Thursday, June 19, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #2: Mullagatawny Soup

On to Challenge #2: Soups, Sauces and Gravies, for the Historical Food Fortnightly.

For this recipe, I chose "Mullagatawny Soup, as Made in India." (That is the ACTUAL title of the recipe.) 


1/4 ounce of China turmeric
1/3 ounce of cassia
3 drachms of black pepper
2 drachms of cayenne pepper
1 ounce of coriander seeds
2 large fowls, or 3 pounds of the lean of veal
2 quarts of water
4 large onions
2 ounces of butter
rice flour
juice of a lemon


Take China turmeric, cassia, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and coriander seeds. These must all be pounded fine in a mortar, and well mixed and sifted. They will make sufficient curry powder for the following quantity of soup:
Take fowls or veal. Cut the flesh entirely from the bones in small pieces, and put it into a stew-pan with the water. Let it boil slowly for half an hour, skimming it well. Prepare the onions, minced and fried in the butter. Add to them the curry powder and moisten the whole with broth from the stew-pan, mixed with a little rice flour. When thoroughly mixed, stir the seasoning into the soup, and simmer it till it is as smooth and thick as cream, and till the chicken or veal is perfectly tender. Then stir into it the juice of a lemon; and five minutes after take up the soup, with the meat in it, and serve it in the tureen.
Send to table separately, boiled rice on a hot-water dish to keep it warm, The rice is to be put into the plates of soup by those who eat it.

The Challenge: Soups, etc...  Mullagatawny Soup, as Made in India.

The Recipe: My online source is HERE, from a site simply called Vintage Recipes.  But the original source of the recipe is called Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches (1840), by Eliza Leslie.

The Date/Year and Region: Year - 1840. Region - American recipe book, but India for the dish.

How Did You Make It:  Just like the recipe said to. I boiled rice, boiled the chicken in broth, sauteed the onions in butter, then seasoned them, and thickened the chicken broth by making a sort of rue.  Add all together and simmer until cooked through.

Time to Complete:  Very quick and easy! Maybe 40 minutes.

Total Cost: ?  Not an expensive dish...chicken was the most expensive part.

How Successful Was It?: It wasn't a very pretty soup...mellow yellow all the way, but this soup tasted pretty amazing.  I love curries, which is essentially what this is.  I will definitely make it again.  It wasn't quite spicy enough for me.  Next time I will add more cayenne pepper, and the recipe needed salt.  I was SOOOOOOO tempted to add in our pre-made curry seasoning, but I'm glad I didn't.  The spices in the recipe gave it plenty of curry flavor.  Also, I'm spoiled, and I'm used to adding all of the amazing condiments that accompany the usual Indian, I did cheat and added a little bit of Chutney to my bowl of soup...but it's fine without it.

How Accurate Is It?: My modifications: Instead of using water, I used store bought, unsalted, veggie broth.  I added salt to the soup.  I didn't have coriander, so I used cilantro instead (same plant, right!)  I also didn't have rice flour, so I used oat flour.  Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly as it is.  

*I did have to do a little converting of terms...who the heck knows what a Drachm is?!...and fyi, cassia is the same thing as cinnamon...who knew?!*

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Embroidered Regency Reticule: Part 1

I'm sorting out accessories for this year's Jane Austen Festival.
First on the list is to make a new reticule.  Previous reticules were hastily made, and are now falling to pieces.  I wanted this new one to be not only sturdy (holding up to whatever non-period-appropriate items I want to stash away while browsing the shops of Meriton - wallet, cell phone, camera, etc,) but beautiful too. 

This is part one of the making of my embroidered reticule. 

Embroidery...I seem to remember ranting on this blog last year about how much I hate doing embroidery. Didn't I say something like that?  Or maybe I just thought it?  Anyway... This past Fall, I was inspired by Alicia Paulson's embroidery kits  I've always been heavy fingered, and felt like I was terrible at embroidery...but these adorable ornaments were too cute to pass up.  And, well...I must say that I'm hooked on embroidery now!  I still have a lot to learn, but I do think I am getting better.

