14 December 2009

English Country House Cooking

Fortune Stanley came into possession of two lovely collections of recipes. One came from the cook to several stately homes and the other from her family, specifically and aunt who had actually lived in a stately home.

Mrs. Isabelle Menzies was the daughter of the head forester who worked on the estates of the late Duke of Montrose. She was encouraged to take up cookery and grew quite good at her task. Mrs. Guy Bearing was Fortune Stanely’s aunt who collected and edited the family’s recipes.

Armed with these recipes, Stanly set out to a book, which was titled, English Country House Cooking. The book was a way to gather recipes from the grand days of Country House living and bring them to the home cook who probably didn’t need to cook for 20 or 30.

Mrs. Menzies had been in the employ of Mrs. Ronnie Greville, who loved fine food. When she ate at grand establishments such as the Ritz and found a dish she especially liked, she would arrange for Mrs. Menzies to learn the way it was prepared. This exposed Mrs. Menzies to a wide range of cooking styles that was unusual for someone in her position. Eventually Mrs. Menzies came to work for Fortune Stanley’s family and she began teaching the 9 year-old to cook.

Drawing on this wealth of cooking expertise, Stanley gathered a diverse cookbook. One can see these recipes laid out on grand dinning tables and with the help of this cookbook, on your dining table.

Poacher’s Rabbit

1 rabbit
2-3 onions
1/4 pound mushrooms
tarragon vinegar
1/2 pint stock
2-3 potatoes
4 rasher bacon

Cut the rabbit into serving pieces and soak in salted water overnight; dry the pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Make layers in a buttered casserole: rabbit, chopped onion and mushrooms, rabbit, more onions and mushrooms and finely a layer of thinly sliced potatoes. Sprinkle with about 4 teaspoonful of tarragon vinegar and a good 1/2 pint stock; finish with the bacon rashers. Cover and cook in a moderate oven for about 2 hours; about 20 minutes before the end, remover the cover and allow the rashers to brown.

Next time you are in a grocery store, see if you can poach yourself a rabbit and give this a try.

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