Friday, October 15, 2010

The London Art of Cookery

I found another wonderful cookery book of the Regency period at Google Books recently. It has a number of unique and fascinating features; here's the title:

The London Art of Cookery
Domestic Housekeepers' Complete Assistant,
The Principles of
Elegance, Taste, and Economy;
and adapted
to the Use of Servants,
 Families of Every Description.
John Farley
Formerly Principal Cook at the London Tavern

The Twelfth Edition

I love the title pages on these old books, and couldn't resist trying to reproduce it. But back to content!

I have a feeling there will be at least one more post on this book, but for today, one of the first features in the book caught my eye. There is a bill of fare laid out for each month of the year. It is an illustration of a table-top with the dishes marked for a first and a second course. Here is the Bill of Fare for October:

Many of the dishes require no explanation: custards, ham, broccoli, even turkey and oysters is not far from our everyday cooking. But some items are unusual to say the least.

Scotch Collops are a cut of veal "the size and thickness of a crown piece", done up in a mushroom, anchovy and lemon sauce. Beef Olives are rolled rump-steaks cooked with fat bacon and served with a gravy containing port wine, cayenne and ketchup.

Tongue and Udder caused me to shudder, but they were parboiled and then roasted with cloves. Almond Soup contained veal and mutton as well as almonds and cream.

What, I wondered, were the Chardoons on the top left corner of the the second course? Well, I think they are the edible 'flower' of a large thistle-type plant. I went to the index and found the following:
Cut them about six inches long, string them, and stew them till tender. Then take them out, flour them, and fry them in butter till they are brown, Serve, with melted butter. Or you may tie them up in bundles, and boil them like asparagus. Put a toast under them, and pour a little melted butter over them.
And the biggest mystery of all was one of the two central dishes of the second course--Silver Web. I went to the Index with anticipation. There was no entry for Silver Web. I went to the Internet and did a search--nothing came up for Silver Web. I thought it must either be a fish or a sweet. Feeling stymied, I considered my options, and I recalled a great blog I often read--The Old Foodie. I emailed Janet and asked for her help. She was most generous with her information, and here it is:

"'Silver Web' was a spun sugar decoration for sweet dishes and puddings. It was considered very elegant indeed.

There are recipes from the mid-eighteenth century, but here is one from 1846 - the method did not change, and this cookery book is available on Google Books, in case you want to look it up. The Gold Web sounds gorgeous too.

From: The Complete Cook, J.M. Sanderson, 1846
To make a Silver Web.

Boil clarified syrup to the crack, using the same precautions as before observed, giving it a few boils after the acid is added; dip the bottom of the pan in water and let the sugar cool a little; then take the handle of a spoon, or two forks tied together, dip it into the sugar, and form it either on the inside or outside of a mould, with very fine strings, by passing the hand quickly backwards and forwards taking care that it does not fall in drops, which would spoil the appearance of the work. With this may be represented the hair of a helmet, the water of a fountain, &c. Take a fork or an iron skewer, and hold it in your left hand as high as you ca,n dip the spoon in the sugar, and with the right hand throw it over the skewer, when it will hang from it in very fine threads of considerable length.

To make a Gold Web.

Boil syrup to caramel height, colouring it with saffron, and form it as directed for the last. It can be folded up to form bands or rings &c. Fasten it to the other decorations with caramel. If any of the strings or threads of sugar should pass over those parts where they are not required so as to spoil the other decorations in the making of baskets or other ornaments, it may be removed with a hot knife without breaking or injuring the piece."
So now I have--perhaps--several new recipes for October meals! But I won't be making Tongue and Udder. And those who know my cooking skills won't be expecting Silver Web either.

'Til next time,



Karyn Good said...

That's quite the dinner! I'm always fascinating by dinner scenes in historicals and what they consumed.

I've heard of serving tongue before and a girl I rode the school bus with occasionally brought tongue sandwiches to school. But I've never heard of eating the udder. ewww!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I have an uncle who loves tongue, Karyn so, like you, I'm used to that. But udder--as you say, EWWWWWW!

At least in your books they eat regular, contemporary food :)

Charles Bazalgette said...

Lesley_Anne. For 'chardoons' read 'cardoons' which is the modern spelling. I don't think they are much eaten today but you can still buy the seeds if you want to try growing them!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I actually have grown a cardoon! It was a wonderful plant--a six foot tall thistle. I assumed chardoon was the same thing, but I had no idea they were edible. Nice to hear from you, Charles!

Charles Bazalgette said...

Never eaten one - they seem fiddly to prepare....