The following recipes are featured in the First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas exhibition:
- Thomas Tusser's Seed Cake
- Hannah Wooley's Orange and Lemon Marmalade
- William Hughes's Hot Chocolate
- Robert May's Braised Brisket
- Akara, inspired by Hercules
1 cup flour
7 teaspoons caraway seeds
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon mace
1 stick butter, room temperature (8T)
1 teaspoon rosewater
½ cup sugar
3 eggs (1 whole, 2 whites separated from yolks)
1 tablespoon sherry
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment. Stir together flour, caraway seeds, salt, and mace. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, rosewater, and sugar, either by hand or with a mixer. Stir in the whole egg and sherry, then add the flour and spice mixture. Set aside. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they hold their form. Fold the whites into the cake batter very gently, maintaining the fluffiness of the whites even if it means the batter looks clumpy. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Place it on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and set in the middle. A cake tester will come out clean when it is completely cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan.
Serve warm or room temperature with tea, coffee, fresh fruit, or preserves.
This recipe is easy to double. You can also prepare smaller cakes by baking in a greased muffin pan and adjusting your baking time to 15 minutes.
Recipe adaptation by Marissa Nicosia (www.rarecooking.com), based on a recipe from Folger MS V.a.430, and inspired by Thomas Tusser's celebratory verse on seed cakes in Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.
Sugar (3+ cups)
Water (4+ cups)
Weigh the fruit on a scale. Measure out an equal weight of sugar. If less than a pound of fruit, use 4 cups of water. If more than a pound of fruit, increase to 5 cups of water. Cut the citrus into slices ⅛ inch thick and then quarter them. Peel, core, and cut the apple into thin slices. Put the fruit and water into a 3 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 40 minutes. Put a small plate in your freezer. After 40 minutes, gently stir the fruit. The apple slices will be soft and should break down when touched. The citrus fruits will have softened. Place your candy thermometer in the pot. Add the sugar, stirring constantly as the fruit breaks down, the mixture thickens, and the marmalade takes on a light caramel color. Cook until the temperature reaches 240°F (soft ball stage or candy height). As your marmalade nears temperature, put 1 teaspoon on the freezer plate and let sit for 30 seconds. If the marmalade holds its shape when you tilt the plate, it has set. If the marmalade is browning quickly or looks set before the temperature reaches 240°F, try the plate test earlier. Put your set marmalade in a clean pint jar.
Serve the marmalade with bread, scones, muffins, or biscuits. Store this small-batch preserve in the refrigerator and consume within two weeks. You can extend the life of your marmalade by properly canning it or by freezing it. You can make more marmalade by increasing the amount of fruit and adjusting the sugar and water and cooking times accordingly.
You can also use this marmalade to create a kind of early modern candy. Take a tablespoon of the marmalade and roll it in a dish of granulated sugar. A sugar crust will encase the jammy center.
Recipe adaptation by Marissa Nicosia (www.rarecooking.com), based on a recipe in The accomplish'd ladies delight, a work which took advantage of Hannah Woolley’s fame and popularity.
This recipe makes 2 cups of hot chocolate mix
¼ cup cocoa nibs
3 ½ oz/100 gram 70% dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup breadcrumbs or grated stale bread (optional for a thicker drink)
½ teaspoon chili flakes (substitute ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon for a less spicy drink)
Milk (1 cup to 3 tablespoons of finished mix)
Toast the cocoa nibs in a shallow pan until they begin to look glossy and smell extra chocolatey. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until ingredients are combined into a loose mix. Heat the milk in a pan on the stove or in a heatproof container in a microwave. Stir in three tablespoons of mix for each cup of heated milk.
Hughes lists many other ingredients that indigenous Caribbean people as well as Spanish colonizers added to their hot chocolate. Starting with a base of grated cacao, they thickened it with cassava bread, maize flour, eggs, and/or milk, and flavored it with nutmeg, saffron, almond oil, sugar, pepper, cloves, vanilla, fennel seeds, anise seeds, lemon peel, cardamom, orange flower water, rum, brandy, and sherry. Adapt this hot chocolate to your taste by trying these other traditional flavorings.
Recipe adaptation by Marissa Nicosia (www.rarecooking.com), based on a recipe from William Hughes’s The American physitian.
2 pounds brisket
2 cups sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole cloves
¼ teaspoon mace
1 bottle red wine (750 ml, ideally, French claret/Bordeaux)
4 cups sliced cabbage
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons capers
½ baguette or other bread
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Pat the brisket dry and then place it in a large pot fitted with a cover. Add onions, salt, black peppercorns, whole cloves, and mace. Pour in wine, cover, and place in the oven for 1 hour. After the brisket has cooked for 1 hour, carefully flip it over. After it has cooked for 1 ½ hours, add cabbage, vinegar, and capers. Check it at the 2 ½ hour mark. It should be tender when poked with a fork. If not, give it more time. If the cabbage is crowded, re-arrange as necessary for even cooking. To serve, cut your bread into cubes and arrange them on a platter. Remove the brisket and set it on a cutting board to rest. Remove the cabbage and onions and place them on top of the bread. Reduce remaining cooking liquid for ten minutes until it thickens. Slice the brisket thinly, and place on top of the cabbage, onions, and bread. Pour the reduced sauce over the whole dish. Serve immediately.
This satisfying dish will serve 4-6 people. The cubes of bread that May calls “sippets” are a common ingredient in meat dishes from this period. They efficiently and deliciously soak up the rich, flavorful sauce.
Recipe adaptation by Marissa Nicosia (www.rarecooking.com), based on a recipe from Robert May’s The accomplisht cook.
1 small red onion
1 bunch parsley
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
4 cups boiling water
1 cup flour
1-2 cups lard or vegetable oil
Crush the black-eyed peas into very small pieces using a mortar and pestle or food processor. It’s okay if the mixture is uneven, but the largest pieces should be no bigger than a grain of rice. Set aside in a large bowl. Mince onion and parsley and mix together. Measure ¼ cup of the onion and parsley mixture and add to the crushed peas. Add the boiling water and stir well. Let sit for 45 minutes, or until the peas have softened and fallen to the bottom of the bowl and the water is thick and cloudy. Add in the flour gradually, until the mixture looks like a thick pancake batter and holds its shape in a spoon. Add lard or oil to your cast-iron skillet until it is a ½ inch deep, and heat until the surface shimmers. Drop the batter into the skillet using a spoon. You can make the fritters whatever size you like, but ¼ cup works well. Cook until brown and crispy and the fritters have loosened from the bottom of the pan; flip and repeat browning. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels.
Akara are delicious right out of the pan, but you can also eat them with salt, herbs, and spices sprinkled on top, hot sauce, or both. None of Hercules’s own recipes survive. To recognize and honor his skill, traditions, and culinary legacy, we offer this recipe of West African origin. It is inspired by and adapted from the work of Michael W. Twitty, a writer, culinary historian, and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa and her Diaspora. You can learn more about his work via his James Beard Award-winning book, The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African-American Culinary History in the Old South.
Recipe by Michael Twitty (https://afroculinaria.com/).