Thursday, February 27, 2014

At Your Service – The 19th Century Butler

The Butler:-

Most senior of the house servant.

Addressed as Mr (last name) by staff and last name only by his employer.

Carries out much of his duties from the Butler pantry. Here the plate (silverware) and china are kept when not in use.


Responsible for all the male staff.

Supervises the footmen when serving a meal.

In charge of:         

The wine cellar

The plate

He oversees:         

The setting of the table

Trimming candlewicks

Filling lamps with oil

Cleaning the silver

He irons the masters newspaper each morning – this is to stop the ink from transferring to his masters hands.

He is the one to take a gentleman or lady visitor to the drawing.

He makes sure that other staff, tradesman or workers wait in the hall.

He is responsible for ringing the ‘dress bell’ to let the family and guests know it is time to dress for dinner.

Once everyone has gone to bed he checks that the doors are locked for the evening.

That all lamps and fires have been extinguished.

The butler earns between forty to sixty pound ($4,300 - $6,400) per year. He also receives considerable ‘gratuity’ money from vendors selling goods to maintain the house.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - Braised Leg of Mutton

From Mrs. Beeton's Household Management
1 small leg of mutton
4 carrots
 3 onions
1 faggot of savoury herbs
a bunch of parsley
seasoning to taste of pepper and salt
a few slices of bacon
a few veal trimmings
1/2 pint of gravy or water.
Mode.—Line the bottom of a braising-pan with a few slices of bacon, put in the carrots, onions, herbs, parsley, and seasoning, and over these place the mutton. Cover the whole with a few more slices of bacon and the veal trimmings, pour in the gravy or water, and stew very gently for 4 hours. Strain the gravy, reduce it to a glaze over a sharp fire, glaze the mutton with it, and send it to table, placed on a dish of white haricot beans boiled tender, or garnished with glazed onions.
The French term “bouquet garni” is used to describe a combination of herbs which are bundled together and used to flavor dishes by being placed in cooking pots as they simmer on the stovetop, and then removed before serving. Some refer to this as an “herb posy”, “savoury herb posy, “bouquet fagot”, “bouquet faggot”, “faggot of sweet herbs” “garnished faggot”, “kitchen bouquet”, and more.
Time.—4 hours. Average cost, 5s.
Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE.—This order of knighthood was founded by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, in 1429, on the day of his marriage with the Princess Isabella of Portugal. The number of the members was originally fixed at thirty-one, including the sovereign, as the head and chief of the institution. In 1516, Pope Leo X. consented to increase the number to fifty-two, including the head. In 1700 the German emperor Charles VI. and King Philip of Spain both laid claim to the order. The former, however, on leaving Spain, which he could not maintain by force of arms, took with him, to Vienna, the archives of the order, the inauguration of which he solemnized there in 1713, with great magnificence; but Philip V. of Spain declared himself Grand Master, and formally protested, at the congress of Cambrai (1721), against the pretensions of the emperor. The dispute, though subsequently settled by the intercession of France, England, and Holland, was frequently renewed, until the order was tacitly introduced into both countries, and it now passes by the respective names of the Spanish or Austrian “Order of the Golden Fleece,” according to the country where it is issued.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Look Who's Talking - Iris Blobel

It is my pleasure to welcome Iris Blobel to my blog today.

Iris thank you for taking part in my ‘Look Who’s Talking’ blog.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Let's hit the questions:
1. Hugh Jackman is coming to dinner, what do you cook?
a) Lamb roast dinner
b) Fish and chips
c) Find out what Hugh’s favourite meal is and cook that.

Well… I’ve failed my Australian citizenship application because I don’t like lamb. Fish and chips are on my “no no list” to eat, because I’m histamine intolerant. So I’d really go for something I could eat as well without falling victim to any of the various symptoms – wouldn’t like to end up with a massive migraine, while Hugh is in the house. Imagine the embarrassment! But there’re some very nice recipes out there. I’m sure I’d be able to come up with something he’d like.

I know what you mean Iris. Of course, it would be no hardship having Hugh sitting by my bed placing a cold compress to my forehead every so often.

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world other than Australia, where would it be and why?

I met my husband in Canada and before we had children, we always thought about taking LWOP for a year and live over there. I know it’s cold, but just so beautiful and diverse, the mountains and the sea. And the wildlife… but I think that part would mostly be scary!

Canada does sound wonderful. My husband has always said he’d like to go there for a visit. I’d love to live in England, mostly for the castles and the history. Of course I write historical romance so it would be right up my alley.  

3.  The world is coming to an end, what are you most proud of achieving?
Having my girls and raising them (without going insane), trying to prepare them for an ever-changing world, without losing their sense of humour and generous character.

