A Sumptuous Meal of Minced Pies? I Congratulate You on Your Cook!

Seven years have elapsed since I saw a minced pie – and time and distance had not diminished my regret for those absent friends to “a merry Christmas and a happy new year” – both of which I augur for you and your family, although the congratulation of the former is somewhat of the latest..

In January 1823 as the poet was living in the ‘Arctic region of Genoa and recovering from the torment of ‘chilblains’; he was also tucking into a minced pie or two that had been left for him as a gift from Mr Ingram a sometime acquaintance and fellow member of the Ravenna ‘dilettanti’.

I have made a sumptuous meal on your minced pies – which are worthy of the donor and of his table. I congratulate you on your Cook…

Now for those of you who know me even moderately well; you will recall that I am rather partial to a mince pie at this time of year and if I were to ever venture into a life-size kitchen and rummage among the pots and pans in order to whittle up my own batch of these delightful pastry treats; I certainly wouldn’t be holding my breath in anticipation of any congratulatory message!

It is fortuitous as I reside near a local emporium that makes the most delightful cornucopia of mince pies that my attention has been more appropriately served (no pun intended!) within the dark confines of the basement kitchen of 13 Piccadilly Terrace supervising the creation of a minced pie worthy of his Lordship’s table…

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And with a well-eared copy of Margaretta Acworth’s ‘book of receipts’ to hand; I will share the ‘fruits of my labour’ with you and her recipe for ‘Mince Pyes’ that her ‘Dear Mamma Always Made & Was Generally Admired’ as adapted by Alice and Frank Prochaska.

8 small eggs, weighing 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) uncooked

5 oz (140 g, 2½ cups) each of fresh breadcrumbs and shredded suet (kidney fat)

1 large cooking apple, weighing 10 oz (280 g) unpeeled

12 oz (340 g, 3 cups) currants

8 oz (225 g, 2 cups) raisins

10 oz (280 g, 1¾ cups) dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon each of ground nutmeg and mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 oz (60 g, ½ cup) chop mixed candied peel.

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Boil the eggs hard, cool them and shred them using a food processor or cheese grater. Mix them with the breadcrumbs and suet. Peel, quarter and core the apple and shred it too. Mix in the breadcrumbs and suet, then add all the remaining ingredients.

Stir well and put into sterilized jars. Seal well and keep in a cool, dark cupboard…

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Puff pastry was what Mrs Acworth normally used for tarts and for those puddings that required pastry. Cheesecakes and mince pies would also have been made with puff pastry..

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I shall bid you a fond ‘Adieu’ as I return to the ‘roleing’ of this ‘Puff Past’ and will allow Lord B a final word about the humble mince pie for this most festive of days…

“I wish you much merriment and minced pye – it is Xmas day…”

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Now, I don’t mind if I do!

Tee

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 (1814-1815) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 10 (1822-1823) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1980)

Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book Ed: Alice and Frank Prochaska (London: Pavilion Books  Limited 1987)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Something WAS Stirring in Lord Byron’s Abode!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… Clement Clarke Moore

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Christmas Eve has finally arrived at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815!

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Although Lord Byron remains a most-beloved ‘Man of Letters’; it is unfortunate that references to this festive time of year are difficult to locate within the volumes of his copious scribblings and I can’t help but wish that if only he had shared his thoughts, salutations or whatever in the same spirit in which he extrapolated his opinion on the virtues of the fairer sex then my creative endeavours within this ‘Small’ abode would have been so much easier.

And although the children may be ‘nestled all snug in their beds’ waiting for the Visit from St Nicholas; there is plenty ‘stirring’ within the basement kitchen of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

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Beginning with a breakfast of Plover’s Eggs, freshly made bread and red currant jelly to prepare for the Christmas Day Morrow…

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However, I am a little gratified that as Lord B was never known to ‘mince his words’ about anything or anybody that his opinion on the value of the humble ‘Minced Pye’ has at least been left for posterity…

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I have made a sumptuous meal on your minced pies – which are worthy of the donor and of his table… I congratulate you on your Cook…

mixing-the-mincemeat-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

Seven years have elapsed since I saw a minced pie – and time and distance had not diminished my regret for those absent friends to “a merry Christmas and a happy new year”…

preparing-the-pastry-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

However, before I return to the ‘roleing’ of this ‘Puff Past’ to create a minced pie worthy of his Lordship’s table with my copy of Margaretta Acworth’s ‘book of receipts’ to hand; I shall enjoy this sumptuous Christmas Eve dish of Roast Beef and Plum Pudding that has been kindly left for me…

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And if after your Christmas lunch you still have room for a ‘Mince Pye’ just like the indomitable Mrs Acworth used to whittle up over two hundred and fifty years ago and to which her ‘Dear Mamma Always Made & Was Generally Admired’; I shall be sharing her unique recipe as adapted by Alice and Frank Prochaska in another post…

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Until then however, I shall wish you much merriment and delicious minced pie!

