little warm jam.

Sieve the flour and baking-powder. Whisk the eggs and sugar until creamy, stir the flour lightly in, turn into a greased tin and bake in a hot oven. Turn out upside down on to a sugared paper, spread on the jam, and roll up firmly.

TIME - From about 8 to 10 minutes to bake. SUFFICIENT for 1 medium sized roll.

For my recipe I actually modified a Buche de Noel recipe so I'll give you that instead.

INGREDIENTS - 1/2 cup of flour
3 tablespoonfuls of cornflour
1 teaspoonful of baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup of castor sugar
1/2 tablespoonful of cocoa (I omitted this for the Swiss roll)
2 tablespoonfuls of hot water
1/2 cup of cream, whipped (I used raspberry jam instead)

METHOD - Preheat oven to 190 oC. Sift the flours and baking powder. Separate the eggs, placing whites in a mixing bowl, and beat until stiff. Gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat well after each addition. Add egg yolks and beat until mixture will form a figure 8 and resembles thick cream. Using a tablespoon, fold in the flour very lightly. If very thick, add the water. DO NOT OVER MIX. Pour into a baking tray lined with lightly sugared baking paper, and bake for 12-15 minutes. Turn baked sponge onto a tea-towel, remove paper, trim sides if needed and roll up towel and cake together. Allow to stand for 2 minutes. When cool, unroll gently, spread with cream and re-roll without the tea-towel. Cover with Chocolate Butter Cream.


INGREDIENTS - 30g of butter
125g of chocolate

METHOD - Stir the chocolate and butter over a double boiler until chocolate has melted. Spread over the log, mark with a fork to represent 'bark', spread over the ends as well. Refrigerate until required, dust with icing sugar before serving. Serve with chocolate leaves if desired.

Stuff this in your gob!

Merely a trifle.

My husband wants trifle for Christmas. Well, Christmas Eve dessert anyway.

I haven't done trifle before... all he could tell me was that it had 'swiss roll, brandy and jelly' in it...

Mrs Beeton has two recipes for trifle - neither of which contain jelly, but both of which contain 'ratafias'...( I had no idea what ratafias are, but the ever helpful Mrs Beeton explains in the glossary as 'A culinary essence; the essence of bitter almonds. A special kind of almond biscuit, in the shape of drops, are called ratafias. The name is also give to liqueur flavoured with almonds.' So there you go).

Anyway, every single recipe I look at is almost completely different from all the others... so I think I will be making some kind of amalgam of all of them...

Now, to decide whether to make my own sponge or buy one?

Soon you will get your desserts

Monday, December 22, 2008

"The finest housekeeper in the world"

is apparently what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thought of Mrs B.

In his study of married life, A Duet; with an occasional Chorus, he makes his heroine say "Mrs Beeton must have been the finest housekeeper in the world. Therefore, Mr Beeton must have been the happiest and most comfortable man."

Not only this glowing praise (although not having actually read A Duet I cannot say if this was for real or not) but Mrs Beeton has also been 'the guide, philosopher and friend of countless happy homes for more that half a century. Her Cookery book, of which this is one of the most successful, have appeared among the wedding presents of brides as surely as the proverbial salt cellars, and thousands of grateful letters for all English-speaking countries testify that they have often proved the most useful gifts of all.'

Nothing I like more than a bit of shameless self-promotion...(when I have a band that's going to be the name of my first album), but I found it rather amusing to be reading this in the preface to my cookery book, desperately convincing me to purchase the copy I am holding in my hands.

Mrs Beeton is 'without a rival', the book is 'tried and tested' which 'while little has been taken away, much has been added', espeically to fit with the 'CHANGING TIMES', and absolutely 'no expense, however great, has been spared in obtaining the best possible results' for the illustrations and photographic reproductions. My editions not only has over 2,000 practical recipes, but also 12 paltes in colour and over 250 illustrations...

Whew, that's sure sold me then.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm relishing...

High up, high on a mountain

we'll eat eggs for breakfast.

Yesterday's cooking adventure was interesting to say the least. With some very interesting consequences... but we'll get to that a bit later...