I have to agree with you there Iris, my kids would have to be my proudest achievement. Just admiring the people they have become and how they are now raising their children.

4.  A fairy godmother has come to visit and she is willing to turn one of your heroes into a human. Who would you pick?

Daniel from “Sweet Dreams, Miss England”. Oh my… yes, please! Daniel’s Irish, he’s charming, clever and… *sighs*… yes, please, fairy godmother, let it be Daniel!

Oh, he does sound like a dream.

5.  Do you have a new release coming out soon or have you just released a novel?

Yes, “More Beginnings” was released late January. It’s the second book in the Beginnings series, which is set in Hobart (Tasmania) telling the story of two sisters who’ve inherited a house from a stranger. I’ve really fallen in love with the Levesque girl and I’m so close finishing the 3rd book and have a (hopefully!) great idea for number four J

That sounds like an interesting series Iris.

Would you like to share an extract?

Mia let out a mighty sigh. She had joined Zach at the front porch and sat next to him on the swing. Enjoying a cool drink, he asked her to grab a soft drink from the fridge as well. It was a warm summer day, and the air showed no sign of cooling down. A lot of people in Hobart were tired and weary of the unusual hot spell for the very southern Australian city.

With another hefty sigh, Mia raked through her long, blond hair and focused into the distance.

"Honestly, Zach, she’s a dragon. I’m sure she does that on purpose. She doesn’t like me. She thinks I’m spoilt."

The dragon was Miss Peterson, Mia’s high school English teacher. Mia liked school and enjoyed her classes. English wasn’t her worst subject, but it certainly was the toughest, with Miss Peterson piling on homework one after the other.
Zach sipped on his drink. "Hey, pumpkin, settle down. What is that supposed to mean ‘you’re spoilt’?"

She shrugged. "You know!"

His eyebrows shot up. "Actually I don’t know! Isn’t she Sophie’s good friend?"

Another shrug. "Kinda, I s’pose. They used to do the boxing stuff together, and since Soph’s carrying a baby, they go and enjoy cake instead."

Ignoring his laugh and the subject, she went inside and helped herself to cold lemonade. She opened the can with a simple click and took a long sip. "Man, it’s hot."

Zach seemed to ponder on that thought just like Mia, when she suddenly said, "You need to cut the grass, Zach."

He almost spilled the drink. "Good grief, thanks, honey." There wasn’t much yard in front of Zach’s house. A flagstone path crossed the patch of lawn, and he’d kept the rest of the garden as low maintenance as possible. But he loved sitting on the front porch, watching the world go by.

He placed his arm around her and drew her in a bit closer. "Have you talked to Soph about your teacher?"

She nodded. "Yes. Her reply was that for most fourteen-year-old girls all the teachers seem like dragons. She remembers her science teacher who gave her a hard time. She blames it on my hormones because she thinks," Mia snorted and then continued, "Miss Peterson is a really nice person."

He chuckled, which earned him a momentary glare from Mia.

Zach shrugged his left shoulder. "I s’pose she has a point."

Rolling her eyes, she moved away from him again. "Too hot for sentiments like that."

He laughed. She had come a long way from when he had first met her. That was six years earlier, and she had been only eight. Eight years old with already enough character for three teenagers combined. But he’d liked her from more or less their first meeting on. He had been helping the girls find some stuff in their attic when he had mistaken her for Sophie’s daughter. With hands on hips she’d said to him, "Do I look like her daughter? I mean, seriously." She had the genes to become a pretty girl and she was heading that way in big steps. The stylish haircut, a slight touch of make-up to emphasise her grey-green eyes, and always dressed in the latest fashion to compliment her slim figure. And she did have her heart in the right place.

"You’ll meet her tomorrow when you drop me off at the school sports."

Eyes wide open, he turned to look at her. "I will?"

"Oh man, didn’t Sophie tell you?"

"Apparently not. Or she might have." He scratched the back of his head. "I guess she probably left a note on my calendar."

"You’ll take me, won’t you?"

He gave a small nod. "Yup."

Zach lived across the road from Sophie and Mia Levesque. The sisters had moved into Sixty-Four Chestnut Avenue six years earlier. He had shared a hot kiss with Sophie, but in the end it was Mark she’d fallen in love with.

"Will what’s-his-name be there?"

Mia rolled her eyes. "Josh. Yes he will. Remember he’s in my class."

He chuckled. "Pumpkin, just because what’s-his-name is in your class ain’t mean he’s participating in a sports day."

"Doesn’t mean."

"Beg yours?"
She took a deep breath. "It’s doesn’t mean and not ain’t. You know it drives Soph mad when you use the American lingo."

