The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Recipes from the Land Between the Lakes

The Tale of Briar Bank (#5)

The Tale of Briar Bank (#5)
(click for pdf [printable] version)

These are the recipes that are included in The Tale of Briar Bank (#5). Authentic Lake District foods are usually calorie-rich and based on locally grown meat, poultry, vegetables, garden-grown fruit and berries, and dairy. Mutton and lamb are favorite meats (cattle are mostly kept for their milk, rather than meat).

Raised Pie / Parsley's Savory Potato Soup / Mrs. Lester Barrow's Bread Pudding /
Bosworth's Nettle Beer / Mrs. Prickle-Pin's Comfrey Salve / Sarah Barwick's Queen Cakes

Raised Pie
raised pie
Raised Pie

A "Raised Pie of Poultry or Game," as served at the Wickstead funeral luncheon and described by Mrs. Beeton in her incomparable Beeton's Book of Household Management, was a pie baked in an embossed spring-form pan 3-4" deep. The pan was lined with a stiff pastry, which was then piled high with layers of boned cooked chicken or pheasant seasoned with mace, allspice, pepper, and salt; forcemeat (finely chopped, highly spiced meat); veal; and ham. This was covered with a decorated pastry top in a domed shape, rather like a lid, with a hole in the top. When baked, a thick gravy made from the bones was poured through the hole, and the pie was allowed to cool. The gravy, Mrs. Beeton says, "should form a firm jelly, and not be in the least degree in a liquid state."

Parsley's Savory Potato Soup

Potatoes were grown in every Lakeland garden and appeared in a variety of forms on every Lakeland table. Here's how Parsley makes the delicious potato soup she serves to a crowd of hungry animals at luncheon at The Brockery.

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups chicken broth
¾ cup diced ham
2 medium potatoes, peeled diced (about 2 cups)

½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried ground bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup half-and-half

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add diced onion, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in flour until well blended. Add chicken broth, ham, and potatoes. Continue cooking, stirring, until thickened. Add thyme and bay. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Stir in half-and-half, add salt and pepper to taste, and reheat. Serves 4 Big Folk.

Mrs. Lester Barrow's Bread Pudding
bread pudding
Bread Pudding

Mrs. Barrow bakes bread pudding with apples and raisins and serves it warm, with a dollop of whipped cream, to Mr. Heelis and other appreciative patrons at the Tower Bank Arms.

2 cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 slices white bread, without crust, cubed
1 apple, cored and diced
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon, mixed with dash nutmeg

Heat milk until hot, but not boiling. In a bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, and salt. Gradually stir a half-cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Stir in remaining milk. Add vanilla. Pour over cubed bread. Stir in apple and raisins. Pour into 2-quart greased baking dish and Arrange bread slices in a two-quart buttered baking dish, and(sprinkle raisins over bread, if used), about 2-quart size. Pour the milk mixture over bread. Sprinkle cinnamon/nutmeg mixture over top. Bake, uncovered, at 300° for about 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serves 6.

Bosworth's Nettle Beer

Nettle beer was brewed throughout the north of England. Wear thick gloves when you are gathering nettles, and avoid being stung. This traditional recipe comes from Maude Grieve's A Modern Herbal (1931 and is probably very similar to the one Bosworth used.

The Nettle Beer made by cottagers is often given to their old folk as a remedy for gouty and rheumatic pains, but apart from this purpose it forms a pleasant drink. It may be made as follows: Take 2 gallons of cold water and a good pailful of washed young Nettle tops, add 3 or 4 large handsful of Dandelion, the same of Clivers (Goosegrass) and 2 ounces of bruised, whole ginger. Boil gently for 40 minutes, then strain and stir in 2 teacupsful of brown sugar. When lukewarm place on the top a slice of toasted bread, spread with 1 ounce of compressed yeast, stirred till liquid with a teaspoonful of sugar. Keep it fairly warm for 6 or 7 hours, then remove the scum and stir in a tablespoonful of cream of tartar. Bottle and tie the corks securely. The result is a specially wholesome sort of ginger beer. The juice of 2 lemons may be substituted for the Dandelion and Clivers. Other herbs are often added to Nettles in the making of Herb Beer, such as Burdock, Meadowsweet, Avens Horehound, the combination making a refreshing summer drink.

Mrs. Prickle-Pin's Comfrey Salve

Old Mrs. Prickle-Pin (prickle-pin is a country name for a hedgehog) had a great many recipes for various sorts of salves. Comfrey and plantain are traditional healing herbs that were much used by people who had no local pharmacy. Many relied on Nicholas Culpeper's Complete Herbal (published in 1653 and reissued in many different editions) for information about medicinal plants.

2 cups olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried comfrey leaves
3 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried plantain leaves
½ cup beeswax

Put olive oil and herbs in the top of a double boiler. Simmer gently for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently. (Do not allow to boil.) Strain to remove herbs; discard the herbs and set the oil aside. In the top of the double boiler, melt the beeswax, then add the strained oil and stir, blending thoroughly. Pour into jars or salve tins. When cool, label and date. (This will keep for about 12 months, longer if refrigerated.)

Sarah Barwick's Queen Cakes

For these feather-light cupcakes, Sarah uses a recipe that was developed by Elizabeth Raffeld (1733-1781), a well-known eighteenth-century Manchester confectionary, and preserved in her book The Experienced English Housekeeper. I wonder if Sarah had the time to beat her egg whites for "near half an hour"! However, unlike Mrs. Raffeld, our Sarah would have possessed one of the metal rotary egg beaters that came on the market after 1870, when Turner Williams of Providence, Rhode Island patented the now-familiar hand-cranked beater with two intermeshed, counter-rotating whisks. It was an improvement on earlier rotary egg beaters that had only one whisk.

To make Queen Cakes:
Take a pound of loaf sugar, beat and sift it, a pound of flour well dried, a pound of butter, eight eggs, half a pound of currants washed and picked, grate a nutmeg, the same quantity of mace and cinnamon. Work your butter to a cream, then put in your sugar, beat the whites of your eggs near half an hour, mix them with your sugar and butter. Then beat your yolks near half an hour and put them to your butter, beat them exceeding well together. Then put in your flour, spices, and the currants. When it is ready for the oven bake them in tins and dust a little sugar over them.

(click for pdf [printable] version)

Check out some other Cottage Tales recipes:
The Tale of Hawthorn House (#4) / The Tale of Applebeck Orchard (#6)