Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmastide in the Poldark Novels #2

Two years ago was my first post about Christmas in the Poldark novels but I only went through the first four books ending with the epic Christmas of 1793 in Warleggan! That blog was also full of inspirational recipes that hopefully some people tried. See November, 2016 blog.

It has been great fun going through the novels looking for Christmas celebrations. Some years little mention of  Christmas is made, others fortunately for us, details were made known.

Christmas, 1794 in The Black Moon... Clowance has been born and her Christening takes place on Christmas Day.  Caroline came to visit on Christmas Eve and stays the night.   She is Clowance's godmother. Dwight is not there because he is in a French prison. They supped late, and went to bed early because of the cold. It was so cold the Christmas carolers didn't come. Demelza had mince tarts and ginger wine ready for them.

In the morning they find it has snowed a great deal but Ross decides it is safe enough to go to the church. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood is there including Jud who is indignant they named a cheel (child)  Clarence! Years later Clowance tells Lord Edward Fitzmaurice about an old man in Cornwall who still calls her Clarence...........

Dr. Choake attended the christening and Ross asks about his Aunt Agatha. He decides to go see her and Demelza sends Caroline with him thinking no harm will come to him if she is with him. This starts his weekly visits to his ancient Aunt. Until the Warleggans are back in residence at Trenwith!

Christmas scene. The song they were singing:

Mincemeat Tarts Recipe

1/2 orange, squeezed & zest
1/2 lemon, squeezed & zest
2 c. golden raisins
1 c. currents
4 tart apples, I used Granny Smith, diced, unpeeled
1 c. diced candied orange peel
2 c. apple cider
1 3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg & cloves*
1/2 tsp mace
recipe also called for powdered coriander but I didn't have that
Brandy, Bourbon or Whiskey to taste... I did about 3T Brandy, more would have been even better!
Rum or Sherry to taste

Add the orange & lemon juices & zest to medium stainless steel stock pot. Add raisins, currents, candied peel, core, but do not peel the apples..chop up small dice, and cider. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the mixture is fairly dry, about 15 minutes. Add sugar & spices and simmer 10-15 minutes longer or until thick. Stir in Brandy. This made approximately 5 cups. Half was used for 48 tarts.

*fairly strong in the spice taste. I like it. My husband thought it too much. Might want to go lightly. You can always add more.  Recipe adapted from Visions of  Sugarplums by Mimi Sheraton, 1996

Shortcrust Pastry Dough (so much better than just pie dough)

4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c.  butter (cold)
4 T confectioner's sugar
2 egg yolks

Add sugar to flour, then cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal, add egg yolks and then
ice cold water to mix...add a little at time, enough to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

This can be made into pies, which has a top, or tarts, which I made open face. Uncover the dough, knead a couple times to make sure it is all incorporated. Flour surface and roll out to 1/4". I used a 2" fluted biscuit/scone cutter. I sprayed the pan with baking spray. place dough in the pan. Place about 1 Tablespoon in each mini-tart and bake at 350 until dough is nicely browned. About 30 minutes. WATCH THEM.

Left to right - mixture cooking on the stove top, to placing in tart pan, to individual tarts. These traditionally are made with a top crust or a pastry star on top...

In The Four Swans we have Ross and Demelza and both children bathing on December 21st. "The water was icy to get in but the air delicious to come out into, and while they rubbed themselves with towels the low sun peered over the sea, casting long cadaverous shadows of themselves across the silent beach. Then indoors, giggling and still damp, to stand before the fire and sup bowls of steaming soup and sip toddy. It was Jeremy's first taste of spirituous liquor and it went to his head and he lay on the settle shrieking with laughter while Clowance gazed gravely at her brother thinking he had gone off his head."

Christmas, 1798, The Angry Tide finds Dwight alone at Nampara. Caroline has left Cornwall after the death of their daughter. Although the Poldarks were a bit sad, Demelza had a party and for a time made her heart glad.  The Blameys arrived from Falmouth with their five-year-old son and James, Verity's step-son.

James was the great success.  While it was still daylight he played lions with the children, and when it was dark he told them stories of wild days at sea and storm and battle that held them goggle-eyed.

The day after Christmas they gave a children's party. In the series it was Dwight who was there, not the Blameys. He and Ross go for a walk and  Ross tears down the offensive fence at Trenwith! The chapter ends with Ross and Verity having a serious conversation. Verity realizes all is not quite well at Nampara and Ross says: "But now and then you do not have all the control of your feelings that you should have - and then thoughts and feelings surge up in you like - like an angry tide. And it is hard, sometimes it is hard to control the tide."

Here's a recipe for a meat pie, perhaps like the one Demelza made for Ross in season one? I just loved that scene. She was so pleased he liked her efforts (and the genuine blush Eleanor had was so cute!) and like a wise husband, throughout the novels, Ross always says he prefers her cooking.

The Youtube video of that scene:

Prudie has recovered her "skillage!"

The Tale of the Pork Pie.....

I have many, many recipes books from Cornwall and thought I would try one called Truro Pork Pie. Just so you know, I have never made one of these and like pasties, aren't a "thing" in the US as far as I can tell.

The hot water (in this case milk) pastry dough is a dream. Goes together well, used warm, not cold. I have done some research and there is a difference between the way these were made historically and today it seems.

According to Jas Townsend & Son, a purveyor of historic goods who has done many great Youtube videos on historic foodways, the dough is allowed to rest for at least four hours or even over night. But the modern method you use it while still warm.

I was determined to make a meat pie that looked like the one Demelza made for Ross in season one.

My Pork & Apple Pie

 Demelza's Pie

My friend in Cornwall, Elaine Pluckrose, told me about a recipe from the BBC and it has a very good video!  I will provide the link here with the recipe too.

I did make something more successful and that was an Apple Chutney.  The original recipe, Truro Pork Pie, called for chutney or pickled walnuts as an accompaniment.   I had a recipe for chutney that I wanted to try.  I think it is good and can accompany several meats.

