Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Raising the Game

Alan’s prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday is a page from Mrs Beeton’s 1901 Cookery Book, and shows an array of very ornate dishes, fit for a banquet. One of the dishes is Raised Game Pie (thanks to Martin who gave me the idea for the title of this post in his comment on the prompt page). The picture above is from a more recent, but still vintage, cookery book; Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cook Book. Now, oddly enough I have just re-acquired a copy of this book and I am delighted that it is back in my possession. I was given the book, I think, for my 21st birthday and it was invaluable. Full of useful information and recipes, it was really the only cookbook you would need to get by in any situation. My original copy was well-loved and food spattered and falling apart at the seams, which is probably why I foolishly discarded it in favour of new glossy recipe books. Imagine my surprise and delight, when last Saturday at a charity bookstall I saw this 1976 edition (10th reprint) and fell upon it eagerly. I parted with the princely sum of 1 euro and the book was mine. It’s in much better condition than my original copy and doesn’t seem to have been used much as the pages still bounce from the spine, showing that they have not been lovingly creased down and carefully pored over. As the book is now out of print I was doubly pleased with myself. The jovial stallholder hinted that he expected an invitation to tea and cakes now, and I told him that I already knew many of the recipes as I’d owned the book as a young bride. I had managed not to poison my husband and 36 years later he too enjoys cooking as much as I do.

This is the picture of Marguerite from the fly-leaf of the book. She is going strong today at 96 years old, and still writing cookery books. She learned to cook as a thirteen year-old out of necessity and went to demonstrate cooking for Fridgidaire. She also went to drama school and was an accomplished repertory actress, a skill she put to use when she worked for the BBC. During the war she presented programmes on the radio, giving listeners ideas about how to make their rations stretch further and eat healthily and, now that people are once more feeling the pinch, she is again advising and writing new books. She is held in high regard by fellow cookery writers and her 170+ books are in great demand. She’s had a very interesting life and in 2001 she was the guest on BBC Radio’s ‘Desert Island Discs’, where imagined ‘castaways’ choose the records they would take to a desert island, interspersed with stories from their life. I was amazed to find that the whole programme is still available here on the BBC website.
As well as the gorgeous picture of a game pie, the book has colour plates to illustrate every section, and all the recipe pages are enhanced with line drawings. It’s a real nostalgia trip to flick through the pages and see the food simply, but appetisingly, displayed in what are clearly recognisable 1970s style serving dishes; stainless steel, old style Pyrex and casseroles with big bold designs. All the recipes are in Imperial measures as it was pre-decimalisation, but there are handy conversion charts to American measures.
It was the era of pineapple and cheese on cocktails sticks, mounted on half a grapefruit, and of course was pre-microwave oven. There’s no mention of terms such as ‘pan-fried’ or ‘jus’ or ‘hand-torn’ lettuce, just good, honest cookery.

This book has everything including useful information on cooking techniques, wise shopping, emergency dishes and suggestions for dealing with ‘minor mishaps in the kitchen’. With this book I learned how to make pickles and preserves, as well as sweets such as fudge and coconut ice. Yes, I know you only have to search the web for a recipe these days, but there’s so much more fun to be had from slowly turning the pages of a well-written and beautifully illustrated cookery book.

Here’s Marguerite’s version of 'English Monkey’, which is a sort of savoury sauce poured over bread or toast, similar to Welsh Rarebit and great for hot snack in winter.


English Monkey
Cooking time; about 10 minutes
1 oz butter
1/4 pint milk
2oz soft white breadcrumbs
4 oz grated cheese
1 beaten egg, salt, pepper
made mustard, Worcestershire sauce
4 slices toast, to garnish 1 tomato

Heat butter, add milk and breadcrumbs. When very hot, add the cheese and egg. Add all the seasonings. Stir until thick and creamy. Pour onto toast, garnish with slices of tomato.

As it’s nearly Christmas, here’s a real banquet, not Mrs Beeton’s, but Mrs Patten’s, and not a stuffed plover’s egg or bouquet of prawns in sight. If you visit Postcardy’s Sepia Saturday post, she has a video of a more recent Marguerite showing us how to make Christmas Pudding in a microwave!


After all that you’ll need to loosen your waistbands and sit back with a another glass of wine. Mince pie anyone? The feast’s not over yet as there are more fascinating posts by other Sepia Saturday contributors. Be sure to head over there and browse their menus!

I’m also linking to Weekend Cooking on 'Beth Fish Reads’.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie feel free to join in.


33 comments:

  1. The video I posted on my Sepia Saturday post this week is of an older Marguerite Patten making plum pudding. I watched a bunch of plum pudding videos before choosing one, and I liked hers best.

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  2. I've just raided my wife's kitvhen bookshelf. Right at the bottom of the plle is 'Marguerite Patten's All Colour Cookery.' published in 1975. Inside the first page it says 'Some of the material in this book has been previously published in the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks paperback series.
    In pantomime terms "He's behind you," or should I add "again?"
    Another fine mess you've got me into. How do I explain why I'm studying a cookery book?

