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The Queen's Pottage

Pass a fire shovel over it

Toasting the Queen's Pottage with a red hot fire shovel

This delicious soup is French in origin, the first printed recipe appearing in La Varenne's Le cuisinier françois published in Paris in 1651. A few years later it appeared in print in London in an English translation of this seminal work. The pottage was rapidly adopted by the English, appearing under various names in cookery books over the next 180 years. This delicate almond flavoured broth eventually became the White Soup so frequently encountered in the novels of Jane Austin. Sometimes it was called Hedgehog Soup because it was often garnished with little bread rolls spiked with almonds.

La Varenne's original recipe instructs us to toast the surface of the soup with a red hot fire shovel and to garnish it with pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts.

Pomegranites and pistachios

In addition our version of the pottage is served in a dish garnished in the English fashion with a ring of pastry round the soup and the rim of the dish decorated with shapes cut from carrots, turnips and spinach.

Thacker's Soup Dish

John Thacker's method of garnishing the rim of a soup dish

Clear Soup à la Princesse

(Consommé à la Princesse.)

Have some clear soup and garnish it with blanched and picked tarragon and lettuce (cut in Julienne strips), and savoury custard coloured red, yellow, and white and cut in any fancy designs. Serve very hot, putting in the garnish, which should have been rinsed in warm water, just at the last.

Savoury Custard (enough for eight persons). - Make a custard with four whole eggs, four tablespoonfuls of cream, milk, or clear stock, a little salt, coralline pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Divide it into three parts; colour one with Marshall's saffron yellow, one with Marshall's carmine, and leave one plain; tammy each separately and steam in buttered moulds. Do not let the custard boil, and when it is firm take up and leave till cold before cutting.

From A .B. Marshall Cookery Book (London: nd c.1880)

The Queen's Pottage

Garnished with pomegranate kernels and pistachio nuts, this almond and partridge soup is served here in a dish decorated with an ornamental collar of parboiled turnip, carrot and spinach. It is based on a design in John Thacker's The Art of Cookery (Newcastle: 1758).

The Queen's Pottage

BEAT Almonds, and boil them in good Broth, a few Crums of Bread, the Inside of a Lemon, and a Bunch of sweet Herbs, stir them often, strain them, then soak Bread in the best Broth, which is to be thus made; Bone a Capon or Partridge, pownd the Bones in a Mortar, then boil them in strong Broth, with Mushrooms, then strain them through a Linnencloth ; with this Broth soak your Bread; as it soaks, sprinkle it with the Almond-broth. Then put a little minced Meat to it, either of Partridge or Capon, and still as it is soaking, put in more Almond-broth, until it be full, then hold a red-hot iron over it; garnish the Dish with Pomegranates, Pistaches, and Cocks-combs.

From John Nott The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary (London:1723)

Historical Notes

The Queen's Pottage

Pomegranate and pistachio kernels were a popular garnish for court dishes in the second half of the seventeenth century. Other garnishes were 'jagged lemons', barberries, carved oranges, cocks-combs, capers and olives.

Garter Feast

It is possible to see the garnished rims of the dishes in this Wenceslaus Hollar etching of a 1671 Garter feast.

Victorian cooks sometimes garnished clear soups or consommé with savoury custards cut into fancy shapes. The photo above is of Consommé à la Princesse from Agnes Marshall's Cookery Book of the 1880s. A spectacular version of this clear soup was prepared by leading British chef Heston Blumenthal for a Mrs Marshall Centenary dinner held at his restaurant in Bray on 29th August 2005. This remarkable meal, staged exactly 100 years after her death, was attended by many of Britain's leading food historians. It was organised by Robin Weir, who together with Ivan Day selected the menu from Mrs Marshall's recipes. See her recipe opposite for Consommé à la Princesse.

These custards were formed into small shapes with little tin cutters like those opposite in the left hand column. The tools with wooden handles above the cutters, were used for scooping small ornamental shapes out of vegetables, another popular garnish for clear soups in the nineteenth century

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