Apple Chutney

1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
5 c. finely chopped apples
1 c. golden raisins
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp garlic (optional, I didn't use)

Bring vinegar and sugars to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and add remaining ingredients.  Simmer until mixture thickens about 30 minutes.

Makes about 4 1/2 cups. Cover and refrigerate. Should last at least a couple weeks in refrigerator with all the vinegar and sugar!

Near Christmas 1812 (The Miller's Dance) Demelza delivers a son named Henry (sometimes called Harry). Ross sends a letter to Clowance...........  ".......... So I can tell you I live hopefully - not optimatically, for that would be foreign for me too - but hopefully, that our  Christmas will be a happy one after all.  Come home soon. We do not need you but we want you. Tear yourself away from Verity and rejoin us.  As ever your loving Father."


The Twisted Sword takes place in 1815 and is one of the most exciting and also devastating of all the books. I cry every time I get to the part where Ross finds Jeremy on the battlefield......... So naturally Christmas that year would be half-hearted because Jeremy won't be there.

It's Christmas Eve, a mild grey day. "The library is decorated with holly and ivy and ferns and a few early primroses, as was the parlour." They also decorated Sawle Church. Cuby, Jeremy's widow was with them because her baby was due soon and she promised to come to Nampara for her lying-in.

It wasn't too cold for the carolers to come. They sang the Dilly Song, Noel and Joseph Was An Old Man.

Again, mince tarts and ginger wine are mentioned.

On  Christmas Day they attend church and the Rev Odgers (who must be ancient by now!) read from Psalms...... "Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help." And then Psalm 22, Verse 20 (same as opening page of the book) "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog," Demelza put her hand quietly into Ross's. His hand closed on hers.

After church they went to Killewarren to spend Christmas with the Dwight and Caroline Enys and their two girls, Sophie and Meliora.

"They had bought Caroline a piece of fine French lace, Dwight a neckerchief, and silk pinafores for the girls; the Enyses had a pair of wine goblets for Demelza, riding gloves for Ross, a finely crocheted child's bonnet for Cuby, a book of songs for Bella, a toy horse for Harry that however much it would always swing upright again."

Because of the children they dined early, and laughed a good deal and ate consumedly and drank good wine and generally made merry, though there was ice underneath, ice that clung around the heart. Shut out thoughts of other Christmases, other shadows on the wall.........Life was to be lived - it had to go on. Chiefly for the sake of the young, but even for themselves, it must go on.... Do not think of Jeremy lying in the cold Flanders clay."

At 6:30 Henry was fretful so they left for home.... As they go home Ross, ever the introspective man he is(!) thinks about how little has changed (the topography) from the time he rode this way in the  Autumn of 1783- thirty-two years ago - returning from the American War to find his father dead, Nampara in ruin with Jud and Prudie drunk in his father's old box bed.

And  Cuby goes into labor delivers a girl the next morning named Noelle.  Little Henry saw her and said "smaller'n me" with a strong Cornish accent!

In Bella, 1818-1820, Christmas is glossed over but as we near the end of the book we learn that there is to be a  Christmas party at Nampara.  Demelza said, "I am planning this Christmas party. It would give us all such pleasure - in return. Ross and I and Bella are leaving for home next Thursday. Christopher will  come down with Edward and Clowance on Saturday. Dwight and Caroline will certainly join in with their children. Then my daughter-in-law Cuby - who I think you have never met - with my granddaughter, will certainly be there...." (Demelza says this to Mrs. Pelham, whom Bella lived with in London).

The year is 1820. Unfortunately we do not get to experience this  Christmas in the book. Ross, Demelza and Bella are coming back to Cornwall after her successful appearance in Romeo and Juliet, so the Christmas party is only discussed.

However, before Winston Graham died, he wrote a short story called Christmas at Nampara, 1820 and it lies in the Royal Cornwall Museum where his papers are stored. There are three short stories that would be a great small volume to print. So let's hope it happens!

The three short stories:

*Meeting Demelza is out-of-print... listen to it being read on Youtube:

*Jud The Horse Dealer was published in a magazine and is hilarious!

*Christmas at Nampara, 1820, never published. The book ending to Bella we didn't get... ends nicely, ties up remaining questions.

 Merry Christmas from me and the Nampara Poldarks! I am beyond sad that it seems season 5 will be the last series.  Perhaps after a break the cast will come back and finish the series? We can hope. We will always have the books to enjoy over and over again.

Thanks for reading!  On Christmas, give a toast to Ross & Demelza with your favorite tipple,  be it Ross's Brandy or Demelza's Port and thank them for all the entertainment they have given us these last years. For me, I like to think they are still at Nampara, sitting by the fireplace sipping their favorite beverages.

Bonny Wise

PS. If you liked this, please take the time to leave a comment... I really like that :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Real People and Places in the Novels of Cornwall

I found the Novels of Cornwall only after seeing season one of the current Poldark series and then I couldn't believe I had never heard of the books!  Now I cannot imagine not knowing about them.

As I began to read the books,  I wondered about the people and places.  Winston Graham did an extraordinary job of interweaving the real places and people into the Poldark novels and the lives of Ross and Demelza and their friends and children.

You may remember I did an entire blog about the Poldark Trail in London.  If you have not read that, it was posted in  August, 2016.

While in Falmouth in June, 2016 I found a great book called The Great Cornish Families, a History of the People and Their Houses.  So much of what I will relate here will be from that book.

