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Bringing Historical Cookery to Life

Our Kitchens

From the Late Middle Ages to the Edwardian era, our kitchen serves the wealthy household. It is outfitted with the finest equipment of the day and supplied with the very best produce. We offer hot and cold displays, indoors and out.

Our Medieval kitchen shows the making of a great feast. Here, life revolves around a huge fire with spit-roasting meat and bubbling cauldrons. We show all stages of food production: we make our own flour using a quern, churn our own butter and butcher game brought by our hunters. What our visitors find most surprising is the fact that so many dishes we enjoy today are of medieval or even earlier origin: pork pies, custard tarts, risotto, pears poached in wine, and even prawn cocktail have been around for centuries! On the other hand, some foods we now take for granted were absent from medieval Europe: we use turnips instead of potatoes, our carrots are purple, our sweets are made with honey instead of chocolate, and nobody has heard of tomatoes. Our display also dispels a popular myth that medieval food was bland and tasteless: our spice chest and herb baskets tell a completely different story.

Our Tudor and Elizabethan kitchens are buzzing with excitement: after the discovery of the New World, many new foods have arrived in Britain. New recipes are created and old ones updated to accommodate new ingredients: potatoes, chocolate, peanuts, tomatoes, pineapples, paprika and turkey, to name a few. Increased cultivation of fruit trees and bee hives also increased the range of available foods. With honey and sugar becoming cheaper, sweet recipes are gaining in popularity. Abundance of sugar also makes preserved fruits and jellies available to most households. Conspicuous consumption really takes off now, with food being decorated with precious stones, pearls, gold, and so on. We are trying to capture some of that atmosphere of novelty and discovery by reproducing the finest treats of the day for our visitors to enjoy during tasting sessions.

Our Georgian and Regency kitchens rise above the everyday to give a taste of luxury: we are preparing for a picnic where our guests will enjoy ice creams, spiced drinks and fruit cakes. Jellies continue being a popular treat, made with isinglass and hartshorn (later replaced by gelatine). When in the early 18th century it became possible to make cheap clean ice, the great experimentation with ice creams began. The variety of flavours produced in the Age of Enlightenment is astonishing; from brown bread ginger or parmesan ice creams to the coffee and chocolate flavours we expect today . Our kitchen can also be dressed as another popular feature of the time: chocolate, tea or coffee house, where gentlemen used to congregate for their morning drinks and politics. With its coffee mill and chocolate mills, sugar cones and spice jars these are temptations impossible to resist.

Our Victorian kitchen continues the Georgian traditions - afternoon tea, cakes, pies of various sizes and fillings, ice creams and sweet treats - but developed according to the more refined tastes of the nineteenth century. Heavily spiced chocolate of the 18th century gives way to powdered drinking chocolate as we know it now. Jelly moulds are becoming more elaborate, as do cake tins, which allows us to make dishes that not only taste delicious, but look wonderful. Our clients with surviving Victorian kitchens can enjoy another form of display, when our butler and housekeeper take possession and the kitchen comes alive with servants of all stations scurrying around, preparing for a grand dinner.

Our Edwardian kitchen has been painstakingly created to be worthy of the Age of Elegance. From elaborate canapes and hors d'oeuvres to fancy cocktails to celebrity desserts, we are striving to bring to you the atmosphere of fragile delicacy of the period. As usual, we cater to the tastes of the wealthier classes: mousses, lobster dishes, chocolate pudding, ice cream cakes and pastries dominate the menu. A very special treat are cakes with alcohol fillings - to be enjoyed responsibly by our guests. Our chef is hard at work adapting the latest trends of the French cuisine for the discerning British diner. Our younger visitors will be happy to find chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge and a variety of sundaes waiting for them.

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Copyright © Four and Twenty Blackbirds 2010