The Victorian housewife was a no-nonsense, frugal woman. She took her trade seriously and knew what was happening in every aspect of running the household. I often wonder what she would think of today’s modern cooking appliances and recipes. Would she embrace them, or would she think they were a frivolous waste of money? Maybe like many of us today, she would have decided on a couple of favourites and discarded the rest as space claiming gadgets.
I can almost hear her here as she declares
“There is also an instrument for this purpose, which costs but a trifle, and will do the work deftly and expeditiously”
In Victorian times, the average families ate simple and made such things as the humble potato go a long way. Using many different cooking methods and simple ideas to keep those meal times varied and exciting.
The Victorians ate a lot of vegetables from their own gardens or allotments. This meant once harvested, they didn’t stay fresh for as long as the shop-bought vegetables available today. This meant that time was of the essence, so going through their bounty and making sure their veggies were fresh and edible was paramount.
The Victorian Housewife’s Tips for cooking ANY vegetable.
1. Have them as fresh as possible. Stale and withered ones are unwholesome and unpalatable. Summer vegetables should be cooked on the same day they are gathered, if possible.
2. Pick over and wash well, cutting out all decayed or unripe parts.
3. Lay them, when peeled, in cold water for some time before cooking.
4. If you boil them, put a little salt in the water.
5. Cook them steadily after you put them on.
6. Be sure they are thoroughly done. Half cooked vegetables are neither good nor fashionable.
7. Drain well
8. Serve hot!
I like her already. There is nothing worse than eating vegetables that are not cooked properly. The victorian housewife can teach us a lot about frugality and running a home, so I’m sharing some of her wisdom with you too.
18 Simple Potato Recipes The Victorian Way
Here are some Victorian potato recipe ideas and cooking tips relevant to 2021. The only gadgets you need are your hands, a good knife, and if you’re a fancy pants…a potato peeler.
I’ve reproduced these ideas as a vegan where possible using plant-based milk, vegan cheese and dairy-free butter and cream. But you can use your regular milk, butter, cheese and cream if that’s what you prefer.
1. Boiled Potatoes (without the skins on.)
Peel very thin. The glory of a potato is its mealiness, and much of the starch, or meal, lies next to the skin, and this can be lost by careless peeling, which also spoils the shape. Lay in cold water for half an hour, then rinse and put in fresh, slightly salted water and bring to a boil. Keep at a rapid boil until tender. Drain off the water, sprinkle with fine salt, and dry.
2. With the Skins.
Boil in cold water with a pinch of salt. Cut them to a uniform size, and cook steadily until a fork pierces easily into the largest. Then pour off the water, every drop; sprinkle with salt and put back on the stove to one side, with the lid off. Let them dry for a few moments.
3. Mashed Potatoes.
Old potatoes are best mashed. Peel, and let them sit in cold water from half to three-quarters of an hour. A longer time will not hurt them. Boil in hot or cold water according to the toughness of the texture. A coarse, waxy potato is best cooked in cold water. In either case, put in a pinch of salt. Drain thoroughly when done, sprinkle with salt, and mash them in the pot with a potato masher or potato ricer. Stirring in a tablespoonful of butter and enough milk to make the paste a soft dough consistency. Leave no lumps in it.
Brown by putting in the oven or grill until a crust is formed. Glaze this with butter, and serve.
4. New Potatoes.
If very young, rub the skin off with a rough towel. If almost ripe, scrape with a blunt knife. Cover in cold water for an hour. Then rinse and cover with slightly salted cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for half an hour—drain, salt, and dry for two or three minutes. Send to table plain.
You may crack each potato by pressing lightly upon it with the back of a wooden spoon, lay them in a deep dish, and drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil.
5. Baked Potatoes.
Wash and wipe some large potatoes, and bake in the oven until tender on the inside and crispy. Serve in a napkin with the skins on. Tear or cut a hole in the top when you eat them. Put in a bit of butter with salt and pepper.
6. Potato Puff.
Take two cupfuls of cold mashed potato, and stir into it two tablespoonfuls of melted butter, beating to a white cream before adding anything else. Then put in two eggs whipped very light and a teacupful of cream or milk, salting to taste. Beat all well, pour into a deep dish, and bake in a quick oven until it is nicely browned. If properly mixed, it will come out of the oven light, puffy, and delectable.
7. Potatoes Warmed Over—alias au Maître d’Hôtel.
Slice cold boiled potatoes a quarter of an inch thick, and put into a saucepan, with four or five tablespoonfuls of milk, two or three of butter, pepper, salt, and some chopped parsley. Heat quickly, stirring until ready to boil, then stir in the juice of half a lemon. This last ingredient entitles the dish to a foreign title. Pour into a deep dish, and serve very hot.