Adieu!

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 10 (1822-1823) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1980)

Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book Ed: Alice and Frank Prochaska (London: Pavilion Books  Limited 1987)

Shrink Me! A Miniaturist Visits Fairfax House in York…

Dear Diary…

As my home town was in the throes of enjoying a beautiful Indian summer, I was delighted to meet up with fellow Byronian Dianna Rostrad for an afternoon of sightseeing in York and an enjoyable lunch at the Black Swan; a 15th century hostelry noted for delicious food and the occasional haunting by an assortment of ghosts that have made themselves at home within the cosy confines of this medieval inn over the last five hundred years.

As Dianna and I have traded lively messages back and forth through the discussion board of my ‘Lord Byron Appreciation Group’ on Facebook for some time now; we had plenty to chat about as we shared thoughts about his Lordship’s various romantic paramours, proven or otherwise!

Dianna had very kindly bought me a signed copy of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and our chatter naturally ran to my creation of Lord B’s abode and as Fairfax House in York has long been my inspirational ‘mood board’ for the design of 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815; my suggestion to pay a visit to this fabulous Georgian residence was met with enthusiasm by my companion despite the fact that we had been pounding the cobbled streets of York on foot for some hours now.

On our approach to the graceful entrance to Fairfax House perched in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower since 1760, purchased by the Viscount Fairfax of Gilling Castle as a dowry for Anne his only surviving child; I remarked to Dianna that this was one wedding gift I would have been more than happy to receive!

Guide book in hand, my fourth copy but who’s counting; we strolled through the exquisitely appointed rooms, stroking the occasional piece of chinoiserie furniture in admiration, listening to the ticking of the wonderful longcase clocks and musing over the identity of the wife of the Earl of Carlisle whose portrait on loan from Castle Howard now dominates an entire wall of the dining room.

With the stern lady adorned in forest green silk gazing down upon us; Byron soon returned as the topic of conversation as we discussed his relationship with his much lampooned guardian, the unfortunate Fredrick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, much to the surprise of the friendly tour guide who was following our observations with surprised interest!

As we made our way to the kitchen, I did enjoy a final wistful glance of the dining room with its elaborate stucco ceiling for the recreation of one for Lord B’s abode had resulted in much heartbreak and insomnia during one painful month from inception to completion…

However, as we entered the kitchen, I had the strangest sense of déjà vu and as I looked around at the familiar sight of the huge fire with spit roast and bread oven, I felt as if I had shrunk and had wandered into the basement kitchen of Lord B’s abode, albeit in 12th scale!

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The Kitchen in Fairfax House in York

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It was only as I looked at the elaborate dishes of sumptuous and mouth-watering cuisine on the kitchen table that reality finally intruded with the realisation that the former inhabitants of this abode were arguably more fortunate than the imaginary inhabitants of my abode who unfortunately still remain on the brink of starvation apart from a bunch of carrots and some cake!

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And the Kitchen in 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

Hopefully, the plans that I am making for the celebration of a Regency Christmas at 13 Piccadilly Terrace will offer a soothing balm to any past grievances.

Bye for now!

Follow the link to enjoy a ‘virtual’ tour of Fairfax House in York and which inspired the creation of the kitchen here at Lord B’s abode.

Leaving Lady B to Dine in Peace!

There is something to me very softening in the presence of a woman, – some strange influence, even if one is not in love with them, – which I cannot at all account for, having no very opinion of the sex.

But yet, – I always feel in better humour with myself and every thing else, if there is a woman within ken.

Lord Byron

And there is certainly a ‘woman within ken’ in the Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace for the walls that I have painted in a distemper inspired by the colour of ‘Wedgewood Blue’ are now adorned with several female likenesses that feature the like of Lady Melbourne and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire.

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For with this feminine presence dominating the Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace and with Byron’s ambivalent attitude towards food well documented in that he would frequently go for days without eating a substantial meal preferring a diet of “hard biscuits and Soda water”; I have created this particular room to be as ‘unByronic’ as is possible and which may offer some explanation for the portrait of B’s ‘infernal fiend’ that now hangs there.

