This week’s Favorite is a culinary treat, courtesy of Sasha Cottman. Born in England, but having lived most of her life in Australia, Sasha feels fortunate to have family on both sides of the world. Her love for Regency Romance derives from a lifelong passion for history and a mistaken enrollment in a romance writing course. You can follow Sasha and find out more about her and her books on her website: http://www.sashacottman.com
by Sasha Cottman
This recipe for apple dumplings comes from The Experienced English House- keeper, 1789.
For making the pastry you can either use these ingredients or buy pastry sheets.
8 oz (250g) flour, 1 egg yolk, 4 oz (125g) butter, or butter and lard, A pinch of salt.
4 good eating apples. Cream, or custard to serve. We used vanilla custard.
4 tsp marmalade, or sultanas, or jam or sugar and cinnamon. We used sultanas and cinnamon in one dumpling and blackberry conserve in the others. You could use any sort of sweet filing.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
Make the pastry or get the frozen pastry sheets out of the freezer. Divide the pastry into 4 equal portions and roll them out thin. This is why I used pastry sheets.
Peel and core the apples. If you don’t have an apple corer, you could cut the apple in half, cut out the seeds, etc. and then put the apple together again when you wrap the pastry around it. I did try to core the first apple with a sharp knife but made such a mess that only 3 apples made it into the oven.
Lay each apple on the pastry, allowing the pastry to come up a little more than halfway up the apple.
Put the filing inside the apple. Cut a small square of pastry to go over the top. I smoothed the pastry joins, etc. with a little warm water and clean fingers. The leaves and worm were an added decoration.
Spray an oven tray with some baking spray and a little on the top of the pastry to help it brown.
Think all those Regency romance heroines do nothing but pay calls all day? Think again. Author Maria Grace takes us inside the life of landowner’s wife.
“Period dramas have left many of us with the notion that ladies of the landed gentry in the Regency era had little to do but dress in lovely gowns, embroider and gossip. Reality could not be farther from this image. In general, both master and mistress of the manor did a great deal of work around the estate, often working alongside the servants in the efforts to get everything done.
Labor tended to be divided along gender lines. So much so that single men sought female relatives to manage their households. Bachelors looked to sister or nieces while widowers often called upon daughters or the dead wife’s kin. So, even if a woman did not marry, there was a very strong possibility she might take on the responsibilities of a household sometime in her lifetime. Gentlemen tended to respect the household mistress’ authority; her contributions to the home had worth equal to his.”
Syllabub was a popular dessert throughout our period and remains a posh English favorite for dinner parties and special occasions. It is found in the 1861 version of “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the recipe can be traced back to the time of the period. In its early variations, syllabub was a drink made of new milk and cider, with the cows milked directly into an ale pot.
¼ pint cream
2oz powdered sugar
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 fl oz Sherry or Madeira
Warm the sugar, lemon juice and zest until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the Sherry or Madeira.
Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold in the wine mixture.
I mentioned this video a couple of weeks ago in my Austen in August post, but it was so much fun (and so informative) that it deserves its own day.
Produced by the BBC and aired in May 2013, “Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball” attempts to re-create a Regency-era ball. Using Bingley’s ball at Netherfield as a guide experts in the clothing, food, and even dancing use their knowledge and skill to bring history to life.
That sounds cliched, I know, but it’s truly what they do–not only do you see the finished product, but you experience the chaos of the kitchen as supper approaches, the energy and precision required for each of the dances, the realities of wearing Regency dress. The participants are interviewed throughout, so you also get a modern perspective: what is this like compared to what you’re used to?
Here’s how the hop works: each author invites up to five other authors to answer five questions about their current summer release or WIP, and to share a tasty recipe that ties into it. The list of participating authors can be found at the end of this post. As more authors join the hop, I will post links to their blogs so you can add these awesome treats (and reads) to your list.
