... with wild beasties standing guard.
Enormous, grand and crawling with servants. But what of the servants? Where do they work? What do they get up to? Where is Hampton Court's downstairs in their “Upstairs Downstairs” ?
At Hampton Court there is an enormous ‘downstairs” and I have always wanted to explore it as I am a really huge Tudor fan and have been since I was a nipper. It took a mighty army to feed Henry VIII's mighty appetites (as those of you who watch The Tudors know very well).
Hampton Court Kitchen Buildings (positioned in the cool northern reaches of the complex)
are where all the work was done.
Simon Thurley in his book Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History wrote that at one point the ‘downstairs’ occupied 50 rooms staffed by hundreds and contained a cofferer (kitchen accountant), coal house, spicery (spices and fruits) chandler (candles and linen), pastry house (with 4 ovens, the largest of which measured 12’6”), confectionary (for making the kings puddings and housing the only woman that worked in the kitchen, boiling house (with a 75 gallon copper cauldron for soups), flesh larder, wet larder (fish), dry larder (nuts and grains), 3 wine and ale cellars with special security(they drank 300 casks of wine and 600,000 gallons of ale in a year!!!) as well as the great kitchen with ovens, stoves and 5 enormous roasting fireplaces, some with gargantuan spits. In one year during the reign of Elizabeth I, I read they went through 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.
I was taken through Hampton Court ‘downstairs’ and some ‘upstairs’ (in a dream-come-true 5 hour tour) by Marc Meltonville, the Royal Palace’s Food Historian.
Palace's Cold Storage (that was cool in July!) with meat, fish and dairy rooms on the sides
Marc told me that Hampton Court was a food factory. Moving from the raw materials at the gate to each of the various storage areas and/or to the appropriate cooking stations and then up to the Lords above. As many as 600 lived and worked there, and most were staff (there were very few guests, strangely enough) since the people who ran the government also stayed there for some period of the year and moved with the king or took their turn at a shift at a job (many had their own estates to manage so couldn’t work full time). However you slice it, there was a lot of cooking going on.
For some reason, in deciding what recipe to share with you from this epic excursion, it was the humble Chuet or chewetty that captured my heart. First, they are adorable in a kind of Sweeney Todd ) , there-will-always-be-an-England way. They are, like Cornish Pasties, a meal in your hand and just plain homey and delicious. I was fascinated by the way they were made (that you can see HERE or HERE). Marc told us that the leftovers from roasts and such were used to make the pies. Considering that the worst thing I ever made was a cousin of this… a Renaissance Veal Pye that was ghastly and virtually inedible, making these was a brave step indeed. But I am not the 21 year old who tackled the veal pye. I am now a seasoned and seasoning veteran. I decided on “collar’d beef” from The Compleat Cook by Robt. May to be my inspiration, keeping the spicing but not adding the preservative element. It was delicious on its own and the mace that had worried me… turned out to be a brilliant addition. I think I was not too far off using it. Although the original would be more like corned beef, there are similar recipes that are not.
*****I have put the original recipes at the end of the post.
You can see the progression of the pie from formation to finish in the photographs I took at Hampton Court:
The large chunks are a little confusing, in most recipes the meat is minced!
Chuets remind me of a crenelated magna tourris or castle keep. Appropriate somehow, don’t you think?
Wine Spiced Beef inspired by Collar’d Beef
1 ¾ pound stew beef (Grazin Angus Acres, grass-fed)
½ bottle red wine
2 T Suet
1 clove of garlic
½ t cloves
1 t mace
2 t pepper
2 T fresh marjoram
2 T fresh thyme
sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
¼ c verjus or wine vinegar
Marinate the meat in the wine for a day. Remove the meat, reserving the wine. Preheat your oven to 275º Heat the suet and brown the meat. Remove from the pan and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the herbs and spices and wine and vinegar and put in a covered Dutch oven for 2 ½ hours or until tender. Remove stems and bay leaves.
1½ pounds of collar’d beef
3 T suet, chopped
4 prunes, chopped
4 dates, chopped
1/3 c raisins, chopped
1/3 c currents
big pinch of saffron
2T verjus or wine vinegar
S & P to taste
Mince these together then moisten with some of the juices from cooking the meat (I used the food processor to mince/pulse this all together) and allow to sit for an hour so the dried fruits can soak up the juices.
1 ½ c white flour + 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
4 oz Suet (chopped) * I rendered my suet, but original recipes use it au naturel
salt to taste
Combine flour, suet and pulse in a food processor till it is like very rough meal (or grate the suet and blend gently with the flours), add ½ c or so of water as you would any pie crust to have just enough to bring the dough together, make into a flattened round and chill for an hour.
Chuet, Serves 4-8
Preheat oven to 425ºTake the dough and make 4 circles, 2 large and 2 small for the top for a large chuet, or 4 and 4 for a large muffin size. Make a freehand crust (see the videos). Fill with a good handful of the meat mixture and draw together like a purse, pressing the folds together to make a cup. Cut off the excess just slightly above the meat. Wet the small circle of dough and press onto the sides forming a lid, making the ruffled edge as you go. Make a hole in the top for steam. Cook for 15 minutes at 425º then cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t burn and lower temperature to 325º for an hour. Each pie serves 1 large appetite or 2 smaller ones and can be served warm or cold.
You can gild the lily by brushing the tops with butter and rosewater and a few grains of demerara sugar.
Collar’d Beef from The Compleat Cook, 1658
Take the thinnest end of a coast of beef, boyl it and lay it in Pump-water, and a little salt, three dayes shifting it once every day, and the last day put a pint of Claret Wine to it, and when you take it out of the water, let it lye two or three hours a drayning, then cut it almost to the end in three slices, then bruise a little *Cochinell and a very little **Allum, and mingle it with the Claret-wine, and colour the meat all over with it, then take a dozen of Anchoves, wash them and bone them, and lay them into the Beef, and season it with Cloves, Mace, and Pepper, and two handfuls of salt, and a little sweet Marjoram and Tyme and when you make it up, roul the innermost slice first, and the other two upon it, being very wel seasoned every where, and bind it hard with Tape, then put it into a stone-pot, something bigger then the Coller, and pour upon it a pint of Claret-wine, and halfe a pint of wine-vinegar, a sprig of Rosemary, and a few Bay-leave and bake it very well; before it is quite cold, take it out of the Pot, and you may keep it dry as long as you please.
*cochinell is cochineal, an insect derived red dye from the New World that is still used today ( yes, red bugs in your food!)
**alum is hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate used in pickling as a preservative
To make Pyes from A Proper New Book of Cookery, 1575
Pyes of Mutton or biefe, must be fine minced and seasoned with Pepper
and salte, and a lyttle Saffron to colour it, suet or marrow a good quantytye a
lyttle vyneger, prunes, great raisings and dates, take the fatteste of the broth
of poudred biefe…
How to make Chuets from A Book of Cookrye, 1591
Take Veale and perboyle it and chop it very fine, take beefe Suet and mince it fine, then take Prunes, Dates and Corance, wash them very clean and put them into your meat, then take Cloves, Mace, and pepper to season your meat withal and a little quantity of salt, vergious and Sugar, two ounces of biskets, and as many of Carowaies, this is the seasoning of your meat, then take fine flowre, yolkes of Egs, and butter, a little quantitye of rosewater and sugar, then make little coffins for your Chewets and let them bake a quarter of an houre, then wet them over with butter, then strewe on Sugar and wet the Sugar with a little Rosewater, and set them into the Oven again, then take and serve five in a dish.
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