Mrs. Hindle has been on a bit of a hiatus due to a trip to London with her good sister, Mrs. P. Much merriment was had, refreshments were taken at appropriate tea-related times, public houses were visited, and dainties enjoyed. In honour of this successful trip, today’s blog deals with London.
The London Tavern was opened in Bishopsgate, London, in 1768. It became famous for its good food and skilled waiters and many meetings were held on the premises. So well-know was it as a meeting venue that Charles Dickens used it in Nicholas Nickelby as a location for a public discussion on the issue of “petitioning Parliament in favour of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company.” He may have been making a snide joke.
The building that housed the Tavern was torn down in 1876 so I couldn’t go there for a meal. Luckily one John Farley (1755 or 1756-1827) worked there as head chef during the Tavern’s heyday and recorded his recipes (and many he copied from previous works) in a book called The London Art of Cookery, first published in 1783. Farley is a cook according to my heart – a true man of the Enlightenment. In his preface he states that “Cookery, like every other Art, has been moving forward to Perfection by slow Degrees /…/ we find that daily Improvements are still making therein“. “Cookery“, he adds, “must be considered as an art“. Alas, as will become apparent, Mrs. Hindle has not yet reached the level of a true artis. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! My recipe of choice from Farley’s book was almond puffs, a little something to serve at young miss Hindle’s 6th birthday party.
What you need. That’s almond, eggs, sugar and orange-flower water.
I started with 60 grams of almonds and ground them up in a food processor. The orange-flower water obviously adds taste and scent to the puffs, but I’m under the impression it also prevents the almonds from going too oily if beaten in a mortar. I didn’t try beating the almonds in a mortar, my mortaring skills are still rudimentary.
Once the almonds were ground fine I whisked the three egg-whites into a hard froth. Remember egg-whites whisk better if you do it in a metal or ceramic bowl, and make sure all your tools are clean and dry. Kitchen chemistry and all that. The recipe was not particularly clear on how much orange-flower water and sugar to add, but in all I put in about 3/4 dl sugar, partly while whisking the whites and partly afterwards. So, final recipe:
60 g almonds, ground up
1 tblsp orange-flower water
The whites of 3 eggs
3/4 dl sugar
Flower water and sugar is up to your own tastes, or course. What I ended up with, anyway, was a semi-solid batter that could be easily dropped into small piles, like thus:
So far so good, but now came my tragic error. The recipe calls for a cool oven. I figured I was dealing with something akin to meringues and turned the oven to about 130 degrees C. After 45 minutes I thought they looked a nice golden colour and pulled them out, only to have them sag into sticky lumps.
Now, don’t get me wrong – they were tasty sticky lumps. But the consistency was all wrong. I’m guessing I would have needed to have the oven considerably hotter. They were still tasty enough for me to try them again, though!