My Dear Bloggers,
Please welcome my special guest, Letitia Wellbeloved, to entertain us with her travels to fabulous English manors and the delicious Victorian Christmas traditions within…
In my quest to find only the most delicious of Christmas fare, I find myself at the holly wreathed door of Etford Park. It has been many years since this author had the pleasure of visiting this grand estate. On many an occasion, I had been invited by the late Lady Etford to attend one of her festive gatherings – always some of the most glamourous of the Christmas season.
Since that dreadful day when Lady Etford passed away, his Lordship had declined to entertain any further and thus lived in quiet seclusion. Unfortunately, the Vicar’s wife, Mrs Henrietta Talbot had instead attempted to have our journal continue to visit, by hosting her own Christmas luncheon along with the ladies of her church group.
Now, dear readers, I am not one to criticise simple, quality country fare, but whatever Mrs Talbot had prepared was ghastly to say the least. What wasn’t burnt, was simply too dry and tasteless to be edible. And for this, she blamed her poor niece.
However, since the marriage of Lord Etford’s son to the lovely Lily Bowden only last Christmas, I am yet again welcomed into this wonderful home. And, as I am lead to the kitchens of Etford Park by his Lordships butler, Thompson, my senses are now assailed by the delicious aromas of orange and clove, brandied fruit mince and boiled puddings. I have rarely smelled anything so divine, as the doors to the vast kitchen are opened and I venture in.
There, standing by the fire, is one of my favourite cooks, Mrs Peel.
With a familiar broad smile, the cook dusts her hands on her apron and gestures to a large table by the kitchen window. Spread upon a crisp linen cloth is an abundance of Christmas delights.
In particular, I noted a dish filled with what appear to be small round truffle topped with powder sugar.
Then Mrs Peel informs me that they are in fact, Sugar Plums, or more so her own version of the sweet confection. As where I am used to seeing the smoother, almond shaped treats filled with caraway or aniseed, then coated thick, hard sugared crust, these morsels are much softer.
When I queried her as to why the change, Mrs Peel confided her recipe is due to the fact his Lordship finds it rather difficult to enjoy the hard sugar plums these days. But, as I pop one of the treats into my mouth, I have little doubt they taste equally as good as the traditional kind…if not better.
So taken was I with the sweetmeat, I naturally had Mrs Peel, write down the recipe for you, dear Reader.
Gather these ingredients
1 cups finely chopped almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1⁄4 cup honey
2 Tbl brandy
1 tsp. grated zest of an orange
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp caraway seeds
1⁄2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup finely chopped pitted dates
½ cup finely chopped prunes
Then, as follows,
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until the consistency of a heavy paste, cover and let sit overnight.
Then take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Place them on a tray and cover overnight again.
When ready to serve, arrange them on a grand serving plate and dust liberally with powdered sugar.