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Kensington Palace Recipes 4 – Sebastian’s stain remover

10 Mar




Title page from the Compleat Servant-Maid by Hannah Woolley (1677) image from Design your life

Would you turn to Nigella for tips on household cleaning?  Or how about consulting Jamie about how to treat a common cold, or reduce a swelling?  Our modern separation of food from medicine from cleaning products is one which would probably have seemed strange to our ancestors who would have expected to produce a range of all three at home.  Many books which we might now term cookery books were so much more than this; offering the housewife or housekeeper advice on a diversity of household management topics, including the making of herbal remedies and preparations for cleaning clothes, furniture and textiles.  A sample of some of their titles not only underlines this point but also demonstrates the value placed on the skills of good household management:


  • Domestic management, or the art of conducting a family; with instructions to servants in general.  Addressed to young housekeepers, c.1800


  • The Housekeepers Manual of Cookery and Domestic Economy, 1859


  • Housekeeping A Guide to Domestic Management by Mrs Humphry (Madge of Truth) 1893


As Mrs Humphry warned readers in her introduction ‘Good housekeepers are comparatively rare.  To keep house efficiently needs a combination of qualities which Nature seems niggardly in doling out.’  Books of domestic management therefore were needed to guide women in the arts of housekeeping, so that they could be an asset to their husband/employer.


Medicines and cleaning products, just like cakes, soups and preserves, would all be prepared using  what was known as a ‘recipe’ or more commonly before the 19th century a ‘receipt’.  The Oxford English Dictionary etymology shows how the word developed from the Latin verb recipere, to receive, which in its 2nd singular imperative, was written by physicians at the top of their prescriptions.  The earliest use the OED cites for recipe/receipt being used to describe the ingredients and methods for making an edible preparation is 1595 when the Widowes Treasure talks of  ‘A notable receite to make Ipocras.’  And in his 1755 dictionary Dr Johnson defines ‘receipt’ (derived from recipe) as a ‘prescription of ingredients for any composition’.


It’s in this broad context of household management that we find in the lengthily titled The Housewife, being a most useful assistant in all domestic concerns, whether in a town or country situation (1785?) by Laetitia Montague, (Sometime companion to a lady in one of the first families in the Kingdom) the fascinating ‘recipe’ For an earwig gotten into the ear;


‘Get rue, and stamp it in a mortar; then strain off the juice, and put it into the ear; then lie down to rest on the contrary ear, and when you awake the juice will come out and the earwig will be dead.


The juices of wormwood, southernwood, and rue equal quantities, put into the ear will also kill any vermin that is got into it.’


While Mrs Humphry (1893) advises that To Dislodge a Fish Bone from the Throat;


‘Take an emetic compounded of four grains of tartar emetic dissolved in a tumberful of warm water.  Immediately afterwards, drink down the white of four eggs.  This will be efficacious in causing sickness and the bone will probably come away with it’


No-one offered me a medicinal receipt in my Kensington book of Historic Royal Recipes but the contribution from Sebastian was a receipt for the cleaning of household linen.  Sebastian is the softly spoken Deputy Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces, full of wise and witty advice and a fount of knowledge on a whole host of subjects including the furniture of royal palaces (look out for his Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber opening at Hampton Court on 27 March!)  He was also responsible for handling the return of one of my favourite portraits to Hampton Court, the wonderful Van Dyck painting of the young Princess Mary (eldest daughter of Charles I) which is believed to have hung in the palace while Charles was living there under house arrest during the English Civil War.


Now, I’m more than prepared to try most of the recipes in my book but this one I have not verified by practical experimentation (not only did I not want to mess about with the necessary ingredients, I didn’t have any ink stained clothing to practise on).  You’ll be even more delighted to hear that this means that there is no photographic evidence to accompany it.  Here is Sebastian’s recipe (courtesy of Hannah Woolley) in full:


To get Spots of Ink out of Linne Cloth


‘Before that you suffer it to be washed, lay it all night in urine as if you were washing it in water; then lay it in more urine another night and then rub it again, and so do till you find they be quite out.’


Hannah Woolley, The Compleat Servant-Maid (1677)


It’s ironic in a way how important urine has been in the preparation of cloth and the care of clothes, given how much time is spent trying to remove human waste from laundry.  Fulling the process of cleansing newly made cloth to remove impurities and make it thicker used urine (or wash as it was known) to soften and whiten the cloth.  The medieval toilet, the garderobe, gained its name because clothing was hung there so that the ammonia rich environment would kill the fleas and other insects.  As Hannah Woolley’s spot remover demonstrates urine continued to be important in the care of clothes and urine from chamber pots and privies was collected for the purpose.


