The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

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This Day In ... 1818

December 24, 2018

 

 

MISTRESS ANDREWS DIED, BAKER OF THE WOTHORPE CHEESECAKE 

 

Many of our Waterfurlong fruit trees were supplied by Messrs W & J Brown, whose extensive nursery grounds lay on the other side of Tinwell Road where Exeter Gardens now stands. Brown's main base was at Wothorpe, where Richard and Ann Brown first set up business in 1830, Richard having previously worked as head gardener to Sir John Trollope at Casewick Hall. The Browns' new enterprise included the tenancy of Wothorpe Tea Gardens, which Ann continued to run until 1871. This now-forgotten establishment had been in existence since the 1760s, as we learn from an obituary in the Stamford Mercury of 25 December 1818:

 

Yesterday, aged 85 years, Mrs Andrews, who for half a century was mistress of the tea-gardens at Wothorpe near this place; and whose mild and obliging manners, and excellent cookery of cheese-cakes, made her during that long period a favourite of all the young people educated at the different schools in the town.’(1) 

 

So far, we have been unable to find further information on Mistress Andrews or her famed cheese-cakes. What we can be reasonably certain of is that they were of the baked variety, contained no curd cheese (a 19th century American development - the name originally came from the dessert's cheese-like texture) and were flavoured with lemon, nutmeg rose-water or orange-flower water. They may or may not have included currents. 

 

The following brief recipe comes from the intriguingly-titled contemporaneous 'Cookbook of Unknown Ladies'(2):

 

TO MAKE EXCELENT LEMON CHEESE CAKES 

 

Take half a pd of almonds. Pound them with rose water, but not too much, half a pd of loaf sugar. Boyle the yallow peel of a large lemon pared prity thick & pounded very well, 8 eggs, 4 whites well beat, 3 qrs of a pd of butter melted prity cool, 2 spoon fulls of rose or orange flower water. Mix all well together & bake them.

 

Mystery surrounds the compilers of this extraordinary hand-scripted book; a type-written title page states that the recipes were collected by ‘various unknown women about the year 1761’. The City of Westminster set up a project to

recreate the recipes and, after experimentation, suggests

the following modern-day cheese-cake adaptation should you fancy having a go over the holiday period. Meanwhile, we're raising a celebratory glass to Mrs Andrews whose confections brightened the life of many a Stamford boarding-school boy!

 

  • 150g ground almonds

  • 150g caster sugar

  • 1 small lemon

  • 2 egg whites

  • 3 whole eggs

  • 220g butter

  • 1½ tbsp orange flower water

 

Take strips of peel from the lemon and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain and allow the peel to cool.

  1.  Melt the butter on a low heat, then allow to cool.

  2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and rosewater.

  3. Chop the cooled lemon peel very fine and add to the almonds.

  4. Beat the egg whites until they are light, fluffy and form soft peaks.

  5. Beat the 3 whole eggs and melted butter into the almond mixture and add a good squeeze of lemon.

  6. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.

  7. Spoon the mixture into sandwich cake tins or large ramekins.

  8. Bake in the oven at 180ºC until cooked through and golden brown.

 

 

SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.

(2) The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Photograph © Ymon via Pixabay

 

 

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

 

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