Devoted to Hannah I have been devoted to Hannah Glasse. She’s helped me through all the fundraising events Dine Like A Servant and Lunch with the Curator at the Regency Town House. I owe her a great deal. But this week I decided I had […]
Author: Paul Couchman
There is a restoration project in Hove, UK where guests are invited to a fundraising dinner where they will Dine Like Servants. In February 2018 we were even featured in the local newspaper, the Argus.
It’s at the Regency Town House in Brunswick Square, Hove. Hove is part of Brighton and Hove. Brighton and Hove are on the South coast of England.
Did Servants dine? What does that even mean? The starting point for me was producing food that would have been made in the kitchen, been sent to the high tables of the dining room and worked it’s way back to the kitchen when it wasn’t eaten. The elaborate food that was created for the super-rich upstairs was rarely completely eaten. There were always leftovers. Food was another status symbol and much of the food was not eaten. When the food made its way back downstairs the higher ranking servants, the butler, housekeeper and cook, were the first to choose what they wanted to eat. The food would then work its way down the servant social hierarchy. Eventually any food that was left over would leave the house and be taken to the local poor. At the Regency Town House the poor were very close. Behind the Town House is Brunswick Street East, which houses the Town House’s old stables and that street would of be full of small businesses with many people rarely having enough to eat. What the inhabitants of those working class streets didn’t eat would be fed to animals, again often only a few metres away from where the food was first created. There were horses and donkeys behind Brunswick Square. One of the streets is still called Donkey Mews!
At Dine Like A Servant our guests eat in the old kitchen of The Regency Town House. Servants did often gather together and eat leftover food. I’ve used authentic historical recipes to recreate the tastes of the past including homemade pies, pickles and small pieces of elaborate desserts like Ribbon Jellies or Pears Poached in Port.
I cook, with the support of other volunteers, in the old scullery. We have just recently (March 2018) installed a sink, in it’s original place. Before the sink was installed I, and the other volunteers, would carry large buckets of water up and down the stairs. Perhaps taking authenticity rather too far?
The kitchen is again the heart of the Town House, visitors often remark now on the wonderful smells that float through the entire house. Only last week the smell of candied orange peel worked its way right up into the offices, housed in the old bedrooms.
Imagine a pastry case filled with almond and lemon custard, topped with meringue. That’s what these delicious tarts are. They were made famous by the first celebrity chef Antonin Carême, who, cooked for the royalty of Europe in the early nineteenth century. He even cooked […]
The first thing visitor notice, as they enter the housekeeper’s room at 10 Brunswick Square are the cupboards. Cupboards everywhere and all of them have locks. Locked away in the housekeeper’s room were many things that servants could steal and sell. Porcelain, the finest table […]
Are you fascinated by food and history?
But the combination is so quirky. Where can you do both?
It’s fun practising at home, by yourself, but you want to try out recipes with other people. You want the challenge of cooking for a large group of people, just like you were cooking in a restaurant.
Before you know it, it’s been days (or even weeks) since you’ve tested out new recipes. And it’s not always because you’re busy – sometimes you just feel like you’re all out of ideas.
If this sounds like you, please feel reassured that you’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges of improving your cookery is being consistent, doing it on a regular basis so that you improve.
That’s why I decided to invite people to join me at the Regency Town House – I’ve set up a place where people can learn or improve their cookery skills in a safe environment.
Here’s five reasons why it could be worth thinking about the Town House.
1.You’ll learn in an historic Regency Kitchen.
The Town House has its own historic kitchen which was rescued from ruin.
- In 1984 Nick Tyson bought the basement. It was in a terrible state of repair, the roof had started to collapse.
- In the 1990s funds were found to restore the kitchen and a roof was created and a temporary blue plastic sheet stopped the rain from coming in.
- Funds were found to put in a skylight in 2013
- From 2013-2016 the kitchen was cleared, plastered and electrics were added.
- In 2016 the room was used as a wood store.
- At Christmas 2017 I decided to reinstate the kitchen as a kitchen, the first mince pies were made and a volunteers’ dinner was held.
