Last year, I found a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management in a secondhand book store, and snapped it up eagerly. It isn’t obvious when it was printed. A previous owner wrote her name and the year 1944, but certain things made me believe this was already a few years old when she got it – for instance, references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing. Based on dates I found in the “Legal Memoranda” section (I love this book!), I believe it was published in 1938 or early 1939.
Since I got the book, I’ve made two recipes from it. However, I hadn’t cooked from this book since November, so on Friday I thought it was time I gave it another go.
This time, I wanted to be able to compare my finished dish to one of the illustrations provided in the book. Some looked daunting – artfully arranged and towering in their elegant dishes, or formed with the aid of a mold. I ended up choosing Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms. The illustration made it look achievable, and it wasn’t as fussy as some other dishes in the book. I’m looking at you, Jellied Eels.
Here’s the full recipe:
Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms – from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management
Ingredients – 6 medium-sized tomatoes, 2 tablespoonfuls of finely-chopped mushrooms, 1 tablespoonful of breadcrumbs, 1/4 of a teaspoonful of finely-chopped parsley, 1 small onion finely chopped, 6 croûtons of fried or toasted bread, browned breadcrumbs, 1 oz. of butter, salt and pepper.
Method – Remove the stalks of the tomatoes, and scoop out a little of the pulp. Melt the butter in a small stewpan, add to it all the ingredients except the browned breadcrumbs, and stir over the fire until thoroughly mixed. Fill the tomatoes with the preparation, sprinkle on a few browned breadcrumbs, bake in a moderate oven for 10 or 15 minutes, and serve on the croûtons.
Time – Altogether, 30 minutes. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
And here is the end result:
Not quite picture-perfect, but passable. Some things I did differently: I went with three tomatoes I think are quite large, instead of six medium-sized ones, and doubled the amount of mushrooms. I think the mutant 21st-century tomatoes were my downfall, because this was a little tricky to eat in a manner befitting a refined, silk-stocking-wearing 1938 lady. Also, the other version of this dish calls for ham and a bit of Parmesan, either of which I thought would have improved the flavour.
Still, I’d say it was a success! I think I might get a little more daring with my next recipe. Not Jellied Eels-level daring, though!