He turned to look at her. "I honestly have no idea how I’ve survived the last few years with you guys across the road."

Checking the time, she stood. "Thanks for the drink." She leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Eight o’clock tomorrow morning?"

Zach nodded. "Does your dragon spit fire?"

With her hands on her hips, she replied, "You’re not taking me seriously, are you?"

"I am!"

She tilted her head slightly. "Let me see," she paused for effect. "With your green eyes, athletic body, husky voice, blond hair, which, by the way, is in serious need of a trim, ... hmm... she might like you. But then again, your job as an escort might disturb her."
Shaking his head, he stood and took her empty can of lemonade. "Instead of giving me a hard time with my lingo, Sophie should keep an eye on the books you read. All that romance stuff is making you silly in the head. Husky voice." He laughed and went into the house.

"At eight?" she screamed after him.

"Yeah, I’ll be there."
If you would like to donate a prize for your favourite comment please do.

Yes! I’d be happy to donate a copy of “More Beginnings”

To win a copy of Iris’ novel ‘More Beginnings’ just leave a comment. The winner will be announced later this week.

Thank you for your time. – Thank YOU for having me J


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thoughts for Thursday

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush


It's better to have a lesser but certain advantage than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing.


This proverb refers back to medieval falconry where a bird in the hand (the falcon) was a valuable asset and certainly worth more than two in the bush (the prey).

A golden key can open any door


Money opens any door.


This notion must be as old as money itself. The first person who is known to have written it down is the English playwright John Lyly, in Euphues and his England, 1580:
Who is so ignorant that knoweth not, gold be a key for euery locke, chieflye with his Ladye.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - Almond Soup

From Mrs Beeton's Household Management
4 lbs. of lean beef or veal 
1/2 a scrag of mutton 
1 oz. of vermicelli 
4 blades of mace, 6 cloves 
1/2 lb. of sweet almonds
 the yolks of 6 eggs
1 gill of thick cream
rather more than 2 quarts of water.

Mode.—Boil the beef, or veal, and the mutton, gently in water that will cover them, till the gravy is very strong, and the meat very tender; then strain off the gravy, and set it on the fire with the specified quantities of vermicelli, mace, and cloves, to 2 quarts. Let it boil till it has the flavour of the spices. Have ready the almonds, blanched and pounded very fine; the yolks of the eggs boiled hard; mixing the almonds, whilst pounding, with a little of the soup, lest the latter should grow oily. Pound them till they are a mere pulp, and keep adding to them, by degrees, a little soup until they are thoroughly mixed together. Let the soup be cool when mixing, and do it perfectly smooth. Strain it through a sieve, set it on the fire, stir frequently, and serve hot. Just before taking it up, add the cream.

Time.—3 hours.

Average cost per quart, 2s. 3d.

Seasonable all the year.

Sufficient for 8 persons.

THE ALMOND-TREE.—This tree is indigenous to the northern parts of Asia and Africa, but it is now cultivated in Europe, especially in the south of France, Italy, and Spain. It flowers in spring, and produces its fruit in August. Although there are two kinds of almonds, the sweet and the bitter, they are considered as only varieties of the same species. The best sweet almonds brought to England, are called the Syrian or Jordan, and come from Malaga; the inferior qualities are brought from Valentia and Italy. Bitter almonds come principally from Magadore. Anciently, the almond was much esteemed by the nations of the East. Jacob included it among the presents which he designed for Joseph. The Greeks called it the Greek or Thasian nut, and the Romans believed that by eating half a dozen of them, they were secured against drunkenness, however deeply they might imbibe. Almonds, however, are considered as very indigestible. The bitter contain, too, principles which produce two violent poisons,—prussic acid and a kind of volatile oil. It is consequently dangerous to eat them in large quantities. Almonds pounded together with a little sugar and water, however, produce a milk similar to that which is yielded by animals. Their oil is used for making fine soap, and their cake as a cosmetic.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Supper – February for Eighteen People

First Course.
Hare Soup, removed by Turbot and Oyster Sauce.
Fried Eels.
Vase of Fried Whitings.
Oyster Soup, removed by Crimped Cod la Matre d'Htel.


Lark Pudding.
Lobster Patties.
Vase of Filets de Perdrix.
 Fricasseed Chicken.

Second Course.
Braised Capon.
Boiled Ham, garnished.
Roast Fowls, garnished
Vase of Boiled Fowls and with Water-cresses.
White Sauce.
Haunch of Mutton.