First, eggs. "Although the qualities of those belonging to different birds vary somewhat, their nutritive constituents of fats and salts are identical, varying only in degree. Eggs are valuable on account of their concentrated nourishment, and their ready digestibility when raw or slightly cooked. The quality of eggs depends much upon the breed of hens, and upon the character of the food given to them. New-laid eggs are more easily digested than eggs a day or two old, but the milkiness of an egg cooked almost as soon as it is laid is generally dislikes. Poaching is undoubtedly the lightest way of dressing eggs. Another light, digestible way is to place it into a saucepan of boiling water, and let it remain by the side of the fire for about 10 minutes. Immersion for this period will cook the white of the egg to the consistence of jelly, but the water must not be allowed even to simmer."

"Eggs, to choose - A fresh egg has a transparent appearance and the shell possesses a soft bloom."

All of which doesn't say very much for the kind of eggs we buy at the supermarket.
But for breakfast I thought I'd try the very first recipe specifically for eggs in the book.

6 oz of cheese
1 oz. of butter
a little finely chopped parsley
pepper and salt

Grease a fireproof baking-dish thickly, line it with the greater part of the cheese cut in thin slices, and break the eggs over this, keeping the yolks whole. Grate the remainder of the cheese or chop it finely, and mix with the parsley. Season the eggs liberally with salt and pepper, sprinkle over them the grated cheese, and add the butter broken into small pieces. Bake in a quick oven for about 10 minutes and serve hot,

TIME - About 10 minutes to bake. SUFFICIENT for 4 persons

This was very yummy, despite one of my yolks breaking, although not recommended if you are at all worried about your waistline, or cholesterol, or your health in general. It's basically cheesy whites surrounding the yolk.
However, it was so filling that I didn't eat lunch, and then I went to my work Christmas party where they were serving cocktails, but very little food. That was definitely a recipe for disaster. However, I won the prize for the best dressed, the most "GLAMOUROUS" (as that was the theme) so I'm feeling pretty chuffed...and hungover.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A punnet of monotony

Soda pop!

Having read all about how soda can be used for cleaning, unblocking drains and to provide a relaxing foot bath, I thought it was about time that I gave cleaning with it a burl. I have to say that in my book, Mrs Beeton does not once mention cleaning the bathroom. Slops are to be take from the bedrooms, but no actual bathroom... however, when discussing purchasing or renting you are to ensure that it has adequate drainage "carrying away sewage and those emptying baths, basins and sinks." Anyway, I'm assuming that you got the 'help' to clean the bathrooms and toilet, therefore it wasn't worth discussing it in great detail.

I have no 'help' though so it was up to me to scrub my own bathtub.

Last week I tried just using Bicarbonate of Soda (Soda) sort of like an abrasive scrubber. It was okay but left a large amount of residue on all the surfaces.

So this week I tried soda and vinegar. Some books recommend lemon juice but seeing as my lemon tree has had no crop yet, imade do with vinegar. I was very curious about this seeing as my tub was dirtier than normal (I'd had a bath this week, normally I don't have time for one) and it worked like a charm. Sprinkle on the soda and then squirt on the vinegar, let it fizz for a bit and then wipe away. And it also got rid of the dirty foot marks in the bottom of the shower. Definitely equal to modern scrubbers, like Jif (which is what I normally use).

Anyway, I was well pleased and definitely thinking bout making a permanent switch as I'm sure it's terribly more environmentally friendly.

One drawback though - my bathroom smelt like a fish and chip shop for the rest of the day... minus the greasy fish smell... well, that's not too bad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stewing in my own juices

So, what do you do when you have fruit trees that grow a boat load of fruit? You make stuff with them.

My parents have two apricot trees on their suburban block. This years' crop has been bountiful and my father has been gleefully making apricot jam, stewed apricots, apricot this and apricot that.

He gifted me a little over a kilo of apricots for my own cooking pleasure. So what do you make when you already have a

cupboard full of apricot jam? Apricot Pie, of course.

So, the apricots need stewing right? In Mrs Beeton there is a recipe for stewed fruit (but strangely not even a recipe for apple pie) and I just discovered yesterday a recipe for Apricot Jam in the 'Australian Cookery' section of the book (apparently Apricot Jam is exclusively Australian... or else lots of people in Australia have an excess of apricots. - One other recipe in the Australian section is 'APRICOTS AND RICE' - but we'll get to Australian Cooking soon)
You'd think stewed fruit would be easy and that all the recipes would be pretty much the same. No fear... Mrs B's is quite different from the recipe I got out of Cookery The Australian Way. I'll put them side by side (or in brackets) so we can compare.


