Miss Mary Hooper Books

Click on Book Cover for Preface

Nelson's Home Comforts - Little dinners - Cookery For Invalids - Every Day Meals - Hints on Cookery Good Plain Cookery - Handbook For The Breakfast Table - Weekly Telegraph Cookery Book - Our Dog Prin - Ways and Tricks of Animals

Lily's Letters from the Farm  (USA)- Wives and Housewives (a story for the times) Papers on Cookery (no image) For Better For worse (no image)


Victorian Recipes

...preface from The Weekly Telegraph Cookery Book

“Know on thyself thy genius must depend. All books of cookery, all helps of art, All critic learning, all commenting notes, are vain, if, void of genius though wouldst cook!”

   These words of an old writer are as true now as they ever were. “Then,” somebody will be sure to say, “it is of no use my trying to be a cook, for I have no genius for it.”  To quote a great authority, “Genius is nothing more nor less than a vast capacity for taking pains.” Anybody, therefore, who has this capacity, and who possesses patience and perseverance, can be a good cook.  It is clear that these gifts cannot be attained by the study of cookery books, and it is as useless to expect to prepare food properly without practice, as it is to expect to paint a picture without years of careful study.  Cookery may be one of the secondary arts, but an art it is, and demands not only, as we have said, exercise of the high moral gifts of patience and perseverance, but of every faculty of the mind.  Moreover, this art is also a science, in which the student can graduate only by diligence and experiment.  Not only must the body be provided with food which will make good tissue waste and produce the necessary warmth, but the food must be so prepared that it will please the eye, satisfy the palate, and prove acceptable to the stomach.  No stupid person can ever be a good cook.  Real proficiency can only be attained by one who possesses powers of observation and comparison.  A critical faculty of taste is absolutely necessary for a good cook. 

   To all these qualifications, and to some others besides, the teacher of cookery must unite the experience of the best part of a lifetime; and yet it has of late years been the fashion to suppose that people without any previous knowledge of cookery can in a few months acquire the art of teaching, when it is impossible that in that time any one can have attained sufficient practical experience to enable them to speak at all upon the subject; but still more wonderful is the idea that anybody who has taken a short course of lessons form an incompetent teacher can write a cookery book.  Of the vast number of elementary manuals which, during the last half-dozen years or so, have issued from the Press, there are few which have not produced the errors of its predecessors, and thus helped to perpetuate a clumsy, extravagant method of cooking.  We do not, of course, allude to the writings of such professors as Gouffee and Francatelli.  These men are artists, and it is only such as these, whose long apprenticeship, whose life-long devotion to their work, has taught them the secrets of success, who are entitled to speak on the art they profess.  Such books as theirs, however, are for the most part out of the reach of people of moderate means, and hence the need of some trustworthy manual of more modest dimensions. 

   Taking up at random some of the books published at a small price for the use of cookery teachers, we find such errors as the following: “Onions to be soaked in water with a little washing soda” before boiling, with a view of making hem digestible.  Thus the valuable dietetic quality of the onion would be injured, the most useful flavouring matter impaired, and it would be far more likely to be indigestible than if properly cooked.  The water in which onions are boiled should always be used for making soup; it not only gives the best of flavours, but contains much of the properties of the vegetable. 

   French beans in any of their varieties should be washed before cutting or slicing, and not left as directed, to soak in water after this is done, thus, of course, drawing out the flavour.

   Green vegetables, cauliflowers, etc., etc., are “to be soaked in salt and water to get out the insects.”  No wonder so much animal matter is usually served with them!  Salt kills the insects, and then naturally they cannot get out of the vegetable. 

   It is not surprising that our breakfast bacon is so hard and uneatable, when one finds that cooks are taught that “bacon does no require fat at all, as its own melting fat is sufficient.”  When bacon is put into a pan dry over the fire, long before “its own melting fat” can be drawn, the lean is hardened and the fat is just burned enough to render it almost as indigestible and unwholesome a dish as the morning appetite of even a robust Briton can tolerate!  To be properly friend, a little fat either from previously cooked bacon, or butter, must be put into the pan, and the frying must be so slowly done that a rasher of the ordinary thickness will, with occasional turning, take at least five minutes. 

   How often we hear it said, “I like stews, Irish stew especially; but they do not agree with me.”  It would indeed be wonderful if any human stomach (although some writers seem to that poor people can digest anything) could assimilate an Irish stew made of the “fat scraps,” as directed by one teacher of cookery.  But the fact that a stew served with all the greasy product of the “fat scraps” left in it must be indigestible, is absurdly assigned “to some poisonous quality of the water in which the potatoes are cooked.” 

