North East cookery pioneer Hannah Glasse celebrated in new book
PUBLISHED: 19:45 31 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:28 20 February 2013
If asked to identify the original domestic goddess, North Easterner Hannah Glasse may not be the first name to trip off the tongue <br/>Words by Sarah Willcocks
Generations before Delia Smith taught us how to boil an egg and a century before Mrs Beeton wrote her Book of Household Management, a canny lass from Hexham called Hannah Glasse revitalised the dining habits of households the length and breadth of the country with her cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
Published in 1747, it brought fame and fortune to Hannah Glasses table and remained a bestseller for over one hundred years.
Unlike her more famous successors in the field of cookery writing, Hannah was not a wordsmith like the poet Eliza Acton nor was she a professional cook. She was the illegitimate child of a wealthy Northumbrian landowner, and later in life, a housewife. Nonetheless she became a culinary pioneer and one of the most popular cookery writers of the eighteenth century.
Hannah was born in 1708 to the Allgood family who were respected members of Northumberland society with estates at Brandon and Simonburn. Despite her shady start in life, Hannah was taken under the wing of Mrs Allgood and brought up as one of her own at the family home near Hexham.
Aside from once describing her stepmother as a wicked wretch she had an idyllic childhood and encountered rich dining experiences from a young age. At just sixteen, Hannah married an Irish soldier, John Glasse. Their fortunes fluctuated and the couple struggled to make ends meet.
Hannah soon developed a talent for combining economic awareness with culinary know-how. A woman ahead of her time, she recommends using simple ingredients to achieve low cost fine dining. Following Hannahs instructions, folk could transform simple country produce into an elegant dinner party spread. Her thrifty recipes were intended to be good and done with as little expense as the Dish will allow.
Nearly a thousand recipes were included in Hannahs kitchen bible and although she adds some that were already in existence, she created the majority of the dishes herself often reworking fussy or tired recipes into more appetising fayre.
Her methodical approach and accessibility to the masses set the tone for future cookbooks. Hannahs style - precise, direct and entertaining - was quite unlike her contemporaries, whose catering instructions were often extravagant and confusing. Such an odd jumble of things as would quite spoil a good dish, she writes.
She shuns the elaborate French recipes of the period writing that if gentlemen will have French cooks, they must pay for French tricks. Disapproval of French gastronomy would have struck a cord with English readers of a lower social status, who scorned the excesses of French consumption. But French cuisine was becoming trendy in the Georgian era and many of the recipes in The Art of Cookery demonstrate flavours already popular across the Channel.
Hannah was not shy of introducing more exotic tastes to the dinner table. One of the earliest references to curry in an English cookbook is attributed to The Art of Cookery as Hannah explains how to make a currey the Indian way. It was also in Hannahs guide that the modern trifle, with its recognisable structure of layers, custard and cake soaked in sherry, made its first appearance. Staple dishes such as these are testimony to Hannahs sway on gastronomy down the centuries.
For all this endeavour and achievement, it is a scanty tribute to Hannah that a saying first coined in The Art of Cookery is better known than the woman herself. For it was her trademark recipe for roast hare that inspired the phrase First catch your hare (or, as Hannah puts it: Take your hare when it be casd).
At the time that Hannah was writing, it was still dubious for a woman even to put her name to a manuscript. Initially, The Art of Cookery did not reveal its authorship, declaring rather secretly to be By a Lady.
It was so popular that it was reprinted within its first year of publication. And within the following decades sales continued at such a rate that rumours abounded that it had been written by a man. Many readers doubted that a woman could write with such eloquence.
Founding father of the English dictionary, Samuel Johnson commented: Women can spin very well; but they cannot make a good book of cookery. It was thanks to the research of a Gateshead historian, Madeline Hope Dodds, that Hannahs identity as the author was confirmed in 1938.
Now hailed as the mother of the modern dinner party Hannah Glasses legacy will be celebrated this month at Newcastles Assembly Rooms with The Great North Eco Art Feast. What better tribute to the doyenne of cookery than a lavish banquet to which all are invited. This epic feast follows ten days of foodie heaven with the return of the mouthwatering food and drink festival, EAT!
Contemporary culinary talent and the finest food producers are showcased by family-friendly events across the region. For those among us with a sweet tooth, theres temptation from leading chocolatiers, and a Chilli and Beer festival for those who like it hot.
Chomp your way round the Food Heroes Tasting Market and savour street food from international stallholders. Whet your appetite with imaginative food adventures and cookery demonstrations. Then satisfy it with The Great North Eco Art Feast - the grand finale of the festival. Fill your plate, indulge in the local beer, and raise a toast to the North Easts own Mrs Beeton and the first domestic goddess, Hannah Glasse.
Seasonal recipes from The Art of Cookery
To make gooseberry wine
Gather your Gooseberries in dry Weather, when they are half ripe; pick them and bruise a Peck in a Tub, with a wooden Mallet; then take a Horse-hair Cloth, and press them as much as possible, without breaking the Seeds.
When you have pressed out all the Juice, to every Gallon of Gooseberries, put three pounds of fine dry Powder-sugar, stir it together till the Sugar is all dissolved, then put it in a Vessel or Cask, which must be quite full. If ten or twelve Gallons, let it stand a Fortnight; if a twenty Gallon Cask, let it stand five Weeks. Set it in a cool Place, and draw it off from the Lees, clear the Vessel of the Lees, and pour in the clean Liquor again. If it be a ten Gallon Cask, let it stand three Months; if a twenty Gallon, four or five months, then bottle it off.
To make lemon cheesecakes
Take the peel of two large lemons, boil it very tender, then pound it well in a mortar, with a quarter of a pound or more of loaf sugar, the yolks of six eggs, and half a pound of fresh butter; pound and mix all well together, lay a puff-paste in your patty-pens, fill them half full, and bake them. Orange cheesecakes are done the same way, only you boil the peel in two or three waters, to take out the bitterness.
Eat! drink and be merry
EAT! Festival runs from Friday 17 until Sunday 26 June. For times and venues, visit www.eatnewcastlegateshead.com. Highlights include:
Cakebook (North) - Sunday 26 June. Iconic landmarks made out of cake are placed on a giant edible map of the North East and Yorkshire. Picnic around the perimeter, listen to live music and eat cake.
The Big EAT! Weekend - Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 June. The biggest city-based food event in the UK takes over the streets and squares of Newcastle and Gateshead.
Found - Discover the delights of natures free larder with a foraging tour through woodland, urban landscapes and
EAT! Movies - Dine out at the cinema. Watch a favourite foodie film, and tuck in to food served up by local restauranteurs just as it appears on screen.
The Great North Eco-Art-Feast - Sunday 26 June. Bring an appetite, the bigger the better for this bountiful spread.
Secret Paladares - Experience great cooking in the comfort of your hosts home as guerrilla restaurants open in private houses across the region.