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)

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‘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…

enjoying-a-late-supper-of-roast-beef-and-plum-pudding-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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.

Lady M Sketches the Character of Lord Byron’s House…

I enclose you a very rough Sketch of the rooms on ye ground floor in yr House merely to shew you how ye rooms are disposed, as you may then consider in what way it will be most convenient for you to live in them – I have mark’d them as they are at present…

The Duchess’s Sitting room is furnish’d with low Bookcases Tables Couches & Great Chairs – in profusion…

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The Drawing Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

… but certainly the Rooms up stairs, have only common useful furniture in them – The offices excepting the Kitchen are small – but will do very well & are very comfortable – for all ye Servants belonging to Dev House, are <used> to take care of themselves – 

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I suppose you or Ld B employ some Upholsterer & in that case – he had better look over the things left in ye House & see they are all there according to ye Inventory which the Auctioneer will give him…

– If you know of no particular person I will employ ours so let me know…

the-portrait-of-lady-melbourne-at-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815-lord-byrons-abode
The Portrait of Lady Melbourne in the Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

I forgot to mention yt all ye rooms are very light & pleasant excepting No 4 which being <cornered> so far back is darken’d by some buildings –

Lady Melbourne (Sunday March 12 1815)

Sources Used:

Byron’s “Corbeau Blanc” The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne Ed: Jonathan David Gross (Liverpool University Press 1998)

It’s 1815 and Lady M ‘Takes Charge’ at 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

I have just been at the House, to tell ye Servants that your Housemaid was on her way – & to prevent her being refused admission.

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I have also been at the House Brokers, & as Ld B will be in Town so Soon he thinks some sort of Agreement may then be drawn up, for ye time he has taken in/so there is no necessity for your sending such a direction to any Upholsterer, as the maid you send will probably be competent to look over ye Inventory & take charge of ye things…

… there is no Linnen to go with the House, nor Glasses nor Knives & forks, Spoons &c

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The only things left, are the Kitchen Utensils of all Sorts – Pewter for ye Servants – & some White Wedgwood plates & Dishes & crockery ware for all ye rooms…

kitchen-the-silver-service-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

You will therefore most probably give yr Servt directions about any things you may want and if I can be of any use, employ me sans ceremonie…

Lady Melbourne (Saturday March 11 1815)

Sources Used:

Byron’s “Corbeau Blanc” The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne Ed: Jonathan David Gross (Liverpool University Press 1998)

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!

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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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kitchen-the-silver-service-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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