Victorian Cooking

Victorian Cookbook: Curds and Whey

Little Miss Muffet by Arthur Rackham

Curds and whey seem like a neat step up from Workhouse Gruel. They’re almost as simple but way more nutritious. You can eat them outdoors while sitting on a tuffet or, if you’re the heroine of an historical romance, from your sickbed as a medicinal posset. If you’re the hero of said novel, eat them sitting up in bed as you recover from a flesh wound. Don’t forget to mutter manfully about “sickroom pap” while downplaying the severity of your injury.

The recipe I used is from Victorian chef Charles Francatelli’s “A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes.” If you’ve ever made your own cheese, you’re probably familiar with the process, but lots of people (me included) only know the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet.” Our practical experience of curds and whey is nil.

But that’s all about to change. (Are you excited yet? I’m excited!)

For Curds and Whey, you will need:

200ml of milk,

25ml of white wine,

Sugar to taste

Method:

Boil the milk in a small saucepan.

Add the wine and allow the milk to boil up like this:

Curds and Whey separating = witchcraft!

Once the curds and whey have separated, strain them into a glass until you have something that looks like this:

Curds and Whey

Do the curds resemble very thick porridge/baby vomit?

They do? Excellent! Then it’s time to present them to your test subjects.

Here we have (from the bottom): one small ramekin of curds with sugar sprinkled on top, one small ramekin of curds and whey like in “Little Miss Muffet,” a small glass of whey, and one ramekin containing two ginger biscuits in case you need to bribe your test subjects.

Smorgasbord

Verdict:

Whey: No one liked this much, though Mr. Bennet said he could “acquire the taste.” Fortunately, it makes an excellent, nutrient rich plant food, so I fed it to our geranium.

Curds and whey without sugar: “Perfectly pleasant” according to Mr. B, but 15 yr old grimaced and said they’d be better cold. 8 yr old begged to be excused and not even the promise of a biscuit could move him.

Sugared curds: Actually quite nice, if a bit bland as befits “sickroom fare.” Everyone liked them, except 8 yr old who only ate one speck. He said it was “a bit horrible” but that he still loved me.

So, that’s reassuring.

If you try curds and whey, I hope you’ll let me know how you got on.

Next time: Syllabub!

#History, Victorian Cooking

Victorian Cookbook: Workhouse Gruel

Welcome to what might be the first in a series of posts on Victorian recipes. I hope most of them will taste nicer than this one for workhouse gruel, but this seemed like a nice simple recipe to begin with.

Ingredients:

3 dessert spoons of oats

1 pint of water

Salt to taste

Method:

Mix the oatmeal with a little of the water until it looks like the image to the right. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Put the rest of the water in a pan and add the oat mixture. Boil for ten minutes.

This may or may not be how wallpaper paste was invented.

If it looks like dirty washing up water, you’re doing it right.

Add salt to finished gruel and allow to grow tepid.

By this stage, the gruel should look like despair. Specifically, the despair of Victorian orphans.

Next, you’ll need some test subjects.

Because I’ll do anything in pursuit of my art, I sampled this and, let me tell you, it looks like it tastes. The salt doesn’t seem to aid the flavour unless you like the taste of bilge water.

Test subject 1 (age 40) described it as “inoffensive” but I found it highly offensive. His nickname from now on will be Mr. Bumble.

Test subject 2 (age 15) said “Good grief” when he tried it. He now sympathises even more with the Victorian poor.

Test subject 3 (age 8) consented to have his photo taken:

But he wouldn’t actually eat the gruel.

If you make this, let me know how it went in the comments. Next time, I’ll try to make something you might actually enjoy eating.

Book News

Cover Reveal

It’s here at last! The Ruin of Evangeline Jones has a cover!

Do you enjoy enemies to lovers romances? If the answer is yes, I can’t wait for you to meet Evangeline and Alex (though, if you’ve read The Madness of Miss Grey, you’ve met Alex already). He’s the Duke of Harcastle now, but his true passion is still uncovering fakes and frauds wherever he finds them. That is, until he meets Evangeline Jones, a charlatan medium, who’s determined to resist him.

I hope you love them as much as I do.

Book News

The Ruin of Evangeline Jones

Yay! I’m pleased to announce that The Ruin of Evangeline Jones is scheduled for release on April 27th 2020. To those of you who have already read The Madness of Miss Grey and have asked me if Alex is getting his own story: This is it!

I don’t have a cover or back cover copy yet, but here’s the blurb I wrote when I was submitting it:

Alex Stanton just inherited a dukedom but his true passion is uncovering charlatans and frauds wherever he finds them. Spiritualist and medium Evangeline “Evie” Jones is the biggest fake of all and he’s determined to expose her lies for all of London to see. Her prim manner and ladylike airs don’t fool him. He sees the hunger beneath and recognizes a worthy opponent. He also can’t deny the dark undercurrents of lust between them.

Evie worked her way up from the gutter and she’s not about to abandon the life she’s built for fear of this aristocratic dilettante. She knows his type. She sees the attraction simmering beneath his animosity, and she knows how to use it to keep him off balance. They strike a bargain. He has one week to prove she’s a fake. If he fails, he has to abandon all further attempts. If he succeeds, she’ll not only retire but make a public statement explaining all her tricks.

Neither expects to find anything in common, not to mention anything to love, in the other. Both are blindsided by the affinity and blossoming tenderness between them. But even if it were possible for a lowly charlatan to live happily ever after with a duke, more is going on than either suspects. Someone else has brought them together for a sinister purpose of his own.

I can’t wait to share Alex and Evie’s story with you!