So let's begin with The Bassets of Tehidy.  The first one came to Cornwall in the Conqueror's time and the last one sold the family house, Tehidy, in 1916.  What a grand home it was!
Tehiddy House, Cornwall. The Seat of Francis Basset, Baron De Dunstanville" (1757-1835). 1832 engraving by John Thomas after T. Allom
This would have been what it looked like when  Ross and Demelza visited it I am sure.  The extra "d" makes sense as to how it is pronounced.  I thought it was -  Te hi De but its Te Hid e.  Here's a bit from the book about Francis Basset: made the Grand Tour as befits the heir of an affluent family.  He continued his father's work at Portreath, and wrote a whole parcel of political treatises ranging from relations with France to the state of Cornish agriculture.  Francis, like most other landed gentlemen of the day, was also an enthusiastic borough-monger.  For some years he battled with Lord Falmouth over the right to Tregony and Truro, eventually agreeing that Falmouth should have Truro, and Basset, Tregony. He fought a duel with Sir Christopher Hawkins, another borough-monger over Parliamentary controls.   They fired two shots each missed, and retired satisfied.... In 1796 Pitt made him Lord de Dunstanville.  The new lord, enjoyed a "princely income" from his mines, and did much work for the welfare of miners.  He was a liberal patron of literature and painting, an early patron of John Opie, the great Cornish painter (remember in the series George had Francis' painting taken down at Trenwith saying to Elizabeth he would have their portrait painted by Opie) , and a pall-bearer at his funeral in 1807.

In 1918 the house became a hospital for tuberculosis sufferers. On 23 February 1919 the house was destroyed by fire but by January 1922 had been completely rebuilt.

My picture I took of Lord de Dunstanville at St. Michael's Mount
No wonder Demelza was nervous at the thought of hosting the Basset's at Nampara! Afterwards they laughed about the funny stuff that happened like a server's thumb in the soup and then licked it!  And a mince tart was dropped and rolled under Dwight's chair..  Ross was very complimentary of the food. "It was all splendid.  A lavish meal would have been pretentious.  They could  not find better food in the county nor better cooked, and that was what mattered. " The menu included: Pease Soup, Boiled Tongue, Roasted Turkey Hen with chopped bacon, (her special) Raspberry Jam Puffs, syllabub and mince pies. Claret was bought from Mr. Trencrom, and they also had Geneva, brandy and Demelza's favorite: Port.

Boscawens, The Lords Falmouth

The name Hugh Boscawen dates back to at least 1578 and continues up to the Poldark novels in the late 1700s.  The Boscawens played no part in mining  operations; they simply leased rights on their land to the adventurers. Their home is Tregothnan. Probably the most famous was Edward Boscawen, "Old Dreadnought" or "Captain Ned." He was known as Pitt's great admiral.  Hugh's third son, George Evelyn (1758-1808) would be the one Ross Poldark knew.  As a soldier he was present at Lexington in the American War of Independence. Two years later he was pacifying a mob of angry miners in Truro.

Tregothnan- Home to the Boscawen family, Tregothnan is a living and working private Cornish estate, with a rich history dating back to 1334. The name ‘Tregothnan’ literally means ‘The House at the Head of the Valley’ and is still a private family home today. Today Tregothnan is a botanic garden and has the only tea plantation in the UK!

The Goldophins or Godolphins as George and Ossie Whitworth  are always going on about!

Again the name goes back to the 1500. The spelling was changed to make it easier to spell and probably pronounce.  The family made their fortune from metal which raised them to eminence from Tudor to Georgian times. Early members of the family were soldiers and have a good deal to do with the fort on St Mary's in the Scillies having built a castle above Hugh Town in the late 1500s.

Star Castle

Living near horse country (Bluegrass commonwealth of Kentucky) I associate the name with horses.  The second Earl of Godolphin, Francis (1678-1766) was devoted to horses and brought the famed Arab stallions to England from whom race horses descend.

The Goldophin House is near Helston, but the earldom became extinct in 1766 and the house associated with them was nearly demolished in 1850 according to my book. But look what is left! Must have been huge.

Now a National Trust property, open to the public and rentals.  Near Helston.

I started this blog ages and ages ago and with series 4 just starting I noticed people were asking questions about the names and places. Perhaps there will be a second half of this later.

Bonny Wise, I am
Inspired by Poldark

PS I have just recently returned from a Group Tour I organized to Cornwall to go see where Poldark is filmed!

We were celebrities! TV, newspaper & magazines interviewed us...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ross & Jeremy Poldark at Waterloo

If you have not read  The Loving Cup or The Twisted Sword, then you might want to delay reading this blog.  The Twisted Sword is a magnificent book but also heartbreaking.  Winston Graham said at the time it was published, 1990, that it was to be the last Poldark novel.  As we know, he went back one more time with Bella which was published in 2002, the year before he died.

The year is 1813, Demelza has discovered her son Jeremy has masterminded a terrible deed (robbing of a stage coach) because the girl he loves (Cuby Trevanion) cannot marry him because he is not wealthy enough.  So in a fit of despair he robs a stagecoach (with others)  but then doesn't spend the money...... To me, this nearly was history repeating itself ie his father's obsession with Elizabeth.

Eventually Jeremy decides to join the military at age 22 (he thus uses part of the ill-gotten booty to buy his commission) to get away from Cuby Trevanion and Cornwall. Cuby was supposed to marry Valentine Warleggan, not because she loved him, but because her brother and Valentine's father, George,  "arranged" the marriage.  Valentine being Valentine had other plans and married someone else.

When Jeremy comes home on leave he discovers his love is available and his father offers the antiquated advice of "why don't you go take her?"  Jeremy laughs at his father and Demelza thinks you cannot do that but then remembers Ross did just that once.......

Instead of "taking" her he convinces her to run away with him. It is all rather fun as he climbs a trellis to get to her room and waits for her.  Naturally she was surprised and in a change of heart, agrees to go with him. They make their way to London and are married.