   One would have thought that by this time the making of our delightful national sauce, “melted butter,” would have been understood.  Not so, however.  From book to book, with a persistency which claims our wonder, runs such a worthless recipe as this: -Melted butter-Put one ounce of butter in a stewpan, when it is melted put in half an ounce of flour, stir it quite smooth over the fire, and pour in my degrees half a pint of water.  Stir till it thickens, then move to the side of the fire.  If you cannot afford so much butter, use less, but never put more flour than butter.  This recipe never fails to produce good melted butter free from lumps.  Melted butter too often resembles paste.”  Certainly it does, but half an ounce of flour to the given quality of water will make a sauce so thin as must spoil any dish.  Moreover, not one cook in a hundred would n this way make melted butter free from lumps, and this method of using the butter is very extravagant.  We refer readers to our recipe under the heading of “Butter Sauce.” 

   More serious errors than these are found in the almost universally bad directions which are given for the preparation of food for invalids. 

   Take essence of beef.  It is now so well known that the presence of enough gelatine in beef-tea or soup to set, or make them jelly is not in itself a proof of their strength, that the direction to boil beef for eight hours to make the essence is altogether inexcusable.  But this is the natural result of one writer copying another.  Essence of beef, and that is not beef jelly, can be made in something less than half an hour. 

   One of the best ideas of successive generations of cooks, “that one egg well beaten goes as far as two not well beaten,” has lately been overturned in various recipes for making batter.  The direction is, “break the egg into the flour, and mix quite smoothly with a little milk.”  Thus the egg is not beaten at all, and anyone who has made a batter-pudding, adding the white of the egg beaten to a strong froth just before cooking, will know the value of the unpublished idea of our grandmothers. 

   Perhaps in the whole range of cookery recipes none will more fully illustrate the fact that no one but a cook can write on cookery than the recipe we give for a batter pudding for an invalid by a celebrated doctor: - “Batter pudding.-Flour, three teaspoonfuls; milk, one pint; salt a pinch; of powdered ginger, nutmeg, and tincture of saffron, each a teaspoonful (!).  Boil.”  It is scarcely possible gravely to analyse such a recipe as this.  In the first place, the quantity of flour to the milk would only make the batter as thick cream, and then think of the spices, which altogether are in equal quantity to the flour, and about sufficient to flavour a hundred puddings for an invalid. 

   We all know how often custard puddings come to table floating in whey, and this when the best materials have been used.  The cook can only account for it by supposing “the milk was not fresh,” when the accident is solely due to her own want of knowledge of the most dimple elementary rules. 

   Here is the recipe by which custard puddings are spoiled: -“Three eggs, half a pint of milk, two ounces of sugar, half on ounce of butter, one pinch of grated nutmeg.  Stir the eggs and sugar together, add the milk and nutmeg’ stir well.  Butter a small pie-dish, pour in the custard; bake in a slow oven for about twenty minutes; do not move the dish till the custard is set, as it might curdle.” 

   Evidently the writer of this recipe has a good deal of worry with her custard puddings; with all the care in the world they would curdle.  Even if she avoided “moving the dish till the custard is set,” now and again the pudding would present disagreeable characteristics for which she could in no way account. 

   In the first place, one egg is sufficient for the given quantity of milk, whereas the lady has the extravagant number of three.  The milk should be boiled, and the dish containing the pudding be placed in another with water in it.  Then, if slowly baked, a most perfect and smooth custard will be produced, being the very best form of nourishment for children or delicate people. 

   Among a host of false ideas that are the result of want of practical experience, we may record that of the writer who gravely says that “puff pastry cannon be made in summer without a refrigerator, because the butter is liable to become oily.” 

   The same writer says: -“Nothing can be cooked under the potato-steamer without acquiring an unpleasant flavour.”  As a matter of fact, the most delicate pudding can be boiled successfully whilst the potatoes steam over it.  We may here remark that a potato-steamer might be as costly an article as a bain-marie, so rarely, if ever, do we find its use suggested, or any hint given, that by far the best way of cooking potatoes is to steam them. 

   One would have thought that the horrors of the melancholy remains of our cold mutton were already sufficient, without having them made into hash by “letting the meat just come to the boil.”  The unpopularity of “twice-cooked meat” is entirely due to such methods as these.  Except for really delicate people, there is no reason why hashed mutton should not, from every point of view, be an acceptable dish.  In the first place, the onions must be thoroughly well boiled; and if these for any reason are objected to, the hash can be made sufficiently savoury without them.  Gravy made for the bones must have all the fat taken off it, and be cool before the meat is put into it.  Then the meat will be allowed to come slowly to the simmering point, and be continued at this point for something about an hour, or until perfectly tender, without being ragged.  Then, again, every particle of grease will be taken off the gravy, which will be finished as by our recipe. 

