Helping you to cook like it's 1829.

Author: Paul Couchman

Shrove Tuesday – 3 unusual things to add to a pancake.

Shrove Tuesday – 3 unusual things to add to a pancake.

You want to do something different for Pancake Day but don’t know what?  I’ve been searching through my cookery books and I’ve discovered some unusual historical pancake recipes. Ginger, sour cream or even snow. Pancakes with Powdered Ginger These pancakes, which have added ginger powder, […]

Christmas Pudding Workshops

Christmas Pudding Workshops

Are you fascinated by historical food? Would you like to recreate the Christmas flavours of the past?  Come and join a Christmas cooking workshop in a unique historic Regency kitchen in Hove. Down in the basement we will work with historic recipes recreating the tastes […]

How to make Pumpkin Pie

How to make Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is adapted from a recipe of Amelia Simmons in the rather wonderful ‘Great Cooks and their Recipes – From Taillevent to Escoffier’ by Anne Willan. A book I’d highly recommend. It looks at 14 great cooks in 3 countries over 600 years.

Amelia Simmons’s book American Cookery appeared in 1796 and it sought “the improvement of the rising generations of females in America”. Almost nothing is known about the author herself except, mentioned by herself in the cookbook, that she was brought up as an orphan.

I made this glorious colourful pie for Dine Like a Servant. It was served alongside Hannah Glasse’s chocolate tart. The guests received a pumpkin pie and half a chocolate pie. With cream, of course.

If you have carved out a large pumpkin for Halloween this recipe is ideal to use up the excess (pumpkin) flesh.

Pompkin or Pumpkin Pie

Makes two 9 inch/22 cm pies or 12 small 6 inch small pies

375g 12 oz flour 125g 4 oz butter (unsalted)
75g 2½ oz lard
½ teaspoon salt
6 tbsp water (more if you need it)

1 large pumpkin
750ml, 1 1/4 pint double cream
4 large eggs beaten
250g 8 oz granulated sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground mace

The easiest way I found to deal with the pumpkin is as so. Cut it in half, take out the seeds, then cut it into quarters, then into eighths. Place these eighths into a pan of hot boiling water and cook until tender. Then scoop the flesh from the skin. The flesh is then soft enough to put through a food processor, or if you want to be truly authentic use a pestle and mortar.

Set the pumpkin puree to one side to cool.To make the pastry measure out the flour into a bowl. Cut the butter and lard into the smallest pieces you can and drop into the flour. Add the salt. Using just your fingertips, rubbing the butter and lard into the flour. I stop before it gets to the breadcrumb stage. It’s the point where you can still see tiny lumps of butter. I find this gives a crumblier pastry. Do try and experiment with this method if you like.

Now add the water to pastry and use a spoon to bring the mix together. When the water is incorporated you can get in with your hands. But gently. Create a ball of pastry by rolling the mixture around the bowl. Stop when all the flour and butter is combined. You may have to add more water but try not to create a dough that’s too sticky. When ready wrap up in plastic (or a clean cloth for authenticity) and store in a fridge or in your cool pantry. It should be kept cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 175C/gas 4/350FThe cooled pumpkin can be put into a big mixing bowl together with the cream, the eggs, the sugar, the ginger, nutmeg and mace. Mix all together then pour into a large jug.Take your pastry from your cool place and roll it out, as thin as you can while still being able to manage it. I filled small pie tins with the pastry you could use a large one, of course. Put the pie tins onto a baking tray. Now fill will the pumpkin mix from the jug. Fill to just under the top of the pastry case.

Bake the pies in the preheated oven for about an hour. The top will brown. This is good. The tarts should be firm in about an hour. I sprinkled some of them with sugar as they came out the oven which my guests loved, but the choice is yours.

For your delight I include the original recipe!

No. 1. One quart (pumpkin) stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.


No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.​

How to make Lemon Mince Pies

How to make Lemon Mince Pies

Have you ever wanted to cook from an old recipe book? Just to find out what something from the past could taste like? I’m lucky enough to be able to use a beautiful, handwritten cookbook that was donated to The Regency Town House. On page […]

How to make a traditional Christmas Pudding in a Pudding Cloth

How to make a traditional Christmas Pudding in a Pudding Cloth

The damp fug of a pudding gently boiling in a old kitchen. The rattling of the saucer I put in to let me know all is still good. The air getting colder. To me these are all signs of Christmas coming up and although it […]

Chocolate Tart – Hannah Glasse’s way.

Chocolate Tart – Hannah Glasse’s way.

This was the first ever historical recipe that I tried. It was a cold February in 2017. I was at home in my kitchen doing food experiments. It was raining outside. I remember the anticipation. I remember being very excited about trying out an old recipe.

Hannah Glasses’s book was the first one I tried.

My copy, once new, is now well-worn.  It stands in the Town House’s book collection with many other books. I become completely obsessed with historical cookery after that. 

This is the recipe I keep going back to.  At Open Days, when new visitors stream into the Town House, it’s the one smell that I want to welcome them  with.  I  make sure that I have my chocolate tarts in the oven as the front door swings open.  It usually only takes a few minutes before I see new faces appearing in our basement kitchen and I know that Hannah Glasse has done her magic again.

The Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 568ml double cream
  • 200 grams chocolate 70% cocoa solid
  • pinch of salt

First make the pastry. Although the recipe is not specific at all about which sort of pastry a regular shortcrust tastes really good. I don’t add any extra sugar, indeed I add a bit of salt. The beauty of this particular chocolate tart is that it is not terribly sweet. If you like your tarts sweeter please feel free to add more sugar, but I would try this version first. You might find it, like I did, perfectly sweet enough.