St. Clement in the Strand, where Cuby and Jeremy were married

 In a letter dated January 19, 1815, Ensign Jeremy Poldark wrote to "My dearest Father & Mother, The briefest note and in haste - belated but as promised - to give you my news. It is say that Cuby agreed to come with me, and we were married by special license at the church of St. Clement in the Strand last  Tuesday, the seventeenth.  I should by rights have obtained the permission of my commanding officer, but it would have meant delaying until we reached Brussels, and I felt that could not be............. I am just the happiest of men!" (lots more in The Loving  Cup)

Jeremy probably had assistance from his cousin Geoffrey Charles Poldark with his enlistment and regiment selection.  He tells Ben Carter that his father gave him his old sword but he still spent L55 on a spyglass and a compass and still had to purchase his uniform, bedding and a horse.

 Jeremy tells Ben he wishes he was more like his father who "is a natural soldier and a brave man."  Jeremy joined the 52nd Regiment, he told his mother: ... "The Fifty-second, though I did not know it when I joined them, was one of the elite regiments trained as part of the Light Brigade by Sir John Moore.: (The Loving Cup)

Jeremy impressed Cuby with his "regimentals"... "tight scarlet jacket with dull gilt epaulettes, collar and cuffs, brass buttons down both fronts of the jacket, a diagonal best with '52 on it, and tight navy trousers fastening with a belt under the black shoes."

Throughout the Napoleonic wars, the 52nd foot wore red uniforms with buff facings. The officers had silver lace, while the other ranks' lace was worn in pairs, red with orange stripes (according to 1802 regulations); in 1812 a commentator described the lace as red with two blue stripes. Light infantry officers wore short jackets, rather than the tailed coats of the other line regiments, with white piping, silver buttons, and silver and scarlet shoulder wings. The uniform was completed with a crimson sash; to match the buff facings and turn-backs, the officers generally wore buff breeches, or grey overalls. Field officers of the 52nd wore silver epaulettes, with regimental badge, overtop the light infantry wings, to designate rank. An 1810 order stipulated these be badged with a star (for majors), a crown (lieutenant colonels) or star and crown (colonels).  Light infantry also commonly wore a narrow waist belt instead of the customary shoulder belt,  The 52nd wore the stovepipe shako throughout the Napoleonic period; it was adorned with the brass bugle badge and green plumes of the light infantry.  In the 52nd, officers' plumes were made from horsehair. Officers generally carried a stirrup-hilted sabre.

Officers were responsible for providing (and paying for) their own uniforms; consequently, variable style and decoration was present, according to the officer's private means. Equipment could consume a significant portion of an officer's pay; during the Napoleonic era, the 52nd's plain regimental sabre, for example, cost 4 guineas, , approximately 16 days' pay for an ensign.  (Thank you Wikipedia!)

In a nutshell here's the scenario: while Jeremy and Cuby are in Belgium, Ross has been sent to Paris as an observer and takes Demelza, Bella & Henry (Mrs. Kemp too to watch the children).  Ross goes to the countryside while the "little father" aka Napoleon escapes Elba and lands in France and meets practically no resistance and arrives back in Paris.  But Ross is slowed down by yet another lame horse which leaves Demelza nervous about what to do.  She and the children leave Paris at the last possible moment in the last carriage with their friend Jodie, Mme La Blache, who also has the crown jewels in a lock box!  This is great stuff!

Ross escapes his internment and makes his way back to Paris as Napoleon arrives to cheers at the The Palace.   He then goes to their apartment to find that Demelza and the children are gone. Demelza has left a message for him at the Embassy.  There's confusion about when Demelza left and with whom so he returns to their apartment.  Unfortunately he succumbs to exhaustion and awakes to knocks on the door in the morning and is arrested and taken to a cell somewhere in Paris and then eventually to Verdun where he escapes!

 Meanwhile Demelza and her entourage were making their way to Calais to return to London but plans had to change because of the unrest due to Napoleon and they make their way to Belgium and spend a week with Jeremy and Cuby.

Jeremy and Cuby are more or less having a lovely honeymoon interspersed with him having actual military duties.  On the night of the famous Duchess of Richmond Ball, some say the most famous ball in history ( they decide to have an intimate dinner together instead of attend the ball and go back to their apartment.  Napoleon is closing in, Jeremy I think feels he will be sent away soon.  This part gets rather emotional as fear grips Cuby as she says "Come back boy" and off he goes the next morning.

I will never forget while looking at purchasing the Poldark books, I discovered quite early on that Jeremy dies.  I didn't know of course how it would affect me after reading the books.  Jeremy and Demelza had some wonderful conversations and a loving relationship. Here is one of my favorites:

"You married father for love. Isn't that so? Oh yes. Then when did the first passion wear off and you begin to observe his faults?" Demelza laughed. We're talking close home now Jeremy, but since you ask me. I suppose twould be true to say that it never has worn off - or not yet anyway." That, from close observation of the objects under view, is what I thought." "So when did you begin to observe his faults? Well, he hasn't any really bad ones! And those he has - they are part of him and therefore mean nothing to me."  The Loving Cup

Jeremy goes with his regiment to Brain le Compte then Nivelles where there's a battle nearby. Ross eventually meets Wellington and learns Jeremy has been promoted to Captain.  He also knows Jeremy will participate in the upcoming battle and is determined to find him at Chateau de Hougoumont after he is sent on a mission to deliver a message to Prince Frederick of the Netherlands.

I purchased two books about Waterloo but had little time to do other than peruse them, but if you are interested to learn more: WATERLOO, the History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell and THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO, by Jeremy Black. 

 The 200th reenactment was held in 2015 and there's lots of pictures and video of the event:

The great battles happen June 16 & 18. Ross arrives where Jeremy's regiment led a charge to find Jeremy unconscious.  It is all so sad and heart wrenching, I cannot even relay it. The last time I read The Twisted Sword was on a trip to London in August, 2016 and finished the book on the plane going home and cried for dear Jeremy!  Ross was crying too.  One can only imagine a child of yours dying in your arms....

The last thing Jeremy asked what to "Look after Cuby...." "of course.  I promise."  "That," said Jeremy, "is the hardest part of all." And then he died.

