The Victorian cookery writer Agnes Marshall (1855-1905) has faded from memory despite running a cookery school in Mortimer Street and, like Jamie Oliver, putting her name on every kind of saleable utensil. (Jelly moulds were particularly big just then.)
Marshall's cookery book of 1885 include recipes for fairly normal things such as coffee cake, cauliflower cheese and curried chicken — but there are some more problematic meals for the modern cook...
Warning: Contains no mock turtle. But to make it easier Mrs Marshall says you can use sun-dried turtle.
Preparation time: The long Easter weekend should be just about enough.
Method: "Soak it in cold water for three days, constantly changing the water, then put it to cook for 10-12 hours in good stock.
"Add more stock as the pot reduces. Strain; thicken with arrowroot mixed in a wineglassful of sherry. Cut the turtle into pieces. Add a small tin of turtle fat. Flavour with lemon."
Iced cream with foie gras
Preparation: You need a mould in the shape of a duck. If you don’t have one we think one in the shape of anything else would probably taste the same.
A couple of other necessities Mrs Marshall suggests: "If you have glass eyes for the duck they give it a finished appearance."
Method: "Take one and a half pints of cream and season it with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a little salt; mix with it three quarters of a pint of liquid aspic jelly and freeze in the freezing machine until the mixture is setting, then line the duck mould with it. Fill up the centre with pâté de foie gras."
Beef and lark pie
Warning: You need a lot of larks; 36 are needed for a dinner party of six people.
Method: "Take some boned larks, fill them inside with a farce." (Don’t worry. It’s French. This farce is made of egg yolk, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, suet, herbs and nutmeg.)
"Fill them until plump. Take about 1lb of fillet of beef for every 12 larks."
The collective noun for larks is an exaltation, though at this point an exclamation of larks might be more appropriate.
"Sauté cubes of the beef for a few minutes. Add some stock, and the larks. Cover with puff pastry and bake for an hour and a half. Serve hot or cold for dinner, luncheon or breakfast."
Careful now. We would not want to make a pig’s ear of this, although Mrs Marshall says the pork version is just as good.
"Scald and remove the hair. Bring to the boil and rinse. Then, in a herb and vegetable stock, boil the ears for eight-10 hours. Press between two plates until cold. Now they are ready to cook.
"Cut each ear into three or four pieces, and steep in warm butter, season with a little fresh chopped mushroom that has been washed, a little chopped eschalot, parsley, thyme, bayleaf and mignonette pepper*, and dip into whole beaten up egg and into freshly made white breadcrumbs, and fry in clean boiling fat till a pretty golden colour."
*That’s something like a peck of pickled pepper.
Serving suggestion: Discard.
Iced cream with spinach
Warning: It might come as a bit of a shock if your guests were expecting pistachio.
Method: Bring some spinach to the boil with a pinch of soda. Strain off and press. Boil half a pint of milk and stir in on to four yolks of eggs, and put it on the stove again to thicken. To half a pint of this custard add a small dessert-spoonful of castor sugar, and a pinch of salt; mix with the spinach, pass through the tammy and freeze; add, when partly frozen, half a teacupful of whipped cream sweetened with a very slight dust of castor sugar.
Serving suggestion: Mrs Marshall says to arrange it in ‘cutlets’ with a border of iced cream made with sugar, orange flower water and vanilla. Why not? It can't be worse than some smoothies we have seen.
Ichthys fish sausage
Note to Mrs Marshall: Do not expect your customers to buy something that they cannot pronounce.
Actually, Mrs Marshall did not make these. They came from the factory in Hull of WP English, confusingly described in an ad as ‘sole manufacturer’ even though they were made from cod.
Serving suggestion: "They are excellent when fried in a little butter."
Is that all? Agnes must have had shares in the company.
Ice cream queen
But let's end on a high. As you'll have seen from a couple of the above recipes, Marshall was a great populariser of ice cream, for which she developed her own ice cream maker. Think of one you might get from Argos but made from planks — you can see one at the London Canal Museum.
She also invented the cornet, and even advocated using liquid air to make ice cream at a time when scientists were still busy trying to liquefy various gases for the first time.