13 Apr 2011

If you like the classics (e.g. Jane Austen, Emily Bronte etc) you will really enjoy reading and using "Modern Cookery for private families" by Eliza Acton. It was originally published in 1845 and has now been brought back to life by Quadrille Publishing Ltd and Jill Norman.

When I first heard about this book I was intrigued by the title and you know straight away the kind of voice and tone to expect. From what I understand, this was one of the first cookery books of its kind and a pre-cursor to the (perhaps better known) Mrs Beeton books. Before then, familes and cooks had their own recipe books detailing family favourites with their own signature twists. Cooks took them household to household to provide wholesome meals for the families they worked for and the families themselves used these suggestions to inform the cook's offerings to them each day.

The recipes in the book are a reflection of popular recipes of the time ranging from basic pastry methods right through to cooking fish and meat and then on to desserts. The style in which they are written is not only very charming but very unusual. Depending on the recipe, she bases the amounts of ingredients on the weight of the other ingredients required. For example, in the sponge cake recipe, a lot of the quantities are largely reliant on the weight of the eggs used. Acton does of course use proper quantities too but after some thought I decided I quite liked this way of doing things. I'm going to give that way of cooking a try but whilst it would be potentially more time consuming, I think the results would be far more accurate in the long run.

All in all, this book is the most unusual recipe book I've had the pleasure of reading. I think it's worth a read if you're into something that bit different and if you fancy a glimpse into a more gentile time.

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