Ross then had to write a letter dated June 22, 1815, dated Brussels,  to Demelza: "I have to tell you that Jeremy is dead.  I cannot bring myself to write the words, but there is no way I know of breaking this to you gently. He fell nobly and bravely in the great battle just fought in the area south of the village of Waterloo, about twelve miles from this city ........" He then goes on to tell her how he escaped and what he went through.  What he never told her is that he nearly died too...his father's gold pocket watch saved his life.

The real people are Wellington, Marshal Ney, Blucher mentioned in the books.

 Wellington at Waterloo


Marshal Ney

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of  Wellington

Plan of the Battle of Waterloo

As always, I try to incorporate food into my blog. This one is no exception!  I think you will enjoy Summer Pea Soup, Chicken Marengo, Beef Wellington and Martha Washington's Great Cake which is essentially A Rich Cake from Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, 1776.

Summer Pea Soup

1 small onion, diced
4 oz. butter
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 romaine heart, end chopped off, the rest chopped
2 - 13 oz packages of sweet garden peas, frozen
3-4 mint leaves, chopped
6 c. chicken stock
cream to taste*
Salt & Pepper (white) to taste

Cauliflower florets steamed for garnish

Add the onion, butter and celery in a stock pot and saute, then add the peas, mint, romaine and chicken stock.  Simmer until all the vegetables are tender and then puree either in a food processor or use a wand blender.  Make a beurre manie (equal parts butter and flour), I used 2T of butter and 2T of flour and add to the pureed soup. Meanwhile steam the cauliflower florets (4/5 for each bowl of soup)

Recipe calls for cream, but neither my husband or I thought it needed it.  If the soup is too green for your liking, add 1/2 c. cream (cream always makes anything taste better!)

This recipe from Traditional West Country Cookery by Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Summer Pea Soup

Chicken Marengo

1 c. flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pinch of oregano & basil (dried) I only had oregano
4 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
4 T. onion, diced
1 c. sliced mushrooms
4 T. sliced green olives (without the pimento stuffing)
1/2 c. red pepper sliced thinly
1 c. chicken stock
2 T. Brandy
1/4 c. chopped green onion tops
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*

Place the flour, salt & pepper and herbs in a flat bottom bowl, this will be used for dredging the chicken.  Pound the chicken breasts to 1/2" thickness.  Dip in flour mixture and set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy skillet, add olive oil and swirl to combine.  When hot, add chicken breasts.  Cook until done on one side.  Turn and brown the other.. Remove from skillet and put in an oven proof pan and place in a warm oven.  Put the brandy in the hot skillet to delaze, then add onions, mushrooms, red peppers and green olives.  Saute until the onions and mushrooms are tender (can add a little more olive oil if needed) then add the chicken stock and simmer until slightly reduced.

When serving, place the mushroom, green olive sauce on top of the breast.  Sprinkle with the green onion tops (I do not think this was  necessary).

* second time I made this recipe I purchased the thinly sliced chicken breasts available at the grocery.  Although it worked just fine (just must be careful not to over cook them), I prefer the breasts pounded  best, the pre-sliced were a little too thin.

Chicken Marengo

Named for the battle of Marengo fought  June, 1800.  French forces won against Austrians in Italy.  This dish presumably was named after this battle but I have my doubts Napoleon ever ate it!  Napoleon also named his horse Marengo.  The skeleton is on display at a museum in London and the front hoofs were saved and encased in silver! The horse lived until 1831.

This is a delicious chicken dish even if Napoleon never ate it. There are several versions of the recipe and stories associated with it. You can Google it.  I've had this version for a long time and know it to be good. But supposedly Napoleon's chef used what he could find. Good enough.

Beef Wellington

Again, probably has  nothing to do with Wellington but considered a classic for decades.  Beef tenderloin coated with pate and sauteed mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry and baked. There are loads of recipes, just Google one if interested in making it.

Dessert- this recipe, Martha Washington's Great Cake is virtually the same recipe as Hannah Glass's, A Rich Cake from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, first published in America in 1776. Mrs. Glass's recipe calls for Sack and Brandy whereas Mrs. Washington's uses Madeira (George's favorite tipple I believe) and brandy. This recipe is courtesy of Mt. Vernon, George Washington's beautiful home in Virginia.

Martha Washington's Great Cake

1 1/2 c. currants (the box you buy is 2 c. I used it all!)
1/3 c. chopped candied orange peel*
1/3 c. chopped candied lemon peel*
1/3 c. chopped candied citron*
3/4 c. Madeira, divided
1/4 c. French brandy
3 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground mace
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs, separated

Combine currants, peels, and citron in a large bowl. Add 1/2 c Madeira and stir to combine, cover and and set aside for at least 3 hours. Stir the remainder of the Madeira together with the brandy, cover and set aside.

When ready to bake the cake, preheat oven to 325.  Grease and flour a 10" tube pan.  I have a lovely antique one that I use.

Drain the fruits in a large strainer set over a bowl, extract as much as the Madeira as possible.  Add the strained Madeira to the set-aside Madeira and brandy.

Combine 1/4 of the flour with the fruit, and mix well. Add the almonds, set aside.  Sift the remaining flour with the nutmeg and mace. (I didn't have mace! so I used allspice instead...)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the sugar, 1/2 c at a time, beating for several minutes after each addition.  Whisk the egg yolks until they are light and smooth, and add them to the butter and sugar.  Continue to beat for several minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy (imagine doing this by hand!)

Alternately, add the spiced flour, 1/2 c. at a time, and the Madeira and brandy, beating until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks.  By hand gently fold them into the batter, combining lightly until well blended. By hand, fold in the fruit in thirds, mixing until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  If serving the cake plain (who wants plain I say?!) turn it out of the pan to cool completely. If finishing it with icing turn the warm cake out of the pan onto a baking sheet, and proceed with the icing.

