Happy Easter to you all!
I hope you've all had a chance to enjoy the holiday and perhaps do a little bit of vintage shopping over the weekend. I've been away helping my sister move house (which is why this recipe post is coming to you a little bit late!), but I still managed to find a few treasures while I was gone.
The move was exhausting and I'm glad I had done some baking to fuel the packing frenzy. I think I must have eaten about 20 of these biscuits over the course of two days!
I found this recipe for Easter Biscuits in my classic 'Economical Cookery' book from the 1940s. I rather like this cheeky chappy that adorns the front cover...
What I like most about cooking from vintage recipes is the uncertainty they involve - not knowing exactly how to cook them, how they will look, how many there will be etc. It's all a bit experimental really!
They turned out pretty good though and I would definitely recommend them and make them again. If you do give the above recipe a go, make sure to add the sugar to the butter, which I spotted was missed out. I found they took about 15 minutes to cook and made 42 biscuits. Eagle eyed readers will spot that there's less in the first picture - they were so good that I'd eaten four by the time I took the photo!
Did you do any baking over Easter?
Got some spare time in the kitchen? Then you should make some marmalade.
If you're a fan of this sweet conserve, I promise it will be worthwhile. It tastes so much better than anything you can buy from the shops. Seville oranges, with their bitter flesh and high pectin content, are renowned for creating the best marmalade, and they're only in season until February. So now's the time to get preserving!
How To Make Seville Orange Marmalade
This is a vintage recipe written by my Great Great Aunt Nell, and she had it from Ethel before her, so it is at least 100 years old. There's nothing like a traditional family recipe!
Here's my modern translation:
4 Seville Oranges
1 Sweet Orange
4 pounds Granulated Sugar (I use 3lbs for a more bittersweet taste)
3 pints Water
Wash the fruit and cut it into quarters. With the tip of a sharp knife, or with your fingers if you don't mind getting very sticky, remove all the pips from the segments. If you haven't used Seville oranges before you will notice how they have lots more pips and pith than normal oranges, which is why they are so high in pectin. Place the pips in a bowl and cover with a small amount of water.
Next, finely slice the fruit. I aim for about 1-2mm strips, but you can go chunkier for a quicker marmalade. Place in a large bowl and then cover with the water.
Cover both bowls with a cloth and then leave overnight.
The next morning, strain the liquid from the pips using a fine sieve or piece of muslin. The pectin soaks out of the pips so the liquid should have become very gelatinous and is what will make your marmalade set. Add this to the bowl of fruit and stir well.
You are then ready to start cooking! If you have a big preserving pan (lucky you!) then you can just put it all in and cook for 2 hours on a medium heat. If, like me, you need to split the mixture then use a ladle to separate the fruit and water into two pans. Just remember when adding the sugar later that you will need to add half to each pan.
After 2 hours, the fruit peel should be soft and you can now add the sugar. Do this at a low heat and stir constantly.
When the liquid becomes translucent and the crystals have disappeared, you can start to bringing it up to the boil. This is the point where it is most likely to catch at the bottom and burn, so stir and watch carefully. Keep at a steady boil for an hour and a half.
While you're waiting, pop a couple of saucers in the freezer so you can test the marmalade will set. You can tell it is done by putting a small amount on a cold saucer - if it wrinkles slightly when you push it with your fingernail, then it will set. If not, then keep checking the marmalade every 10 minutes until it passes the test.
Sterilise a few jars by washing with hot soapy water and drying them for 10 minutes in the oven. Then pour the marmalade into the jars and seal.
Scrape out what's left and enjoy the results of your hard work on some bread or even straight off the spoon. Nom!
Well it's twelfth night and Christmas is officially over, but I couldn't resist sharing this great vintage recipe I made for the big day.
The idea of the Empire Christmas Pudding emerged in the 1920s and aimed to promote using ingredients from countries throughout the British Empire. The Empire Marketing Board campaigned up until the war to promote the pudding and other recipes. There was even a propaganda film about a boy who, after seeing the pudding in a shop window, has a dream about visiting all the empire countries to find the ingredients. You can watch it here
(though I haven't actually made it through all 69 minutes!) My adventure obtaining the ingredients was somewhat less film-worthy, though it did prove challenging in some respects. Here is what I managed to find:
Raisins, Currants and Sultanas from Australia
Suet, Bread and a Bramley apple from the UK
Spices from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the West Indies
British flour and eggs
I couldn't find candied peel anywhere but Italy or any South African lemons or oranges to make my own, so I left this out to not compromise the 'Empireness' of the pudding. I searched in vain for sugar from the West Indies or Guiana, but in the end settled for some from Mauritius. Brandy from anywhere but France seemed impossible to find so we substituted some good old Scottish whiskey.
