Eliza Acton’s nineteenth century cook book, ‘Modern Cookery’ which pre-dates Mrs Beeton (and which naughty Mrs Beeton copied) has some delightful and also some very interesting information and advice as well as recipes. I came across one of Henry Adlard’s wonderful engravings of a stoneware pot, which is a cooking pot, a sort of English tagine, I guess! It is a Nottingham jar which I had never heard of before. I looked it up and came across one which was for sale by auction:
KENSINGTON WARE NOTTINGHAM JAR. Art Deco aluminum and brass “Nottingham Covered Jar” cat. no. 7472. Designed by Lurelle Guild. Aluminum lid with brass knob. No other applied brass decoration. Later mark. Marked: stag head, shield and script mark. Condition: minor wear and scratches.
This aluminium and brass knobbed cooking pot, is very different from the stoneware one, Eliza is thinking of.
One of the best modes of cooking with which we are acquainted is by means of a jar, resembling in form the one shown above, well pasted down, and covered with a fold of thick paper, and then placed in a gentle oven. Rice is most excellent when thus slowly baked with a certain proportion of liquid, either by itself, or mingled with meat, fish, or fruit; but we must reserve for another volume particulars of this little system of slow oven-cookery in which for some years past we had numberless experiments made with almost uniform success; it is especially suited to invalids, from preserving the entire amount of nourishment contained in the articles of food dressed by it; and it is to their use that we hope to appropriate it.
I came across an actual recipe which uses the jar, I haven’t yet found any in Eliza’s volume. Here is Mrs C.W. Earle’s recipe for a dry curry:
These directions are for 1lb of meat, raw is preferred but cold will do. Cut two onions and one apple in thin slices from top to bottom, fry them in a good lot of butter in a china-lined fry-pan until they are golden brown, drain them quite dry from the butter, and put them into a Nottingham jar (the round flat shape with a lid is best) Put the butter back in the frypan, cut your meat in large dice (no fat or skin) fry till the meat is brown, drain it from the butter, and put it into the jar with the apple and onions.
Put the butter back into the frypan, mix one dessert spoon of Mrs Atkinson’s curry powder smoothly with it, and add two tablespoons of stock; boil it for half a minute and then empty it into the jar with the other things, and stir well with a wooden spoon kept on purpose. Should it get too dry add a little more stock or milk. Taste the curry as some meat absorbs more powder than others; if not flavoured strongly enough, add a little more powder just before serving. A little fine-grated coconut is a great improvement. Serve with rice and chutney.
The above curry powder and chutney are to be got wholesale at 13 Church Street Windsor or retail at any of the London stores. I never eat these things myself now, but I am told this kind is exceedingly good and I give the receipt for the many who like curried vegetables.
Mrs Earle lived from 1836 to 1925 so she would have been twenty-three when Eliza died; I wonder if she was familiar with her work? I love her mention of the wooden spoon kept especially for the purpose of stirring curry, and the fact that she doesn’t actually eat it herself! She was sixty-seven when she published the book containing this ‘receipt’, ‘A Third Pot-Pourri’, in those days she would have been considered an old lady!