To ice the cake, spread Sugar Icing (basically meringue) generously onto the surface, piling it high and swirling it around the top and sides.  Set in the turned-off warm oven, and let it sit for at least 3 hours, or until the cake is cool and the icing has hardened.  The icing will crumble when the cake is sliced.

*bought from Amazon as it wasn't available at our grocery stores.  Keeps a long time in the refrigerator.

Sugar Icing

3 large egg whites at room temperature
1 1/c. sugar
2 T rose water or orange water (I used vanilla extract)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites on low speed, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar (this is very important and I didn't do it! LOL  So my meringue isn't fluffy but it was 10 p.m. and I was tired...........) After about 3 minutes, or when they just begin to form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and continue adding the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites form soft peaks.

Add the rose water or vanilla, and continue beating to form stiff peaks.  Use immediately to ice the cake.

Okay, at first I thought this cake is just okay......I thought it too dense, not enough flavor for all the goodies in it. Well, it improves with age!  I left it out ((fully intending to throw it away! haha) but 4/5 days later it is quite good with a cup of hot tea.  I think the icing seals the cake so it has not gotten dry at all.  Learn from my mistakes I mention, but the cake still turned out well.

Martha Washington's Great Cake

I am sad to admit for a long time I don't think I knew Waterloo as anything other than that pop song by Abba!

What did Waterloo mean? Well, for the British it meant 15,000 dead or wounded, Blucher lost 7,000 and Napoleon lost 24-26,000 dead or wounded. This was a decisive battle that the allies won.  Apparently Victor Hugo has muddied the waters with his Les Miserables and the French have a different takeaway!

Paris surrendered on July 4, 1815.  Napoleon was sent off to Saint Helena.  I didn't realize a lot of people wanted to execute him. Wellington refused, but Marshal Ney was executed by a French firing squad.

In 1821 when Wellington heard that Napoleon had died, he said, "Now I think I may say I am the most successful General alive!"

Wellington refused to give interviews about the battle and by the 1830's, a British army officer named William Siborne conceived an idea to build a massive model of the battle.  Lord Fitzroy Somerset (recognize that name!) wrote to Siborne and offered suggestions on the model.

The model was built and can be viewed today in the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Here's the link if you want to check it out, definitely looks interesting:   Type in Waterloo in the search box and there are pages and pages of paintings and real artifacts like Wellington's shaving mirror, dispatch case, camp cooking kettles, etc.

That is all for this time.  Thanks for reading! Please leave comments, I appreciate them.

Bonny Wise, I am
Inspired by Poldark

Friday, November 18, 2016

Christmastide in the Poldark Novels

Christmas is often mentioned in the Poldark novels.  It is December, 1787 and Demelza's first Christmas as Ross's wife and they are at Trenwith.  Demelza was not keen to go but Ross insisted and Demelza was the hit of the party by singing one of her songs that Ross would request frequently throughout their married lives.  In the television series we see it is when Ross falls in love with his wife.  The song of course is I do pluck a fair rose for my love....

Dinner began at five and went on until seven forty. It was a meal worthy of the age, the  house, and the season. Pea soup to begin, followed by a roast swan with sweet sauce, giblets, mutton steaks, a partridge pie, and four snipe. The second course was a plum pudding with brandy sauce, tarts, mince pies, custards, and cakes, all washed down with port wine and claret and Madeira and home-brewed ale.

Winter Pea Soup

1  8 oz package of dried split peas 
(soaked overnight in cold water, then drain)

Add to pot: 8 c. water or ham stock
1 onion diced
3 ribs celery, diced
Simmer until the peas fall apart & soft
Add 1 c. diced ham
salt & pepper to taste
To thicken: make a beurre manie - equal parts flour & butter (kneaded) 
such as 1/4 c. flour & 1/2 stick butter 
Stir in the beurre manie as much as needed to get the consistency needed

This can be left slightly chunky (as long as the peas are thoroughly cooked) or pureed. Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

In Demelza we learn that the Sawle Church choir had been there singing carols.  One of the songs they sang, "Remember, O Thou Man." This carol dates to the early 1600s and is quite lovely.  I found someone on Youtube singing:

But even her enjoyment of the two carols was a little spoiled by anxiety as to how she had best behave when they knocked on the door. She sent Jane Gimlett for the cakes she had made that afternoon and took down a couple of bottles of canary wine from Ross's cupboard..... Demelza nervously gave them all a drink and took one herself.....She pressed cakes on them and refilled their glasses, and when they rose to go, she gave them a handful of silver - about nine shillings in all - and they crowded out into the misty moonlit night, flushed and merry and opulent.  There they gathered around the lantern and gave her one more carol for luck before filing off up the valley toward Grambler.

Mini-gingerbread cakes and the mini-bundt type pan I baked them in. Gingerbread is popular at  Christmas and in England and Cornwall, dried fruits were added to many desserts. These cakes have raisins and chopped candied orange peel. She (Demelza) pressed cakes on them... a small cake like this is hand sized and easily carried away and probably eaten before arriving home.

Gingerbread Cake

4 c. flour
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. allspice
(mix together in medium size bowl)

In a sauce pan, over low heat until butter melts:
8 oz (2 sticks) butter
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. brown sugar

1 cup milk with 1 egg beaten in, and 2 tsp. soda

1 c. raisins soaked in 1/4 c. brandy
1/2 c. chopped candied orange peel

Add hot liquid to flour. Mix well, then add milk with egg, beat well, stir in raisins & brandy & candied peel.  Bake in individual bundt pans or 10 x 12 pan.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes and then at 300 for approximately 30 minutes.

In Jeremy, the year is 1790, and Ross and Demelza are back at Trenwith.  This time though they both feel reluctant to go, because of Julia's death and how Francis betrayed Ross.  Demelza is surprised to see Elizabeth dressed in a frock of startling crimson velvet with cascades of fine lace. "So she's still interested in Ross, thought Demelza with a sharp twinge, and any gratefulness to me won't make the least difference.  I might have known. Nevertheless she went forward with a smile on her face and was graciously welcomed.