- Now it is a fully functioning kitchen used for events like Dine Like A Servant and Lunch with the Curator.
2. You won’t be alone.
If you are anything like me then you enjoy cooking by yourself – to a point. I’ve found that I also like to do it with others. During the courses that I give although I’m sharing my skills I’m also learning from others. During some of the courses/sessions we eat together at the end with each person making a part of a meal.
3. You’ll learn basic skills if you need them.
A great pleasure in the courses that I give and the volunteers that I work with is teaching the basic skills. Seeing people respond to pastry or learning how to kneed dough. We work in small groups and usually people of very different abilities help each other too. I’m very keen to build a community in the kitchen where we all work together.
4. You’ll get a challenge if you want it.
It’s not just about basic skills though. In the courses that I give and with the volunteers that I work with it’s also about the challenge. Working with historical recipes is challenging. That’s why I work these things out before we start cooking. Both the volunteers and the people taking the courses are given recipes that have been tested by me first. I have often tested these recipes many times.
But when you are ready there is no reason why you can’t translate the recipe yourself. I can give handy pointers to get you started. This is something else which is incredibly satisfying and which I am keen to share with other people, the feeling of taking an old recipe and getting it to work again, to taste how it would have tasted.
5. You’ll work from historical recipes.
This is the part that people are really passionate about. Can you imagine the pleasure to be had from making an historical recipe in the place where the recipe was made? For a cook it doesn’t get much better than that.
A peck. A peck. What could it be?
‘You must take a quarter of a peck of fine flour…’
said Hannah Glasse in her 1805 book.
At this point I was cold. It’s a wintery day in Hove and the kitchen at the Regency Town House isn’t the warmest place. In those days the range would have been on since early morning. I can only dream of such heat.
The peck was still bothering me.
I found an amazing resource called the Manuscripts Cooksbook Survey. I strongly recommend that you take a look at the Manuscripts Cookbook Survey.
Through that I found out that a peck is this:
“In most English recipes prior to 1800 (and even later) a peck of wheat flour is an understood weight of 14 pounds. However, in some recipes a peck of flour means a volume measurement of 2 gallons, which would weigh only 8 to 10 pounds. The former should be assumed unless the latter is suggested by context.”
I was confused. But decided to make the cake anyway. Here is the original recipes and underneath my translation of the ingredients list.
To make a fine Seed or Saffron Cake
You must take a quarter of a peck of fine flour, a pound and a half of butter, three ounces of caraway-seeds, six eggs beat well, a quarter of an ounce of cloves and mace beat together very fine, a penny-worth of rose water, a penny-worth of saffron, a pint and a half of yeast, and a quart of milk; mix it all together, lightly with your hands thus: first boil your milk and butter, then skim off the butter, and mix with your flour and a little of the milk, stir the yeast into the rest and strain it, mix it with the flour, put in your seed and spice, rose-water, tincture of saffron, sugar, and eggs, beat it all up well with your hands lightly, and bake it in a hoop or pan, but be sure to butter the pan well. It will take an hour and a half in a quick oven. You may leave out the seed if you choose it, and I think it rather better without it; but that you may do as you like.
A couple of things there. I had to look up penny-worth first.
pen·ny·worth (pĕn′ē-wûrth′) n.
- As much as a penny will buy.
- A small amount; a modicum.
- A bargain: got my pennyworth at that price.
This wasn’t much help!
Quart of milk (or a quarter of a gallon) is 2 pints.
I had to make a lot less for the first time so I reduced everything down by 1/3.
- 3.5 1bs flour 1587 grammes
- 1/2 1bs butter
- 1 oz of caraway seeds (28.34)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 pint yeast
- 0,66 pint milk (0.375ml)
So, the ingredients are deciphered, just the cake to make. I’ll be back with the rest of the recipe before the end of March 2018.
Historical recipes aren’t easy to decipher. You may struggle with strange terms, odd ingredients and confusing spelling. Here are some tips to get you started. What about all these F words? It’s the f and s. It really helps to remember to read the f […]