The Kemnay House Kitchen is a busy place at this time of year, and has been for centuries. When the induction hob is turned on it's hard to imagine that this amazing piece of technology stands in the same position as the hearth and spit stood 300 years before.
Our cookery book archive has a much thumbed edition of Mrs Beeton's All About Cookery (first published in 1871), which gives an insight into what delicacies were created here from the beginning of the 20th Century onwards. Nanny (Miss Ethel Burrows) was a particular fan of Mrs Beeton, as well as being a very accomplished cook. My grandmother, however, preferred Constance Spry's Cookery Book (first published in 1956), using her Christmas pudding recipe religiously - preparing it in January to give maximum time to mature into a deep, dark treacly treat. I remember not only this delicious pudding, but multitudes of cakes and nibbles filling tins in the larder leading up to Christmas, ready to feed the steady flow of visitors.
As it's a bit late to start making the cake and pudding, I am sharing a few more immediately gratifying recipes (far better suited to modern day living, where preparing Christmas Pudding has fallen in priority on the extensive to-do list)...
This one reminds me of the miniature pots of Gentlemen's Relish, which were a popular stocking filler for the men in the our family:
SCOTCH WOODCOCK (Mrs Beeton)
Ingredients: The yokes of 2 eggs, 1 gill of cream, anchovy paste, toast, butter, cayenne pepper and salt.
Method: Cut the toast into 2-inch squares, butter well, and spread with anchovy paste. Season the yokes with a little cayenne and salt; when slightly beaten add them to the hot cream, stir over the fire until they thicken sufficiently, then pour over the toast, and serve as hot as possible.
Time: About 10 minutes. Sufficient for 6 to 8 persons.
The above would go wonderfully with this next winter warmer, that is less syrupy than our contemporary mulled wine:
MULLED ALE (Mrs Beeton)
Ingredients: 1 quart of good ale, 1 glass of rum or brandy, 1 tablespoonful of castor sugar, a pinch of ground cloves, a pinch of grated nutmeg, a good pinch of ground ginger.
Method: Put the ale, sugar, cloves, nutmeg and ginger into a stewfan, and bring nearly to boiling point. Add the brandy and more sugar and flavouring if necessary, and serve at once.
And finally, a tried and tested accompaniment to any roast meat or poultry:
PARSNIP GALETTE (Constance Spry)
1 1/2 lb medium sized parsnips
1 1/2 oz butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
castor sugar, salt, freshly ground pepper, lemon juice
Peel parsnips and boil them whole in salted water until tender. Drain. Cut them into thin slices. Take 1/2 oz of the butter and cook the shallots in this until lightly coloured. Melt the remaining butter, and with part of it well brush the inside of a deep sandwich tin or small frying pan. Dust lightly with castor sugar. Choose the larger rounds of parsnips, line the bottom and sides of the tin with them, arranging the slices in circles and allowing them to overlap. Fill the centre of the mould with the remaining parsnips, sprinkling each layer with salt, pepper, lemon juice and the rest of the melted butter.
Cover the top with a piece of buttered paper and put it to bake in a hot oven, 400 F., for 35 -40 minutes or until well browned. Turn out into a hot dish. Can be cooked as a supper dish by adding thin slices of cheese when filling the mould.
I could go on, as these classic dishes are as tasty as any new chef's creation and well worth a try... Christmas is such a lovely time to remember tastes, smells and share happy memories from the past.