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‘A Portrait of Annabella Milbanke by Hoppner in 1802’

For it was during the course of his brief residence within the martial home of 13 Piccadilly Terrace, he would on more than one occasion refuse to share the dining table with his bride.

… once when his dinner was accidentally served at the same table with mine, he desired his dish to be taken into another room (in my presence, & the servants attending) with an expression of rage…

Lady Byron

As the dietary strictures employed by Lord B were not shared by his wife for having made no secret of her enjoyment of food, my hope is that this wonderfully poignant image of this solemn yet graceful little girl can continue to adorn the walls of this dining room in peace!

Bye for now!

Sources Used:

‘The Trouble of an Index’ Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 13 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)

Lord Byron’s Wife Malcolm Elwin (London: John Murray 1962)

Slaving Over a Hot Stove – Me Thinks Not!

I profess that cooking is definitely not my forte, I am oblivious to the designs of any kitchen and I would rather spend money on chocolate and books than on any cooking gadget.

That said I have had to create a Regency kitchen which now nestles in the basement of my 13 Piccadilly Terrace!

the-kitchen-of-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815-lord-byrons-abode

Lord Byron himself would have had no interest in the design or practicalities of any kitchen for his attitude towards food was for the most part ambivalent.

The Regency fashion for delicious cuisine left no impression upon him for he would frequently go for days without eating a substantial meal preferring a diet of “hard biscuits and Soda water”.

Before his marriage in January 1816 it had been left to Annabella to engage the cook for the engaged couple prior to their move to 13 Piccadilly Terrace in London.

“So – thou hast engaged a Cook for us – I will trust your taste, – – -“

History would indicate that Byron clearly did not trust her taste, however that is another story!

Anyway, I hope that he will now trust to mine as I have designed a kitchen that any respectable Regency cook would be happy to work in.

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Although the kitchen in the Regency era was very different to the modern and convenient kitchens of today being a place of hard toil in uncomfortable conditions with limited light they still retain a charm that is easy to recreate in miniature.

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The designs for my miniature kitchen have been inspired by the Georgian kitchen within the beautiful Fairfax House in the City of York.

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I confess that I have also been (occasionally, I might add!) inspired to create the sumptuous dishes of ‘Game Pie, Plum Pudding and Roasted Hare’ that are on display in the kitchen at Fairfax House despite Byron’s factious letter to Lady Melbourne that “a woman should never be seen eating or drinking unless it be lobster sallad & champagne…”

Time for a cup of tea and a biscuit I think!

Sources used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Lord Byron’s Relish The Regency Cook Book, Wilma Paterson (Glasgow: Dog & Bone 1990

A Romance in Miniature…

Fletcher, after having been toasted and roasted, and baked and grilled, and eaten by all sorts of creeping things begins to philosophise, is grown a refined as well as a resigned character, and promises at his return to become an ornament to his own parish, and a very prominent person in the future family pedigree of the Fletchers who I take to be Goths by their accomplishments, Greeks by their acuteness, and ancient Saxons by their appetite…

These are the words of Byron written in a letter to his mother Catherine in the summer of 1810 as he continued to enjoy his Grand Tour accompanied by the faithful and “learned” William Fletcher, his Valet and the recipient of kindness, extensive travel and the frequent butt of jokes.

Fast forward from that balmy July over two hundred years later to our present day and to the creation of my Byron-inspired Miniature Regency House.

I have now completed the rooms that can be found nestled away in the garrets that are suitable for a miniature William Fletcher.

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The Garrets of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

And if we travel through the Hallway, a bedroom for Fletcher awaits and as Byron was to write of Fletcher’s “perpetual lamentations after beef and beer”…  I shall oblige him!

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We can also peek through the pine door to another bedroom… but for whom?

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When Byron married Annabella Milbanke in January 1815, she was accompanied by her Maid Ann Rood and as the Byron marriage disintegrated, the romance between the “Learned Fletcher” and “Roody” blossomed.

“The parcel came & contained also a billet from Roody to my Valet – from which I infer that she is better in one sense & worse in another…”

They were married in early 1816 and sadly were not to enjoy marital bliss for long as Fletcher was to accompany his Master to Europe in April and Ann was to continue in the service of her Mistress.

How very sweet! A real romance in miniature!

Byron was certainly enthusiastic about this concept as he was to note in his Ravenna Journal in 1821: “Of all romances in miniature (and perhaps this is the best shape in which Romance can appear)…

Adieu for now!

Sources Used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 2 1810-1812 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1974)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 8 1821 Ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1978)