1lb of fruit (500g of fruit - that's pretty much the same)
4 oz of sugar (1/4 cup of sugar - Mrs Beeton has double that)
1/4 of a pint of water (1 cup of water - She also has half the amount of water)

METHOD - Apples and pears intended for stewing should be peeled, quartered and cored. Gooseberries should have the tops and tails cut off; rhubarbs usually sliced, and if at all old the stringy outer skin is stripped off. Other fruit, such as cherries and plums, should have the stalks removed, but the stones may be taken out or not, as preferred. Bring the water and sugar to the boil, add the fruit and stew very gently until tender. Or place the fruit, water and sugar in a jar, stand the jar in a saucepan of boiling water, and cook gently until tender.

TIME - About 1/2 an hour. SUFFICIENT for 3 or 4 persons.

I love how you can stew the fruit in the jar all ready to put away once they're done. Fabulous!

(Cookery The Australian Way just calls for everything to be put in the pot, brought to the boil and then simmered until soft (about 5 to 10 mins))

For the pastry I used the short crust pastry found below. Overall, this was very tasty, however the pie did get a little squooshed when I was un-tinning it. Still tasty - just not as attractive.

Edible Isinglass is a whole kettle of fish

Friday, December 12, 2008

How many ways do you cook?

Apparently, there are 9 different methods of cooking; Baking, Boiling, Braising, Frying, Grilling, Roasting, Sautéing, Steaming, Stewing.

Boiling is "generally thought to be the easiest method of cooking", braising "the most delicious", roasting "the favourite British method", whilst steaming is "the most economical".

Grilling is not recommended, because it is not very economical, uses a great deal of fuel and the meat loses weight more than in most ways of cooking.

To be honest, I don't think I've ever considered boiling meat as a pleasing way to cook it. Mrs Beeton comments "Certainly nothing could be less troublesome than the simple process of boiling or stewing meat and yet beef tough and flavourless, or a leg of mutton boiled to rags, it the rule rather than the exception." This suggests that many people struggled with boiling meats (and probably still would apart from it's decline in prevalence). I think I'll just stick to boiling my potatoes then.

I don't think I've ever braised etiher... or at least not like Mrs B suggests in a proper braising pan with hot cinders on the top. From a quick scan on Google there don't seem to be too many pans out there suitable for this, nor too many people braising, like they did in the 'Good Ol' Days'.

Definitely calls for some more investigation, methinks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marketing - Beef

The proof is in the pudding.

Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Is it just me or are those two things put together quintessentially English? Maybe it's because I've read the Pop Larkin chronicles far too many times, but the idea of it just make my mouth water... so I thought I'd try my hand at it.

In A Breath of French Air, the sequel to The Darling Buds of May which some of you may remember as a TV series with a very young Catherine Zeta Jones in it), it is described as "a pudding that had no equal. It was about the best in the world."

'Scuse the blurry photo. There was also gravy but this is a pre-gravy picture.
This was also my first experience roasting beef as we never had it as children and it was always said to be dry and not very pleasant roasted, allegedly.
However, I gave it my best shot and I think it turned out rather splendid.
Mrs Beeton has a couple of recipes for Yorkshire pudding; you can have it plain, boiled, with raisins or cooking in a greased paper bag.
I made half the recipe, because really there was only two of us for dinner and I also roasted some potatoes because I wasn't sure how it would turn out.


INGREDIENTS - 1 pint of milk
2 eggs
4 heaped tablespoons of flour

METHOD - Put the flour and a good pinch of salt into a basin, make a well in the centre, break in the eggs, stir gradually, mixing the flour from the sides, and dd milk by degrees until a thick, smooth batter is formed. Now beat well for about 10 minutes, then add the remainder of the milk, cover and let it stand for at least 1 hour.
When ready to use, cover the bottom of a pudding-tin with a thin layer of dripping taken from the meat-tin, and while the tin and dripping are getting thoroughly hot in the oven, give the batter another good beating. Bake the pudding for about 10 minutes in a hot oven partially to cook the bottom, or, if more convenient, place the hottest shelf from oven on the meat-stand, and at once put the pudding in front of the fire, and cook it until set and well browned.
"Yorkshire" pudding is always cooked in front of the fire; when baked in the oven, the term "batter pudding" is applied to it by the people in the county whence it derives its name. This pudding is frequently served with gravy, and, as a rule, before the meat.

TIME - About 40 minutes. SUFFICIENT for 5 or 6 persons.

