Austen · Emma

Donwell Abbey’s Salmagundy

Author: Austen, Jane
Book: Emma
Difficulty rating: Harry Potter
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds Expectations

Part of Afternoon Tea with Emma

“Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors. When you are tired of eating strawberries in the garden, there shall be cold meat in the house.” (Austen 287)

The cold repast was over, and the party were to go out once more to see what had not yet been seen, the old Abbey fish-ponds; perhaps get as far as the clover, which was to be begun cutting on the morrow, or, at any rate, have the pleasure of being hot, and growing cool again (Austen 293).

After a bit of research, we decided that the most appropriate dish to recreate Mr. Knightley’s “cold repast” would be salmagundy, a salad of leftovers that was en vogue in the Regency era and also popped up in The Jane Austen Cookbook:

Is a beautiful small dish, if in nice shape, and if the colours of the ingredients are varied. For this purpose chop separately the white part of cold chicken or veal, yolks of eggs boiled hard, the white of eggs; parsley, half a dozen anchovies, beet-root, red pickled cabbage, ham, and grated tongue, or anything well-flavored, and of a good colour.

A saucer, large tea-cup, or any other base, must be put into a small dish; then make rows round it wide at bottom, and growing smaller towards the top; choosing such of the ingredients for each row as will most vary the colours. At the top a little sprig of parsley may be stuck in; or, without any thing on the dish, the salmagundy may be laid in rows, or put into the half-whites of eggs, which may be made to stand upright by cutting off a bit at the round end. In the latter case, each half-egg has but one ingredient. Curled butter and parsley may be put as garnish between. (Black 91)

I had a hard time figuring out what on earth this meant. You put a saucer or a teacup as a base and make rows of ingredients? Huh? Luckily, I found this helpful blog post about making a salmagundy! So you put a cup or a bowl as a base upside-down, grease the bowl with butter, and stick the ingredients onto the bowl like a mosaic. Okay … but … why?

Did it measure up?

Jenne was busily readying the rest of the tea, so my librarian friend Ramona and I were tasked with the assembly of the salmagundy. Did we wonder why the hell we were bothering to buttering mini-tiles of meat and beet and egg onto an upside-down cereal bowl? You bet, many a time, especially in that last half-hour when we were scrambling to get everything else done. But we thought the end result looked pretty grand, and when else other than a Jane Austen tea for like-minded nerds will you go to the trouble of making something so ridiculous? I also found that my years of experience leading crafts as a youth services librarian came into play — it’s not easy getting those bits to stick to ceramic with just butter, but not much harder than using glue stick for preschool art projects. (Stupid glue sticks.)

Like any salad, a salmagundy is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. We had portions of excellent ham left over in the freezer, and roast chicken from Vons. (Vons chicken is the BEST supermarket chicken.) So it was actually pretty tasty! We skipped the anchovies and grated tongue to better suit the tastes of a varied and modern audience. The only thing I’m sad I forgot was the curled butter — I’d meant to make some butter curls, but I plumb forgot in the hurry to finish!

DONWELL ABBEY’S SALMAGUNDY

Ingredients & Supplies Needed:

  • A large plate or platter (it’s best if it has a rim on the very outer edge)
  • A bowl as a base
  • Damp napkin (for wiping your knife)
  • Cutting boards
  • Paring knife
  • 1/2 cup of ham, cut into thin parallelograms (about a half-inch wide)
  • 1/2 cup of roast chicken, cut into thin parallelograms (about a half-inch wide)
  • 3 boiled eggs
  • A handful of red pickled cabbage (Jenne whipped up some the day before using this recipe, nbd)
    IMG_0517
  • A bunch of parsley, washed and dried
  • A stick of softened butter

Directions:

  1. Generously grease the underside of a bowl with a thick layer of butter. Put the bowl, buttered side up, in the middle of the plate.
  2. Cut the boiled eggs in half and separate the whites and yolks. Take one of the halves of whites and slice off just the very bottom so it’ll stand upright. This makes the decorative bowl we put on the very top of the salmagundy.
  3. Cut the rest of the whites into thin, half-inch pieces. The yolks will crumble into bits pretty easily under a knife.
  4. Lay out your ingredients into color groups:
    • White: egg white, chicken
    • Pink: ham
    • Red: pickled cabbage, beets
    • Yellow: egg yolks
    • Green: parsley — just the leaves plucked off
  5. Start at the bottom of the bowl. (I started at the top, and upon reflection, that was really stupid.) Ham is a good bottom row because it’s heavy. Stick a row of ham onto the bowl — if there’s a piece that just won’t stick, I found it helpful to stick a whole glob of butter onto it. (This is my kind of salad!)
  6. Then, alternate the color ingredients in rows so that it makes a pattern! (I wouldn’t bother trying to stick pickled cabbage onto the bowl, by the way. Leave it for the outermost row on the plate — it looks very pretty.)
    IMG_0549
  7. Layer parsley at the top of the plate, curly edges of the leaves out.
  8. Put the little egg white bowl you made in step 2 on the top. Fill with your favorite ingredient. (We thought beets would look prettiest.)

IMG_5501

DRESSING

Take two thirds Oil Olive, one third True Vinegar, some hard eggs cut small, both the Whites and Yolks, a little Salt and some Mustard, all which must be well mix’d and pour’d over the Sallad. (Black 48)

Ingredients & Supplies Needed:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (we used a mix of red wine and apple cider vinegars)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, mashed
  • 1 tsp Coleman’s prepared English mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • Mortar and pestle or stick blender

Directions:

  1. We know the original recipe calls for 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 vinegar, but it needed more vinegar. Whisk together oil and vinegar, add other ingredients, and then adjust flavors to your taste. (Use a stick blender for a smooth texture if you like, although we suppose a mortar and pestle would be more authentic.)
  2. Let sit for an hour or so to let the flavors blend. It tasted kind of weird — a bit too sour and bitter — when Jenne first made it, but a few hours later when we tried it right before tea, it had mellowed out nicely.

Austen, Jane. Emma. 1816. Reprint. New York: Penguin Books, 2015. Print.

Black, Maggie and Deirdre Le Faye. The Jane Austen Cookbook. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2002. Print.

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