So, I decided to try my hand at embroidering late 18th century style.  I really don't know if every stitch I did was a period correct stitch.  For example:  I did French knots.  Did they do French knots?  I don't know.  But I did try to be period correct as far as shape and design goes.  I looked at several on-line examples, as well as some embroidery in Costume Close-Up, and Costume in Detail.

I sketched out my design on paper first, then traced over the pencil lines with black sharpie marker. This made the image show up clear enough that I could place it under my white linen, and transfer the image lightly onto the fabric using a pencil.  Then, I tested out the colors I wanted by coloring in the image drawn on paper.  Once I was certain of my design, I started embroidering.  

You can see the shape of what the reticule will look like here.  I machine stitched the blue linen lining, because, as I said, I want this reticule to be extremely sturdy. 

Before I hand sew together the outside pieces, I plan on adding metallic spangles to the three non-embroidered panels...similar to this reticule:

Some on-line inspirations can be found at the Met Museum, the V&A, and the MFA.  Just type "reticule" or "purse" into their search engines.

I'm throwing in an image of an embroidered wallet and some pockets for good measure.

I was also inspired by the shapes of the reticules in these contemporary fashion plates.

And look!  The last four are embroidered!

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challange #1: Literature

Challange #1: Literature

“As I looked along the yellow expanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it . . . ‘I can’t guess what it is, ma’am.’ ‘It’s a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!’” 
- Miss Havisham, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

I love Dickens, and Miss Havisham's wedding feast seemed hideously perfect for the Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #1: Literature. No spiders and fungus here, but I did make a Bride Cake.

Even though Dickens' books are set in the early Victorian era, Bride Cakes were around long before that.

My recipe is from Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769.  I find a lot of my historic recipes on a fabulous blog called The Old Foodie, and this one was no exception. 

To make a Bride Cake.
Take four Pounds of fine Flour well dried, four Pounds of fresh Butter, two Pounds of Loaf Sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, the same of  Nutmegs, to every Pound of Flour put eight Eggs, wash four Pounds of Currants, pick them well and dry them before the Fire, blanch a Pound of Sweet Almonds (and cut them length-way very thin) a Pound of Citron, one Pound of candied Orange, the same of candied Lemon, half a Pint of Brandy; first work the Butter with your Hand to a Cream, then beat in your Sugar a quarter of an Hour, beat the Whites of your Eggs to a very strong Froth, mix them with your Sugar and Butter, beat your Yolks half an Hour at least, and mix them With your Cake, then put in your Flour, Mace, and Nutmeg, keep beating it well 'till your Oven is ready, put in your Brandy, and beat your Currants and Almonds lightly in, tie three Sheets of Paper round the Bottom of your Hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with Butter, put in your Cake, and lay your Sweetmeats in three Lays, with Cake betwixt every Lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with Paper before your Oven is stopped up; it will take three Hours baking.

I am horrible at making the traditional sugar icing or meringue type icings, so mine is just a simple buttercream frosting.  I did find a great Victorian period candied orange peel recipe, which I used for the orange and lemon peels in this cake.

It's by Marion Harland, in“Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery”, 1873–USA
Organic oranges
Weigh the oranges whole, and take an equal weight of sugar.
Wash and scrub the oranges. Squeeze the juice through a strainer into a large pan. Mix the sugar with the orange juice.
Cut the peel in narrow strips.
Boil the peels in water, changing the water twice and replenishing it with boiling hot water kept ready for this purpose. Cook the peels until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Bring the orange juice and sugar mixture to a boil, add to it the drained orange peel strips and boil 20 minutes.
Drain on racks, and when dry but still slightly tacky roll in sugar or leave as they are.


The Challenge: Literature - Bride Cake

The Recipe: website - The Old Foodie , recipe by - Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper 

The Date/Year and Region: 1769, English

How Did You Make It: Process pics are posted below.  Oven was set at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked for 2 hours. Oven was turned off, and cake set in the oven for another 30 minutes.

Time to Complete: Preparation and assembly time - Approximately 3 hours. Total cooking time - 3 1/2 hours, including orange and lemon peels.