Sifta Salt is best

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well, inspired by Jitterbug and her poached eggs for breakfast, I decided to follow suit and see if Mrs Beeton could improve my poaching as I always end up with inordinate amounts of swirly egg white coming off the sides of my eggs and muddying up the water. I think it was a success, except it may have been far more successful if I hadn't accidentally turned off the gas halfway through. Whoops!


INGREDIENTS - Eggs, buttered toast, salt, vinegar or lemon-juice
METHOD - Eggs for poaching should be fresh, but not new-laid; for if poached before they have been laid 36 hours, the white is so milky that it is almost impossible to coagulate it. To prepare, boil some water in a shallow stewpan or deep frying-pan, add salt to taste, and allow to each pint of water 1 tablespoon of vinegar, or 1 teaspoon of lemon-juice. Break the egg into a cup, taking care to keep the yolk whole, and when the water boils, remove the pan to the side of the fire, and gently slip the egg into it. Tilt the pan, with a teaspoon gently fold the white of the egg over the yolk, so as to produce a plump appearance, and simmer gently until the white is set. Take it up carefully with a slice, trim the edges if necessary, and serve either on buttered toast, slices of ham or bacon, or spinach.
TIME - About 5 minutes to cook. SUFFICIENT, allow 1 or 2 eggs for each person

Monday, December 8, 2008

Have yourself a mince-y little Christmas

Oh Christmas Tarts! Carols playing from the stereo, a pre-heating over, freshly copha-ed pie pans, and you're up to your elbows in dough. Well, maybe not elbows but definitely spreading flour all over the kitchen.

I made some Fruit Mince pies on Sunday. A little tradition I do every year, using the recipe from my mother, who got the recipe from her great-aunt who used to get up at 4 am to make mince pies so that her hands would be cold enough to handle the dough.

I was quite gratified to see that my recipe for short crust pastry is almost identical to Mrs Beeton's with only a few minor adjustments. In the place of lard I use butter, and instead of all plain flour and baking powder I use half and half of Self Raising Flour and plain flour.

However, my method differs vastly from Mrs Beeton's, considering I use an electric food processor to mix the dough.

SHORT-CRUST. (For Pies, Tarts, etc.)

INGREDIENTS - 8 oz of flour
2 oz of butter
2 oz of lard
1 yolk of egg
1 teaspoonful of baking powder
A good pinch of salt
About 1/8 of a pint of water

METHOD - Rub the butter and lard lightly into the flour, add the baking powder, salt, yolk of egg, and sufficient water to form a stiff paste. Roll out to the required thickness and use at once.

TIME - About 1/4 of an hour. SUFFICIENT for about 1 medium-sized tart

Mrs Beeton's recipe for rich short-crust has 1 level dessertspoonful of sugar - but 6 oz of butter, hence I compared my recipe with the normal short-crust)

My recipe
4 oz (125g) of plain flour
4 oz (125g) of SR flour
4 oz (125g) of butter
2 oz (60g) of castor sugar
1 pinch of salt
About 3 tablespoons of water

Method: Put butter, flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Turn on and process until it resembles bread crumbs, add egg yolk, and process, add water a little at a time until the mixture forms a ball of dough whirling round the mixer. Remove and roll out on a floured board/benchtop. The use or refridgerate until required (no more that 1 day)

Roll out, cut into tops (5cm circle cutter) and bottoms (round egg ring), put into a tart pan which has been brushed with melted copha (it makes the pastry crispier that using butter) and fill with fruit mince.

Bake for about 25 to 30 mins in a moderate oven (180 oC)

ABSOLUTELY can only be made if Christmas carols are blaring from the stereo, music box, or piano...

Why don't you just stock me?

well, post my roast chicken fantastico, I had a chicken carcass that just begged to be stocked...
So I did.

Two and a half hours later I have 3 litres of chicken stock suitable for making white soups with.

And yes, my kitchen setup looked exactly like this as well.
Any kind of bones, cooked or uncooked, may be used to make bone stock. Put them in a small stewpan or small stock-pot, add enough water to well cover, and bring to the boil. Skim, add a peeled onion, a carrot and a bay leaf (I also added 1 stick of celery and some peppercorns), simmer for about2 or 3 hours. Season to taste with salt. This stock may be used in place of water for making gravy, soups and sauces.
All frozen into handy 500ml containers for whenever I need 2 cups of chicken stock

No other range has so many advantages

Friday, December 5, 2008

Murder most fowl.