8. Potato Croquettes.
Season cold mashed potato with pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Beat to a cream with a tablespoonful of melted butter to every cupful of potato. Bind with two or three beaten eggs, and add some minced parsley. Roll into oval balls, dip in beaten egg, then in bread-crumbs, and fry in hot oil.
Pile in a pyramid upon a flat dish, and serve.
9. Fried Potatoes.
Peel, wash, and slice some raw potatoes wafer-thin. You can do this with a sharp knife or mandolin. Lay in ice water for half an hour, wipe dry in two cloths, spread them upon one and press the other upon them. Have the oil ready in the frying pan and fry the potatoes to a light brown, sprinkle with salt, and serve in a napkin laid in a deep dish and folded over them. To drain the excess oil, take it from the frying pan as soon as they are brown. With a slotted spoon, put it into a colander and shake. They should be crisp and free from grease.
Chop cold boiled potatoes into bits, season with pepper and salt, and fry lightly in oil or butter, turning them constantly until nicely browned.
10. Potato Ribbon
Peel and lay in ice water for an hour. Choose the largest potatoes you can get for this dish. After an hour, peel with a small knife round and round in one continuous curling strip. You can use a potato peeler for this, making it much easier. Please handle with care and fry a few at a time so they don’t become tangled, drain, and arrange neatly upon a hot plate.
11. Potatoes à la Crème
Put three tablespoonfuls of butter or oil into a saucepan, a small handful of finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Stir up well until hot, add a small teacupful of cream or rich milk, thicken with two teaspoonfuls of flour and stir until it boils. Chop some cold boiled potatoes, put them into the mixture, and boil up once before serving.
12. Stuffed Potatoes
Take six large, fair potatoes, bake until soft, and cut a round piece off the top of each. Scrape out the inside carefully to not break the skin. Set aside the empty cases with the covers. Mash the inside smoothly, working into it while melted butter—about half a teaspoonful for every potato. Season with salt and pepper, with a good pinch of grated vegan cheese for each; work it very softly with milk of choice, and put it into a saucepan to heat, stirring, to prevent burning.
When scalding hot, stir in some extra cheese for six large potatoes. Boil up once, fill the skins with the mixture, replacing the caps, return them to the oven for three minutes; arrange upon a napkin in a deep dish and eat hot.
13. Potato Scallops.
Boil and mash the potatoes soft with a little plant-based milk. Beat up light with butter or a dairy-free alternative. A dessert-spoonful for every half-pint of the potato. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill some patty-pans or buttered scallop shells with the mixture, and brown in an oven, when you have stamped a pattern on the top of each. Glaze, while hot, with butter, and serve in the shells.
If you like, you can strew some grated cheese over the top.
14. Grilled Potatoes.
Cut whole boiled potatoes lengthwise, into slices a quarter of an inch thick, and lay upon a grill pan. Brown on both sides, sprinkle with pepper and salt, lay a bit of butter or dairy-free alternative upon each, and eat very hot.
15. Potato Cakes.
Make cold mashed potato into flat cakes; flour and fry in oil until they are a light-brown.
16. Roast Sweet Potatoes.
Select those of similar size, wash, wipe, and roast until you can tell, by gently pressing the largest between the finger and thumb, that it is mellow throughout. Serve in their jackets.
Victorians considered this quite a feast as it was a rare treat to have sweet potatoes and salt during the 1800s.
17. Boiled Sweet Potatoes.
Have them all as nearly the same size as possible; put them into cold water without any salt, and boil until a fork easily pierces the largest. Turn off the water, and lay them in the oven to dry for five minutes—Peel before serving.
Parboil, and then roast until done. This is a good idea when they are old and watery. Boiling can make them tasteless.
18. Fried Sweet Potatoes
Parboil them, remove the skin, and cut lengthwise into slices a quarter of an inch thick. Fry in oil or butter.
Cold boiled potatoes may be cooked in this way. Or you can chop them up with an equal quantity of cold white potatoes, put them into a frying pan with a good lump of butter, and stir until they are hot and slightly brown.
So there you have it—eighteen vintage meal ideas and accompaniments for the humble potato from the Victorian housewife. Also, remember back in those days, there was no internet superhighway, no blogs and information available at the touch of a button. These ladies had to know their stuff by investing in a good Home-keeping manual and taking lessons from their own parents and grandparents. It’s an honour to keep some of those ideas and traditions alive here.
What are your favourite simple potato dishes? Did I include it in the list? Let me know in the comments, and make sure you hit the follow button to stay up to date with future blogs and articles.
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