Johnny and chocolate cakes

A little while ago I wrote about Johnny cakes or johnnycake – it seems that originally they were the sort of cake you could wrap up and take with you to sustain you on a journey – although there were other ideas about how they got their name! Looking at some old recipes from the 1870’s, I found a johnny cake recipe… and one for chocolate cake too!


  • 1 quart of buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of butter
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoonfuls of soda
  • 1 tea-cup of flour
  • … and corn meal enough to make a soft batter
  1.  mix everything and bake at least one hour in a buttered pan

What could be easier than that?! In other recipes, spoonfuls of the batter are cooked to make small pancakes – the recipe above sounds a bit leathery!

So this is how the recipe appeared for the other cake:

CHOCOLATE CAKE – Beat well the yolks of five eggs, and one tea-cup of sweet milk in which has been dis-solved two teaspoonfuls of cream tartar and one of soda ; one and a half teacups white sugar, half a cup of butter ; beat the whites of the eggs to a froth, using three for the cake, then stir in flour. It should not be very stiff. Bake in layers, as jelly cake. Grate three tablespoonfuls of baking chocolate, and add two tablespoonfuls of white sugar and the two remaining white of eggs well beaten. This is to be spread between the layers.

But this is easier:


  • 5 eggs separated
  • 1 teacup sweet milk
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ teacups of white sugar
  • ½ teacup of butter
  • cooking chocolate – 3 tbsp when grated
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  1. dissolve the cream of tartar and the bicarbonate of soda in the milk
  2. beat the egg yolks with the milk
  3. add in the sugar and butter (you may need to beat the butter first separately)
  4. beat three of the egg whites and stir into the mixture
  5. fold in the flour
  6. bake in separate sponge tins (the recipe doesn’t specify how many, I guess 3!) at 180C/350F/Gas 4 for about 25 mins or until done
  7. put to cool while making chocolate frosting
  8. beat remaining egg whites
  9. add in the 2 tbsp sugar and grated chocolate
  10. frosting spread between layers and on top if there is enough – if there isn’t, dust with icing sugar

My featured image is of a completely different chocolate cake I made for a chocoholic aunty’s birthday!

Portable Soup

We take so many things for granted, our lives are so easy because of modern conveniences, even something as simple as stock cubes, so imagine what it would have been like before they were as readily available. I came across a recipe for ‘portable soup‘ – which doesn’t mean soup which can be transported from place to place, but is a recipe for what amounts to a stock cube which can be rehydrated as a base for the soup. Meat must have been much cheaper then, 10 lbs of shin beef and two chickens would be quite an expensive way to make soup, portable of not!

Portable Soup – Put on, in four gallons of water, 10 lbs. of a shine beef, free from fat and skin, 6 lbs. of a knuckle of veal, and two fowls; break the bones and cut the meat into small pieces; season with lot of whole black pepper, ¼ oz. of Jamaica pepper, and the same of mace; cover the pot very closely, and let it simmer for twelve or fourteen hours, and then strain it.
The following day take off the fat, and clear the jelly from any sediment adhering to it; boil it gently upon a stove without covering the sauce pan, and stir it frequently till it becomes very thick and in lumps about the pan.
Put it into saucers about half full, and when cold lay the cakes upon flannel to dry before the fire or in the sun ; keep them in a tin box with white paper between each cake. About an ounce weight will make a pint of rich soup; pour boiling water upon it with a little salt, and stir it till it dissolves. It  also answers well for gravies and all brown sauces.

I guess the meat which is recovered would be eaten, but after cooking for 12 -14 hours I can’t imagine it would have much flavour left! Maybe it would be fed to the dogs.


I fancy pickling!

