"As for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards."
Charles Bingley, Pride and Prejudice
Wilma Paterson, author of "The Regency Cookbook"
relates that, "regency white soup is a very old recipe. As a delicate veal broth, it was made in Scotland as soup-a-la-reine, a remainder of the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France. A more elaborate version, Lorraine soup (possibly a corruption of La Reine) it appeared frequently on fashionable dinner and supper menus during the Regency." White Soup seems to have been made from veal or chicken stock (broth), egg yolks, ground almonds and cream. Served with negus* (hot sweetened wine and water) they were warming and intoxicating beverages at balls.
Farley's White Soup
Put a knuckle of veal into six quarts of water, with a large fowl, and a pound of lean bacon, half a pound of rice, two anchovies, a few pepper corns, a bundle of sweet herbs*, two or three onions, and three or four heads of celery cut in slices**. Stew them all together, till the soup be as strong as you would have it+, and then strain it through a hair sieve into a clean earthen pot. Having let it stand all night, the next day take off the scum, and pour it clean off into a tossing-pan. Put in half a pound of Jordan almonds beat fine, boil it a little, and run it through a lawn [fine cloth] sieve. Then put in a pint of cream, and the yolk of an egg, and send it up hot.
~ John Farley's London Art of Cooking (1783)
Julie Sikkink, who provided this recipe on the Republic of Pemberley, provided these suggestions for modern cooks:
- * Perhaps things like chervil, parsley, marjoram, thyme, even bay?
- ** Do you think he means 3-4 ribs? I don't think 3-4 heads would float in just six quarts of water along with a large fowl and other odd bits!
- + A few hours?
- I made Farley's recipe from scratch, using the boiled chicken (used to make the broth...I didn't cook it too long) and adding a few boullion cubes to help make up for not keeping the chicken in the broth. I would guess that one could use canned chicken broth and not miss the veal taste imparted by the homemade broth. The one tricky part is straining the soup after the ground almonds have steeped. The solution I found was to use netting (as in bridal veil netting, or two layers of a coarse netting) in a regular sieve. It caught the almonds without taking forever to drain. White soup is mild and interesting (and it really is white!), a bit time-consuming and messy, but worthwhile. We drank it hot, out of cups.
Sources include: Jane Austen and Food
by Maggie Lane and Lord Byron's Relish: The Regency Cookery Book
by Wilma Paterson.
For more information, visit the Republic of Pemberley's Life and Times board.
*A recipe for Negus can be found at the Food and Drink of Regency England
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