Of course a fabric cleaning recipe is a very appropriate choice for a curator of historic dress (this was not a technique we ever used to try and get rid of ink spots at Kensington) and despite my reluctance to begin testing this within the confines of our modern apartment I am fascinated by the history of keeping clothes clean, not least because a brief trawl through the history of clothes laundering and cleaning quickly reminds you how pain free modern appliances and commercial dry cleaning have made the business of keeping clothes clean.  No longer the messy, arduous and sometimes highly dangerous business of preparing your own soap and urine stain removers, poking clothes through mangles and lifting heavy piles of soaked washing from boiling coppers.  When you next lift your clothes from your user-friendly washing machine or treat the coffee spill on your shirt with a neatly packaged, pre-prepared stain remover you can be glad that you don’t have to think about setting your urine aside for future use!  Thanks for the recipe Sebastian.  See below for a few more clothes cleaning recipes and links to some of my favourite historic laundry pictures.




Housekeeping A Guide to Domestic Management by Mrs Humphry (Madge of Truth,) 1893

‘To take out a wax candle or sperm stains Lay a piece of blotting-paper on the stain.  Put a live coal from the fire into a kitchen spoon, hold the spoon on the blotting paper.  The heat will cause the latter to absorb the grease’


The New England Cook Book, or Young Housekeeper’s Guide, n.d


36. To clean Silk Stockings.

Wash the stockings in mildly warm hard soap suds, rinse them in soap suds and if you wish to have them of a flesh color, put in a little rose, pink or cochineal powder; if you prefer a bluish cast, put in a little indigo. Hang them up to dry without wringing, when nearly dry, iron them on the right side, till perfectly so. If you wish silks of any kind to have a gloss on them, never rinse them without soap in the water.


39. To clean Light Kid Gloves.

Magnesia, moist bread and India Rubber, are all of them good to clean light kid gloves, if rubbed on thoroughly.

The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861

Silks, when washed, should be dried in the shade, on a linen-horse, taking care that they are kept smooth and unwrinkled. If black or blue, they will be improved if laid again on the table, when dry, and sponged with gin, or whiskey, or other white spirit.


The Easiest Way In Housekeeping And Cooking. Adapted To Domestic Use Or Study In Classes by Helen Campbell, 1903


‘If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.’



The Fortress of Konigstein: Courtyard with the Magdalenenburg by Bernardo Bellotto, 1756-8, which shows on the right hand side women putting the linen out on the grass to dry and bleach in the sun.  (Manchester City Art Galleries)

Manual Labour: An Interior with Three Figures Folding Laundry by Wyn Casbolt, 1943 (UCL Art Gallery)

A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Morland, c.1765-82 (Tate Galleries)

Restored Cathedral with Washing on the Drying Green by H Eadie, 1907 (Dunblane Museum)

Y Lein Ddillad (The Washing Line) by Helen Steinthal, 1964-1966 (Bangor University)


Kensington Palace Recipes 3 – Colin’s fig and white chocolate biscuits

29 Jan


An early concept model for Enchanted Palace, combining fashion and palace grandeur, ideas which then had to be costed up by Colin, note the magically pouring teapot to the left.

This week’s Kensington Palace recipe comes courtesy of Colin, Head of Quantity Surveying at Historic Royal Palaces.  Throughout my work on exhibition projects at HRP Colin had a remarkable ability to remain totally unfazed by any of the unexpected and sometimes surreal ideas we’d suggest for our exhibition design.  Colin’s calm and wise assessment of our proposals was particularly valuable for the exhibition adventure that was Enchanted Palace.  Whatever we came up with, from magic pouring tea pots to flying dresses, real birch forests to 14ft tall puppets, Colin would be able to quantify it and cost it up, producing budgets that allowed our creative ideas to move beyond sketches on a page.

  IMG_4049  chopped figs and white chocolate, courtesy of Bulk Barn

A similar mixture of creativity tempered by the restraint of experience is found in Colin’s fig and white biscuit recipe.  The recipe is photocopied from a newspaper but has been helpfully annotated with Colin’s modifications; he suggests using rice flour instead of the original plain flour for example and warns not to chop up the chocolate too small, other ‘it will disappear’.  Locating the ingredients for this recipe was much more straight forward than last time.  A quick trip to Bulk Barn provided me with the dried figs, white chocolate and flour.  I was going to get white chocolate chips but Bulk Barn only had these in one, small size and bearing in mind Colin’s advice I decided to buy a bar of chocolate instead to chop up.


