A Victorian Meal in Modern Times

So Gentle Reader, Saturday Willow and I suited up in our cute little aprons, and went to work cooking for ten out of Henry Southgate's Things a Lady Would like to Know meals for February 1876.

This was our menu . . .

Soup ~ Julien Soup

Fish ~ Shrimp in Creamed Prawn Sauce

Main ~ Roasted Pork Loin with Sage & Onion Stuffing

Corner Dishes ~ Mashed Potatoes & Scotch Kale

Dessert ~ Apple Fritters & Custard

We were graciously hosted at a friend's marvelous renovated old Victorian house which they cleaned and decorated special for the occasion. We began cooking at about 2:30 PM doing prep work in my kitchen before moving to the host kitchen at 4:00, having tea, and then commencing the main cooking.
I did most of the shopping form the local Farmer's Market with meat and dairy coming from Trader Joes, except for the shrimp and pork which I ordered special from the butchers. It cost about $200 total, a good deal of which was the pork ~ which, it turned out, we could have gotten half the amount. So I would say you could do this meal for $150 with high quality ingredients or $100 on a budget ( given you have all the spices and baking extras like flour and brandy to hand). Wine was contributed by the guests.

Soup Course ~ Julien Soup

Cook's Notes: 1 tsp cayenne is WAY TOO MUCH. Suggest 1/4 is better. The vinegar simmer (we used malt) is probably to preserve the color of the veg. Veg doesn't need a full 1/2 hour in the stock, veg becomes overcooked by modern standards. Suggest just bring it up to temp until peas are cooked. Also, I would sub out the celery for something more colorful and hearty, like a nice dense squash or some yam.

Diner's Thoughts: perhaps due to transport and lack of plastic containers cayenne was a much milder (stale) spice by the time it got to London, or perhaps the Victorians just meant "chili pepper" when they wrote "cayenne." This was the least successful of the dishes and general feeling was even with the right level of spicy it was a bit of a dull soup. Luckily everyone was hungry.

Fish Course ~ Shrimp in Prawn Sauce

Cooks Notes: Instead of 1 lb of shrimp, suggest getting an exact number of shrimp, 3 per person, for easy of plating, under 20 shrimp and you can lower the amount of water for the sauce. Not noted in the original recipe was the fact that, after removing the jumbos, I had to strain the prawn liquor to remove bits of shell. Suggest doubling the flour (in the butter) for a thicker sauce. Sauce proved rather bland at first, so I doubled the Worcestershire to good results. With salted butter and the Worcestershire, no additional salt was needed. White pepper might make for a nice flavor shift and perhaps some fresh tarragon. A sprinkle of fresh herbs on top would be good. This dish would be gorgeous served over a bed of wilted spinach. Also it might be fun to experiment with greek yoghurt instead of the heavy cream for a more healthy version, and you could use less butter and make a rue instead of adding the butter to the boiling liquid.

Diner's Thoughts: This one was a hit. The sauce tastes very like a high-end lobster bisque (we had requests for spoons) it wasn't too rich, as we were afraid it might be. The rolls were very necessary for sopping up the sauce. Three shrimps each was a perfect amount for all diners, left room for the next course. We had extra sauce which was request by one diner for her own particular consumption later. A fruity white was perfect, but if you do the spinach option something a little dryer might be better.

Main Course

Corner Dishes ~ Mashed Potatoes & Scotch Kale


Scotch Kale lightly braised in bacon fat with lemon & bacon bits.

Meat course ~ Roast Pork Loin

While roast sits . . .
Use drippings to make gravy with reserved stock from soup, 2 tbsp chopped sage and 1/4 cup brandy, season with salt & pepper.
I ended up having to strain the gravy, but this worked out well as the fresh sage really permeated and didn't need to be left in.

Meat Course ~ Stuffing
Make a sage & onion stuffing of fresh (reserve some sage for garnish & gravy).

You can assemble this the day before.

Serve pork with fresh mustered (Coleman's), chutney (I used my mum's secret recipe), and claret (we used a red table wine).

Cook's Notes: We had more than double the amount of loin needed. I'm used to estimating fowl, which is 1lb per person, but loin is less than half that, particularly as we had trimmings and two courses prior. I had almost 7 lbs and we could have done with 3.5 lb for 10 people. That would have been enough for every diner to have two 1cm slices. (It worked out fine, everyone took a bit of pork home to make sandwiches.) The chutney (Mum's homemade) went better with the dish than the mustard (recommended by the Victorian book). At first, we had the bacon on top of the pork roast, not recommended as the pork fat did not get crispy, we ended up putting it on broil briefly near the end to get nice brown on the top. Delish.

Diner's Thoughts: Stuffing was very welcome. We could have used a bit more gravy. Pork was done perfectly. Enjoyed sitting and looking at the resting pork while waiting for trimmings. Some preferred white wine over the red with this dish.

Pudding Course ~ Apple Fritters

Cook's Notes: You want small dense sour cooking apples for this, the kind you might use for pie. Grannys are too wet. We used pippins. Only needed about 5 apples, billiard-ball sized, to make 3 fritters each plus extra. There were no less than four different apple fritter recipes in the Victorian cookbook. This is a batter from one recipe combined with the apple preparation style from another. We made the batter ahead of time and kept in in the fridge for several hours before using. Worked fine. Batter does not need salt if you use salted butter for frying. Even then I suggest 1.5 cubes of unsalted to 1/2 salted instead of 50/50. Glass of brandy probably implies 1/2 or 3/4 of a cup, not a whole cup. We ended up adding lots of flour to compensate, but it still worked out. Would add a little more nutmeg and/or cinnamon for modern taste.They are beautiful but do take a while to make. Three or four batches. Timing perfect if one cook makes fritters while other does custard. I made Bird's Custard with 1/2 whole milk, 1/2 cream, and 1/2 tsp less the recommended sugar, and a little lemon zest.

Diner's Thoughts: Success! Ladies went for the desert wine while the gentlemen opted for brandy, with a few going back to the fruity white form the second course. Apple fritters tied nicely in to the pork theme and were light enough to follow such a full meal. Extra custard was appreciated. Brandy batter was pronounced lovely. You could definitely taste the brandy!

After dinner, in the most modern and shocking of ways, the ladies and gentlemen did not separate, but played charades and swilled booze in a most hedonistic manner.



Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Dress reform!

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
A brief history of blurbs

Deportment & Deceit ~ The Finishing School Book the Second: Working rough draft.
I'm struggling here, struggling.
Etiquette & Espionage ~ The Finishing School Book the First: Release date Feb 2013. In production. Have seen initial cover mock-up and it is stunning!

Manga ~ Soulless Vol. 1: Printed volume releases March 1. Have seen cover sketch for Soulless Vol. 2 (AKA Changeless) and it is beyond fabulous!

Timeless ~ Parasol Protectorate Book the Last: In production. Releases March 1. Preorder now if you wish.

Prudence ~ The Parasol Protectorate Abroad Book the First: Release date fall 2013. She's started waking me up in the middle of the night with ideas.

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first!

Book News:
The Kindle version of Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is on sale for $2.99 this month. I have an article in it.

Quote of the Day:
It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!"
~ Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

Labels: ,