One lovely result of being interested in historical cooking is having family and friends bring my attention to unusual recipes they see on their travels. Several years ago, a friend of my mum’s sent me a lovely little reprint of ‘Cookery and Pastry as Taught and Practiced by Mrs MacIver’ which was reproduced by the Library of Innerpeffray (Scotland’s first lending library).
Suzanna or Susanna MacIver taught cooking in Edinburgh in the late 18th century and published ‘Cookery and Pastry’ in 1774, with multiple reprints including this edition in 1789. This was one of the first cookbooks published in Scotland and is known for having two early published recipes for haggis: A Good Scotch Haggies, and A Lamb’s Haggies.
As 18th century cookbooks go, it’s a very approachable volume and that was by design. Mrs MacIver said she wrote her book for “the genteel and middling ranks of life” and provided recipes, lists of ingredients in season, and dinner menus “which will be found particularly useful to young house-keepers.” The menu plans, like those shown below, provided easy to use combinations of different dishes depending on the size of the group and the occasion.
Because the recipes were aimed at the gentry and middle class, they are relatively simple to make and many would make easy additions to modern meals. I chose a side dish of celery cooked in gravy and it was pretty tasty.
To Stew Celery in Gravy.
Boil and order the celery as in the above receipt; brown a piece of butter, and thicken it with flour; mix in as much good gravy amongst it as will cover the celery, and a little red wine, and salt and spices to your taste; when the sauce comes to a-boil, throw in the celery, and let it stew a little, and then dish it.
Details from the previous recipe:
Celery with Cream
Wash and clean the celery; cut it in pieces about two or three inches long; boil them in water until they are tender; put them through a drainer, and keep them warm …
To Stew Celery in Gravy
6 stalks celery, washed well
1 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp flour
2 cups lamb/mutton stock
1/3 cup red wine
Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg
1. Cut celery into 2-3 inch pieces, boil in water until just tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook for a few minutes until it smells and looks biscuity. Gradually whisk in the stock, then bring to the boil. Stir in the wine, season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
3. Add the celery back to the pan and simmer for 10 mins more until the sauce has thickened and the celery is cooked to your liking.
There are a number of editions of Mrs MacIver’s book online if you want to look at more recipes:
1774 edition on Google Books
1777 edition from the National Library of Scotland
1777 edition from the Warburg Institute Digital Library
1789 edition from the Wellcome Collection