Sunday, January 10, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2.1: Meat and Potatoes

It's year two of the Historical Food Fortnightly!

The Challenge: Meat and Potatoes

The Recipe: Potato Pudding from Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide by Mrs. J. S. Bradley (page 37)
[Batter Pudding, with Meat.--Mix eggs, flour and milk, pour a little into the bottom of a pudding-dish, put any meat, well seasoned, and some chopped onion into it, pour the remainder of the batter over, and bake in a slow oven.] 
Potato Pudding.-- Boil them to a mash, rub through a cullender, and moisten with milk and two eggs, and lay in the meat as directed in the former receipt. 
Being concerned about under-cooking the meat (what with the baking it for an unspecified amount of time such that I can't actually see it), I opted to following a tip in the savory pie directions and stew the meat before baking: "Should the pie be meat that requires more dressing than the baking of the crust will allow or if it is to be served in an earthen pie form let the meat be previously stewed." (page 31) The instructions for stewing meat suggested that for fowls one should "[s]tew them very slowly in a small quantity of water, seasoned with pepper, salt, mace, and onion..." (71).  This dovetails nicely with the pudding instructions' call for "well seasoned" meat with onion.

The Date/Year and Region: 1860, United States (Cincinnati)

How Did You Make It: Peeled and boiled six small-to-moderate russet potatoes (seven probably would have been better). While doing so, I stewed a scant pound of chicken (cut into small pieces) in water, with a little salt and pepper (not measured), 1 tsp. mace, and half an onion, chopped.  Not having a "cullender" (colander?) to hand, I mashed the potatoes with a modern vegetable-masher.  Added the two eggs and 1/4 cup milk to reach a stiff batter consistency (ie, really thin whipped potatoes).

I lined the bottom and sides of a pie-pan with the potato mixture, placed the stewed chicken (and onion) on top, and then covered the meat with the rest of the potatoes.  I baked the the pudding at 275F for about an hour, until a smooth sort of "crust" was forming along the top.  It didn't brown, and I could probably have cooked it longer.

Time to Complete: About 2:10 (10 min prep, 1 hour stewing meat slowly, 1 hour to bake)

Total Cost: Potatoes, milk, eggs, salt and pepper on hand.  Chicken around $4; needed a new container of mace ($10), though only a fraction of this was used.

How Successful Was It?: Fairly.  It basically tasted like meat and mashed potatoes (I'd forgotten how nice chicken with mace is!).

How Accurate Was It?: My main departures here regarded tools: using the masher instead of the prescribed implement, and substituting a pie plate for a pudding mold.  Though there were few lumps in the potatoes as prepared; I think the suggested method would have results in no lumps at all. The onions were a bit ambiguous (mentioned in the meat pudding and stew, but not in the potato pudding which referred back to it...), so I just opted to include some when stewing the meat, and not add extra raw onions into the pie itself.  If nothing else, "highly seasoned" offers some latitude.  Spice amounts and baking times estimated.  Having little or no direction on consistency/baking time, the potato "crust" could be completely wrong in texture; I like it as is, but wonder if it's meant to have more liquid and bake longer.  

Mashed potatoes

Stewed chicken and onion

Meat and potatoes in pan.

Ready to bake.
And done.  Not that it looks any different.


  1. Sounds good! Basically a shepherd's pie but with chicken rather than lamb.

    1. It's hard to go wrong with meat and potatoes!

  2. The colander was used to "rice" the potatoes. You can also use a "potato ricer" which basically mechanically pushes the potato through the small holes. It makes a slightly different consistency (recipes for Snow Potatoes versus Mashed Potatoes), but very similar effect.

    Congrats on your tasty pie!


Thanks for commenting!