It wasn't the sort of meal they'd had before, either, though it was the best put on for two years.  They had ham and fowls and a leg of mutton, boiled, with caper sauce, and afterwards batter pudding and currant jelly and damson tarts, and black caps in custard, and blancmange.

Blancmange - means white dish. A lovely sweet almond cream dessert


5 oz (1/2 cup rounded) almond paste or filling (the filling still has bits of the brown nut covering)*
2 c. heavy cream
Almond extract
1/2 c. cold water
2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 c. boiling water
4 oz or 1/2 c. sugar

Raspberry Cream

Put the almost paste in a bowl and mix into the cream with a whisk, making sure it is well blended and creamy.  Add several drops of almond extract to taste.  Stir the gelatin into the cold water and let it soften for several minutes, then whisk in the boiling water.  Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Slowly stir the gelatin into the almond cream.  Lightly oil individual or one large mold (I used a canola oil spray).  Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least four hours. To unmold, place the bottom in warm water for a minute or two (not hot!) and loosen the top edges of the blancmange and it should come right out.

To serve with the Raspberry Cream Sauce.  Purchase a good quality raspberry preserve.  Stir in 1/2 cup to 2 cups cream and mix thoroughly (you can strain seeds if you wish) and pour around the base of the blancmange. Do not omit this sauce as it is amazingly good!  Thanks to the Dining at Monticello cookbook for this recipe).

* I looked for the almond paste in a tube but found an almond paste filling.. the difference is that the paste in the tube is completely creamy colored but the paste filling has bits of the brown coating on the I was pouring the blancmange into the molds, I could see that there were lots of the brown bits so I strained most of them out... but when I unmolded I was pleasantly surprised to see the bits had fallen to the bottom and accentuated the design of the mold!

My French is bad, here is a help with the proper pronunciation: bluh-MAHNZH

Christmas 1792 find Ross and Demelza with Verity and her husband Andrew in Falmouth.  Fifteen miles away his benefactor was eating an even quieter meal of roast beef and plum pudding in company of her uncle...(Killewarren).  Elizabeth was to be there too with Geoffrey  Charles but begged off at the last minute and spent Christmas with George at Cardew.

Wine Jelly is a popular dessert from the 18th century and was considered a real treat because the process was very laborious.  Think about having to boil calves hooves to make your gelatine?  Luckily we can just buy plain gelatine at the grocery store. The original recipe I used came from the Monticello cookbook and it turned out somewhat okay, but I tweeked it, make it easier and even tastier.  Basically, this is the 18th century version of jello shots!

Port Wine Jelly

3 medium size lemons
1 tsp. cinnamon (1/4 tsp nutmeg optional)
2 cups water
1 cup Port
1 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
2 envelopes granulated gelatin (mixed into the 1 cup cold water)

Using a vegetable peeler, take only the yellow rind off the lemons and place in a sauce pot. Next squeeze the juice while straining the seeds into same pot.  Add the cinnamon (1/4 nutmeg too if you wish) and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the Port and sugar, still until dissolved, strain out the lemon peel and bring the liquid to simmer stage making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Take from heat and add the gelatin which has been added to the cold water.  Pour into small stemmed glasses.  Place in refrigerator about 4 hours to set.

Wine Jelly made with Port - beautiful and tasty!

 Christmas 1793 they were at Nampara (Warleggan). Ross had gone to see Caroline in London to pay her the interest on the loan and to persuade her to see Dwight... Demelza gave a squeak (at the sight of Ross) as she turned. "Why, Ross, I didn't know. I was up at Prudie's.  How did you come?"  He smiled as he kissed her - it was just a formal salute between them. "On four legs and then two. Should I have brought the carol singers?"......... "Have you three extra bedrooms you could get ready for tonight?"  "Three?.....Why, who is coming? What have you arranged?"  "I have brought Caroline back with me Caroline and her maid."  He tells her that Caroline and Dwight have made up.  "Oh, Ross, I'm very glad! More than glad." He tells her how he contrived it.  "What can I give them for supper?"  "Don't worry, I bought a goose in Truro and some ribs of beef and a fillet of veal."

Houses like Trenwith may have had something like this - 18th C Plate warmer.. How inventive? Serving food hot or even warm was probably a huge problem and starting with a warm plate would help immensely.

Perhaps what the common folk did - fry sprats (small fish) in a fireplace.

Now that season two has ended in the UK and soon in the US, I will say I wish there had been more of the ending of Warleggan which ended with Christmas.  For those who have not read the book, I am going to give it to you now (slightly edited):

