Did you know that next year, 2013, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Quite a milestone…and quite a book! Not many 200-year-old books can boast of ever-growing sales and continuing reader discussion, can they? As part of the observance and celebration of that birthday, I thought it might be fun over the next few months to have a look at some of the books about Miss Austen and her masterwork—books that make my little history-geek heart go pitter-pat by offering a look at early 19th century life as lived by the author and her creations. I’ll try to stick to books that are in print or otherwise easily and inexpensively obtainable at on-line retailers like Abebooks or Barnes & Noble and Amazon’s used book sellers. I hope you’ll find them interesting. Since food is always interesting, I have a delightful book to share with you today:
The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Dierdre Le Faye (paperback reprint by M&S, 2002). Co-written by a food historian and a Jane Austen scholar, The Jane Austen Cookbook includes, as well as recipes, chapters on Social and Domestic Life in Jane Austen’s time and on domestic details mentioned in her novels and letters. Dining customs were evolving over these years, including the timing of meals and how they were presented and served, and both of these are discussed. And many of the recipes are drawn from a recipe book kept and recorded by Martha Lloyd, a long-time friend of the Austen family who actually lived with Jane and Cassandra and their mother for many years before marrying an Austen brother in 1828…so some of these dishes may have actually been seen on the Austen table. The original text and modern “translations” are included, so that modern cooks can try their own hand at such dishes as Vegetable Pie (a one-crust pie heavy on autumn root veggies, Harrico of Mutton (a lamb and vegetable casserole) Veal or Venison Cake (a terrine-like dish) and a recipe for Martha Lloyd’s own curry powder. And here’s one for Ratafia Cakes, re-written for today’s cooks:
1 cup ground almonds
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon orange flower water or orange liqueur
¾ cup superfine sugar
rice or parchment paper
Set the oven to 350º F. Rub through a sieve or pound the almonds in a bowl to get rid of any lumps. In a second bowl, whisk the egg whites with the orange flower water or liqueur until stiff. Then mix the sugar into the almonds thoroughly and lastly fold in the whisked whites.
Cover a baking sheet with the parchment paper and place small teaspoonfuls of mixture on in, well spaced apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cakes are just fawn [very light brown]; they must still be soft underneath. Cool them on the sheet, then keep in an airtight tin. Enjoy them with after-dinner coffee. Makes 36-40.