I visited the Harley Gallery near Workshop at the weekend to see the ‘Dinner with a Duke’ and ‘Life is Very Sweet’ exhibitions. ‘Dinner with a Duke’ – sub-titled ‘Decoding food & drink at Welbeck 1690 – 1910′ – explores 400 years of entertaining at Welbeck, country home of the Dukes of Portland, focusing on the production of food on the estate through the hothouses, poultry house, bakehouse, fruit and vegetable gardens and dairy, as well as the often lavish tableware used for dining. The display of the latter includes a rare silver wine fountain from Holland and Sevres porcelain ice cream pails and serving cups from the 18th century.
Images of other objects from the exhibition can be viewed online, where you can also access an original recipe for ‘Sauce for Salmon’, and an article by curator Phillipa Glanville in the NADFAS Review (‘Fine dining, p23-26). Go to www.harleygallery.co.uk/ and follow the ‘Dinner with a Duke’ link. Alongside other recipes and household accounts, the exhibition also features stories of household life from some of the estate servants.
The exhibition will run until February 2012. Alongside it, until March 2011, is ‘Life is Very Sweet’ is an installation by artist Jane Wildgoose of sugar flowers – used to ornament the dining table -along with examples of porcelain, portraits and garden sculpture from the Portland Collection. It explores ‘the complicated 18th century conventions for serving dessert’ including the ‘curious story of how how the discovery of the secret of porcelain manufacture in the West led to the replacement of the intricate sugarwork on the dessert table by fine chinaware’. A set of Chinese watercolours from the collection depicting porcelain production is also on display.
Jane Wildgoose’s commissions at the Harley Gallery are part of ‘museumaker’, a national project involving 16 museums across four regions including the East Midlands, with the aim of ‘unlocking the creative potential of collections through imaginative interchanges between the heritage and contemporary craft sectors’. See http://www.museumaker.com/ for more information. Her sugar flowers were produced in conjunction with the School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck Estate, which offers opportunities to learn the arts of bread-making, cheese-making, brewing, charcuterie and preserving, and later this year is introducing a Degree in Artisan Food – food produced by non-industrial methods, with an awareness of the ‘different local conditions which have given rise to particular regional specialities’. See http://www.schoolofartisanfood.org/about-us/artisan-food for more information.
An unusual recipe project was run by Ayscoughee Hall Museum in Spalding in 2008. People born in the UK, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania were invited to talk about the food they loved and hated from their childhood, and staff at Spalding Library helped them to locate the recipes in books or through the Internet. A local food store recreated the recipes ‘with delicious results for everyone to taste and reminisce over’. Here is a recipe for Balandeliai or Cabbage Rolls, chosen by a woman born in Lithuania, and reproduced by permission of the Museum. I’ll pass on some of the other recipes over the next few weeks.
Balandeliai or Cabbage Rolls
8 large cabbage leaves
60g chopped smoked bacon
200g minced meat
Pinch of salt & pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
1 red pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1. Boil a large head of cabbage for about 5 mins. Peel off about 8 leaves.
2. Finely chop the onion and bacon and fry them up.
3. Pour on some of the stock, sprinkle in the rice and simmer for 15 mins.
4. Dice the pepper, mix it into the minced meat, sprinkle on the spices, add the egg and mix together.
5. Spoon the mixture onto cabbage leaves and wrap them into rolls. Put the cabbage rolls into a cooking pot, pour on the rest of the stock and bake with the lid on.
The Spring 2010 edition (no. 44) of The Dustsheet, the newsletter of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland (ROLLR) also includes a recipe for Stuffed Cabbage from a 1922 recipe book. In this instance, the heart was scooped out of the cabbage and stuffed with a mixture of the cabbage, minced cold cooked beef or mutton and seasoning. It was then covered with a large outer leaf, tied up with string and stewed in stock until tender – ‘a most economical and tasty dish’.
Are there any museums in the East Midlands dedicated to one single food product? I can’t think of any – but there is an Olive Oil Museum at Cisano di Bardolino, not far from where we were staying on holiday recently on Lake Garda. We didn’t get chance to visit it, but the exhibits include an ancient lever press, with a loading and unloading system based on a yoke and moved by screws, reducing the amount of human effort required to operate it. It also houses screw presses, millstones and a reconstruction of a 19th century watermill, and ‘a celebration of oil and olive trees, two peculiar elements in the history and civilisation of Mediterranean peoples’. There is a 360 degree ‘virtual tour’ of the museum at http://www.museum.it/en/photogallery.html - click on ‘Olive Oil Museum’ to access it.
The 525th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, which brought an end to the Wars of the Roses with the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor, was celebrated this year on 22 August. I missed the re-enactment of the battle at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre because I was on holiday – but here’s a modern variation on the recipe for Bosworth Jumbles. The original was reputedly dropped on the battlefield by Richard III’s cook…
6 oz butter
1 large egg
Rub all dry ingredients together and mix in the egg. Cut into walnut-sized pieces and roll them between the hands and make into the shape of an ‘S’ on a greased baking tray. Bake in a medium oven (350F, Gas Mark 4, 175C) until pale brown.
