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Monday, February 3, 2014

Timey Wimey Cooking Adventure: Regency Era

Well hello there! I don't even remember the last time I wrote a blog post. It's been pretty hectic around Casa de Buttons, and lately, with The Boy and Miss O on clashing schedules I feel like I should be getting paid to be chauffeuring people around town since that's how I spend most of my time. I miss the Pre-K days of not having to worry about whether or not The Boy had class, because at worst, Miss O and I had to spend 10 minutes walking four blocks to school in the snow when he was gone with the car.

Anyway, I finally have something blogworthy to write about! Stitches and I have a new project for the year, A Timey Wimey Cooking Adventure! We were inspired by the BBC show The Supersizers Go, where Giles Coren, a restaurant critic, and Sue Perkins, a comedian, spend a week living, dressing, and eating as though they lived in different time periods throughout British history. It is fantastic, and you can watch it on Hulu, so go do it! We decided to do something similar, except instead of spending a week, we are doing a dinner once a month using recipes from different time periods. We had our first supper last week, using my lovely Christmas gift from Red, Dinner With Mr Darcy by Pen Vogler.

The Regency/Georgian era is one of our favourites. If only Mr. Darcy had actually been able to join us for our dinner! The book is split into different meals that may have been served during Jane Austen's time, some of them straight out of one of Jane Austen's books! One thing I really loved about it was that while the author modernized the recipes for today's kitchen, she still included the text from the original cookbooks she used to gather the recipes. Here is the Regency recipe for Fresh Pea Soup:
Pease Soup Take two quarts of pease. Boil them into a pulp. Strain them. Put 1/2 lb of butter into a stewpan, celery, half an onion, and stew them til tender. Then put two anchovies, powdered pepper, salt, mint and parsley (each a small handful) and spinach, and heat of each a small quantity. Half a spoonful of sugar. The soup be boiled as thick as you like it and the whole to be ground together, boiled up and dished.  
from Martha Lloyd's Household Book

