New BBC documentary tells the story of Dorothy Hartley – the woman behind the ultimate book in the history of cooking

New BBC documentary tells the story of Dorothy Hartley – the woman behind the ultimate book in the history of cooking

Posted by in Author News, Book Extracts, Book News, News, Non-Fiction

Recipes, anecdotes, household hints, spells and history are the ingredients that make Food In England a kitchen classic. First published in 1954, this cook's bible was likened by its author Dorothy Hartley to 'an old-fashioned kitchen, not impressive but a warm friendly place, where one can come in at any time and have a chat with the cook'.

For the last twelve months, David Parker and his production company Available Light have been working with Lucy Worsley to film the places Dorothy Hartley lived and the people she knew. The result is 'Food In England, The Lost World of Dorothy Hartley' which will air on BBC4 at 9 p.m. on Tuesday 6th November.

To whet your appetites for what's to come, here is an exclusive extract from the book:


The pies of England hold history – the pastry cases were first called coffers, or boxes of pastry. Not only fruit was put in tarts. A very handsome 'fyssche tarrte' made by a medieval recipe was of fine pork-pie-type crust, raised a foot and a half high. The whole was most richly gilt with gold leaf and the fish's tail sticking out of the top.

The seventeenth-century tart was sometimes in pottery, with an imitation pie-crust lid (now called pie-crust ware); this was mostly for double cooking and game pies, etc. Their real pastry tarts and pies were delicious, the pastry being flaky or puff, very light and fine, and the fillings considered with care.

Modern pies and tarts are made under various names, the Turnover, the Pastie, the Crowthie, the Fruit-between-two-skins, the Checky Pig, the Puff, the Cornet, the Open Tart, the Gable Tart, the Lattice (and all varieties of the pie-plate tart), the Proper Pie, the Plate Pie, the raised Pie, the Mould Pie, the Shell Pie (Scotch and most early English in design), and the Cottage Pie.

Open Apple Tart After the Pig (1700)

Make a small quantity of fine short crust and add a generous dust of cinnamon and a spoonful of sugar. Roll out thinly and line a buttered pie-plate. Stew the windfall apples with 4 cloves, and brown sugar, till solid and clear as amber. Spread a very thin layer of the pork scratchings on the pastry, cover with the apple amber and put four pretty wide, straight  bars of pastry, which nail down with the 4 cloves that were used in stewing the fruit. Cook in a fairly hot oven. This excellent plate pie was usually served with whipped cream spiced with rum.

Note. 'Scratchings' are the small scraps of crisp fat, scratched up from the bottom of the pan after rendering down flead for lard. They make a waterproof base under the apple pulp.

Lemon Pies (ancestral)

The yellow rind of 1 large lemon pounded with 4 ounces of fine white sugar. Add the yolks of 3 eggs, and half the whites whisked to snow. Continue whisking while adding 1/2lb of just-melted butter (or half butter and half clotted cream), the juice of the lemon being beaten in last, with a few spots of orange-flower brandy. Line patty-pans with a very fine puff paste, fill with the lemon mixture, and bake.

Lemon Pies (modern)

Melt 1 large tablespoon of butter in a thick pan, and into it rasp the fine yellow zest from 4 lemons (the butter should be just hot); now add fine flour gently, blending it with the butter, till it will take up no more, but becomes crumbly in the hot pan. Cook gently for several minutes like this. Now add, very gradually, a large cupful of boiling water, stirring all the time, and making a clear stiff thick gold sauce. Continue cooking, and add the strained juice of the lemons, and sugar to sweeten. When all is well cooked together, take the pan off the fire, and beat in the well-whipped yolks of 2 or 3 eggs. Line a deep pie-pan with fine short crust, fill with the lemon cream, and set in a hot oven, till the pasty is done. Meanwhile beat up the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, add sugar, and a single spot of lemon juice, and pile it all over the top of the pie. Set it back in the over for one moment to set. Dredge sugar over, decorate with candied peel, or marmalade and angelica, and serve hot or cold.

Food In England by Dorothy Hartley is available to buy now from all good bookshops. It has been described as 'a must for any keen English cook' by Delia Smith and 'a treasure-house of knowledge and delight' by the TLS.

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