Last night I roasted a fowl. Welll, a chicken anyway. However I did so in a most un-Beetonly manner - in my Schlemmertopf pot. It's actually the only way I know how to roast a chicken. Pop the chicken, stuffed with an onion, into the pot (which has been soaked in cold water for 10 minutes) , chuck in some potatoes and carrots and pop in to a cold oven, turn the heat up to 250oC and cook for 90 minutes. Easy as pie (although some people do find pie quite hard). The chicken comes out very succulent and moist. But definitely not Beeton-esque.

Here's how she suggests you roast a fowl.

INGREDIENTS - A pair of fowls; a little flour.

METHOD-Fowls to be tender should be killed a couple of days before they are dressed; when the feathers come out easily, then let them be picked and cooked. In drawing them, be careful not to break the gall-bag, as, wherever it touches, it would impart a very bitter taste; the liver and gizzard should also be preserved. Truss them in the following manner:—After having carefully picked them, cut off the head, and skewer the skin of the neck down over the back. Cut off the claws; dip the legs in boiling water, and scrape them; turn the pinions under, run a skewer through them and the middle of the legs, which should be passed through the body to the pinion and leg on the other side, one skewer securing the limbs on both sides. The liver and gizzard should be placed in the wings, the liver on one side and the gizzard on the other. Tie the legs together by passing a trussing-needle, threaded with twine, through the backbone, and secure it on the other side. If trussed like a capon, the legs are placed more apart. When firmly trussed, singe them all over; put them down to a bright clear fire, paper the breasts with a sheet of buttered paper, and keep the fowls well basted. Roast them for 3/4 hour, more or less, according to the size, and 10 minutes before serving, remove the paper, dredge the fowls with a little fine flour, put a piece of butter into the basting-ladle, and as it melts, baste the fowls with it; when nicely frothed and of a rich colour, serve with good brown gravy, a little of which should be poured over the fowls, and a tureen of well-made bread sauce. Mushroom, oyster, or egg sauce are very suitable accompaniments to roast fowl.—Chicken is roasted in the same manner.

TIME - A very large fowl, quite 1 hour, medium-sized one 3/4 hour, chicken 1/2 hour, or rather longer.

SUFFICIENT for 6 or 7 persons.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are you now or have you ever been...

A vegetarian? If you are you may "lose their liking for preparation possessing much flavour and seasoning and usually prefer simple fare." You are in danger of becoming insipid and flavourless. Such a diet is "apt to be monotonous, but not necessarily so." Your diet will only be tasty and "nourishing, palatable and varied, if they will avail themselves of the many food-stuffs which nature has generously placed at their disposal."

So, on the whole, Mrs Beeton and her publishers do not come down on the side of vegetarianism.

Why am I posting this inflammatory post? To cover up the mess that was my dessert: COFFEE CUSTARD.

Whilst it was tasty, it looked appalling and I'm going to hold off posting the recipe until I work the kinks out of it... Let's just say that my custard needs work...a lot of it. Baked custard just doesn't seem to be my thing... yet.

So here it is, with a slice of Panaforte made by one of my brownies as a Christmas present

Lights, camera, action

electricity, ain't it grand!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's a mockery

well, a mock goose... Actually it's a Vegetable Goose, despite the lack of any real vegetables (onion is not really a vegetable).

But before we get there, let's have a look at what Mrs Beeton has to say about the origins of vegetarianism.

"From the earliest ages the doctrines and practice of vegetarinism have been observed, from necessity, as a religious duty or on grounds of health. In England the question has come to the front on the ground of dietetic reform, and a number of persons known as "Vegetarians" abstain from animal foods altogether, or take it only in such forms as milk, cheese, butter or eggs."

Interestingly, the concept of vegetarianism was so novel in 1923 that it didn't need delineations like vegan, or pescatarian, or pesca-pollo-tarian, or fruitarian. You either ate meat, or you didn't. And coming from a book that has 12 chapters exclusively about meat and only one on vegetarian cooking, I imagine that most people ate meat.

And now, VEGETABLE GOOSE (I served mine with roasted vegetables...Mrs Beeton left no serving suggestions)

INGREDIENTS - 1/2 lb of bread soaked in cold water
1 onion
1 tp chopped sage
30g vegetable butter
pepper and salt
60g chopped walnuts

METHOD - Squeeze the bread nearlydry, and mash it, mix in the other ingredients, chopped small. Grease a Yorkshire pudding-dish, put in the mixture, and bake in a good oven for about 3/4 of an hour.

