The ladies leave the dinner table and the gentlemen bring out the port and talk of horses and the lawcourts, but it isn’t long before they join the ladies again in the drawing room for music and tea. Mr. Armstrong is working on his digestion, but you’d never dream that his wife and her sister had eaten a tidy quantity of Mrs. Mack’s excellent work. Murray looks about: his guests seem happy, but soon someone, Mrs. Thomson or Mrs. Freeman, will glance round and decide that the party is over. As soon as he detects that movement, he nods to Robbins who has the maids bring milk punch and rout drop cakes, a little warming snack for the journey home.
Generously serves 12.
1 bottle brandy
3 unwaxed ripe lemons
½ lb sugar lumps
4 pints milk
3 fresh eggs
Rub the sugar lumps with the lemons. If nothing else, this will put you in the mindset of Effy or Iffy doing small repetitive apparently mindless tasks in the kitchen. But it is worth it.
Put the sugar lumps in a large pan with the milk, keeping back about ½ pint. Bring to scalding point, reduce the heat a little and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Beat eggs with the reserved milk. Take the simmering pan off the heat. Whisk in the egg mixture a little at a time.
Pour in the brandy, return to the heat, stir vigorously until piping hot but not boiling. Serve as soon as possible, and don’t drive for a couple of days.
Have a couple of these with them.
Rout Drop Cakes*
5oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
2oz softened butter
2oz caster sugar
1 small egg
½ teaspoon orange juice
½ teaspoon rose-water
1 teaspoon sweet white wine or sherry (I used sherry)
1 teaspoon brandy
1 oz currants
Set the oven to heat to 350’F/180’C/Gas Mark 4. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Work in the butter to make a crumbly mixture, then add the sugar. In a small bowl, beat the egg, then add juice, rosewater, sherry and brandy. Stir well. Then mix the liquids by degrees into the dry goods to obtain a smooth dough. Lastly mix in the fruit.
Dollop in small, neat heaps (mine weren’t very neat) on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven 16 – 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. You can get rosewater in Lakeland, by the way!
‘These little cakes are pleasant with a glass of wine or cup of coffee at mid-morning or in the evening. They were easy-to-eat party cookies on a Georgian evening tea table too.’
Mr. Murray hopes you have had a pleasant evening: he comes downstairs to see his guests off at the door, as Mary and William help you with your cloaks. Carriages for those who have them are waiting outside in the starlight, and Daniel is outside rounding up the link boys. Safe journey home!