   Now that butter is so expensive and article of consumption, it is necessary to know how to use suet, whenever possible, as a substitute for it.  Pastry so light that no one can tell that it is not made of the best butter, can be made of properly prepared suet.  Yet all the teachers of cookery direct that suet shall be “finely chopped.”  Thus the fat cannot mix properly with the flour, and only hard and greasy pastry can be made; but if suet is shred and well beaten into the flour, not only is a delicious crust made either for boiling or for baking, but about half the usual quantity will be required. 

   One might multiply instances of this kind to an unlimited extent, but those which have been cited will give an idea of the general want of knowledge of the first principles of the culinary art on the part of would-be-teachers of it, and of their ignorance of what good cookery really is. 

   By good cookery we do not mean the preparation only of elaborate and high-class dishes, but that also which is commonly called “plain.”  The difference, indeed, in these lies not in the method, but in the kind and quantity of the ingredients.  It cannot be too much insisted on that “plain” cookery requires as much care and as much skill as high-class cookery.  The roast leg of mutton, done to a turn, with beautifully browned potatoes, is, in its way, as great a culinary triumph as a gigot de mouton braise’a la jardiniere. 

   In this little manual we give directions and recipes for such dishes only as are generally considered to come under the head of plain cookery.  Our aim has been to make it suitable for the mistress of the family, the cook, and the teacher of cookery.  Not only would we beg our friends to study each recipe carefully before putting it into practice, but also to study the whole plan and method of cookery contained in the book.  The two principles which the writer, in her long practical experience, has found to underlie all good work, are thoroughness, and economy in the use both of time and materials, and she would impress on all who wish to be good cooks that the secret of success lies in the faithful application of these principles to the business in hand.  We are sure that there is no work so well worthy the earnest attention of the women of our day as the economical and skilful management of our food supplies.  It is to those who are anxiously seeking to promote the cause of good cookery that we commend this little book, in the hope that it may be helpful to them. 

Mary Hooper 

This Book is essentially a reprint of Good Plain Cookery




Rediscovering the Gelatine Factory



The Gelatine Factory

A comprehensive account 1899

from Round About Warwick


George Nelson



Nelson's Emscote Mills 2009



T B Dale


Charles Nelson


The Nelson Brothers


William Nelson


George H Nelson


Sir E Montague Nelson

Charles Nelson's

Cement Works at Stockton


A Visit to

Messrs. G. Nelson, Dale & Co. 1880



Nelson Works

Tomoana New Zealand


Guy Montague Nelson

Nelson Village

Charles St, Warwick


The Lawn at Emscote


Nelson's Lozenges

 packaging & adds

Nelson's Club

Isinglass Wars

Swinborne v Nelson


Nelson's 1950's

Warwick Advertiser account 1953



Descendants of George Nelson


George Wyatt A city trade jubilee



Nelson's Heritage Walk


Gelatine and its uses


Davis Gelatine


Home Comforts


Mary Hooper



Mary Hooper Letters

 Mary Hooper Book Collection


Nelson's Home Comforts

Mary Hooper


Wives and Housewives

Mary Hooper


Little Dinners

Mary Hooper


Cookery for Invalids

Mary Hooper


Every Day Meals

Mary Hooper


Hints on Cookery

Mary Hooper

Good Plain Cookery

Mary Hooper


Handbook for the

Breakfast Table

Mary Hooper


Weekly Telegraph

Cookery Book

Mary Hooper

Our Dog Prin

Mary Hooper

Ways & Tricks of Animals

Mary Hooper


Lily's Letters from the Farm

Mary Hooper

Charles Wentworth Wass

Round About Warwick

Walter Nelson

Fleur De Lys

The Pie Factory at Emscote

Sir E Montague Nelson's Cuttings, Letters and Keepsakes Circa 1882 Randolph Turpin


Cookery & Home Comforts

Mrs Wigley


Byron Accused






Mary Hooper Books Wanted


Rock's Royal Cabinet

Leamington & Warwick 1880





Anthony Leahy



Anthony Leahy


Art & Photography

Anthony Leahy


A Major Arcana

Kathleen Forrest


The Drumroom

Anthony Leahy


Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy




 A Walk in Warwick






Book Wanted Handbook For The Breakfast Table

Book Wanted Wives and Housewives A Story For The Times


3 The Butts






PAT Portable Appliance Testing


Amber Leahy Graphic Design