TIME - About 1 1/2 hours. SUFFICIENT for 3 persons (actually about 5, depending on how much you like mushed bread)
My recommnedations: Actually quite tasty for a fauxst (faux roast), basically just a pile of stuffing. Needed a bit more salt. Maybe not a gold medal winner but certainly tasty...and a good way to use up any leftover stale bread.

I had the left over goose and potatoes for breakfast today, sort of fried into a fritter thing... it was also good.

When Mrs Beeton was a little girl

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mrs Beeton vs. the Vegetarian

Last night I had my sisters over for dinner...and because of my new obsession, I wanted to cook something from Mrs Beeton. Trouble is, my sister is a vegetarian.

Now from a cookbook that recommend Calf's Feet Stew for invalids or Bullock's Heart stuffed with Veal forcemeat I thought my chances of devising a suitable menu may be slim. However, I should not have been so hasty. While I believe the original Mrs Beeton was probably not in favour of vegetarian ( I think somewhere she wrote that it would be quite bad to omit one entire food group, and meat at that!), my new and updated version desiring to "give useful information to all housekeepers" has a whole chapter(!12 pages!) added "for the benefit of those who do not eat animal food, or prefer an alternative diet."

And now with out any further ado, may I present MOCK HARE SOUP

INGREDIENTS - 1 litre Vegetable Stock
1 carrot (diced)
1 onion (diced)
1 stick of celery (diced)
1 tomato (diced)
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp of chopped parsley
1 tbsp of flour
30 g of vegetable butter

METHOD - Melt the butter in a casserole, cut up the vegetables into neat pieces, and cook them slowly in the butter for about 15 mins - with the lid on. Stir in the flour and brown it a little, then add the stock, cloves, bay leaf and seasoning, stir until it simmers; then cook gently for about 20 mins. Meanwhile make forcemeat balls about the size of a cherry, and fry them. Put them into the soup tureen, pour the soup on, scatter the chopped parsley over, and serve immediately. Hand the red currant jelly separately. When in season a few mushrooms added to the vegetables are an improvement.

TIME - About 45 minutes. SUFFICIENT for about 6 or 7 persons

My recommendations: Not much - this is a pretty good vegetable soup. BTW - these recipes have been converted to metric measurements.

FORCEMEAT BALLS (For serving in Soups, etc.)

INGREDIENTS - 120 g fresh bread crumbs
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp chopped pine kernels
1 tbsp chopped vegetable butter
1/2 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp lemon peel
1 medium egg
pepper and salt
fat for frying

METHOD - Mix all the ingredients well together - using the egg to form a stiff paste. Roll into balls, fry a golden brown in either deep or shallow fat and serve as required.

TIME - About 15 minutes. SUFFICIENT for about 1 dozen balls.

My recommendations: Well, I had to add some extra water (actually quite a bit of extra water) to get the balls to stick. My paste was just too dry... although this may have been because I used dried breadcrumbs not fresh ones. And I made my balls too big, next time they'll be smaller.

Over all, I found the entree to be quite tasty, and everyone agreed that this is one you could make again...

Tomorrow...the main - Mock Goose

Monday, December 1, 2008


well, I'm converted

or trying at least.

Mrs Beeton wrote her first book at the height of British Imperialism and smack bang in the middle of the Victorian era as well. Therefore it stands to reason that all her measurement are in the Imperial system. Not only Imperial, but quaint as well. Have you ever measured a teacupful of something? What about a breakfastcupful? (For future reference, a breakfast cup is about 1/2 a pint, and therefore about 1 metric cup)

And then, the next thing you have to remember is that a British pint (or quart or ounce) is different from the American. So, when I converted some things on Friday online, they're almost assuredly converted from American sizes, and therefore different from what is required.

I was discussing this problem with my parents when I went to visit them and help put up the Christmas tree. This sparked a geat hunt through every single recipe book in their house for conversion tables, which my father photocopied with great glee. Of particular help were the cookbooks printed in the 60s and 70s, which is when Australia converted from the Imperial to the Metric system.

So I now have the conversion table from the Nursing Mother's Cookbook, from the Dutch Cookbook, and one from Margaret Fulton's Cookbook, who was the Woman's Day Food Editor of the day, all carefully photocopied and stored in my cookbook cupboard. Therefore when I go to cook from Mrs Beeton, as I will be doing tonight, I will know exactly how much of everything I should cook.