The recipe was wonderfully straightforward; creaming the butter and sugar, adding the vanilla and egg, then the figs and chocolate and then finally the flour.  The recipe suggests that you’ll get 15 biscuits; I managed 16, all fitting neatly on one baking sheet.


All ready for the oven

For 20 minutes or so there was a beautiful smell wafting out of the oven.  I had to resist sampling them straight away but was glad to have waited; the crunchy outside forms a great contrast with the soft and chewy centre.  I don’t think that I’ve ever experimented with fig and white chocolate in a biscuit before but the two make a delicious flavour combination and the creamy white chocolate works beautifully with the squidgy seeded texture of the figs.  Perfect with a cup of coffee.

Thanks very much for the recipe Colin!


The finished biscuits, golden, chewy and crunchy

Kensington Palace Recipes 2 – Jo’s Welsh cakes

19 Jan


After a little bit of investigation and improvisation I had all the ingredients I needed to make Jo’s Welsh cakes, as the next of the recipes from my Kensington Palace custom cook book.  After asking Elizabeth at Fort York it turns out that lard in Canadian supermarkets is found in the baking section, ie. it isn’t refrigerated.  The other ingredient which wasn’t easy to come by was mixed spice, not being a regular baking addition in Canada.  In the end I bought spices and made my own mixed spice; two parts ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon to one part cloves.  I’ve never mixed up my own mixed spice before so if anyone has comments on the spices and proportions I used I’m open to improvements.


mixed spice mixed by Mrs Kim


Canadian lard; I needed a little help to find in the supermarket, nestled as it was alongside flour and yeast, rather than chilled with the butter and margarine

Jo is the assistant curator for Historic Royal Palaces and is one of the most organised and super efficient people I know.  Throughout the preparation for our exhibition Jubilee – A View from the Crowd last year, which had a vast range of loan objects from museums and private lenders, Jo kept them and all their accompanying information in meticulous order, as well as charming our lenders, overseeing installation and generally being an indispensible part of the team.  She also discovered a hidden talent as a hand model; during the photography of the exhibition objects Jo’s hands were extensively used to hold and frame the objects and all the white glove shots you see have Jo’s talented hands beneath them.

 hand and cupA Victorian Diamond Jubilee mug, beautifully framed by Jo’s hands

Jo hails from Wales so it’s perhaps not surprising that the recipe she contributed was Welsh cakes.  These sweet cakes, usually containing currants and spices, are actually more like a thin scone and would have been baked on a griddle or bakestone over the hearth.  As I’ve never had Welsh cakes before I went online to find out what type of texture they should have and a little more about their history.  Something I was keen to try and find out was how old Welsh cakes were.  One on-line writer suggests that as they contain an added raising agent they probably are little older than mid-19th century.  However, cooking on the hearth is such a long tradition that I’m sure that Welsh cakes existed in some form before this, whatever the raising agent.  The Laura Secord Canadian cookbook which I was given for Christmas has a Welsh cake recipe which it introduces by commenting that these were the cakes which King Alfred traditionally burnt.  The name might be wrong but the technology of using a bakestone, a thin stone or slate, to cook cakes near a fire, seems a little more plausible for any cakes King Alfred might have had a hand in burning.


St Fagans, the National Museum of Wales, rightly point out that there’s no definitive recipe for Welsh cakes; each family would have had their own particular traditions and touches. One of the earliest published recipes for Welsh cakes however seems to appear in the cookbook written by Lady Llanover, a staunch supporter of Welsh customs and traditions who championed the Welsh language and music and is credited with ‘designing’ the Welsh national costume.  Her book Good cookery illustrated: And recipes communicated by the Welsh hermit of the cell of St. Gover, with various remarks on many things past and present  was published in 1867.  However, according to the OED’s quotations for Welsh cake a recipe also appeared in a January 1867 edition of the periodical Young Englishwoman ‘Welsh Cakes.—One pound of butter beaten to a cream, add by degrees an equal quantity of flour, a tablespoonful of yeast, and three eggs.’  If anyone can find an earlier recipe do let me know.