"Demelza, I wanted to talk to you about her." "No, that I would rather not hear." I think you must. Before I went away I thought not. But there's no other way. "Ross, I've forgotten it. All that time. It will do harm to bring it back now. I would much better prefer that nothing should be said of it." I know but - in fact it can't be forgotten, can it? It is only -overlooked, set aside. Ross said, "I want to tell you Elizabeth means nothing to me anymore." Don't say that, Ross. I shouldn't want for you to say more than you feel-" "But I do feel it-" Yes, at present. But then again sometime, perhaps in a month, perhaps next year.." He said: "Come here, Demelza. Sit down, will you? Listen to what I have to say." He said: "You're so desperately anxious to be fair, not to be self-deceiving, to make the best of what you have... But what you have is all... Will you try to believe that? "Have I call to believe that?" Yes, I wish I could explain about Elizabeth. But in a way I think you must understand. I loved Elizabeth before I met you. It's been a -a constant attachment throughout my life. D'you know how it is when a person has wanted something always and never had it? It's true value to him may be anything or nothing; that doesn't count; what does count is its apparent value, which is always great. What I felt for you has always been assessable, comparable, something human and part of an ordinary life. The other, my feeling for Elizabeth, was not. So what I did-what happened in May, if it could only have happened in a vacuum, without hurt to anyone, I should not have regretted at all. "No?" said Demelza. "No. Because from it I came to recognize things which no doubt I should have had common sense and insight enough to have known without the experience but did not. One is that if you bring an idealized relationship down to the level of an ordinary one, it isn't always the ordinary one that suffers For a time, after that night, things were upside down-for a time nothing came clear. When it did, when it began to, the one sure feeling that stood out was that my true and real love was not for her but for you".
She was very still, eyelids pale, brows straight with a hint of concentration at their inner ends.  He received no hint that she was wrestling with demons, her mind and emotions split: on the one hand struggles against the too easy capitulation ready, so ready, within herself; on the other looking at the love that he now offered with both hands, and finding it, perversely, not enough- not of itself enough as a single isolated factor….
“May I ask a question?” “Of course.”  “How did you come to feel that, Ross? What persuaded you of it?  I mean, the experience itself can hardly have been unpleasant.”  “What experience?” “Of making love to Elizabeth.”  “no… far from it.” He hesitated, a little put out. “But I wasn’t seeking just pleasure.  I was- I suppose in fundamentals I was seeking the equal of what I’d found in you, and it was not there.  For me it was not there.”
“Perhaps it would have come in time.  Perhaps you did not persevere, Ross.”  He glanced at her dryly. “would you have had me do so?”  “Well, I do not know the details of your adventure, but it seems to me you are hardly quite fair on Elizabeth.  At least… I do not very much like her, but she is not a light woman.  You came upon her, I suppose, in surprise.  I should not be astonished if at first she tried to be faithful to her new promise.   I do not know how long you stayed with her or how much you made love to her, but I should think there could be times when she might show to better advantage.”
“Are you defending Elizabeth now”  “Well, yes… or no, I think I am defending women, Truly, Ross, are not all women treated by all men like something inferior, like chattels you take up and put down at will?  I – I’m very happy tonight that you prefer me and I hope you always will.  But I think it is unfair to any woman to judge her, to condemn her, upon a chance encounter, like.  I should not wish to be so judged.  Though indeed I think I have been so judged, quite recently.”
“What do you mean?”  She hesitated, uncertain now of the chasm that gaped before her, then suddenly certain that – though all unplanned – this was the testing jump.
“If we have to talk of this, then there’s something I must tell you.   I have often thought I should, but it did not seem important if you did not care for me any more.  But now if it is true what you say, if you really  mean this…”  “Of course I do.”…..
“And there’s one other thing I want you to know,” he added.  “that is how deeply sorry I am that I ever hurt you in the first place – in May, I mean.  You were so undeserving of any harm.  All these months… I know how you will have felt.  I want you to know that. If you had gone off with McNeil, I should have had only myself to blame.”
She dropped the reins and put up her hands and covered her face with them in a sudden gesture of distress.  She wanted to say something but could not think of nothing at all.

After a minute or two he said: “Does it upset you now to be told that I love you? D’you still prefer McNeil?  Is he still in the district? I’ll go and call on him tomorrow.”  “No Ross, he is gone; and I care nothing, nothing.”
“Then why are you leaving.  Are you not willing to overlook what I said?”  “I can’t” “Why not?”
“Because it is the truth!  That is what I had never realized till you had spoken it.  Oh, I don’t know why.  A sort of blindness.  ‘Tis quite unbearable to think of… Impossible to live with! I don’t know what I shall do.”  He came out and stood beside her.  He looped the reins over a peg. 
“Should we not go inside and talk it over?”  “No! I can’t”  “You cannot forgive me, then.” “I cannot forgive myself.”  “That was a favorite Poldark complaint at one time, but I judged you too wise to catch it.  Look, supposed we go as far as the kitchen.  I don’t see that need compromise either of us too deeply.”
He took the lantern and waited for her.  She hesitated.  He said, “you may leave in five minutes of you wish.”  She followed him into the kitchen.
…. “What is that?”  “Oh… the beer!  I casked it this morning.” …  . “I should have waited till you came home” said Demelza.  They cleared the mess…
He said: “My dear, I bought you something in London.  I had intended giving it to you tomorrow; but in case there is no tomorrow for us, it would be best for you to have it at once.”
She did not turn while he fumbled in his pocket, but then he came up beside her at the window and put a box in her hand. She was surprised to see that his fingers were not as sure of themselves as usual.  She opened the box and saw a gold filigree brooch with a ruby in the centre….. “I bought it in Chick Lane, near Smithfield Bars.  …. She heard him fumbling again, and after a minute he put some tissue paper in her hand. She unwrapped a necklace of garnets.
“Oh, Ross, you’ll break my heart.”  “No, I shall not; not this way surely.  If there-“
“Yes, you will.  You do not know what is going on inside me.”  “Can’t we agree to forget what has passed?  I assure you I should be well pleased to do so.  Is not our fermentation over too?”
“Truly, it isn’t that I –   “I have nothing at all for you.”…. “I don’t think I want a mirror just yet.  Until I can see myself in some less – less disagreeable light.”  “No such ill light exists.  I assure you.”
“Ross, you know that I didn’t need or expect a present like this –   “I know.  But if you suppose or suspect that in buying these things I was hoping to buy myself back into your favour, then you’re right.  I admit it.  It is true, my dear, my very dear, my very dear Demelza.  My fine, my loyal, my very sweet Demelza.”
“Oh no! she said, the tears over brimming her eyes again.  “You cannot say that! You cannot say that now!”  ………….. She touched his hand as she turned away from the window.  “I – I wonder you had money to get home. So generous.  I wish I had something for you.  It is Christmas tomorrow and – “
“It’s nearly twelve,” he said. “Let us sit up awhile and call it Christmas tonight.” (the end of Warleggan)

The expression "no beer to foment" comes up frequently throughout their long marriage.......

I hope you have enjoyed my latest blog and will try the recipes.

Bonny Wise, I am
Inspired by Poldark