FOOD & DRINK

Christmas gift ideas (I): A cookbook evoking Georgian times

Sotherby's restaurant head chef gives his take on steak and kidney pud, bread and butter pudding and many more

As Sotheby’s celebrates its 275th anniversary, Myles Fensom, head chef of its restaurant, has marked the occasion by reimagining 18th century English gastronomy for a 21st century palate. From potted pig’s cheek with dripping toast to a traditionally meat-based white soup reinvented as a warming vegetarian starter, The Art of Cooking: A Contemporary Twist on Georgian Fare explores the food revolution of a period that would forever transform the landscape of British cuisine. 

Weaving a tapestry of personal anecdotes among Georgian traditions executed with modern finesse, Fensom shares with home cooks a collection of some 50 delicious, easy-to-follow recipes. Ranging from hearty breakfasts and quick-to-prepare sweet treats to celebratory dishes fit for a feast, this cookbook gives a rare insight into the heart of a Georgian kitchen. Inspired by the era’s dependence on seasonal produce, as well as a back-to-basics approach to cooking, the book will bring a pinch of adventure to any household with recipes including: the perfect bowl of porridge; steak and kidney pudding; roast celeriac; pan fried hake; the good old faithful bread and butter pudding; custard tar and a pineapple upside-down cake – the undisputed ‘King of Fruit’ which triggered a period of ‘pineapplemania’ as the fruit became the ultimate status symbol back in the day.

From left: Roasted garden beetroot, curd and oats (a first course); steak and kidney pudding and pan-fried hake, both main courses

When Sotheby’s was founded in 1744, Britain was in an era of social, technological and scientific advancement which would shape the country’s entry into the modern age. And, amid all this great change, another, more domestic revolution was going on: that of food. A boom in trade and international travel paved the way to an unprecedented amount of fresh and exciting ingredients and dishes – from sophisticated and adventurous ice cream flavours to today’s classics like trifle and kedgeree. While this domestic revolution swept the nation, it was then that the British cookbook truly came into its own. The Art of Cooking owes much to Hannah Glasse, whose seminal cookbook, The Art of Cookery from 1747, caused a sensation and established her as arguably the very first ‘domestic goddess’.

The Art of Cooking opens with a fascinating foreword penned by restaurant critic, writer and television presenter, Giles Coren. An introductory text by Fensomis followed by a taste of Georgian history with notes on watershed moments including, the rise of the cookbook, the birth of fusion cuisine, technical advancements and table settings and etiquette. Each thoughtfully composed recipe is also accompanied by a succinct history of the dish and illustrated with beautiful photography. A timeline and year-round calendar of produce further capture some of the key food developments of the Georgian age that are still familiar to us today.

The cookbook is available to buy at the New Bond Street restaurant and is priced at £40.

THE RESTAURANT

The launch of The Art of Cooking follows the reopening of Sotheby’s Restaurant – a culinary haven at the heart of the art world. Conceived as a relaxed Parisian bistro, it has become a favourite among art lovers, catering to discerning and myriad tastes. Inspired by the seasons, the menu focuses on sustainable, locally-sourced organic produce. The restaurant’s menu will continue to offer Sotheby’s signature dishes – including the synonymous ‘Lobster Club Sandwich’ – with the addition of select recipes from the cookbook. 

With an emphasis on British design and craftsmanship, Sotheby’s renovations, both to the restaurant and galleries, continue to honour the auction house’s Georgian heritage while also paying homage to the exquisite works of art that have passed through its doors. Hanging above the diners are light fittings based on the “hands of Caravaggio” from the artist’s great masterpiece Supper at Emmanus, and his portrayals of St Francis of Assisi and Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine and festivity.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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