The size and texture of a Welsh cake is key – they should be fairly thin, or as Jo helpfully describes, rolled out to the width of your little finger – as they need to cook quickly over the heat of the fire or hob.  Ann Romney (her grandfather was a Welsh miner), wife of the Republican contender for the American presidency, seems to have raised some sceptical Welsh eyebrows with her much thicker Welsh cakes which she baked last year on Good Morning America, a recent article pointed out.


flour, salt, mixed spice, sugar, lard and butter, all ready to mix by hand


after rolling out the dough to the width of my little finger I cut it into rounds

With these tips and warnings to guide me I took the plunge with Jo’s Welsh cake recipe, in a sense literally, since I mixed the ingredients by hand.  Volunteering in the Fort York kitchen has reminded me of the enjoyment of mixing ingredients by hand and the benefits of being able to judge each stage in the process of combining much more directly than using an electric mixer.  Since our hyper-modern apartment is without both bakestone and hearth these were cooked on a hob in a frying pan.  After burning the first batch I allowed the heat to cool and had much more successful results for the remaining cakes.  And as all the recipes suggest they were delicious sprinkled with sugar and eaten warm.  Thanks very much for the recipe Jo!


Following in the footsteps of King Alfred; burning my Welsh cakes…..

       IMG_3936 …but they weren’t all bad; some more palatable Welsh cakes, sprinkled with sugar

Kensington Palace Recipes 1 – Rebecca’s Lemon Drizzle Cake

13 Jan


mixing up a lemon drizzle cake

When I left Kensington Palace in the summer before coming to Canada one of the gifts my lovely HRP colleagues gave me was a cookery book where they’d all contributed a recipe.  They all knew how much I enjoyed baking and cooking and I couldn’t think of a more personal and perfect way of remembering my time at Kensington.  I’ve been woefully slow in trying the tempting and intriguing culinary delights which they selected.  Now that we’ve reached the new year I’ve determined to work my way through the book, with at least a recipe a week.


My book of ‘Historic Royal Recipes’, carefully prepared by Meg

I was going to start with the first in the book, Jo Ewin’s Welsh cakes.  However, I was thwarted by the ready lack of lard in Toronto grocery stores.  So Jo’s recipe is going to have to wait while I locate the lard.  This week instead I’m baking Rebecca Morrison’s Lemon Drizzle Cake.  I’m a big fan of lemon drizzle cake; often I’m so eager to try it as it comes out of the oven doesn’t even get its topping before I’ve begun to sample the freshly baked sponge with its tangy lemon taste.    The MacCulloch family recipe for lemon drizzle cake has been supplemented with Mr Kim’s addition of poppy seeds, so I was keen to try out Rebecca’s recipe and see how it compared.  As I’m writing there’s a delicious lemon scent drifting from the oven.


The ingredients for the lemon drizzle cake (minus the eggs which were loitering to the side); in comparison to the MacCulloch LDC which uses demerara sugar Rebecca’s recipe uses caster sugar, giving it a much finer texture.  Self-raising flour isn’t as common in Canada but Brodie’s do make a version which you can buy in small packets as shown here. 

I first met Rebecca when she came to volunteer at Kensington and was instantly impressed by her utter unfazability and willingness to take on just about any task. As well as researching royal wedding dresses and elements of the palace’s history for our new presentation of the State Apartments her skills as a costume designer and dressmaker were well used in her creation of a wonderful interpretation of Prince Albert’s wedding outfit.  She also kept us on the straight and narrow when creating 1897 silhouettes for our filming of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee crowd which we used in the exhibition Jubilee – A View from the Crowd.  Now she’s mother to the delightful Dulcie, who came along to lend her own small and perfectly small hand to the task of choosing the right costumes for our 1897 crowd.


Rebecca putting the finishing touches to her Prince Albert wedding uniform, as shown in the Independent feature about the newly presented Kensington, March 2012.

So now Rebecca’s lemon drizzle cake is out of the oven, looking very fine and covered with its glaze of lemon juice and sugar.   So far I’ve resisted temptation to dig in but I think it’s time to sample it, even though it’s a bit too early for the lemon drizzle to have set.  My loaf tins are still in storage so I had to use a 9” tin to bake my lemon drizzle.  It doesn’t seem to have done the cake any harm; the sponge is lovely and fluffy, and the drizzle forms a great sharp contrast; now I just have to wait and try it when the topping’s gone all crunchy.    Thanks very much for the recipe Rebecca!


   IMG_3903 The cake just after it’s been drenched in lemon drizzle, it might take a little bit of time to cool and harden to a crunchy topping but …….


…… I just couldn’t wait and had to try a slice – delicious!