Recipes from a November kitchen

Each evening, warmed by the smouldering fire in the servants’ hall, the staff at Ickworth would tuck into a sumptuous dinner as a reward for their hard day’s work.  The cooks were highly skilled in their craft and, night after night. produced delectable dishes for the upstairs family.

Poachers Pie
8oz plain flour
2oz butter
2oz lard
1 lb. boneless rabbit skinned and cubed
2 medium potatoes
1tbsp parsley
¼ tsp. herbs
4oz streaky bacon rashers, chopped
Chicken stock
1 egg
Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl and rub in the butter and lard until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 3-4tbsp cold water and mix to form a firm dough. Fill a 3 pint pie dish with alternate layers of rabbit, bacon and vegetables, sprinkling with seasoning and herbs Half-fill with stock Roll out the pasty on a lightly floured surface to 2
inches wider than the top of the dish. Cut a 1 inch strip from the outer edge and line the dampened rim of the dish. Dampen the pastry rim and cover with the pastry lid. Trim and seal the edges. Make a hole in the centre to let the steam escape. Decorate with pastry leaves and brush with egg. Bake in the oven at 190 degrees for a further hour.

Cheese and Onion tartlets

8ozs short crust pastry (made with ratio of half fat to flour, lard and butter)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 eggs
¼ pint milk
½oz finely grated cheese
Salt and pepper
Carefully roll the pastry to 1/8th inch thick. Using a 2 inch plain cutter, make the tart bases and press them into a patty tin. Place some onion into the cases. Beat the eggs into the milk and add salt and pepper. Pour a little of the mixture into each case and top with cheese. Do not overfill. Bake in a moderate oven until the custard sets and the tarts are golden brown. Cool a little and then carefully remove them from the tin with a palette knife. Serve hot or cold.

Ginger Pudding

6oz Flour
6oz sugar
6 eggs
8oz preserved ginger
1 pint cream
6oz butter
Put the cream, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt into a stew pan and as soon as they begin to simmer, take off the heat. Throw in the flour and stir the whole together quickly. Pour this paste back again on the fire and continue stirring it for about five minutes. Take off of the heat and gradually mix in the six eggs. Cut the ginger into small pieces and add to the preparation. Spread a mould with butter and pour mixture in. Steam for an hour and a half. When done, serve with custard and ginger syrup.

November – Diary of a Housemaid


November 1935

The other servants at Ickworth have now become what I can only describe as my extended family. Quite how so cold a house could have become a home I cannot explain, but this is exactly what has happened. Mrs Seddons, the housekeeper, who filled me with such terror on my arrival, has shown herself to be the mother of the entire household. If you work well and follow the rules she is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. But I can recall numerous occasions on hearing her shouts echoing through the corridors, directed at some lazy or forgetful housemaid. The level of obedience she commands just by the sound of her approaching footsteps is awe-inspiring.

I have made many good friends during my time here. Rose Stringer is the name of the senior housemaid who has charge over me and another maid named Florence. Both these girls have become like sisters to me. We spend every moment we can spare together, gossiping and imagining our future lives as wives and mothers. Thomas, a footman, Jim, the odd man, and John, the hall-boy often tease us saying that we will never marry and will remain at Ickworth for the rest of our lives. The boys are always teasing us housemaids! But, then again, we are often teasing the boys too.