Provided I can get my maths right... fingers crossed

Sunday, November 30, 2008

maxims - the rest

Here they are... I feel quite giddy with excitement

- Only dry frying can be done without plenty of fat (unless you have a non-stick pan)
- Pour boiling water over frying fat to clarify it and set it aside for using again (sorry, what was that about boiling water and hot fat...sounds like a recipe for disaster)
- Fat used for frying fish should only be used again for that purpose ( fish fat short crust pastry then)
- Melt a teaspoon of fat in a frying=pan before putting in bacon (although see above re: non-stick pan)
- Put spare bread crusts in the oven to grate for breadcrumbs (waste not, want not)
- Make mint sauce two hours before serving it (just because okay?)
- For making fish sauce use some of the water in which the fish was boiled (makes sense)
- Pare potatoes thinly (don't want to miss out on all that skinny goodness)
- Salt or cold water makes scum to rise (because you don't want the scum to be low)
- Scum as it rises in boiling should be taken off (and shot!)
- No more water than is needed for gravy should be put in the pan (otherwise soggy gravy)
- Salt brings out flavours (what puts them back in again?)
- When using ketchup be sparing with salt (especially for your blood pressure)
- A handful of salt will clear the fire for grilling (next time you're at a camp out remember this)
- Salt meat should go in cold water and be brought slowly to the boil (nummy, meat in brine)
- Always save the liquor in which the joint of meat has boiled (i think it's good for stock)
- One egg well beaten is worth two not beaten (and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)
- Boiled puddings should fill the basin (not your head instead)
- Put fresh water in the kettle to boil for tea, cocoa or coffee (at least it stops you from boiling a dry kettle)
- Make the tea directly the water boils (for a perfect cuppa)
- Pour nothing but water down the sink (saves for a smelly sinkhole)

So apparently that's the nub of this 640 page book... let's just keep this in mind for future reference

Saturday, November 29, 2008

some kitchen maxims

This is a summary of the advice given in All About Cookery which a novice should commit to memory so that she will understand the fundamental truths of cookery. A little like the maxim that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (except about cookery obviously)

(my annotations are in the case you couldn't tell)

- There is no work like early work (Get out of bed you lazy slacker)
- A good manager looks ahead (Keep your eye on the prize)
- Clear as you go: muddle makes more muddle (Clean up your junk)
- Not to wash plates and dishes soon after using makes work (No, you can't just let them dishes sit there in the sink)
- Spare neither borax nor hot water in washing up greasy articles (I said HOT water)
- Dirty saucepans filled with hot water begin to clean themselves (which is good...unless you are a cartoon mouse)
- Wash well a saucepan but clean a frying pan with a piece of bread (ummm, okay...?)
- Never put the handles of knives in hot water (because then you will have to hold them by the sharp bits...right?)
- Thrust an oniony knife into earth to take away the smell (just don't let the neighbours see or they'll wonder what you have buried there)
- Search for the insects in greens before putting them to soak (because no-one wants soggy just ruins their taste)
- Green vegetables should be boiled fast with the lid off (you hear me...lid off)
- Bread or vegetables left in stock turn it sour (so be careful when making soup and things)
- Roast meat should start in a hot oven (but shouldn't stay in the hot oven....)
- When pastry comes out of the oven, meat may go in ('cause pastry likes the hotness)
- Fish boiled should be done slowly with a little vinegar in the water (vinegar always goes well with fish..and chips)
- A spoonful of vinegar will set a poached egg (and you won't get all those floaty stringy bits)
- Water boils when it gallops, oil when it is still (so put your tenner on the looks like it goes faster)
- A stew boiled is a stew spoiled (actually, pretty good advice)
- Take away nearly all fat before making a stew (no-one wants a stodgy stew)
- Save all pieces of fat to melt down for frying or pastry (yum, fish fat short crust)

That's just the first half...have you go all these down?

The rest will follow tomorrow

Friday, November 28, 2008


Oh the glory of stainless steel. Glistening cleanliness and that all important labour saving and utility. Remind me to get my whole house done in it.

oh, for some decent help

No doubt that when Mrs Beeton first penned her housekeeping anthology, household help was cheap and plentiful.