It’s ages since I made any pickles… I don’t mean chutney (although it’s a long time since I made any of that, and nobody in the family likes chutney…) but pickled vegetables… say for example… piccalilli… Yes, I fancy some, and I’ve found a new recipe using cider vinegar – I wonder if adding chopped dessert apples to the vegetable mix would be nice? And maybe some cloves?:

  • 2 lbs mixed vegetables of your choice, cut into similar sized chunks – e.g cauliflower, carrots, runner beans (be careful that they are tender and haven’t got hard skins) courgettes, marrow… whatever you fancy!
  • 2 large onions and 1 red pepper peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 oz salt
  • 6 oz sugar
  • ¾ pint cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
  • 2 extra  tblsp  cider vinegar
  1. put the all the vegetables in a bowl, add salt, mix well and leave to stand for at least 1 hour.  (the recipe says drain well, I would actually drain and then give a little rinse – I’ve sometimes ended up with very salty end product!)
  2. mix the sugar, vinegar, mustard  and turmeric  and bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then take off the heat
  3.  mix the cornflour  with the extra vinegar, make sure there are no lumps
  4. stir the cornflour into spicy sugary vinegar, stirring well
  5.  return to the heat  and cook for a couple of minutes
  6. carefully fold in the diced, salted, rinsed vegetables
  7. spoon into warm sterilised jars
  8. leave for 4-6 weeks before opening and enjoying!

A pint of…

Here’s a recipe I haven’t made in a very long time…

Pint glass bread

  • a pint glass of whole meal flour
  • a pint glass white flour
  • ¾ pint buttermilk
  • enough salt to coat the bottom of a pint glass ( I would use less)
  • enough baking soda to coat the bottom of a pint glass
  • enough butter to coat the bottom of a pint glass
  1. rub the butter into the flours and salt with fingertips
  2. make a dip in the middle and add the buttermilk
  3. pull it all together and knead lightly – don’t over knead
  4. form into a ball, flatten slightly and cut across, turn 90 and cut again
  5. cook in a hot oven at 190 degrees for about 35-45 mins
  6. when it sounds hollow when knocked on the bottom it’s done
  7. eat with loads of butter

I don’t know whose house is in my featured image, but can’t you imagine the person living three making their own bread?!

More minimalist recipes

I came across some recipes form 1879 – the instructions were minimal to say the least! I don’t think this shows carelessness or indifference on the part of the person who wrote them – C.A.E. who sent them to an Australian local newspaper, I think it shows how anyone reading the recipe was an experienced cook and would understand them!

Small Cakes

  • 1 pint of flour
  • 1 pint of fine sugar
  • two or three tablespoonfuls of butter or clarified dripping
  • 12 drops of essence of lemon
  • a small pinch of carbonate of soda
  • two large or three small eggs
  1.  mix all
  2. roll thin and cut out
  3. bake in not too hot an oven, they take only a few minutes

… and that is it! This recipe is written without an ingredient list – which is how before the cooks of the nineteenth century, everything was written. Are they biscuits? They don’t sound like cakes at all!

Tomato Jam

  1. boil ripe tomatoes till clear from the skins
  2. … then strain through a cullender (this is the actual spelling)
  3. to every pint 1 lb. of sugar
  4. boil till thick
  5. … then add essence of lemon to suit the taste
  • ripe tomatoes
  • 1 lb sugar per pint of tomatoes
  • essence of lemon

Rock Melon Jam.

  1. peel the rock melon and take the seeds out
  2. cut the melon up
  3. …  and to every pound of fruit put half a pound of sugar
  4. … and boil it
  • rock melon
  • sugar

… and that is it!! Fruit and sugar! Nothing more, nothing less!

You will find more delights like I have here:

Minimalist recipes

Here are some more recipes from over a hundred years ago, from almost one hundred and forty years ago, actually. These recipes are written for people who already know how to cook; the ingredients are given and the instructions are minimal – I can imagine especially with the lemon curd that not mentioning it needs stirring quite a lot, might end up with something resembling sweet lemon scrambled eggs!


Lemon Preserve

  • Take 1 lb. of fine white sugar
  • six eggs (leaving out two whites)
  • the juice of three lemons
  • the rinds of two grated and…
  • a ¼ lb. of butter
  1. Put the ingredients into a saucepan
  2. … and boil gently over a slow fire until they become thick and look like honey

… and that’s it! C.A.S. adds – It will keep good for twelve months in a jar… These days a recipe would warn about the sugar ‘catching’ on the bottom of the pan, the eggs curdling, the butter becoming oily, and as I mentioned, the necessity to stir a lot! I haven’t tried this but I have made lemon curd and it’s always made in a bowl over boiling water, melting the sugar in the lemon juice first with the butter, then adding the lightly beaten eggs to the mixture. However, I’m sure the housewives and housekeepers C.A.S. was addressing knew exactly what to do – and maybe, even if it went wrong it would still taste alright and the family would still eat it!

