Old Farmhouse Recipes
BBC Radio Manchester Interview 28 May 2010
Foreword to Old Farmhouse Recipes
What are the origins of this delicious book? The idea was first mooted in the early 1940s when Alison Uttley was working on the book of country reminiscence that was published in 1943 as Country Hoard. While researching for this new publication, she came across her mother’s old recipe book, one that had been used during her fondly remembered childhood at Castle Top Farm in Derbyshire.
Twenty years later, her editor at Faber, Peter du Sautoy, suggested that they should publish the book as Recipes from An Old Farmhouse. Mrs. Uttley set about this labour of love with her usual zest, although Faber’s cookery book experts had sometimes to remind her that an ingredient or two might have been forgotten. Despite two chapters going missing in the post, the book was eventually published in 1966.
On seeing the finished copy for the first time, Alison wrote: ‘I was so thrilled to open it, and I love it. So simple and so charming, yet so fairy-like in its pictures and memories.’ As she also remembered: ‘Cookery in our old farmhouse was an important part of life, and I was a wide-eyed witness of baking and brewing, of boiling and stewing.’
Reviewers were equally enthusiastic. The Times wrote: ‘There is a charming simplicity about her chosen recipes’, while the Daily Sketch marvelled at ‘mouthwatering things like lemon cream tartlets and gingerbread fingers’. The Observer astutely noted that the book was ‘designed to appeal to the nostalgia for hot, June days in the hayfields and high teas in a cool, stone-flagged kitchen’.
How wonderful that today’s readers will once more be able to sample the book’s delights.
OLD FARMHOUSE RECIPES
First published in 1966 this was one of Alison Uttley’s most popular books for adults. The best selling author of the Little Grey Rabbit stories wrote her Recipes book with the same intense and passionate nostalgia that has meant that her autobiographical memoir The Country Child (1931) has never been out of print.
Recipes from an Old Farmhouse similarly recaptures the rural idyll of Mrs Uttley’s Derbyshire childhood at Castle Top farm overlooking the Derwent Valley. She wrote: ‘Cookery in our old farmhouse was an important part of life, and I was a wide-eyed witness of baking and brewing, of boiling and stewing…while I waited to scrape the big yellow bowls with a little tea-spoon to get the fragments left…The fire was made up to a roaring furnace, to get the oven hot…Enormous baking tins were used, large joints were roasted, and large cakes were made.’
Alison’s mother cooked without a cookery book, but her daughter inherited some of her recipes ‘written in her thin delicate sloping handwriting’ in a book in which the future author wrote down some traditional recipes ‘set out neatly as if it was a school exercise, underlined with red ink…I copied out recipes given to my mother by country people.’ The recipes varied from ‘cakes and meat to cough mixtures and syrups, and drinks for the hayfield and for the horses.’
Here, then, is a delightful, sometimes idiosyncratic, Victorian cookery book, replete with hearty and mouth-watering recipes for the twenty-first century’s cooks and readers. There are recipes for ‘Thor Cake, as made in Carsington farmhouse’, for ‘Yorkshire Parkin’, ‘Mrs. Lowe’s Cake’, ‘Gingerbread Wafers’, ‘Canary Pudding’ and ‘Queen of Puddings.’ Also for Marrow Jam, Quince Marmalade, Barm Dumplings, Caraway Seed Bread, Pikelets, Yorkshire Pudding, Lemon Cream Tartlets, Herb Pudding, Miss Milward’s Pickled Damsons, Green Tomato Pickle, Everton Toffee, American Caramel, Beestings Cakes, Spanish Flummery, Chaddeson Barley Water, Bakewell Tart, Green Snow, Hill Top Toffee, Wholesome Sweets and much, much more.
Critics heaped praise on the book when it was first published. The Observer noted that it ‘was designed to appeal to the nostalgia for hot, June days in the hay fields and high teas in a cool, stone-flagged kitchen.’ The Daily Telegraph reviewer confessed to having ‘fallen under the spell of that fairy godmother of the old-time countryside, Alison Uttley.’ The Yorkshire Post wrote that the author ‘never fails to produce books which are full of warmth and comfort.’ The Daily Sketch loved the ‘mouthwatering’ recipes.
Alison Uttley had delighted her devoted readership once again, and this beautifully produced and updated new edition will arouse the interest of a new generation of admirers and cooks.