My current work-in-progress is a two-fer: All You Wanted and The Only Exception. The Only Exception is the story of Miss Katherine Sedgley and John, Earl of Wrexham:
She knows his secrets… Wealthy and powerful, the Earl of Wrexham commands the respect of the ton—but not the woman who knows his hidden vulnerabilities. He cut Kate out of his life years ago, but her sudden return to Town threatens his reputation and everything he’s become. Will she ruin his carefully crafted image and his family’s good name?
Will she destroy his chance to find a suitable bride? What is he willing to do to secure her silence…and his future?
He knows her heart… Bluestocking Kate Sedgley fled to the country after her third disastrous Season, and hasn’t returned to Town since—until her uncle cuts her purse strings. With no talent or trade, Kate knows the only way to support herself is to marry. But who wants a disgraced spinster with no dowry and a frail, helpless mother? Lord Wrexham came to her rescue once, long ago. Can she convince him to do so again? How far will she go to ensure his help…and her security?
All You Wanted is a prequel novella that details Wrexham’s backstory with Kate, how they first met, what their relationship was like initially, and why it didn’t work out at the time. It also lets you in on one of his secrets 😉
Now for the Random Tasty Questions:
1) When writing are you a snacker? If so sweet or salty?
I don’t eat while I write–I always want to get the ideas from my head into their Word file before I forget the details, and I can’t type fast enough with just one hand. But when I’m revising, editing, or just re-reading, I will snack. For me that usually involves something sweet: iced animal crackers, dry cereal, any of the sweet Chex mixes, etc. In the summer fruit is easier to find, so I’ll end up with a bowl of sweet black cherries or a nice big apple, too.
2) Are you an outliner or someone who writes by the seat of their pants? And are they real pants or jammies?
With small pieces (like blog posts) I can just go with the flow. But anything that has more than one chapter gets an outline. First, an outline helps me to actually see the whole story. Second, it preserves whatever thoughts and ideas I’m having while I make the outline. It may change–sometimes drastically–later, but I don’t have to worry about forgetting where I was going with a certain piece of dialog.
3) When cooking, do you follow a recipe or do you wing it?
When I cook meals I stick to simple things (spaghetti, casseroles, burgers on the grill) that don’t really require recipes. When I bake things can get complicated. I like to use a recipe a few times and get a feel for it, then I’ll start making adjustments and additions. But chemistry is so important in baking that I don’t want to mess with the basic ingredients too much.
4) What is next for you after this book?
I have so many Regency plots floating around inside my head (and in my notebook), that I think I’ll be sticking around country estates and London drawing rooms for a while. Lord Wrexham’s brother Henry is the next hero on my horizon, a man who copes with OCD in a time when “madness” will get you locked up.
5) Last question…on a level of one being slightly naughty and ten being whoo hoo steamy, how would you rate your book?
When I started this story, I meant it to be kind of hot. But Miss Sedgley and his lordship have informed me otherwise, so it’s coming out somewhere just hotter than Georgette Heyer. I guess that makes it about a 3, maybe 🙂
And now for the really tasty part: Cherry Ratafia
If you’ve read Regency romance novels before, you’ve probably come across a scene involving ratafia. Ratafia is basically an infusion: fruit, vegetables, or herbs and spices are prepared and left to sit in in alcohol (usually wine, vodka, or brandy). It reminds me a little of sangria, which also involves fruit and alcohol but doesn’t require steeping.
Since Miss Sedgley and Lord Wrexham spend much of their time at social events, I thought ratafia would be the perfect accompaniment to their story. This particular recipe is a modern one that comes from the Abruzzo region of Italy, courtesy of Valerie Fortney-Schneider. Like sangria, there are dozens of recipes for ratafia, but this one seems the tastiest!
1 1/2 pounds pitted cherries
1 bottle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
1 cup grain alcohol (or high-proof, good quality vodka)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
a big glass jar or bottle that will seal well
Split the vanilla bean open and put it in the jar, along with the other ingredients. Give it a shake and put it in a dark place for 40 days and 40 nights, shaking it gently every few days. After the maceration period, strain it.
Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat and let it cool. Add it to the liqueur, stirring well. Divide into bottles and keep in a cool, dark place.
