During the first lockdown last spring, one of the things that I found to help me through it was English Heritage’s Mrs Crocombe videos on YouTube.

If you haven’t already discovered Mrs Crocombe, she was the cook at Audley End House in the late Victorian period, and English Heritage has a series called The Victorian Way which showcases recipes that Mrs Crocombe used, both her own and ones she took from other recipe books. Last autumn, English Heritage published an accompanying recipe-book which includes a full transcription of Mrs Crocombe’s notebook, How to Cook the Victorian Way with Mrs Crocombe (by Annie Gray and Andrew Hann, historians involved in the project).

I was given a copy for Christmas, and have decided to cook my way through 2021 using Mrs Crocombe’s Victorian recipes. I did try her macaroni cheese (with added sausages), a few months back, which worked quite well, and attempted her gingerbread cake at Christmas.

There are a couple of recipes that might be a bit harder to do – the swan, for instance. Try as I might, I just don’t seem able to find a whole swan to roast. Brains and sweetbreads will probably also be a bit trickier to get (though still easier than the swan). And the Christmas cake will need to wait until I have an Aga or other such stove to hand, since it requires 6 hours of baking-time.

At some point this year, I will probably supplement Mrs Crocombe’s recipes with Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845), and Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769).  

I figure learning historical recipes is going to be easier than the more ambitious sewing plans I have for making vaguely historical clothing.