Total Cost: ???  It was a pretty pricey cake, considering how MUCH of each item was used.  Some of the ingredients I had in my pantry, others, I had to purchase specifically for this recipe.  I guess this is why it would have been saved for a wedding.

How Successful Was It?: I think it was fairly successful.  It is a very tasty cake, however, it is nothing like a modern wedding/bride cake.  The consistency. or crumb, of the cake is very firm, sort of like an American scone.  It has the sweet, buttery taste of a shortbread cookie, but the citrus and brandy give it a bit of a kick.  I love the texture contrast between the crumby cake and chewy sweetmeats, that's wonderful.  It didn't turn out like I thought it would, although I guess I should have know it would be nothing like a modern cake, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it.  It's a splendid dessert!

How Accurate Is It?: Pretty accurate...  A few slight changes: I cut the recipe in half and boy am I glad I did, the thing is huge!!!  I'll never eat it all.  A modern oven was used, of course, instead of what would probably have been a hearth or bread/cake oven.  I didn't cook it as long as the recipe said too.  I changed the almond/sugar icing to a buttercream.  I couldn't find any citron, so I substituted chopped dates for that...because I like dates.  Also, instead of currents, I used dried cherries since I had them available, they pair fabulously with the other flavors in the cake.


Process Photos:
My "action shot" photos are pretty terrible.  They look more like the moldy, spider covered cake images than the finished shots.  My kitchen has horrible lighting, and I'm a messy cook.  So sorry.  No need for me to comment on each picture, everything is pretty is pretty self explanatory.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Incroyables and Merveilleuses

The 2014 Jane Austen Festival hosted by JASNA Louisville is approaching soon.  I've already purchased my tickets.  Have you?

Every year, in preparation for the festival, I try to either make a new gown or a new accessory to embellish a previously existing gown.  Also every year, the sweltering, humid heat threatens to wilt me, and leaves me wishing that I could tear all of the layers of clothing off and run free in nothing but my skivvies....not that I would actually do that, mind you. 

So, this year my genius friends, Natalie and Polly had the brilliant idea to wear as little as possible and still be historically accurate.  How can we do that, you ask? 

 Well...let me introduce to you the Merveilleuses!  The scandalously clad, fashionable, young(ish), punks of the French Directoire period.  These were the Lady Gaga meets Helen of Troy types of the late 1790's.

The Incroyables were the Merveilleuses male counterparts.  They were just as outlandish with their clothing, but I wouldn't want to wear the layers upon layers that they did in the middle of July! 

During the Summer, most Merveilleuse wore not much more than a sheer, Greek-inspired, sleeveless gown of cotton lawn or voile.  

Circle of Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748-1825). Portrait of a Young Woman in White, ca. 1798. Oil on canvas. 49 7/16 x 37 3/8 in. (125.5 x 95 cm). Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I happened to already have some gorgeous cotton voile in my stash, and when Natalie mentioned a couple of months ago what her fabulous, heat resistant plan was, the above portrait immediately came to mind.  I think her gown is absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity.  Of course, if you know me, there is no way I will be wondering around a festival full of hundreds of people with my nipples showing, so my gown will be rated PG-13, not rated R. plan was all laid out, and then I stumbled upon Merja's blog post, and lo-and-behold....she had done the exact same dress!  If you haven't been acquainted yet with Merja's mad skills, then you should be.  The woman is a costuming goddess!  Her skills with fabric and thread are like none other.  I'm humbled beyond belief every time I see one of her creations.  So, you can imagine my total lack of urge to up and run and say forget this project!!!  And I almost did just that.  But, in the end, I decided to go ahead and make the dress.  Nothing I do will ever come close to what she makes, nor will my figure ever look as good as hers... so I proceed with caution, and ask you to be gentle and please don't compare.  In the end, I sew for myself and no one else...nothing I ever do is a competition.  I am my harshest critic, and I'm learning to love what I do simply because I'm doing it.

I'll leave you with pictures of my gown. When I took the pictures the hem wasn't finished.  It is now.  As always, everything is hand sewn using period technique.  You will have to be satisfied with pictures of my mannequin wearing the gown.  You will see the gown on me when I wear it to the Jane Austen Festival.

Cat photo bomb.