East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food Blog

Marmalade Fiesta at Doddington Hall…

Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire will be holding its third Marmalade Fiesta on Saturday 19 February 2011. There will be free recipes to take away and cook at home, and ‘super orangey’ dishes on the menu in the cafe (reservations recommended – call 01522 688 581). The shop at the Hall now has Seville oranges in stock if you live in the area and would like to make your own marmalade – then you  can enter it in the free competition on the day. Entries need to be submitted by 2 pm, and the winners will be announced at 3 pm. 

The marmalade must be made by yourself and presented in a jar without your name on it. The prize will be a Family Ticket giving one-day entrance to the House & Gardens that can be used on any day that they are open. The makers of the second and third placed marmalades will receive a one-day entrance ticket for two adults to the House & Gardens which may also be used on any day that they are open to the public. For more details, see http://www.doddingtonhall.com/calendar/event/612.

Nigel Slater’s recipe for marmalade can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/25/seville-orange-marmalade-recipe.


Burns Night in Corby…

It was Burns Night earlier this week – the anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet Robert Burns on 25 January, which is celebrated wherever in the world Scots are gathered together. 

I’m sure it’s well known that a lot of people moved to Corby in Northamptonshire from Scotland in the 1930s when Stewarts and Lloyds opened their new steelworks there, and again after the Second World War when the works were extended. There are two Church of Scotland churches there - St Andrew’s, built in the 1930s and St Ninians in the 1960s - and Glasgow Celtic and Rangers supporters’ clubs. Corby still has an annual Highland Gathering, and Burns Night is also celebrated there with traditional food such as haggis and neaps (swedes) and tatties (potatoes). The 200th anniversary of Burns’ death in July 1996 was also marked with an exhibition of his life at the Highland Gathering, an evening of verse at Corby Library, a social evening and ceilidh, and a memorial service at St Ninian’s church.

Polish shop, Corby Old Village

People from other parts of the UK and Europe also migrated to Corby to work in the steelworks, and established their own religious and cultural organisations. In the years after World War II Corby had one of the largest Latvian communities in the country, with its own Lutheran church and library, and classes in the Latvian language and culture for children.

The steelworks closed in 1980, but in recent years more migrants have come from Eastern Europe to work in Corby’s newer manufacturing and service sectors. Food has always been an important part of the culture of migrant communities. In the 1930s local shops were soon advertising ‘Scottish specialities’ such as haggis, clootie dumplings and Scottish black pudding, and in Corby Old Village there is now a shop selling Polish food. The Old Village is also the site of the new Corby Heritage Centre that will be opening soon in the former Manor Farm on the High Street, dating from the early 17th century and now Corby’s oldest surviving residential building. 

There are two MuBu projects based in Corby: Our Young Corby at http://www.digitalengagementnetwork.org/ouryoungcorby/ and Cypher, in which young people are collecting images and articles about Corby and adding their own thoughts about what Corby means to them. Find this at http://www.digitalengagementnetwork.org/cypher/.

And if you’d like to try neeps and tatties for yourself, there’s a recipe at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1677/neeps-and-tatties.


Riot and tumult…

Bell Inn, Nottingham

The Bell Inn on Angel Row in Nottingham was originally the refectory of a Carmelite monastery and became an alehouse after this and other small monasteries were dissolved in 1536 by order of Henry VIII. What has that to do with riot and tumult? Well, rioting over shortages of food and the increased prices that usually resulted were very common in the past, particularly in the case of grain, flour and the bread that was such a large part of working class diets; and you would have had a ‘grandstand’ view from the Bell Inn of one such riot on 12 May 1792. This was provoked by the high price of butchers’ meat, when:

‘a number of people ‘assembled in a riotous manner in the Market-place… After a stout endeavour to regain possession of their property, when further resistance might have proved dangerous, the butchers retreated from the Shambles, and left the mob in undisturbed possession. It being Saturday, the stock of meat was large, and in a few moments the whole of it disappeared. The magistrates at once called out the military, and by the expostulations of the Mayor, and the firing of the soldiers in the air, the mob dispersed, and the military returned to their quarters.

‘Very unexpectedly, in the course of the evening, the depredators reassembled, and bearing down upon the Shambles with renewed force, destroyed and conveyed away every door, shutter, implement, and book they could find in the shops, and made a great bonfire of them in the Market-place, yelling and shouting round it like savages. The fire was burning from eleven at night till one in the morning when the military succeeded in extinguishing it, and tranquility was restored. For several days after, symptoms of a recurrence of the disorder were apparent, but the vigilance of the authorities at length finally suppressed them’ (Henry Field, The Date Book of Nottingham, 1884).

