This month’s treasure is taken from the collections of the Banque Rothschild Frères à Paris et Famille Rothschild, held on behalf of the Archive by the Archives Nationales du Monde du Travail, Roubaix, France.
Among the papers is a small book which has an interesting history to reveal. Roughly covered in brown paper, the book is a ‘Livre des comptes de cuisine’ (Kitchen Account Book), covering the period 15 October 1832 to 15 September 1833.
The art of hospitality
The book records all the ingredients of the meals eaten by James de Rothschild and his family for a period of just under a year between 1832 and 1833. James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) was the youngest child of Mayer Amschel Rothschild of Frankfurt. James founded the French bank, de Rothschild Frères in 1812. James married his niece, Betty, the daughter of his brother Salomon, on 11 July 1824, and they had five children.
The couple entertained on a grand scale, first in Paris and then in the Château de Boulogne and at Ferrières. The scale of entertaining is reflected in the lists of expensive ingredients, and descriptions of lavish meals in the Account Book. Truffles, lobsters, and champagne jelly, are listed as being on the menu of the dinner of 17 November 1832. Browsing through the book, one cannot help but guess which statesmen, diplomats and financiers, were entertained on the 11 and 12 November 1832, for there are many foreign dishes on the menu - ‘Potage aux Vermicelles à l’Allemande, Venaison Anglaise, Saumon à l’Allemande, Filet de Boeuf à la Napolitaine, Poitrine de Veau à l’Allemande, Gâteau Napolitain …’ On 22 April 1833, two soups were served, followed by eight starters, six main dishes with three different accompaniments, and eight desserts, including jellied pineapple and champagne chocolate truffle. In contrast, one regular entry in the Account Book, ‘poulet pour le dîner des enfants’ indicates that chicken was served to the children on most nights.
When it was first discovered, the book was thought to have belonged to the great Antoine Carême (1794-1833), James’ chef, one of the greatest French chefs of all time. Carême, however, had left Rothschild employment by the time this book was compiled. The identity of the creator of one of the most well-known aspects of Rothschild style, the art of hospitality, is unknown.
The great 'Mrs P'
The English Rothschilds also entertained on a lavish scale in their London homes and great country estates. In 1922, Ena Mary Huxley (1907-1989), later Mrs Prentice, (affectionately referred to as ‘Mrs P’), started work as a scullery-maid at Palace Green, the London home of Charles (1877-1923) and Roszika Rothschild (1870-1940). In 1953 she went to work for Victor, the late 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) at Merton Hall, Cambridge, where she married his chauffeur, Wally. Mrs P was a cook without the ostentation of the traditional chef, and yet she excelled in the art of cookery. She wrote down her recipes - many of them given to her by chefs of her era - in her own neat handwriting, in two exercise books. For the month of December, we give you Mrs Prentice’s recipe for seasonal ‘Turkey stuffing in patties’.
Turkey stuffing in patties
Mrs Prentice called these 'patties', but the classical name for them is 'forcemeat balls' as used in the garnish for roast turkey. Whereas forcemeat for stuffing the inside of the turkey usually contains sausagemeat, the stuffing for the forcemeat balls surrounding the turkey does not usually contain meat.
1 small onion, finely diced
1 rasher of bacon, finely diced
4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped suet
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme or marjoram
breadcrumbs and fat for frying
Saute the finely diced onion and bacon until the onion is soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and bind together with the beaten egg. Shape into balls. Dip the balls in egg and breadcrumbs and fry in shallow fat until golden brown.
RAL 132 AQ (Roubaix)