19th Century cookbook offers glimpse into unusual Victorian household meals

Does ‘baked beef tea’ sound more appetising than ‘egg wine’?

Sabrina Barr
Tuesday 03 April 2018 13:41 BST

The world has drastically changed since the Victorian era, with 20th Century inventions such as the computer, air travel and television reigning supreme.

However, cooking practices have also evolved majorly, with dishes such as "toast sandwiches" and "baked beef tea" proving popular delicacies back in the day.

In 1861, a book called Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was published, providing proud homeowners with the know-how on how to run a flourishing Victorian household.

Much of the book’s advice has thankfully not stood the test of time, including a number of its unappealing recipes.

“Toast sandwiches”, which can be made in a number of variations, is one of the recipes recommended for people who are feeling under the weather.

The simplest of versions is the original toast sandwich, which unsurprisingly involves placing a thin piece of cold toast in between two slices of buttered bread.

Isabella Beeton, who edited the popular household guide, also stated that people can spruce toast sandwiches up a bit by adding fine slices of meat, i.e., transform it into a normal sandwich.

Another of the recipes featured in the book, which as of 2016 had remained in print since its initial publication date, was a concoction for “baked beef tea”.

By cutting beef into lots of small pieces, placing it into a baking jar with a significant amount of water and salt, and then leaving the mixture in the oven for three to four hours, you would then be left with a warming brew.

One of the more unusual recipes that appears in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management is “egg wine”.

To make egg wine for one person, if you’re genuinely curious, all you would need is one egg, a tablespoonful and half a glass of water, one glass of sherry, sugar and grated nutmeg.

The process involves beating the egg and combining it with a tablespoonful of water, before merging it with a water and sherry mixture that has been gently heated up.

Sugar and nutmeg is then added, before the entire blend is placed in a saucepan on a gently fire and stirred until thickened.

The motivation behind drinking “egg wine” is unclear when a person could simply opt to drink the sherry on offer.

While we may think of these recipes as slightly strange more than 150 years after the book was first published, the guide continued to be a best-seller following the death of Mrs Beeton at the young age of 28 years old.

By 1868, almost two million copies of the book had been sold and by 1907, the guide had expanded to include 74 chapters and more than 2,000 pages.

In 2011, the Royal Society of Chemistry named the “toast sandwich” as the cheapest lunchtime meal in the UK.

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