And in 1923, in my revised edition, labour-saving in the home was a new feature because "The continued shortage of domestic labour and the high wages paid have forced many mistresses to take a much larger share in the work of the house themselves." (Note that it says a 'larger share' not 'do all of it by themselves'.) It still sounds like it was generally accepted that you would at least have a maid or a housekeeper to help you.

And, the America's Housekeeping Book, circa 1941, still mentions having a housekeeper as a reasonable way to manage your household duties and have enough time to tend to your children.

Heck, even Carol Brady had a housekeeper.

So, when did it go out of vogue to have help? Was it rising costs of wages? Or not being able to have live-in help?

Just think about how much easier it would be to have an extra person to do all your housework. All though, trying to manage a lazy, idle bint because that was all the help you could afford would be less fun.

Anyway, Mrs Beeton says that it is important to know how to do all the household chores, even if you don't do them yourself. That way you will know how long everything should take and you won't overload your help or leave them idle. Plus when you get a new girl you will be able to show her how to do all the things she's required to do.

I guess the moral of the story is, even if you don't have to do it yourself, you still have to know how to do. Inactivity is no excuse for inability.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

mmmm, tasteless soda

not only can I use "practically tasteless" bicarb soda... but I can also saving money by baking my own cakes just like the professionals do

Please explain, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton (or one of the writers from whom she allegedly plagiarised) suggests that the daily ration of food for a man, doing moderate work, should be:-

1. Water - 22 Oz. Avoirdupois (sold by weight)
2. Albuminoids - 3 oz
3. Fats, starch, sugar, etc. - 14 oz
4. Salts - 1 oz

Totalling 40 oz.
For a woman, the same proportions, but 6 oz less.

Now here comes the confusing part.
Water is not only fluids consumed, but also the amounts contained in other foods, lettuce, onions, lean meat, wheat, etc.
Albuminoids are eggs, lean meat, fish, poultry, game, milk curd or cheese, gluten in flour, fibrine in oats, in beans peas and lentils.
Fat, starch and sugar refer to fats like butter, dripping, starches being mostly things high in carbs, bread, potatoes, rice, barley, cornflour, sage, tapioca. And sugars, obviously being sugar, treacle, etc. Which Mrs Beeton says "children can and do eat large quantities without convenience."
Salts are not only table salt, but other salt like potash salt in fruit and vegetables. Lime and iron are also sought after, as well as vitamins.

Now, the only thing I really understood from that section is the last line. "Moral - eat plenty of fresh vegetables."

Where's the food pyramid when you need it? No wonder it required a cook, kitchen maid and housewife to run a household, when they had to calculate all of that jargon to determine whether their husbands or masters were getting adequate nutriments.

After reading all that, I have a headache. I think I need a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The frontispiece

The front and the back of the book are filled with ads from the time. I shall post them so we'll all know the best soda or baking powders or relishes to use.

How old are you?

This was the question on my mind yesterday, as I avid read Mrs Beeton's tips and suggestions on The Art of Cookery, The Cook, The Kitchen, The Housewife, Marketing and Labour-Saving In the Home.

Mrs Beeton's first book was published in 1861. My copy is definitely not that old, plus All About Cookery is a derivative edition taken out of her Household Management book.

The front cover is olive green, with black writing, a sort of Art Deco column design with 3 stalks of embossed wheat. From my search of Google, it appears that this is a 1923 edition. These two copies look and sound very similar:,
Furthermore, the frequent references to the War, and the difficulty in obtaining household staff (as if having a maid, a cook and a porter were the most ordinary things in the world) suggested post-WWI.

So the next question is - where was it between 1923 and the Christmas in the late-40's when it was given to my nana? Was it given as a serious handbook for a new housewife? Or in jest, by Uncle Albert as a sly dig at my Nana's skills? Or as a gift of something Aunt Blank had used and found to be very useful?
I guess I will never know for sure as my Nana passed away a few years ago, and Grandad doesn't know very much about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the back of my cupboard

to the front of my mind...

Last night at my parent's house whilst looking through the cookery books I came across Mrs Beeton's All About Cookery. It was my nana's book, given to her one Christmas, allegedly by Uncle Albert, with the inscription on the back of the gift tag for her to "don't kill Perc off with the enclosed".

This was the first time I crossed paths with Mrs Beeton but considering my developing passion for vintage housewifery it is surprising that I had not come across her before. According to Wikipedia, which is the font of all knowledge, she is "one of the most famous cookery writers in history."

I am endeavouring to get to know her further and explore the knoweldge that she imparted to housewives for almost 100 years...