I have to admit that the one and only time I tried making these, they spread out across the baking tray to form one giant biscuit – so don’t make the mixture too wet!
If you’d like to know more about the battle itself and recent archaeological work to identify its exact location, see http://www.bosworthbattlefield.com/battle/archaeology.htm.
Another date for your August food diary – a Meet-the-Hens and Egg Day from 10 am – 4 pm on Saturday 28 August at Doddington Hall and Gardens near Lincoln. Here you will be able to meet free-range hens in runs and houses in the Courtyard, and talk to experts about how to keep hens in your own garden. Free range eggs will be on sale, along with Scotch eggs made from free-range pork and eggs – up to 28 varieties! - and freshly cooked egg dishes. There will be free recipes to take home, and a decorated egg competition for children. Entry is free and there is no need to book.
Doddington Hall was built in 1595 by Robert Smythson, an eminent Elizabethan architect, and has been a family home ever since. Within the original walled courtyards are ornamental gardens and a vegetable garden, with wild gardens and nature walks just beyond in the grounds. Inside the Hall you can view collections of household objects, furniture, paintings, ceramics, porcelain and textiles. See http://www.doddingtonhall.com/news/stories/meetthehens–egg-day-this-saturday-28th-free-entry for more information about this event.
As part of this year’s Castle Park Festival in Leicester, St. Nicholas Church will be hosting a Puddings and Pies event at 8 pm on Sunday 29 August, when there will be a performance by Minstrels Gallery of medieval and renaissance music connected with food and drink. In the words of the Festival brochure: ‘Sandwiched between the courses of music are verse and readings, often humorous, espousing the virtues of good food and drink, and in somes cases, lamenting the lack thereof’. Tickets are £7/£5 concessions. For more details of this and other Castle Park Festival events, visit www.leicester.gov.uk/castleparkfestival/.
On Saturday 7 August Belgrave Hall Museum in Leicester will be the venue for a celebration of the centenary of the Belgrave Allotment Society. Allotment societies existed from the 19th century, and were positively encouraged by civic or charitable bodies for offering working class families fresh food, healthy exercise and a ‘rational recreation’ that might keep them away from the public house. The St Ann’s allotments in Nottingham are thought to be the oldest and largest detached town gardens in Britain, and still retain their 1830s layout (see http://www.staa-allotments.org.uk/heritage/history.htm).
There was a real flourishing of allotments, however, after the government passed a Smallholdings and Allotments Act in 1908 requiring local authorities to provide ‘a sufficient number of allotments to persons… resident in the borough district or parish and desiring the same’. The Belgrave Society was formed as a result of this, and now has over 500 allotments on five sites around the north of Leicester. In sharp contrast to the 1980s, when at times only 20% of its plots were in use, four of these are fully occupied and have waiting lists.
Gardening programmes on TV, the popularity of organic food and of ‘growing your own’ help to explain the current popularity of allotments here and elsewhere, but allotment societies also played a crucial role during both World Wars when blockades and enemy attacks on merchant shipping forced Britain to become as self-sufficient as possible.
The Belgrave Hall event, which starts at 11 am and is free, will include displays on growing crops, stalls selling produce, and an exhibition on the history of allotments. A history of Belgrave Allotment Society, written by one of its members, Ron Sanderson, will also be on sale. The Society has its own blog at http://blog.redhillallotments.co.uk/.
According to the Tit-bits Yearbook in 1930, now is the time to make up your outdoor mushroom beds, to lift and store your shallots, and to cut, dry and bottle mint and parsley. Potatoes should be given their second earthing, and the tops of onions bent over in the early part of the month to help them ripen. Towards the end of the month they should then be ripe enought to lift and store. If summer cabbages are slow in ‘hearting’, give them a pinch of sulphate of ammonia, but watch out for caterpillars. They should be picked off by hand in the evening when they are feeding. Globe artichokes should be cut down once the heads have been picked. Now is also the time to sow cucumbers under glass to eat in the winter.
You also need to cover fruit trees with netting to protect the fruit from birds, and take cuttings from currant bushes as soon as the fruit has been picked, planting them in sandy soil. Early apples can be picked as soon as the stalk parts easily from the branch. Once the strawberry crop is finished, remove any disfigured leaves and hoe the bed to remove weeds.
And finally, in and around the hen house, encourage moulting among laying hens ‘for only an August moulter is likely to be laying again regularly by November’. Birds that have dropped their feathers and are forming new feathers should be given a little linseed jelly, made by boiling whole linseed for ten minutes and allowing it to cool, and then mixed into their mash. August is the time to sell any cockerels that are not required, and to keep a particular watch for red mite and fleas among all your poultry, as ’all poultry pests breed very rapidly during the hot months’.
A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.