You can imagine any of Jane Austen’s heroines sitting in a great English manor eating a meal like this, which comes from a recipe printed in The Professed Cook in 1776.
Jane Austen (and her really boring novels):
Most known for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, etc. – there’s a few more novels with similar titles, but you don’t need to read them because I’ve summarized their plots in this handy chart!
These stories may have been revolutionary in their time for their dry British humor about the weather or their risque satire of rich people flirting in their parlors, but in my opinion, they haven’t aged well and it’s difficult to appreciate them without context on how revolutionary they are. Thankfully I’m not that much in the minority – here are 7 other famous people who also hated Jane Austen!
I shouldn’t be so bitter about reading hundreds of pages of really PG conversations though – her novels actually give a good idea of what life was back then.
Some interesting social traditions that would be considered out of place today:
- Assembly rooms were popular as places where “members of high social classes” would gather during the day to socialize, or at night to attend large balls. (These were clearly the more genteel version of our nightclubs). People could also come here to play cards, be served tea, or take their suppers. Bath was a popular destination in the winter when people would migrate to these social towns from their unheated country homes to soak in the medicinal waters, as well as rub elbows with their social peers and avidly talk about weather.
- Ever wonder why everyone was making a fuss over Darcy’s annual income of £10,000 when it sounds like it would barely pay 3 months of NYC rent? Adjusting for inflation, it actually was an annual income of $12M USD, which is not shabby at all.
- People had very little entertainment options back then, so the only socially appropriate activities were dinner parties where people would play piano after dinner and guests could sing along, have a mini dance party, read, or walk charmingly around the room. Some parlor games were allowed, but no gambling. Thank god for Snapchat today, huh.
So what would they eat during these fancy parties?
Lamb in the Provence Fashion and Stuffed Cucumbers
This recipe is actually not named for Jane Austen (as she actually wasn’t famous in the day), but it is a recipe that she would’ve encountered on well-to-do dinner tables. Gentleman farmers would have lambs on their estate and cucumbers grown in their kitchen gardens.
The lamb requires quite a lot of work beforehand for the modern person, since it’s assumed that you already have some of the common ingredients like cullis, a gravy made from spiced veal and ham, and demi-glace, a popular broth still used in French cooking today. I chose not to make demi-glace because I’m not Emeril Lagasse with a kitchen full of minions to boil down a pot of beef bones for 7 hours. Thankfully, cullis is not as long of a process – after boiling it down for an hour, it should become a dark brown color.
While the cullis was boiling down, I marinated the lamb in the herbs. It’s best to get lamb loin because it’s easier to chew, but honestly, lamb shoulder is a cheaper and more flavorful cut.
Cover one side of the lamb with bread crumbs and spices and pan fry it in the skillet. Make the gravy by combining the cullis with shallots, white wine, and orange juice.
For the side dish, Lost Past Remembered chose to cook stuffed cucumbers from “The Gastronomic Regenerator”, which was published in 1857. I thought this was a pretty good idea although this also requires a lot of work beforehand.
You should first make forcemeat, which is ground turkey mixed with egg yolk and panade (a stiff dough).
This is then stuffed into hollowed out pieces of cucumber and tied to pieces of bacon before boiled in broth.
To be honest, when I was hunched over my kitchen counter at 2 AM, painstakingly tying pieces of slippery bacon to cucumbers, I was slipping in and out of sanity and not thinking any graceful thoughts besides “WHAT IS MY LIFE?!”. If you don’t want to have such existential brushes with reality, I would advise you to start cooking earlier than 7 PM if you want to eat this by dinner time.
Verdict: The time consuming effort to make this was probably what took off points for me. But based on taste itself, it’s what you would expect of typical British food, which showcases the flavor of the meat accentuated by subtle spices. The cucumbers were my favorite part of the meal and were so flavorful with the forcemeat.
I would rate this 4 rich country gentlemen out of 5.
2 lbs of lamb with bone (lamb loin preferred, but lamb shoulder/shank is cheaper and more flavorful)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry marjoram
3 tbsp finely chopped mushrooms
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 finely chopped scallion
1 tbsp chopped onion
1/2 cup lightly toasted breadcrumbs (toss in a tbsp of olive oil in a pan)
1 slice of ham
2 tbsp onions
2 tbsp parsley, thyme, marjoram
1 bay leaf
pinch of nutmeg/mace
1.5 cups of reduced chicken stock
1 chopped shallot
1 tbsp butter
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp bread crumbs
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Forcemeat for cucumbers
1/4 lb of ground turkey
1 tbsp butter
1 oz panade (butter, water, flour)
1 egg, yolk and white separated
2 cucumbers, peeled with middle removed
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 bay leaf, chopped finely
3 pieces bacon
1.5 cups of chicken stock
Let’s Make This!
- Put the oil, basil, marjoram, mushrooms, parsley, scallion, and onion in a food processor unless it becomes a fine dice, not puree. Marinate the lamb in this mix for a few hours.
- Remove the excess marinade from the lamb, and rub in salt and pepper. Roll the lamb in the breadcrumbs on one side.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet, if you have one, or use a frying pan. Place the non-breaded side of the lamb on the bottom. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until browned. Flip the lamb and cook for another 5 minutes. Make sure the lamb is cooked through, otherwise place in broiler to continue cooking.
- Make cullis by cooking the ham, onions, parsley/thyme/marjoram, bay leaf, mace, clove, and chicken stock together for an hour, or until it reduces to 1 cup.
- Add shallot and butter to the pan used for cooking the lamb and saute until slightly soft. Add white wine, 1 orange’s worth of squeezed juice, and cullis. Reduce on low heat for about 30 minutes.
- Assemble the lamb with the remaining orange sliced and garnish with parsley.
- Make panade for the forcemeat first, if you want to be accurate – boil 1 tbsp of butter and 1/3 cup of water. Add 1/4 cup of flour and stir until the dough comes together.
- Combine the ground turkey and butter in a food processor and blend. Add pieces of panade (or flour if you didn’t make panade), salt, pepper, and nutmeg and continue to blend. Add the yolk and pulse. Whip the egg white in a separate bowl and combine gently into the mixture. Now you have your forcemeat.
- Add the basil, thyme, and bay leaf to the forcemeat. Microwave a spoonful of the mixture and taste it to see if more salt and pepper needs to be added. Microwave the rest of the meat about 30 minutes to slightly cook it.
- Cut the cucumbers into 2″ thick pieces and cut out the insides in a circle. Stuff the space in the cucumbers with the forcemeat.
- Cut pieces of string that are approximately 8″ long. Place a piece of bacon on top and bottom of each cucumber piece and tie the bacon to the cucumber.
- Place the cucumbers in a pan and fill up the pan to reach 1/2 way up the cucumbers.
- Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Flip the cucumbers and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Serve cucumbers with the bacon or remove it. If demi-glace was made, spoon it over the cucumbers and serve with mashed potatoes.
And damn, that was the longest recipe I’ve written for this blog.