Third Course
Ducklings, removed by Ice Pudding.
Coffee Cream.
Orange Jelly.
Vase of Clear Jelly.
Victoria Blancmange.
Gteau de Sandwiches.
Partridges, removed by Cabinet Pudding.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day - The Legend

Eros, Greek God of Love and Desire
The first idea of romantic love came from the god, Eros (God of Love and Desire). The Greek poet Hesiod, who writes in his Theogony, that Eros was one of the first gods born out of Chaos (the void), along with Gaia (the earth) and Tartarus (the underworld). 

Theogony described Eros in the following as: "…and Eros, the fairest of the deathless gods; he unstrings the limbs and subdues both mind and sensible thought in the breasts of all gods and all men." (Hesiod, Theogony, 120-2)

Cupid and his arrows of desire

In Roman mythology Eros' name translation was Cupid, which means desire. He is depicted as a capricious winged child carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows.

St. Valentine, is patron saint of lovers.
Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers.

One Valentine legend says St. Valentine secretly married many young lovers and therefore became their patron saint.

It is thought that  Valentine's Day most likely came from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which had been celebrated for eight hundred years on February 15th. The day was dedicated to the god Lupercus and young men would take a woman as a sexual companion for a year, by means of drawing her name in a lottery.

Pope Gelasius changed this custom, which was unacceptable to the Catholic Church. He decreed that the lottery be changed so that both young men and women drew the names of saints to emulate for the coming year.

Valentine instead of Lupercus became the patron of this feast. Despite this change in custom, Roman men continued to seek the affections of women on this date and sent notes of endearment to their sweethearts, including Valentine's name in their missives.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - A Valentine's Feast

Oysters with champagne sauce

125ml (1/2 cup) champagne or sparkling white wine
1 French shallot (eschalot), finely chopped
125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
Freshly ground white pepper
Rock salt, to serve
12 (1 dozen) natural oysters (such as Sydney rock oysters), in the half shell
Chopped fresh chives, to serve

Step 1
Place the champagne and shallot in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the cream and season with white pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until reduced by half and the sauce is thick and creamy.
Step 2
Preheat grill on high. Scatter rock salt over the base of 2 small heatproof serving dishes. Arrange the oysters on the rock salt. Pour the cream mixture evenly among the oysters. Cook under grill for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Set aside for 2 minutes to cool slightly. Sprinkle with chives to serve.

Duck legs braised in pinot noir

1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup (250ml) pinot noir
150ml port
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
2 bay leaves
4 duck marylands (see note)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) demiglaze (see note)
8 eschalots, peeled
20g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Steamed peas and creamy mashed potato, to serve

Step 1
Place onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a heavy-based saucepan with pinot, port, orange zest and juice, and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat and set aside to cool. Pour over duck legs in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 2
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Step 3
Drain the duck legs, reserving the marinade and vegetables separately. Pat duck dry with paper towel. Heat oil in a large ovenproof frypan over medium heat. Fry the duck legs for 2-3 minutes each side until golden all over. Remove duck from pan and set aside, then drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Step 4
Place the reserved vegetables in the frypan and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden. Add reserved marinade, demiglaze and 1 cup (250ml) water and bring to the boil. Add the duck legs and cover with a round piece of baking paper to keep in the moisture, then cover with a lid or foil. Place in the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the duck is tender. Remove the pan from the oven and strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Place the liquid over medium heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes until mixture has reduced to a thick sauce.
Step 5
Meanwhile, cook the eschalots in a small saucepan of lightly salted water over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until tender. Drain well and pat dry with paper towel. Heat butter in a small-heavy based frypan over medium-low heat. Add the eschalots and swirl pan to coat in butter. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until golden.
Step 6
Serve the duck with the peas, mashed potato and caramelised eschalots.

Strawberries in cointreau

250g (1 punnet) strawberries, washed, hulled, halved
2 tablespoons Cointreau liqueur
60g good-quality dark chocolate
3 tablespoons double thick cream


Step 1
Place the strawberries and Cointreau in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Cover and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to macerate.
Step 2
Run a vegetable peeler to peel along the long edge of the block of chocolate to make chocolate curls. Set aside until serving.
Step 3
To serve, spoon the strawberry mixture into serving bowls. Top with cream and chocolate curls.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Supper - February for Ten People

From Mrs Beeton's Household Management

First Course
Palestine Soup
John Dory, with Dutch Sause
Red Mullet, with Sauce Genoise

Sweetbread Cutlets, with Poivrade Sauce
Fowl au B├ęchamel

Second Course
Roast Saddle of Mutton
Boiled Capon and Oysters
Boiled Tongue, garnished with Brussels Sprouts

Third Course
Pain de Rhubarb
Orange Jelly
Strawberry Cream
Almond Pudding
Fig Pudding

Dessert and Ices