The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Recipes from the Land Between the Lakes

The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood (#3)

The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood (#3)
(click for pdf [printable] version)

These are the recipes that are included in The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood (#3). 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).

Mrs. Jennings's Bubble and Squeak / Sarah Barwick's Sticky Buns / Mrs. Beeton's Tipsy Cake /
Pease Porridge / Cumbrian Bacon and Onion Roly-Poly Pudding /

Mrs. Jennings's Bubble and Squeak

Ridley Rattail has a preference for this traditional dish, which he finds occasionally in Mrs. Jennings's pantry (but only occasionally, for the Jennings leave nothing left over). The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that bubble and squeak is named for the sounds that are produced as the dish is cooked. Or, as one satirical diner put it:

What Mortals Bubble call and Squeak
When midst the Frying-pan in accents savage
The Beef so surly quarrels with the Cabbage.
—John Wolcot, 1738-1819

1 pound potatoes, cooked and mashed
½ pound cabbage, cooked and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley, minced

Heat the butter in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until soft and transparent. Add potatoes, cabbage, and parsley. Mix well. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with bacon and eggs for breakfast or as part of a supper dish.

Sarah Barwick's Sticky Buns

These are the buns that have made Sarah Barwick famous. They're typical of yeast-raised sweet buns baked across the Lake District.

1 tablespoon dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup milk, scalded
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
3½ cup flour
1 egg
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup currents

1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

To make buns: Soften yeast in warm water. Combine milk, sugar, butter and salt; cool. Add 1½ cups flour and beat well; beat in egg and yeast/water mixture. Gradually add remaining flour to form soft dough, beating well between additions. Place in greased bowl, turn to grease surface; cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 1½ to 2 hours. Turn out on lightly floured board and divide in half. Form half into a ball and let rest while rolling other half into 8x12" rectangle. Brush with ¼ cup melted butter; sprinkle with ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ cup currents. Roll lengthwise and seal edge; cut roll in 1-inch slices. Repeat with second ball of dough.

To make topping: In saucepan, mix brown sugar, butter and corn syrup; heat slowly, stirring often. Divide into two 8x8x2 inch pans. Place rolls, cut side down over mixture. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, 35-40 minutes. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Cool 2-3 minutes; invert on plate; remove pan. Yield: 2 dozen sticky buns.

Mrs. Beeton's Tipsy Cake
Mrs. Beeton
Isabella Beeton, 1836-1865

This famous cake is based on a trifle, which has a long history of appearances on the English table. Mrs. Beeton's version, reprinted here, was the "definitive" one, Mrs. Isabella Beeton being the leading Victorian authority on all things domestic. Mrs. Beeton.s recipes included the cost, so that the thrifty housewife could calculate how much money to give to the servant who did her shopping.


Ingredients: 1 moulded sponge- or Savoy-cake, sufficient sweet wine or sherry to soak it, 6 tablespoonfuls of brandy, 2 oz. of sweet almonds, 1 pint of rich custard.

Mode: Procure a cake that is three or four days old—either sponge, Savoy, or rice answering for the purpose of a tipsy cake. Cut the bottom of the cake level, to make it stand firm in the dish; make a small hole in the centre, and pour in and over the cake sufficient sweet wine or sherry, mixed with the above proportion of brandy, to soak it nicely. When the cake is well soaked, blanch and cut the almonds into strips, stick them all over the cake, and pour round it a good custard. The cakes are sometimes crumbled and soaked, and a whipped cream heaped over them, the same as for trifles.

Time: About 2 hours to soak the cake. Average cost: 4s, 6d.

Pease Porridge
Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.
—Traditional nursery rhyme

When food was cooked in an open fireplace instead of on a kitchen range, a large pot always hung over the fire, filled with a thick soup of peas and other vegetables. In the morning, before the fire was lit, any porridge left from the previous meal was eaten cold, for breakfast. During the day, more peas and vegetables were added and the porridge was eaten hot. It would be no surprise to learn that some of the ingredients were actually nine days old. Pease porridge is traditionally served with sausage or boiled bacon or spread on thick slices of bread-and-butter.

1 pound split peas
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, quartered
bay leaf, 2 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs

Cover the soaked peas with water in a large pan. Add the salt, pepper, and onions. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2½ hours, adding more water if necessary. In the last 15 minutes, add herbs. Remove and discard the herbs and onion. Serve this thick soup with slices of hot bread.

Mrs. Beeton (recipe #1323) turns pease porridge into pease pudding with the addition of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 eggs. Excess water is drained, the peas are put through a colander with a wooden spoon, the eggs and butter are beaten in, and the pudding is steamed for an hour in a greased heatproof pudding basin. It is then inverted onto a platter and served hot, sliced.

Cumbrian Bacon and Onion Roly-Poly Pudding
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers

"Anna Maria," said the old man rat (whose name was Samuel Whiskers)—"Anna Maria, make me a kitten dumpling roly-poly pudding for my dinner."
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, or The Roly-Poly Pudding, by Beatrix Potter

You certainly wouldn't want to make a kitten roly-poly, but a Cumbrian bacon and onion roly-poly (what Americans call a "roll-up") would do very well. The Victorians preferred to steam their roly-polys, while contemporary American cooks bake theirs.

½ pound bacon, diced finely
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 small clove of garlic, very finely crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
freshly ground pepper

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard
1 cup water

For steaming, prepare a large oven-proof lidded pan, such as a turkey roaster or fish kettle. Set a rack or trivet in the pan, of a height that will hold the pudding above the boiling water. You'll also need baking parchment and aluminum foil.

To make filling, mix diced bacon, onion, garlic, herbs, pepper. Set aside.

To make dough, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Rub in lard and gradually add just enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. On a floured board, roll out an 8x10" rectangle ¼" thick. (You may need to make two smaller roly-polys if your pan won't accommodate this length.) Distribute the filling over the surface, leaving a quarter-inch border across the top and both ends. With a pastry brush and water, wet this border. Roll up tightly along the longest side, starting with the edge nearest you. Smooth the long edge where it joins the body of the roll and pinch the ends lightly to seal in the filling. Loosely roll in several layers of baking parchment, leaving room for the dough to expand, and then in two layers of foil, leaving an expansion pleat. Fold up the ends of the foil and secure, to prevent water penetrating during steaming.

To steam, preheat oven to 325°. Fill the steaming pan to an inch below the rack or trivet with boiling water from a teakettle. Place the wrapped roly-poly on the rack and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the water back to a boil and boil hard for 10 minutes. Check to see if you need to add more boiling water, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Set the pan, water and all, in the oven, and oven-steam for 2½ hours. Transfer the pudding to a warm plate, open the foil and parchment, and slice. Traditionally served with potatoes and a green vegetable. Serves 4-6.

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Check out some other Cottage Tales recipes:
The Tale of Holly How (#2) / The Tale of Hawthorn House (#4)