I didn't look quite as elegant as this 30s housewife making the pudding, but here I am in the kitchen with our giant mixing bowl that always comes out this time of year. I just mixed everything all together, left in a covered pudding basin over night and then steamed for 8 hours.
As is tradition we set our Christmas on fire before serving. We had to use French brandy, though as we burnt it away it seemed fine and rather in the spirit of the British Empire! Then came the eating and boy it was good - deliciously flavoured and with a perfect texture. I don't know if this had anything to do with the countries the ingredients came from, but I liked the idea behind it.
So there you have it - a classic British recipe from the past and one to try for next year! What did you cook this Christmas?
Now that the busy fair season is over for us here at Retrovert, things have begun to wind down and I have time to start getting into the vintage Christmas spirit.
That means I can finally begin the Christmas cooking! I love to cook and this time of year is an excuse to make all those indulgent treats we don't often have.
To me, homemade mincemeat is the most Christmassy you can get and we make it every December to last us the year round. This time, however, I though I'd break from tradition and not use the staple Delia recipe we usually do, and go for something even more traditional. And where better to find a recipe than Victorian cooking icon Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
I would love to own an early copy of this book with its wonderful illustrations, and I always keep my eye out for one when I'm out hunting for vintage treasures. It has several recipes for mincemeat, I chose to eschew the one that actually contains a pound of beef and went for the one promisingly titled 'Excellent Mincemeat'
Recipe Number 1310: EXCELLENT MINCEMEAT
INGREDIENTS – 3 large lemons, 3 large apples, 1 lb. of stoned raisins, 1 lb. of currants, 1 lb. of suet, 2 lbs. of moist sugar, 1 oz. of sliced candied citron, 1 oz. of sliced candied orange-peel, and the same quantity of lemon-peel, 1 teacupful of brandy, 2 tablespoonfuls of orange marmalade.
Mode.—Grate the rinds of the lemons; squeeze out the juice, strain it, and boil the remainder of the lemons until tender enough to pulp or chop very finely. Then add to this pulp the apples, which should be baked, and their skins and cores removed; put in the remaining ingredients one by one, and, as they are added, mix everything very thoroughly together. Put the mincemeat into a stone jar with a closely-fitting lid, and in a fortnight it will be ready for use.
Seasonable.—This should be made the first or second week in December.
The recipe is pretty straightforward. First bake the apples until soft at a low temperature of around 160C, then zest and juice then lemons and boil the skins for half an hour (this bit smells wonderful!). You then add all the other ingredients, stir and put in jars. Simple!
The only unusual ingredient is candied citron
, which I've never come across before. Often confused with lemon, citron is actually a different citrus fruit altogether. After extensive trawling online, I found it available practically on my doorstep from Emerald Foods in Cambridge Market. The flavour is wonderful - I could have eaten the whole pot on its own, but I think it will add a intriguing dimension to the mincemeat.
I like that the recipe directs you to use a 'teacupful' of brandy. Here's mine in a 40s cup by Grindley. I suppose to be truly authentic I should have dug out a Victorian era one!
Our enormous vintage mixing bowl always comes out at Christmas and we certainly needed it to fit all the ingredients in. My favourite bit is always stirring everything together at the end and smelling the evocative scent.
Now I have lots of mince pies to look forward to. I don't think this jar will last very long!
So that's the start of my festive cooking and I can't wait to get baking and eating pies to see if this mincemeat lives up to its 'excellent' name!
What traditional recipes you are going to be using over Christmas?
The increasingly chilly days and dark evenings have got me craving comfort food. This traditional recipe for sticky and sweet baked apples is just the thing.
How to Bake Apples
from Marguerite Patten's Everyday Cooking
First choose your apples. I went for quirkily shaped British eating apples that had lost their crunch, but would be perfect for cooking. Core them using a knife, or if like me you have one in a draw full of miscellaneous utensils, use a corer. You can score the apples around the middle to reduce the chance of them splitting.
