I first met this book when I was around 12 years old at the library. I was attracted immediately by Dorothy's fascinating and detailed illustrations. I borrowed it multiple times before eventually buying a cheap and badly edited (2 indexes and missing pages) paperback copy. Now I have a well thumbed and beloved hard back.
It was in this book that I first read about quinces.
Quinces and many more delightful and delicious things ~
Rumfustian, Bumpo and Spinster's blush - hot, fortifying drinks liberally laced with alcohol and spices.
Collier's Foots - no, not feet but they are feet shaped and made in pairs. A pasty for taking down the mine, filled with meat or bacon, onions and cheese.
Checky Pigs - a curiously shaped pasty from Leicestershire
Potato-Apple Cake (for an autumn tea) - A double-crust pie made of thick potato pastry with a filling of apple. When it is done you cut a lid from the top crust and quickly slip in slices of butter and spoonfuls of sugar to cover the hot apple. Pop the lid back on and put it back in the oven for a few minutes.
Egg and Apple Savoury or 'Marigold Eggs' - an apple custard tart, the custard flavoured with sage and marigold petals.
Rabbit Cup - cooked rabbit meat and mashed potato, seasoned and pressed into a buttered and breadcrumb-coated cup before being baked and turned out. A simple dish for a child or an invalid.
Nursery Apples - baked apples filled with brown sugar and baked until the sugar has become toffee.
Buttered Apple Dice - a dish of diced apples dropped in the sugar bowl and then fried in butter before being mixed with fried bread cubes. A dish I'd forgotten I'd read about in this book when I made something almost identical here.
There is a great deal more to this book than recipes. Food In England is a history book and Dorothy Hartley was a historian interested in how ordinary folk lived. In particular she was interested in how they fed themselves, how they cooked, preserved and managed their food supplies.
She tells us how a cottager's pig could feed a family for almost a whole year and how dramatically the law forbidding the keeping of a pig near a house changed their lives. She describes how self-sufficient a farm labourer in Fifeshire in the 1870 was when he was paid not only in money but in oatmeal and land to grow potatoes on. A family cow, a pig, some hens and a productive garden furnished all his family's needs. We learn how a household of young independent women working at office work in 1880s London managed their kitchen and their food budget. We see how a medieval cauldron was used (not the boiling soupy brew you may imagine) and how similar it was to the way canal folk cooked.
The food writer Elisabeth Luard has described Food In England as 'a plum-pudding of a book -stuffed with all manner of delicious things'. It is exactly that.
Here are some excerpts to tempt you.
above See how useful this book would be on a desert island
Many of the recipes in this book are time consuming and probably unappealing to modern palates and sensibilities; lamb's tail pie, sheep's head mould or rook pie for example. There is plenty though, to tempt a modern cook. This recipe for creamed fish is not madly exciting perhaps but it is easy and comforting and as Dorothy says 'Good cooking is not elaboration - it is good simplicity'.
This method for cooking pork chops is nice and straightforward too. Luckily I have both pork chops and apples in my kitchen.
We don't usually have such plain meals, but these simple chops went down a storm. There are leftover potatoes too which is always a good thing.