Kitchen Essays


Agnes Jekyll (1860-1937) was the supreme hostess:  her house was described as "the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pouri, furniture polish and wood smoke".  Lady Jekyll, as she became, first published Kitchen Essays in The Times "in which she was persuaded to pass on some of the wit and wisdom of her rare gift for clever and imaginative housekeeping".


"Le Mot Juste" in Food

Finding the appropriate dish at the right time for your guest, be he a jaded Cabinet Minister or a depressed financier, can be taxing.  Agnes Jeykyll has just the recipe.

For the Too Thin

Advice and recipes for  flesh-making dishes for those below weight - albeit for reasons of fashion, principle or as a result of influenza.  Sardines à la Sackville and Potage Tapioca Mousseux may do the trick..

For the Too Fat

In the battle against avoirdupoids, Lady Jekyll tackles the insidious enemy soup and replaces it with a wonderfully delicate Consommé à l'Estragon.  Other recipes and words of wit and wisdom follow.

Extracts from Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll published by Persephone Books Ltd

More readings Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll No.2

I wrote this 5 years ago and posted it on the other blog I was writing at the time. Since I no longer post there, I thought I might recycle the occasional review that might still be of interest. This was for Agnes Jekyll's superb Kitchen Essays, in the beautiful edition published by Persephone.


A syren’s tea-party of two

Clarify 1 lb. butter. When cold beat to a cream, add 12 oz. sugar, 1 lb. potato flour (sieved), 4 whole eggs and the yolks of two, the zest of 1 lemon. Beat the whole mass for 1 hour, when it should form bubbles. Bake in a buttered and finely bread-crumbed mould in a moderate oven. Halve these quantities for a small cake.

[M]ight be served with honey-dew and the milk of Paradise when procurable.

I should think that if I beat a cake by hand for an hour, I would form bubbles.

Lady Jekyll’s charming and amusing book of essays offers all sorts of culinary advice, from preparing shooting lunches to managing without your cook (goodness, unthinkable – but it is she who would beat the Venus Torte for an hour, not the lady of the house). First published in 1922 (and reprinted by the redoubtable Persephone Books), the essays combine humour with practical information, thereby ensuring our lady housewife’s dining table will be a pleasure to all comers, young and old. Should you need to provide a light supper for artists and performers, Lady Jekyll will be your guide:

Mrs Gladstone’s practice of sending her husband into battle on an egg-flip, cleverly produced at the psychological moment, can be imitated with this Frothed Wine Soup, good for a prima donna or pianist soon going into action, and can be made simply by anybody who can whisk an egg.

I have informed OH that, should I be ill, a better recovery will be aided by regular small and tempting meals. For lunch, Lady Jekyll advises a “nicely cut and fried bread canapé, on which may be placed partridge breasts resting on softly-mashed potato and “some mushrooms buttered, grilled and added piping hot”. OH reassured me that he will do his best, and added that he hoped for my sake I would be stricken soon.

I am determined that, over Christmas, we shall dine en famille in grace and elegance; recommended for a first dinner party, for example, is a “very small Selle de Pré Sâle (Saddle of Welsh Mutton) in winter”. The recipe begins “For a saddle weighing about 8 lb. . . .”. We might start with home-made foiegras, perhaps, and finish with Cold Lemon Soufflé accompanied by some delicate Cat’s Tongue Biscuits. Now, if you will excuse me, I am just going to telephone The Lady to place within its pages an advertisement for a good, plain cook.

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