Now, make your mix to fill the centre. Basically the filling consists of a bit of butter with sugar in as many forms as you can think of! I didn't have any bramble jelly so substituted a Christmas fruit conserve that added a soft touch of spice. For each apple use:
2 teaspoons dried fruit
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 an ounce butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon bramble jelly
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Fill your apples, then pop in a 'moderately hot' oven (I use 180C in my fan oven) and bake for 40 minutes or until tender.
Let them cool down a bit before eating, as they really hold their heat. Pour the extra caramelised sauce on top and enjoy! They may not look like the most fancy dessert - rustic would be the nicest way to describe them! But, they certainly do the trick when you want an easy to make autumnal pudding that tastes delicious.
Do you have any traditional autumn recipes to recommend?
We have a lot of books. And I mean A LOT of books. Here is our library corridor, which is packed floor to ceiling down one side with our literary collection.
I love that books tell two stories - what is written in them and that of their current and previous owners. Inscriptions in the front and use over time captures a sense of history and personality.
They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I have to say I am particularly partial to vintage cover designs and today I want to share with you the gems from our shelves.
Here they are:
Wild Flowers of the Chalk by John Gilmour from 1947. Isn't this breathakingly beautiful?
Nature books from the 30s-70s. I love the simplicity of these volumes, with their block colours and embossed writing.
These motorcycling books and manuals are rather more colourful. Their covers range from the minimalist 30s to the garish and technicolour 80s.
Continuing the transport theme, here are two books with painterly aviation illustrations. My Dad was awarded these in 1958 for 'Excellent Work' and I can imagine this was rather exciting for a 9 year old boy.
We have an entire shelf devoted to these Meccano tomes from the 20s-30s. The golden writing glints from the burgundy spines.
Just to prove not all our books are non fiction, here's an assortment of Partrick O' Brian novels from the 90s. Don't they look great all in a row. The top two shelves of our bookcases are reserved for novels. We double stack them, which makes it near impossible to find a specific book, but we can fit a lot more in!
Marguerite Patten's 'Every' Day Cook Book' from 1968. Missing its cover and falling apart, you can tell its been well used. The best recipes are always on the pages with the most ingredient stains on!
These art books from the 60s and 70s were my Mum's before the got assimilated into my are collection. They all have little bits of paper sticking out the top marking my favourite artworks.
I love crafts as much as art and I found this 80s Reader's Digest in Oxfam for £1.50. Together with the Woolcraft guide that belonged to my Nan, I taught myself to knit and crochet.
I could go on forever listing the gorgeous and interesting books in our shelves, but I think I've already gone on too long! I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of their covers.
Are you a book hoarder too or are you more selective? What's on your shelves...
I'd never made a Swiss roll before - memories of failed attempts at neatly rolling a chocolate log put me off. At least with chocolate log you can hide a multitude of sins under generous icing.
However, a desire to bake and the lack of any butter led me to take the Swiss Roll plunge. It turned out to be easier than I thought and took less than half an hour from start to finish.
I used a recipe from my trusty old Everyday Cookbook by Marguerite Patten. Here's how I made this great teatime treat:
3 oz caster sugar
2 oz self raising flour
1 tbsp hot water
jam to fill
icing sugar for dusting
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Whisk the eggs and sugar over a bowl of hot water to make a light and thick mixture. Fold in the flour and hot water, to make a very fluid consistency. Pour into a lined tray 7x11" (I'm naughty and usually skip lining tins when baking, but in this case it makes all the difference).
Cook for 7-9 minutes at 220 C . You can check it's done by pressing the sponge lightly. When it's ready it should bounce back up. Turn it out onto an icing sugared piece of baking parchment. Cover liberally with jam. I used my homemade blackcurrant
and raspberry, which you can find the recipe for here
. And now it's time to roll! Make a shallow cut about
1 cm from one short edge and fold this over to get started. Then just go for it, lifting the parchment underneath and rolling it through that.
Dust with icing sugar, et voila, you have your finished roll! Pop on a vintage plate and leave to cool. Or if you can't wait, cut yourself a nice big spiral slice and enjoy!
I think there's is something strangely satisfying about all rolled sweet treats - jam roly poly, cinnamon whorls, lemon and sugar pancakes...
