21 June 2009

Mrs. Manders’ Cook Book

Mrs. Manders came of age when English society was still very “Upstairs, Downstairs”. She began her professional career as fourth housemaid, then a scullery maid and finally a kitchen maid. To broaden her professional horizons, she studied at Marshall’s School of Cookery, serving as an apprentice and then a cook.

Mrs. Manders was quite a fine cook and she quickly began working for a posh crowd. She was cook to Sir Anthony Eden, considered by most to be the worst British Prime Ministers of the twentieth century. She also worked for two famous writers, Sheila Kaye- Smith and Rumer Godden. "Godden" is a rather a common name in Sussex and Joanna Godden was the title of Kaye-Smith’s most famous novel, though she never met Rumer. Mrs. Manders was at Shelia Kaye-Smith’s side when she died. In a moment of kismet, Godden bought Shelia Kaye-Smith's house.

Mrs. Manders became Godden’s cook. During turn of bad luck, the house burned to the ground and Godden spent a year homeless and camping out in wide array of furnished rentals, Mrs. Manders followed, cooking in unfamiliar surroundings with a hodge-podge of utensils and china.

“You should write a book,” Godden told Mrs. Manders.

“Me write a book?”

“I’ll buy you a fountain pen.”

“But, what sort of book is it.”

“A cookbook, of course.”

For a party, Mrs. Manders created a dessert called “Fraises à la Rumer". Godden wrote,

“I felt a little embarrassed at having such a confection called after me, but Mrs. Manders loves really to “go to town” when there is any kind of party. I always felt it would be a wonderful thing to have a rose called after me, but perhaps this-–dare I call it a pudding?—is better.”

Fraises à la Rumer
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups finely granulated sugar
2 quarts strawberries
2 tablespoons Kirsch
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

METHOD: The meringue should be made 24 hours in advance. Grease three large baking sheets. Preheat oven to 475 F. Beat egg whites with salt and 1/4 cup sugar until stiff. Add the remaining sugar and continue beating until the mixture stands up in peaks. Put this into a large pastry bag and form a solid flat circle 9 inches in diameter on one of the prepared baking sheets. Next, make another circle 7 inches in diameter, another 5 inches and lastly one of 3 inches. Put these in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave for 8 hours. Remove, and when they are quite cool place each one very carefully on a clean working area.
Hull the strawberries, except for the largest one, which is reserved for the final touch. Put the fruit into a large bowl and sprinkle over it a little Kirsch: be careful not to use too much. When the strawberries are lying in the bowl with the liqueur, whip the cream until firm but not buttery. Insert a large rosette funnel into the pastry bag and fill it with the whipped cream.
Now put the largest meringue onto a circular platter (preferably silver) larger than 9 inches. Arrange the strawberries on this, covering it completely, and pipe cream over them. Follow this procedure with the 7-inch and then the 5-inch meringue. Finally put the 3-inch meringue on the top; pipe the remaining cream onto it in large rosettes, then put on this as a crowning the single large hulled strawberry. The whole sweet should look like a wedding cake.
While she might not have a rose named for her, this lovely strawberry meringue is gift enough.

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