Sunday, 2 December 2007

Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll

A syren’s tea-party of two

Clarify 1 lb. butter. When cold beat to a cream, add 12 oz. sugar, 1 lb. potato flour (sieved), 4 whole eggs and the yolks of two, the zest of 1 lemon. Beat the whole mass for 1 hour, when it should form bubbles. Bake in a buttered and finely bread-crumbed mould in a moderate oven. Halve these quantities for a small cake.

[M]ight be served with honey-dew and the milk of Paradise when procurable.

I should think that if I beat a cake by hand for an hour, I would form bubbles.

Lady Jekyll’s charming and amusing book of essays offers all sorts of culinary advice, from preparing shooting lunches to managing without your cook (goodness, unthinkable – but it is she who would beat the Venus Torte for an hour, not the lady of the house). First published in 1922 (and reprinted by the redoubtable Persephone Books), the essays combine humour with practical information, thereby ensuring our lady housewife’s dining table will be a pleasure to all comers, young and old. Should you need to provide a light supper for artists and performers, Lady Jekyll will be your guide:

Mrs Gladstone’s practice of sending her husband into battle on an egg-flip, cleverly produced at the psychological moment, can be imitated with this Frothed Wine Soup, good for a prima donna or pianist soon going into action, and can be made simply by anybody who can whisk an egg.

I have informed OH that, should I be ill, a better recovery will be aided by regular small and tempting meals. For lunch, Lady Jekyll advises a “nicely cut and fried bread canapé, on which may be placed partridge breasts resting on softly-mashed potato and “some mushrooms buttered, grilled and added piping hot”. OH reassured me that he will do his best, and added that he hoped for my sake I would be stricken soon.

I am determined that, over Christmas, we shall dine en famille in grace and elegance; recommended for a first dinner party, for example, is a “very small Selle de Pré Sâle (Saddle of Welsh Mutton) in winter”. The recipe begins “For a saddle weighing about 8 lb. . . .”. We might start with home-made foiegras, perhaps, and finish with Cold Lemon Soufflé accompanied by some delicate Cat’s Tongue Biscuits. Now, if you will excuse me, I am just going to telephone The Lady to place within its pages an advertisement for a good, plain cook.


Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. It's not one of the Persephone books that I would have thought of buying, but now I think I'm going to have to have it. It would be glorious for those times we all suffer when you're sitting round waiting and waiting.

Hannah Velten said...

Can I come round to yours for Christmas, Geranium Cat? Sounds... wonderful (is that the right word?!)

I do love those instructions - same as Mrs Beeton with her 'Saddle of Mutton', but that recipe is for one weighing 10lbsat an average cost of 10d. per lb...(!)

Tara said...

An hour? I would never make a cake if I had to beat it for an hour.

GeraniumCat said...

Ann, it's great fun - having finished it I've lost it to OH and will probably never see it again!

Hannah, I mentioned what you said to OH and he said "Does she know how grumpy you get at Christmas?" I've got a wonderful Mrs Beeton-type book (a little later, I think) which talks about how Edwin and Angelina should set up their new home. When I eventually find it, I'll post about it.

Tara, me neither! I like recipes that say "this can be made quickly and with the minimum of fuss".