What do you think - do you share my fondness for all things spiral? (or is it just me!)
For my latest vintage recipe experiment I took inspiration from one of my antique finds - Sargent's Gem Chopper
, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. The 1899 chopper came with a cookbook and I enjoyed browsing through it to find a recipe to try. This one caught my eye:
The combination of flavours, as well as the ombre effect that is so in fashion at the moment, intrigued me.
As it was such an old recipe I was unsure what size of cup to use for measuring. My research didn't prove conclusive, so I just grabbed the nearest vintage cup and hoped that it would work out!
My cake mixture curdled rather a lot. A very thorough whisk sorted this out, but if you try out this recipe it might be an idea to mix the ingredients in a different order.
I decided for full authenticity I ought to use the Gem Chopper itself. It surprised me how effectively it chopped the golden raisins (I must confess to doing a little dance when I realised it was working). Chopping the chocolate was rather less efficient - it stuck to the inside. I guess chocolate has probably changed a lot in the past 100 years.
There were no instructions for how to flavour the lemon layer so I added the grated zest of a whole lemon. I also put some cocoa powder in my chocolate layer to make it a shade darker. Cooking information was also absent - I did mine at 180ºC for 25 minutes.
Here is the cake in all its graduating glory. It turned out subtle but I like it.
To make the cake live up to its Tit Tat Toe name I had a game of Noughts and Crosses with myself in chocolate frosting. Naturally it was a stalemate!
So that concludes my second vintage recipe experiment. To my surprise the unusual combination of chocolate, raisin and lemon flavours went well together and the texture was good too, almost like a light steamed pudding. The process was pretty fun as well - it is always exciting to try something new and it to actually work!
I'm already looking forward to my next experiment. I'd love suggestions for a vintage recipe to try...
Here at Retrovert we love to cook and we love vintage too. So, I thought I'd combine the two and explore the realm of vintage cooking. I hope to try out some traditional recipes in my modern kitchen and share with you my successes (and failures) along the way. A few weeks ago I blogged about The Modern Housewife's Book
and I wanted to chose a recipe from it as my first. A glut of blackcurrants and talk of jam at the first Cambridge City WI
meeting inspired me to make this:Black Currant and Raspberry Jam. 3 lb. black currants. 1 pint raspberry juice.1 lb. sugar to each pint of juice and pound of fruit.Put the currants and juice into a preserving pan, and boil for 10 minutes. Add sugar in the above proportions and boil for 20 minutes. Pot and cover in the usual way. Aunt Kate's Jam and Jellies section is comprehensive - there are 12 recipes for blackcurrant jam alone. I chose to try this one as it sounded most interesting and used the fresh fruits I have in the garden.
Making the Jam
The book doesn't include a way of making raspberry juice so this is how I did it:
Take a bowl full of fresh raspberries and pick them over. Heat them gently in a saucepan with half a pint of water. Stir and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer for five more minutes. Let it cool, then strain the juice. I used a muslin and a jam funnel, a very fine sieve would work too. This made 3/4 of a pint of juice so I topped it up with water to make a pint for the full recipe.
Half way through I had to separate the jam into two large saucepans - this was a bit tricky but I really didn't want it to boil over. Making in batches to start with or using a large preserving pan would be a better idea - all mine are either used for dyeing or are vintage and don't work on our induction hob!
Sealing and Storing
Aunt Kate discusses the 'Best Way to Seal and Store' in detail. Here are the tips I followed: Scald the jars and put them in a warm oven to dry. Pour the hot jam into the jars and then seal with a waxed circle immediately. Aunt Kate suggests filling to within an inch of the top, but I filled them right up to the brim. She also uses parchment tied on with string over the top, but I used lids to save time and effort! To label my jam I borrowed an idea from fellow Camb
ridge bloggers. Thanks Crafty Painter
! I made my washi tape labels from reused and recycled paper - even one of our market stall bags. When I was finished I arranged my jars in a nice row as Aunt Kate suggests!
I have eaten this jam every day since I made it, so it must be good! The flavours work really well together - the tartness of blackcurrant combined with the sweetness of raspberry. Working from a vintage recipe added to my enjoyment of the experience and I am looking forward to my next cooking experiment.
I'd love to know what you thought of my first recipe post! Any suggestions welcome...