Just a quick heads up: Entangled are having a massive sale. Almost all their historical romances, including my two books The Madness of Miss Grey and The Ruin of Evangeline Jones, are on sale for 99c each. Snap them up while the price is low!
I thought I knew what syllabub was. A cool, creamy dessert usually eaten by historical romance heroines at a ball or rout.
But then I read Mrs. Beeton’s recipe…
1 pint sherry or white wine,
1/2 grated nutmeg
Sugar to taste
1 1/2 pints milk
And, confusingly, she then says:
“clouted cream may be held on the top…and a little brandy may be added to the wine before the milk is put in. …Warm milk may be poured on from a spouted jug…but it must be held very high.”
The penny suddenly dropped. It’s a drink! A sort of cloudy wine punch with a head or layer of cream on top. The dessert version was based on the drink and became popular in the eighteenth century. I just needed to substitute cream for milk.
Here’s what I used:
200 ml of white wine
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 cup of sugar (I don’t like things too sweet, so you may want to increase this)
300 ml of double cream
Put the wine, nutmeg, and sugar in a bowl. Don’t do what I did and use the prosecco that you think has gone flat only to whimper when you realize it was still fizzy after all and you could have drunk it. Just some words for the wise.
Whisk it, then add the cream, and whisk again for bloody ages until your arm feels like it might fall off and the cream forms soft peaks. Or cheat and use an electric whisk. Mrs. Beeton won’t mind and you’ll be done in about 2 minutes.
Transfer between four or more wine glasses until you end up with about 6 of these:
I don’t know what’s happening because these look quite… nice?
Leave somewhere cool for several hours. Full disclosure, I decided not to get too “method” and stuck mine in the fridge.
When they’re ready, bring in your test subjects.
Well, this was a surprise! My hopes weren’t high but Mr Bennet and I ate all of ours. It’s creamy with a delicate white wine taste at first but, the closer you get to the bottom, the boozier it gets. Extremely yummy. Syllabub for the win!
8 yr old tried a speck and pronounced it disgusting but he shouldn’t be having it anyway.
15 yr old liked this and wants a whole one tomorrow. Might let him, might eat it myself.
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
Boil the milk in a small saucepan.
Add the wine and allow the milk to boil up like this:
Once the curds and whey have separated, strain them into a glass until you have something that looks like this:
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.
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!
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.
3 dessert spoons of oats
1 pint of water
Salt to taste
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.
With the help of the lovely people at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Evangeline Jones is hitting the road. Virtual tours are, of course, the best kind of tour, especially during a pandemic. There’ll be excerpts and reviews galore.
Here’s the schedule, which can also be found at the link above:
Monday, April 27
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Wednesday, April 29
Feature at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 30
Review at Bitch Bookshelf
Friday, May 1
Excerpt at Probably at the Library
Saturday, May 2
Feature at Reading is My Remedy
Monday, May 4
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Friday, May 8
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Monday, May 11
Feature at I’m All About Books
Tuesday, May 12
Review at Books2lovenow