So another lemony recipe

To Make Lemon Syrup

  • Take 4 lbs of white sugar
  • 2 quarts of boiling water
  • 1½ oz. of citric acid
  • 90 (yes 90, ninety) drops of essence of lemon
  1. dissolve the citric acid in half a cup of water, keep it stirred till dissolved
  2. … then add it to the rest
  3. Strain all well together and bottle while warm

… and that is the recipe! No lemons have been used in the making of this syrup…!!! And now a recipe I am going to try because I love ginger biscuits – well, ginger anything, really!

Ginger Nuts

  • Flour 2 lbs (brown)
  • sugar ¾ lb.
  • butter (oiled) ¾ lb.
  • ginger 2 oz.
  • treacle 2 lbs.
  1. Mix all well together…
  2. set it aside for an hour or two
  3.  – then roll out, cut, and place them on a tin
  4. bake them in not too slow an oven


… oh wait!! Am I going to try it? Actually no!! Look at the quantity of treacle! Equal amounts of flour and treacle, that can’t possibly be right – and then sugar as well! it would never set into a biscuit it would be more like a ginger pudding, a very sticky ginger pudding!

Here is a ginger biscuit recipe (or you can make gingerbread people if you prefer!)

  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz soft brown  sugar
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or zest of lemon)
  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (I would add more!)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (again, I would add more)
  1. cream the first five ingredients together until light and as fluffy as the treacle allows
  2. add the dry ingredients sifted together
  3. pull the mixture and then knead to properly mix everything – just with the fingers (you’re not making bread!!)
  4. roll out thinly and cut into biscuits
  5. place on greased, floured baking tray (I would line mine – things seem to stick in my cooking world!)
  6. bake for about ten mins at 350° F, 180° C, gas mark 4 (cooking time depends on how thinly you’ve rolled them!)

You will find these, and much more, here:

Butter beans… do people still eat them?

Do people still eat butter beans? Other people I mean because I still eat them! I’m not sure my children would even know what they are, even the foodie boy! I remember eating them at home, served in a white sauce, sometimes an onion sauce, I remember them at school and i think I may have been one of the few that ate them… great big, pale, beige, floury, sweet beans – they do have an annoying loose skin which put my friends off when we were sitting at the l long tables for school lunch. I buy tins of them now (yes, I know it’s cheaper to buy them uncooked, soak and cook them, but I always cook too many and then forget toe at them…)

The BBC food website tells me they are ‘ large, creamy-coloured beans that have a soft, floury texture when cooked…’ it goes on to say that they make ‘… a great vegetarian pâté and work well in mixed bean salads, or rich, wintry stews… mashed, or blitzed in soups and more ‘ and are ‘… a useful source of potassium...’

Their botanical name is phaseolus lunatus, and as well as being called butter beans they are also known as lima beans,  sieva beans and Madagascar beans and originated in South America.  They have lots of vitamins and minerals, as well as the potassium mentioned by the BBC – B1, B6, B9 and smaller amounts of E, K, B2, B3 and iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus  and zinc… so they are jolly good for you! I’ve also just found out that butter beans and sweet corn make up the strange-sounding dish, succotash… the name might be weird, I guess I’m thinking of ‘sufferin succotash‘  but the recipes I’ve just looked up sound delicous!

So why don’t people like them as much as other beans, haricot, cannellini, kidney beans? Texture maybe? Pale colour? Don’t know what to do with them? One of my favourite ways to eat them is to make them into a dip – they become very creamy and quite sweet; I blend a can of drained and rinsed beans with tahini, olive oil, a little sweet chilli sauce and  I put a little more salt with them than I would usually, and quite a bit of lemon juice. I guess I could use my madani to make a rougher version!


and calcium