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  3. Marguerite looks like the star she is. What a woman! I love old cookbooks. Like you, I got rid of an old favorite (Joy of Cooking) in favor of a newer version. Big mistake.

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  4. By chance I was at Mum's this week, borrowing a modern edition of Mrs Beeton's Christmas. (You might find that the subject of this week's weekend cooking post) . I noticed that Mum had a few Marguerite Patten books. I was suitably inspired to have another look at my 1899 edition of Mrs Beeton's for Sepia Saturday this week.

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  5. That English Monkey looks very tasty!

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  6. From cooks to monkeys via pies : I do so enjoy these toure de forces of yours. You hook us with the theme and then take us on a most delightful journey before dropping us gently back in the water : there you go, from cooks to monkeys via pies and fish.

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  7. The cookbooks that are food-spattered and falling apart are the best ones :)

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  8. How cool that you were able to replace your old cookbook. Isn't like finding a long-lost friend? I wish I were better with crusts, because I think it'd be fun to make a beautiful game pie.

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  9. My dad used to make English Monkey for us when we were kids. Oh, I loved it so much. I know Marguerite Patten from her wartime recipes in We'll Eat Again.
    Thanks for this great post and recipe. I have make some English Monkey now = my mouth is watering.

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  10. hi,lovely post, like it,its really yummy.

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  11. Nice you were able to replace the cookbook! I love the names of some of those recipes. Great post!

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  12. I just love the names of English dishes :)

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  13. that looks just like my Christmas table!
    actually it is not far off except I made a Christmas cake this year but no Plum Pudding.

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  14. The English Monkey sounds delicious!

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  15. Mmm, I might have to try that "English Monkey." I guess everyone has their own standard cookbook. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. I, too, regret having got rid of old cookbooks, particularly my grandmother's and her sister's because they used to run a little bakery/"open all hours" shop. I remember the end products but not the recipes.

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  17. English monkey, how can you go wrong with a name like that!

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  18. English Monkey sounds like pure comfort food. My go-to cookbook is one my sisters and I compiled from our relatives. Definitely comfort food :)

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  19. All that work and then it's eaten in 15 minutes.

    The English Monkey must have a good story behind it. An odd name.

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  20. For some reason, I am not at all surprised to learn that you are a fantastic cook. Isn't it amazing the relationship we have with our favorite cookbooks.

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  21. Do pardon me if I say that is the deadest Christmas pudding photo I have ever seen! LOL

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  22. Well, Jinksy, as it’s you I’ll let you off, but Marguerite may not be feeling so generous! Would a sprig of holly have helped? No? Though not. What did you expect- blue flames? :)

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  23. I did miss your post. I would also part with a euro for this. I have Delia's Christmas book and was looking at recipes for mincemeat. You do not really see it in the US, in Canada where I grew up it was very popular. This sounds perfect for a cold grey winter day.

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  24. Hi Little Nell! Wow, this a wonderful post that I enjoyed very much. I am so happy for you that you found a better version of your favorite cookbook; I can imagine your feelings when you spotted it. When stuff like that happens to me, I am afraid that everybody around me really wants what I have found, lol.

    Thanks so much for your kind comments of the other day, I appreciate them very much.

    Have a wonderful week,

    Kathy M.

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  25. Oh, this was wonderful! I kept thinking, 'I know that name' so I went out to the kitchen and there it was - We'll Eat Again, a book I wrote about in May:

    http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2011/05/well-eat-again-recipes-selected-by.html

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  26. Great pictures! And thanks for introducing me to Sepia Sunday. What a great idea! I have shelves of vintage cookbooks.

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  27. What a great find, to be able to "recover" a book that meant so much to you. A bonus that it was in such good condition.

    A few years ago, I purchased a children's cookbook that I had fond memories of. Unfortunately, it was from a vintage bookseller, and cost me more than the equivalent of one euro. The memories it brought back were worth it :)

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  28. What a treasure. I have never heard of English Monkey but it sounds delicious.

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  29. Wales has Rabits, Scotland has eggs, Cornwall has hens, even Ireland takes whiskey, but all England gets is monkeys?

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  30. If I Was Stuck On A Desert Island, A Good Cook For Company Would Be A Fine Consolation !

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  31. OMG!! I believe my dad had Patten's cookbook. He had bookshelves of them and the cover looks oddly familiar. Here, in Quebec, our guru in the kitchen was Jehane Benoit. To own her book was a like a bible, literally, as it covered everything you needed to know in the kitchen. My dad had that one too, obviously...
    But he was a great cook [most times]!!
    :D~
    HUGZ

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  32. I love the look of old cookbooks but i never get as far as making anything from them! Hope you had a fabulous christmas hun and here's to an amazing new year, Scarlett x

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