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The kitchens in the basement of Ickworth House (a National Trust property in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) have been carefully renovated to reflect what life would have been like for cooks and other kitchen staff in a big house during the 1930s. During Living History events and the ‘Cooks in the Kitchen’ events the kitchens come to life. Volunteers, having been trained in inter-war cooking techniques, make the most amazing dishes using traditional methods and recipes. From personal experience I can say that these dishes smell and taste fabulous – a little taste of life as dinner guest at a great house in the 1930s.

We have now collected hundreds of recipes from the 30s at Ickworth and I will share some of these with you here on this blog.

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Braised Pheasant

October welcomed shooting season on large estates like Ickworth House in the 1930s. Beaters, like hall boy John, and gamekeepers prepared the ground for large shooting parties hosted by their masters – hundreds of game birds could be collected in a single day. The birds would be hung in store rooms and then prepared by kitchen maids and, sometimes, scullery maids for a grand feast celebrating a successful shooting party. Sienna’s October edition of the Scullery Maid’s Diary illustrates this. Here is a recipe for braised pheasant – a dish for those ‘upstairs’.


1 Pheasant

Slices of fat bacon

1 or 2 veal slices

Salt, pepper and sweet herbs

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Prepare and truss a Pheasant as for boiling

Line a stew pan with slices of fat bacon and one or two thick slices of veal

Put in the bird, seasoning it well with salt and pepper

Add a few sweet herbs

Cover with more slices of bacon and veal

Cover the stew pan down perfectly air-tight, and put it into a moderate oven and cook it for two hours

When done, put the bird on a hot dish

Strain over it some of the gravy that will have run from it whilst cooking

Garnish it with sliced lemons, and serve

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A more down-to-earth recipe – served both upstairs and downstairs

Makes about 18 biscuits


8ozs medium oatmeal

2 tsp. plain flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp. melted butter or bacon fat

About 4 fl ozs warm water

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Preheat oven 375 F (190 ‘C / Gas mark 5)

Lightly grease 2 baking trays

Mix together the oatmeal, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda

Stir in butter and about 6 tablespoons of warm water until a firm dough is formed

Turn out a knead lightly until smooth

On a lightly floured board roll the dough to the thickness of a penny

Cut into small discs or triangles

Bake for about 8-10 minutes until lightly coloured and crisp

Cool on a wire tray

Serve cold

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Empire (Royal) Christmas Pudding

In 1927 the Empire Marketing Board devised a special Christmas Pudding that was designed to encourage trade across the British Empire. The recipe was refined by King George V’s chef and published all over the Empire. It was served to the King and the royal family on Christmas Day at Sandringham each year.


1 1/2 lb. suet (finely shredded)

1 lb. small raisins

4 0z. candied peel

half a grated nutmeg

1 lb. bread crumbs

1 lb. of eggs (weighed in their shells)

1 lb. Demerara sugar

1 lb. plums (stoned and cut in half)

4 oz. citron (cut into thin slices)

teaspoonful of mixed spice

two teaspoonfuls of salt

1/2 lb. sifted flour

wineglass of brandy

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Beat the eggs to a froth and then add to them half a pint of new milk

Mix the various ingredients

Let the mixture stand for twelve hours in a cool place

Then place in moulds and boil for eight hours

The above would make three ordinary-sized puddings

empire christmas pudding


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