Cookbook review: The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie

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The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie by Charlotte Clark
Cookbook

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie is a vast collection of English and Scottish domestic recipes collected over 50 years in the nineteenth century.
This is a valuable collection of British recipes transcribed (primarily for her own use rather than for publication) by Lady Clark of Tillypronie between 1841 and 1897. It was assembled into a book and published after her death at the request of her husband. In a letter to Catherine Frere he sets the scene by saying:
'I have asked you to stand sponsor for the publication of a selection from a number of cookery and household recipes, collected by my late wife - this for two reasons, firstly because I know you to be yourself not a little interested and versed in the science of Brillat Savarin; and secondly, and mainly, because, from your intimate acquaintance with her for many years you can bear testimony to her having been, not the mere "housewife" on culinary things intent, but an exceptionally widely-read woman, gifted with fine literary taste and judgement.'
The book is important for a number of reasons. The first is that it represents a broad range of recipes that were in common use in households throughout Britain in the 19th century and hence serves to codify the preparation of food at the time. The second is that it is not the work of just one person. Lady Clark was an avid collector of recipes and her work is a compilation form hundreds of home cooks. The third reason why we think it is important is this work of Lady Clark had a deep effect on, and was an inspiration for, the great Elizabeth David.
When the book was first published in 1909 the recipes were arranged in alphabetical order, however the current Southover Press edition has seen the recipes categorised into topics such as Soups and Broths, Sauces for Fish, Cheese and Cheese Dishes, Sweet Puddings and so on.
You will also find quite a few Italian influences (macaroni and cheese, ravioli, Piedmontese soup and liberal use of Parmesan) which is explained by the fact that Lady Clark was married to a diplomat and spent some time in Turin (Torino) in the north of Italy before moving back to the Scottish Highlands - Tillypronie is in the Grampians inland from Aberdeen.
You need to be aware that much is assumed. In her lovely recipe for artichoke soup the reader is urged to pass the cooked artichokes through a 'tammy' (sieve) and then add stock to reduce it to "the proper consistency".
There are five carrot soups, six chicken soups (all valid today), but even more when you add in the four recipes for the wonderful cock-a-leekie soup. There are five recipes for mulligatawny soup as well. In all there are approximately 150 recipes just for soups packed into this first section of the book!
The recipes on meat and poultry are very strong and range over the normal meats such as beef and pork and then on to many game dishes as would be expected of someone living in the highlands of Scotland.
The section on sweets and sweet puddings are particularly strong with many old favourites listed here (especially lots of soufflé recipes). You might find some of the jelly recipes a bit strange when they call on you to boil 1 oz of isinglass in half a pint of water. Isinglass is a form of pure gelatine derived from the swimbladder of the sturgeon - however the recipe can easily be adapted by using 2.5 sheets of leaf gelatine per 1 cup of water. Also seek out the apple and sago pudding, the bread and butter puddings, golden syrup pudding and the rice puddings. Some may find the use of suet in some of these a bit off-putting but persevere as it add a lightness and depth of flavour that will reward its use.
The recipes are not difficult as Lady Clark preferred simplicity and was annoyed with contrivance.
An excellent addition to your food library!
 
     
   
     


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