A few years later, on 1 September 1800, the Records of the Borough of Nottingham* tell us that there were more ‘riotous proceedings’ occasioned by the high price of provisions; and ‘as far as lies in their powers’, local magistrates declared that they ‘will be glad to concur in any Steps that may be thought eligible to lower the price of Bread, but all measures for that purpose will be vain so long as Rioting and Tumult prevail’. The ‘mob’ first ‘did some mischief at several Bakers’ Houses’ until they were dispersed by a party of the Blues’ (Royal Horse Guards), but next morning ‘seemed Disposed to plunder the Warehouses and some Boats laden with corn’. Mills at Basford, Lenton, Radford and Wollaton were also attacked and damaged.

The rioting was provoked by shortages of flour and ‘the price at which the small Quantity that could be procured was obtained’. Late rain had delayed the harvest and the price of corn had risen from £4 a quarter to £7 – 10. As a consequence, the magistrates noted, the poor of the town had:

‘struggled with dreadful Hardships from the high Price of Provisions with unexampled Patience up to the period of the Harvest from the hope of the produce of it alleviating their miseries… [Flour was obtainable] with extreme Difficulty… at any price. This appears to have Driven them to absolute Despair and nothing can exceed the violence of their behaviour… [We are] apprehensive that nothing short of some general Regulations by legislative authority will be commensurate to the Magnitude of the Evil’.  

In the absence of any help from central government, and being ‘anxious for the suppression of the riots… without the effusion of blood’, the magistrates themselves purchased flour and ‘sold it out to the Poor under the management of several Gentlemen in the Town who very handsomely came forward to assist them’. The losses made on the flour were covered by public subscription and the ‘Corporation purse’, and by 16 September there seemed ‘no occasion to fear any further Tumult’.

Nottingham was by no means alone in experiencing this kind of disturbance – in 1766 there was a major riot in Leicester over the price of cheese, of which more some other time – but this was very typical of food riots in the 18th century and beyond. Although there is no specific mention of them here, women were often prominent in food riots, having the ultimate responsibility for feeding the family and making ends meet ; but the mob’ was not nearly as undisciplined as the term suggests. On the contrary, its attacks were focused on the houses, warehouses, mills and other property of the bakers and suppliers of flour, who were seen as the culprits in terms of the high prices.  

Local magistrates traditionally had a role in controlling prices and ensuring supplies of essential provisions to maintain public order, and their response and that of other ‘gentlemen’ of the town when the military failed to quell the rioting was also fairly typical – though this sort of intervention became less common in the earlier 19th century when newer theories of political economy came to condemn it as undesirable ‘interference’ in the free market economy. 

However, historians have argued that the actions of the so-called ‘mobs’ were based on a strong sense of a ‘moral economy’: of traditional rights and customs that they were defending when they resorted to rioting and took direct action against what they saw as the cause of their problems. If you’d like to explore this interpretation at more length, see E.P. Thompson, ‘The moral economy of the English crowd in the 18th century’ in Past & Present, 50 (1971), 76-136; or George Rude, The Crowd in History: popular disturbances in France & England 1730 – 1848 (Serif, 2005 edn.). 

* Vol. VII, 1760 – 1800 (Corporation of Nottingham, 1947)

Food through the ages event…

Quern for grinding corn by hand

You might be interested in an event at Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester on Saturday 5 February 2011 from 11.30 am – 3. 30 pm:

Discover the history of what goes on your dinner plate. Could you have survived as a prehistoric hunter-gatherer? Did the Romans know their onions? Was a medieval feast fair or fowl? See dishes recreated from the past, hear talks about how we gather the evidence, and take part in craft activities and games. The event is run by the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum.

For more information about Jewry Wall Museum, see http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/leicester-city-museums/museums/jewry-wall-museum/.


A plague of garlic…

Not the wild kind...

Garlic may be good for warding off vampires, lowering cholesterol and preventing the common cold – but it hasn’t always been so well regarded. In the Royal Commission on agriculture. England (1895), it was described as an ‘abominable weed’, growing in plague-like quantities somewhere near Bedford. I know Bedford isn’t in the East Midlands, but I’m sure farmers here had similar problems…

‘I was witness to another very strange change which the past 14 years have brought to pass over some of the heavy clay soil to the north-west of Bedford town. Not only the arable land, but recently established pastures have been overrun by garlic or wild onions. This abominable weed grows from a bulbous root, and it possesses such a powerful odour that it taints the grain of any corn with which it may have been gathered, besides rendering the straw unfit for fodder.
Wherever it exists on pasture land the stock will not graze, and from the statements made to me by the farmers upon whose land I saw it, I am led to believe that all attempts to obliterate it by fallowing* have failed, and that it is increasing in quantity and widening its area of occupation every year. One farm now seriously affected by its presence was very little injured in 1882. Whether the growth of garlic may be favoured by any particular variety of season I am unable to say, but it is easily seen that if nothing can be done to eradicate such an objectionable pest, land subject to it will sooner or later become useless for agricultural purposes’.  

