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…

game-and-meats-hang-from-the-ceiling-of-the-basement-kitchen-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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.

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

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…

margaretta-acworths-georgian-cookery-book-by-alice-and-frank-prochaska

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…

a-bowl-of-delicious-cranberry-jelly-awaits-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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)

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)

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…

drawing-room-a-lace-shawl-awaits-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815
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.

kitchen-the-table-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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

the-dresser-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815

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)

A Delightful Situation! Lady Byron’s Determined Confidante…

I determined to run ye risk of taking ye Dss’s where ye furniture is all clean & ye Beds quite good & the Situation delightfull – she pays 800 pr Anm & the Taxes but she wishes to have a House to go into if she should return to England next Yr & therefore decided to let it for less & be at some loss – rather than have to look for a House…

hallway-a-candle-sconce-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815
A Candle Sconce in the Hallway of 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

You may come to this next Week if You please – There is a Housemaid there who has a room where all the Dss’s things which she left are put up – Of course whether you keep her on or not she may I have no doubt keep the Key of this room – as there are plenty &, it will be no inconvenience to you to have it lock’d up…

the-hallway-on-the-piano-nobile-of-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815-lord-byrons-abode
The Hallway on the Piano Nobile at 13 Piccadilly Terrace…

The Offices are very good – & all sorts of useful things will be found in the House in plenty -the Bell is going – & I am in ye greatest hurry…

Lady Melbourne (Tuesday March 7 1815)

Sources Used:

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

Making the Bed! The Letters of Byron’s ‘Ma Tante’…

The Atticks & Garrets are perfectly well furnish’d – in all there are Sixteen Beds in the house extremely good & Clean but no one very large…

the-valets-bedroom-of-13-piccadilly-terrace-circa-1815-lord-byrons-abode

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I think You might continue for 3 or 4 days to live in the Dss’s rooms as she inhabited them, as the rooms have all Separate communications – & as there are two bedchambers close together You could do very well for that time & then Settle how the rooms Upstairs Should be arranged…

Lady Melbourne (Tuesday March 7 1815)

Sources Used:

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