While you’re enjoying your cherry ratafia, visit the other authors of the Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop:
No, that’s not a typo. This article is not about Napoleon’s victories on the battle fields of Europe. It’s about his victory in the farmers’ fields in France.
With sugar beets.
Sugar beets (Beta vulgaris) are white, conical roots, with a rosette of leaves above ground. The leaves absorb sunlight and produce sugar by photosynthesis (remember your high school biology?). The sugar is then stored in the root—the part we dig up and process. Sugar beets are grown in temperate climates like Germany, France, the UK, and the northern US, rather than the tropical locales sugar cane prefers.
But what do they have to do with the self-proclaimed Emperor of France?
In 1806 Napoleon attempted to destroy British trade lines and weaken the country by banning the import of British goods into Europe (including those from Britain’s colonies). George III and his Parliament responded by ordering a blockade of all French ports. So the only goods Napoleon and his people were getting (legally) were those they could grow or make themselves. Since all of the sugar in use at the time came from plantations in the West Indies, that meant no sugar for France.
Sugar beets were already known at this time—in the mid-1700’s, a German chemist named Andreas Margraff discovered that the sucrose contained in the beet’s root was indistinguishable from the sucrose in sugar cane. One of Margraff’s students, Franz Karl Achard, later experimented with ways to extract the sugar from beets, and was successful (he’s now considered the father of the sugar beet industry).
So when France found herself sugarless in the first decade of the 1800’s, a starting point already existed for her scientists. In 1809, a commission repeated Achard’s experiments, producing two loaves of beet sugar. One of them was eventually passed on to Napoleon himself, who realized he held the answer to his problem (one of them, anyway). He ordered 32,000 hectares of sugar beets to be sown, and more than 40 small factories were built to process them. In January 1811, the order was upped to 100,000 hectares and licenses were given to build 334 factories throughout the French empire.
In 1813, however, the tide of the war turned. Napoleon was on the run, and the blockade was lifted. Cane sugar once again became readily available, and beet sugar was no longer competitively priced. All of the beet processing factories that had been built in Germany and Austria (part of Napoleon’s territory) were closed down. The following spring the Sixth Coalition defeated the French empire, and Napoleon—champion of the sugar beet—was exiled to the island of Elba.
Then why do we eat beet sugar today?
France never quite gave up on sugar beet refinement. Between 1820 and 1839, the number of factories began to slowly climb again in response to a duty imposed on imported cane sugar. Once again, beet sugar was a cheaper alternative. The production of cane sugar also had an ugly stigma attached—it was only possible on large plantations using slave labor. Sugar beets could be grown and processed right at home, in factories that employed paid workers.
The process of refining sugar beets later became popular in Germany, the UK, Russia, and even spread across the Atlantic to the US. My home state of Michigan is one of eleven states that continue to produce beet sugar today, though the European Union is the world’s largest producer with about 50% of the total. Overall, beet sugar accounts for about 35% of the world’s production.
Beet sugar: just one example of the silver lining on a very dark cloud.
Another silver lining of the Napoleonic Wars? Wounded warrior romance heroes! To celebrate the Summer Banquet Blog Hop, I’m giving away one of my very favorites: a signed, print copy of Grace Burrowes’ The Solider, direct from the author herself!
Leave a comment below to enter: tell me what you learned today, what you really think of Napoleon, who your favorite historical soldier/sailor is, what draws you to this period of history, your obsession with sweets (or wounded warriors!), or whatever else you’d like.
Comments must be left by midnight EDT on June 7, 2013 to be eligible to win. Open worldwide.
Don’t forget to check out the posts and giveaways of all the Hop participants:
Our Friday Favorite this week comes again from the BBC (via Maria Grace). The Supersizers–journalist Giles Coren and comedian Sue Perkins–investigate the food (and fashion) of various time periods throughout history.
In this clip, they’re having a Regency experience at the former Carlton House (Prinny’s own residence). Maybe it’s just my bland Midwestern palate, but the only part of the meal that appeals to me is desert. Minus the cockerel testicles, of course 🙂