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Louis Lecompte and Harewood
Harewood House - Some Christmas Recipes

In the last few decades of the nineteenth century, the kitchens at Harewood were run by an important French chef called Louis Lecompte. We know very little about the origins of this man, but it is recorded that he won a number of important awards for his culinary achievements, including a gold medal at the Exposition Culinaire Internationale in 1887. The standards he expected were of the very highest. An elevated window in his kitchen even enabled him to keep an eye on his three kitchen maids from his bedroom when he was resting!

Lecompte was a major contributor to the most lavish and important cookery book of the late nineteenth century, the monumental Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery. This spectacular work, with its numerous colour plates, was created by Britain's most notable Victorian chefs. Its readers were the kitchen professionals of the nation's great houses and grand hotels. If we want to know how middle class Victorians ate, we look at Mrs. Beeton. If we want an insight into stylish aristocratic dining, we must delve into the Encyclopaedia and its spectacular illustrations, like those on this page.

With its strong associations with Harewood, this book is the best place to go to find the kind of recipes that would have been used in the kitchens of this great house. There is a whole chapter devoted to Christmas food, with nine recipes for Christmas puddings alone.

Another work that gives us an accurate picture of the food of the English aristocracy is The Modern Cook by Charles Elme Francatelli, chef to Queen Victoria herself. The recipes on this page are quoted either from the Encyclopedia or Francatelli's Modern Cook.

A very grand Yorkshire Christmas Pie was served at Windsor Castle in 1858

The earliest recipe for Yorkshire Christmas Pies dates from the eighteenth century, but they are probably much older. They were always stuffed to the gunnels with game and boned birds and frequently required a bushel of flour to make the crust. They were frequently sent as gifts.

There are sixteen different recipes for mincemeat in the Encyclopaedia. Nearly all of them contain meat, such as beef or tongue. Only one recipe is quoted here. Use it to make mince pies, or for a change, try the mincemeat pudding recipe.

Victorian puff paste mince pie

A typical Victorian mince pie, made with short crust below and puff pastry on top. Click it to find out more about the fascinating history of mince pies.

Click to go to the Harewood website

Ivan Day working in the Harewood kitchen - click the picture to visit the Harewood Website

A lavish table setting illustrated in The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery

Some Original Victorian Recipes

Yorkshire Christmas Pie

One of the magnificent copper pie moulds from the Harewood kitchen

First, bone a turkey, a goose, a brace of young pheasants, four partridges, four woodcocks, a dozen snipes, four grouse, and four widgeons; then boil and trim a small York ham and two tongues. Season and garnish the inside of the fore-named game and poultry, asdirected in the foregoing case, with long fillets of fat bacon and tongue, and French truffles; each must be carefully sewn up with a needle and small twine, so as to prevent the force-meat from escaping while they are being baked. When the whole of these are ready, line two round or oval braizing-pans with thin layers of fat bacon, and after the birds have been arranged therein in neat order, and covered in with layers of bacon and buttered paper, put the lids on, and set them in the oven to bake rather slowly, for about four hours: then withdraw them, and allow them to cool.
While the foregoing is in progress, prepare some highly-seasoned aspic-jelly with the carcasses of the game and poultry, to which add six calves’-feet, and the usual complement of vegetables, &c., and when done, let it be clarified: one-half should be reduced previously to its being poured into the pie when it is baked.
Make about sixteen pounds of hot-water-paste, and use it to raise a pie of sufficient dimensions to admit of its holding the game and poultry prepared for the purpose, for making which follow the directions contained in the foregomg article. The inside of the pie must first be lined with thin layers of fat bacon, over which spread a coating of well-seasoned force-meat of fat; the birds should then be placed in the following order :—First, put the goose at the bottom with some of the small birds round it, filling up the cavities with some of the force-meat; then, put the turkey and the pheasants with thick slices of the boiled ham between them, reserving the woodcocks and widgeons, that these may be placed on the top: fill the cavities with force-meat and truffles, and cover the whole with thin layers of fat bacon, run a little plain melted butter over the surface, cover the pie in the usual manner, and ornament it with a bold design. The pie must now be baked, for about six hours, in an oven moderately heated, and when taken out, and after the reduced aspic above alluded to has been poured into it, stop the hole up with a small piece of paste, and set it aside in the larder to become cold.

Note.—The quantity of game, &c., recommended to be used in the preparation of the foregoing pie may appear extravagant enough, but it is to be remembered that these very large pies are mostly in request
at Christmas time. Their substantial aspect renders them worthy of appearing on the side-table of those wealthy epicures who are wont to keep up the good old English style, at this season of hospitality and good cheer.

From: Charles Elme Francatelli, The Modern Cook (London: 1846)


Peel, core, and chop fine 5lb. or 6lb. of tart juicy apples, also 4lb. of boiled beef, and 1lb. of beef suet. Mix in 2lb. each of stoned raisins and well-washed currants, a half lb. each of finely-chopped candied citron and orange-peels, the grated yellow rinds of three lemons together with the juice, season with powdered cloves, cinnamon, mace, and grated nutmeg, using about quarter an oz. of each, one and a half lbs. of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoonful of salt. Add sufficient cider to moisten and also brandy to give it a flavour.

Mincemeat Pudding

Cut two stale penny rolls into slices about a quarter inch thick; butter a pudding basin and line the bottom with a thin layer of Mincemeat, dip a few of the slices of roll in milk, then lay them on the Mincemeat; put in another layer of Mincemeat, then slices of roll dipped in milk, and so on until the basin is full. Beat four eggs in pint of milk, sweeten to taste with caster sugar, and pour it over the contents of the pudding-basin. Let the pudding soak for half-an-hour, then cover the basin with a sheet of paper; put a plate over it, stand it in a saucepan with boiling water to three-parts its height, and steaiii the pudding for an-hour-and-a-half. More boiling water should be poured into the saucepan as the quantity diminishes, but care should he taken that it does not enter the basin. In the meantime prepare the following sauce: Put the yolks of six eggs in a small lined saucepan with 6 tablespoonfuls of caster sugar, and beat them well, then mix in a pint of white wine. Place the saucepan over a moderate fire and stir the sauce until it thickens, then move it to the side and beat well. Do not let tke sauce boil or the eggs will curdle. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out of the basin on to a hot dish stick a circle of half-cherries round the upper part (see illustration above), pour the sauce round.

Both recipes from Theodore Garrett (editor) The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1880s)

More illustrations from The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery.

Above: A dinner with a Venetian theme.

Top left: Fruits and nuts for the dessert. The pineapple, melon and walnuts have all been cut and prepared for eating. All the guests have to do is remove the ribbons - no skin, no husks!

Bottom left: A Christmas buffet with a boar's head.

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