The culprit here was wild garlic (Alleum vineale) rather than the cultivated variety with which we are all familiar. It was also a problem to beef and dairy farmers, being said to give the milk a garlicky odour and flavour; but the wider use of tractors in the 20th century went far to eradicate it, burying the bulbs at too great a depth for them to grow. If you find any wild garlic in your garden, you can stop it spreading by snipping the ends of the leaves on a regular basis, and use the clippings to add flavour to salads or other dishes. See http://www.gardenguides.com/872-wild-garlic-weed.html for a picture and more information; and the Garlic Information Centre at http://www.garlic.mistral.co.uk/ for more information about different aspects of the cultivated kind.  

* ploughing the land but not planting it with crops


January in the garden and hen house…

Garden tools, Ayscoughee Hall, Spalding

You’ll be pleased to know that, according to the Tit-Bits Yearbook of 1931, January ‘should be considered the last of the garden digging and manuring months’. Assuming you could get the spade into the ground in the first place in the many degrees of frost we had recently, soil dug between November and January ‘is always in a better condition than that dug later’ – but now is the time to decide where each of your new crops will be planted, to estimate your seed requirements and order them, and to lay out your seed potatoes in a light place free from frost to get them to sprout.

Should you have a warm sunny border and ‘suitable weather’, you can now sow early peas and broad beans. Cucumbers, tomatoes, French beans and melons can be sown in pots in the greenhouse, and carrots, lettuces and radishes in a frame. Asparagus, radishes, carrots, potatoes, mint, rhubabb, lettuse and chicory can also be forced in hotbeds of one third leaves and two thirds manure.

In the fruit garden, strawberries in pots should be brought into the greenhouse for forcing, and new strawberries planted. Carry on pruning your fruit trees, except apricot, peach and other stone fruits – leave these until next month. Give your fruit trees a mulch of manure, and check the stakes of new fruit trees to make sure the bark hasn’t been chafed by the wind rubbing the trees and stakes together.

In the hen house, keep the roosts ‘cosy and draught-proof, but do not stop ventilation’. Make up breeding pens (six heavy breed hens or eight or ten light breed hens to very male bird) of two year old birds ‘which have given a good account of themselves in the past’. Provide a full supply of green food – dip it in water to thaw if frozen, or used sliced turnips, swedes or Jerusalem artichokes if no green food is available.


Points about porridge…

Home Chat, 31 January 1914 (1d.)

A belated Happy New Year. Back to blogging now after a bit of a break…

I’ve been doing some more museum visiting, so will be writing soon about a few of the things I found. In the meantime, a few months ago I promised you the Home Chat recipe for porridge from 1914 when winter came around. I’m sure you could have done with this last month, officially the coldest December on record for 100 years, but having put my copy of the magazine in one of those proverbial safe places, I’ve only just unearthed it again.

As you can judge from the cover, the magazine was aimed mainly at middle class women with a reasonable level of household income but unlikely to have a live-in cook – so speed and simplicity were valued when it came to recipes. According to Home Chat, one advantage of porridge, along with being inexpensive and high in nutritional value, was that it was ‘very little trouble to make’. I wonder if you will agree after reading this:


The best plan is to make the porridge overnight; it then merely requires reheating in the morning. For in order to be wholesome, oatmeal must be very thoroughly cooked, and it is impossible to give it sufficient time before an early breakfast, while it gives unnecessary work in the morning. A double saucepan, such as is used for boiling milk, is the best thing in which to make it. With this it is not necessary to keep a constant watch on the pan, though the porridge will constantly require stirring, and the water on the outer pan may need replenishing as it boils away.

A Warning. – Don’t attempt to make porridge in an ordinary blue-and-white enamel pan; such a pan is too thin…

The Oatmeal. – Use either the best Scottish oatmeal, or if you prefer them, the prepared oats one buys in packets… in cooking the prepared ones, fuel and time are saved, as ordinary oatmeal takes two or three times longer to cook.

Making the porridge

A porridge stick or spurtle

Put one quart of boiling water and half a teaspoon of salt into the inner saucepan, and about half fill the outer one. When the water boils, sprinkle in two large tablespoons (two ounces) of good oatmeal, and stir well, using a wooden spoon – or, better still, a Scotch porridge stick, which somewhat resembles a short thin rolling pin [otherwise known as a spurtle]. Let the porridge cook gently for about three-quarters of an hour, if you are using ordinary oatmeal, or for from twenty to thirty minutes if prepared oats. If the porridge become too thick, add more boiling water; it should be thick but not rocky.

Serve it with cold milk or cream, sugar or salt. Some people like golden syrup with it, but for many this, when combined with oatmeal, is too heating.

At the end of the recipe there is a note: NEXT WEEK - “Gladys Owen and her Casserole”. A very special article indeed’. Alas, intriguing as this is, there will be no ‘NEXT WEEK’ as this is the only copy of the magazine that I have.

By the way, spurtles are great for making Yorkshire puddings as well as stirring porridge… Their designs vary, and I wonder if anyone has one in their museum collection? Let me know if so, and maybe we can include an image in a future blog.


About this Sponsor

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.