We combined two of the meals from the book, "Mrs. Bennet's Dinner to Impress" and "Pork and Apples: An Autumn Dinner with the Batses," and also trimmed them down a bit. Most meals included a soup, two meat dishes, two fish dishes, and several sides, we decided on one meat, one fish, and then picked the sides we thought went best with them. And then, of course, dessert. We used both desserts from the two meals we were going from. We made our grocery lists, and then after a crazy day for Stitches (she was frantically cleaning her kitchen when I arrived, after not having been home all day. I got there about 10 minutes early and she said she almost cried!), we made our game plan and went to work on our Regency supper!
I obviously had to wear the Regency style apron I
made last year for Stitches' annual pie party. Here
I am frying up six streaky rashers of bacon!
Although the cooking seemed a bit daunting at first (7 dishes all being cooked at the same time!), Stitches and I have cooked together enough that we are like a well oiled machine! We really were shocked at how smoothly it went, and how clean we managed to keep the kitchen whilst cooking! I was pretty worried that we were going to be exhausted by the time we were finished (we were) and I'd be leaving Stitches with a totally trashed kitchen (I sort of did, but not as bad as it could have been had we not been keeping up with all the stuff we used for cooking). We pretty much split the dishes, I did most of the work for the Fresh Pea Soup, Beef in White Wine, Spiced Mushrooms, and Everlasting Syllabub, and Stitches did the Herb Pie (because she is the queen of pie making!), Baked Sole, and Baked Compote of Apples. 
Stitches was trying to catch me making my concentration face.
I kept catching her with the camera and faces like this happened... 
Stitches' beautiful work on the Herb Pie (the anchovies weren't for the pie,
they were for the Fresh Pea Soup)
Beef in White Wine. Half a bottle of white wine! And if you
follow our Facebook, you may recognize that cute little bouquet
Spiced Mushrooms with some big ol' shallots. Are shallots
usually so ginormous? I really never cook with them, they
seem awfully big to me!
Stitches prepared the apples for the Baked Compote of Apples.
Um...we may need to invest in an apple corer!
After spending about three hours slaving in the kitchen, it was time to sit down and eat! Stitches went all out, using her fancy serving dishes so that all our beautiful food could be on the table.
The kids were so excited to dig into that pie. They really were champs and at least tried a taste of almost everything on the table. I think of all the things, the pie was really the most disappointing. It was so herby. I mean, I suppose we should have known, from something called Herb Pie, but it was way too much. I think it could have been better if there had been some cheese inside, more like a quiche, but I think if I were ever to make it again, I would use more spinach and kale and maybe one type of herb (our herb pie had spinach, kale, parsley, mint, chives, dill, thyme...I think that might be it. It was a lot of herbs!).
The pie crust was the best part of the meal! Which as you can tell by my face,
I thoroughly enjoyed!
Everything was just so strong. And rich. Stitches and I figure that between the two of us, we used at least three and a half sticks of butter, in just this one meal! And the spices were overpowering in everything. I have a couple of theories on that. One is that spices were used heavily as a symbol of wealth and being able to afford them, and also because they weren't always using the freshest ingredients and a lot of spices could mask the off flavour. The other is that our spices now are a lot more potent than what they had available to them 200 years ago. But I'm no history expert, maybe those Regency folks just really loved nutmeg. All I know is that by the time we were finished eating, I felt like I had just eaten a bunch of potpourri. We used a lot of pepper, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and mace, and that was about it. Very little salt, although Stitches did generously salt the pie, but even that couldn't save it!
The dejected look of someone who really wanted to enjoy
a delicious dinner. I was contemplating whether to finish that
last bite of beef. I did. And I regretted it almost instantly.
Hot Fuzz and Baby Jagger snuck off to have some snacks after
we excused everyone from the table
After we'd had a little while to clear the table and digest, we moved onto the dessert. Baked apples are hard to mess up, although I made a bonehead mistake and did not read the recipe all the way through first, or I would have known that they were supposed to bake at 250°F for 5-7 hours. Whoops. We figured we could just crank the heat up and put them in as soon as we took out the fish (because I'm all for doubling up in the oven when baking a big meal, but I don't want fish flavoured apples...). We really weren't too sure about the Everlasting Syllabub, which looked like thick whipped cream in a fancy cup, but we had all the ingredients. I started by mixing together the sherry, powdered sugar, and orange juice (fresh squeezed from an orange!), then I whipped the cream. I had good cream. It comes from a local dairy, in a fancy glass bottle that you pay a deposit for and return when it's empty, and when Stitches cracked the seal for the Herb Pie she actually had to break through the thick creamy top. Well, I turned on the mixer, walked five feet across Stitches' kitchen to throw something out, came back less than 30 seconds later, and this had happened! My cream had gone past whipped cream and turned into butter! I saved it, it's now in my butter crock at home, and it's delicious!
Luckily Stitches has a mini-mart conveniently located across the street from her house, and luckily they had whipping cream (the kind I'm used to, that takes at least a few minutes to turn into whipped cream), so the Everlasting Syllabub was still a go! I whipped the cream and then, oh and then, it was time to add the orange juice concoction. Now this part I really wasn't too sure about. I know from Supersizers Go and a fascinating book I read for fun called SteamDrunks that they actually did add lemon or orange juice to milk to curdle and then used it in their "punches" and other drinks quite frequently, and the idea of that just makes me queasy. So I was pretty nervous about adding the orange juice to the whipped cream.
But, it turned out okay! I actually should have probably let the cream get a bit closer to butter (Hannah Glasse does say to beat it for half an hour!), because after folding in all the liquid it was more of a thick, creamy sauce than the picture showed, but it was pretty delicious over the Baked Apple Compote (much more than I'd imagine it would be served over Calf's Foot Jelly, as suggested in the book). Dessert was by far the best part of our Regency supper.

All in all, even though the food wasn't as delicious as we'd hoped, the cooking was still really fun. And I would still recommend the cookbook to any Jane Austen lovers because it has a lot of really interesting information along with the recipes. I still may try some of the recipes, although now I know to adjust the spices quite a lot! We aren't sure which era we will be cooking from next. We're thinking maybe the 1950's. We want some good old fashioned comfort food! And I know I've got some good cookbooks that I collected from my grandmothers' kitchens. Here is the list we have to choose from so far:

Timey Wimey Cooking Adventure!
Wartime (1940's)

 So check back in next month to see how our cooking adventure goes! We still need a couple of eras to finish off the year. Can you think of any we really need to add?


  1. Buttons! I am not even exaggerating when I say that about a half hour ago, while cooking dinner, I thought to myself, "You know who I haven't heard from in a while? Buttons! I wonder how she is doing. I'll have to go track her down and ask her."

    Then, I checked my email, and there was your post! WEIRD.

    I'm glad you are doing well and cooking up a storm. This dinner is fabulous even if it didn't taste all that great. You know I'm way too weary to do that much work, so I applaud you and Stitches. Can't wait for next month!

    1. Hahaha! I haven't been very good about following my blogs lately, just lurking around on what pops up on my Facebook newsfeed, but my family regularly requests your Ranch Burgers and Buttermilk Chicken (we had Ranch Burgers just the other night!). I can't wait for next month either, I hope we can find something delicious to make!


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