Mix the salt, egg yolks, flour and milk in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly until all the lumps are removed. Set to one side.

Pour the double cream into a pan. Break up the chocolate into rough pieces and drop into the cream. Gently bring the pan to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly until the chocolate and cream are blended together. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. 

Take your bowl containing the salt, egg yolks, flour and milk. Add a quarter of the warmed chocolate/cream/sugar mix to it and whisk together. 

Once boiled stir for a minute then take off the heat. You should end up with a thick chocolate custard sauce.

Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature.  I often do this step in advance. The mixture once cool can stay in the fridge until you are ready to bake your tarts. If you do make the filling in advance, do remember to remove the chocolate mixture from the fridge and bring up to room temperature again to make filling the pastry cases easier.

Then add this mixture to the saucepan and bring all the ingredients slowly to a boil. 

Preheat your oven to 180 c, fill the pie cases with a good tablespoon full of the chocolatey mixture. It will rise slightly so don’t overfill the cases. Bake the tarts in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie case should be light brown and the chocolate cracked beautifully on top. I like to be patient and leave this to cool down completely before eating. 

Patience is not something our guests had during our recent Open Day. I left the chocolate tarts in the oven when I had to rush off to give a house tour. When I came back I discovered that they had been eaten straight from the oven by visitors who were drawn down to the basement by the smell of warm chocolate!

How to make Piccalilli – Regency Style!

How to make Piccalilli – Regency Style!

One of the earliest pickles to become popular in England was piccalilli.  A recipe of 1694 states: ‘To pickle lila, an Indian Pickle’ describes a vinegar and brine sauce which was flavoured with ginger, garlic, pepper, turmeric and mustard seeds. In the sauce was cabbage, […]

How to Pickle a Peach

How to Pickle a Peach

The Regency Town house was full of Italian artists when I made this recipe for the first time. It was a warm summer’s evening and the kitchen window was wide open. There was an Anglo-Italian exhibition launch in the drawing room two floors above. Although […]

How to restore a Kitchen Dresser

How to restore a Kitchen Dresser

Long, slow but worth it…

It’s been a long slow process but the original dresser at 13 Brunswick Square is finally restored. It’s back in the same place it was when the house was constructed in 1829.

But it’s not been easy. Teams of volunteers have worked, under supervision of curator Nick Tyson, for years.  First we had to:

  1. Reconstruct and restore the kitchen.
  2. Put the dresser back together again. 
  3. Put it back where it used to stand and paint it.

Historical Jigsaw Puzzle

It’s been like an historical jigsaw puzzle, the Town House’s kitchen dresser.  It was dismantled in 1984. 

At that time the basement was derelict.  The curator to be, Nick Tyson, had just bought the property and the dresser, which had stood in its place since 1829 was dismantled and put away somewhere safe.  

The roof of the kitchen was collapsing, all the roof joists were rotten and the floor was waist high with pigeon-poo.  Volunteers who ventured in the space in the 1980s remember the damp and the decay

Decay

While the rest of the Town House was renovated the kitchen was left. There was no money to restore the space and so it was left, unfortunately, to decay.  Slowly it became worse. The rain got in and the space began to get damp and mouldy. Similar basements in houses in Brunswick Square have got so bad that the kitchens have been completely demolished. The spaces are simply turned into gardens.

Reconstruction

Then in the early 2000s  funds were raised and work was started on making the space water-tight. A new roof was fitted, then a new skylight. The room was completely plastered, a window installed, a new fireplace constructed, the scullery was fitted with borrowed light windows, then the whole place was cleaned and painted.

It was only after all that work was completed that the dresser could be installed.

What was left

Luckily we had the back panels, the sides and the bottom of the dresser. In the photo you can see the black lines which indicated where the shelves used to go.  The wood had been stripped of all its original paint and was cracked. There were missing tongue and groove elements. The shelves also had vanished. The handles had also gone. The bottom timbers had rotted away many years ago and would need replacing too.

Preserving Original Fabric

At the Town House we always try to preserve as much of the original fabric of the building as we can. So in the case of the dresser that means preserving old wood and adding new wood only where the old wood has been removed or is decayed beyond repair. These two photos show the legs of the dresser, repaired using the same mortice and tenon joints but with new pine added where the old pine was missing.

Volunteers Steve, Nicky, Daisy and Tom worked tirelessly on the back panels of the dresser, repairing the tiny slivers of wood which would enable the tongue and groves to fit into each other again. The back panel was assembled in much the same way as a Billy bookcase would be today. The back panels give the strength to the top part of the dresser!


The best part of it all is now that the dresser is complete we were able to take out of kitchen items that had been stored away.  I unwrapped dozens of pieces of kitchen equipment which had been donated over the years but had sat in boxes, in the dark,  since the early 1990s.

  • Jelly moulds
  • Wooden spoons
  • Ceramic pie funnels
  • Bread knives
  • Carving forks
  • Beautiful old mixing bowls
  • Blue and white china serving dishes

And when people see the pictures of the dresser, and its contents, they come and donate even more things. Last week Penny, who follows the Regency Town House on Facebook, donated a whole set of copper pans. More copper pans and dishes came from Daphne. Our new volunteer Paul arrived with a soup tureen and silver tableware. We have had a donation of a wonderful cookbook, handwritten and still more people ask us if they can donate things. The answer is of course YES.

If you would like to donate items to our kitchen please contact us through the Town House’s email: office@rth.org.uk

How did it manage to stay untouched for so long?

How did it manage to stay untouched for so long?

As a volunteer I often get asked the question how the Town House’s basement managed to stay untouched for so long. An Elderly Lady Living in Squalor I tell people who asked the true story of an elderly lady living in squalor. It’s also a […]