Dinner Menus

Mrs. Pratt's Menu
for a Simple Seven-Course Dinner
at Bishop's Keep

From The Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries
by Bill & Susan Albert


If you visited Kate and Charles at Bishop's Keep on an ordinary evening, you might be very surprised at the variety of dishes Mrs. Pratt (Kate's cook) would prepare for their dinner. Here is one of her seven-course menus. (Click on each item to read the recipe, slightly updated for the contemporary cook.) If this were a dinner-party, each of the courses would be represented by at least three or four different items, not just one. So if Kate were to invite 18 people for dinner, Mrs. Pratt would prepare 21-28 different dishes. And just think of all the dishes to wash!

Mrs. Pratt's Dinner Menu

Soup Mrs. Beeton's Cucumber Soup
Fish Eliza Acton's Baked Dover Sole
Game or Poultry Pheasant Mandarin
Meat Veal Escalopes with Mushrooms
Vegetable Carrots Vichy
Dessert Gooseberry Fool
Savory Angels on Horseback


Mrs. Beeton's Cucumber Soup

Mrs. Pratt found this recipe in her favorite cookery book: Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. It was first published in threepenny monthly installments in Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, between 1859-1861. Soon thereafter, it was published as a book. Mrs. Pratt loves Mrs. Beeton's because it not only includes menus, recipes, and cooking tips, but also instructions on the duties of servants, the use of tools and cleaning supplies, the rearing of children, and the treatment of common diseases. All this--and Cucumber Soup, too!


  • 1 large cucumber
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • ¼ cup chopped sorrel (or spinach)
  • ¼ cup chopped chervil (or parsley)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup cream

Peel the cucumber, quarter it, and take out the seeds; cut it in thin slices, put them on a plate with a little salt, to draw the water from them; drain, and put them in your stewpan, with the butter. When they are warmed through, and without being browned, pour the stock on them. Add the sorrel, chervil, and seasoning, and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix the well-beaten yolks of the eggs with the cream and add at the moment of serving. [For a smooth soup, pour the hot mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Return it to the pan and reheat, then add the egg and cream mixture just before serving.]


Eliza Acton's Baked Dover Sole

Eliza Acton wrote Modern Cookery for Private Families in 1855. Mrs. Acton's book filled an important need: it taught young women how to provide tasty, nutritious food for their families. It was designed for the emerging middle-class family who could afford a maid and perhaps a cook, but in which the housewife directly oversaw her kitchen, planned her meals, and perhaps did some of her own grocery shopping. Mrs. Pratt likes many of the recipes in Eliza Acton's book, because they are usually simple and easy to prepare, with a minimum of ingredients.


  • 2 Dover soles, cleaned and skinned
  • 5 tblsp butter
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1½ cup dried breadcrumbs, very fine, seasoned with 1 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp each ground mace, grated nutmeg, paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the fish and drain, then pat completely dry. Butter (or spray) a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Place the fish in it. Melt butter over a gentle heat just to the point of liquifying. Let it cool slightly, then pour half into a small bowl and mix with beaten egg. Place the crumbs on a plate. Brush one side of the fish with butter/egg mixture and lay butter-side-down on the crumbs. Brush the other side of the fish and turn it onto the crumbs. Place the fish in the dish. Repeat with second fish. Pour the other half of the butter over both fish, then sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over both. Back 20-25 minutes (or until fish flakes easily). Serve immediately to 2.

Modern Cookery for Private Families, 1855


Pheasant Mandarin

Pheasants were readily available in the markets in most cities. Mrs. Pratt, however, buys her pheasants from the gamekeeper on the nearby Marsden estate (who sells them with Lord Marsden's permission). The birds are dressed in the larder, a cold room in the basement, and stored there until they are cooked. Oranges were purchased at the green grocer's, but their cost meant that they were usually saved for a special meal.


  • 2 pheasants
  • 5 tblsp butter
  • 2 or 3 mandarin oranges
  • ¾ cup brandy
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ cup chicken stock

Joint the pheasants and sauté them in butter. (Start the legs 10 minutes before adding the breasts, as the legs take longer.) When the pheasants are tender (30-40 minutes), remove and place on a warm serving dish. Pour the brandy into the sauté pan, skim off the fat. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl, add chicken stock and stir well. Pour into the pan and heat gently. Grate the peel of one orange into the sauce while it is heating. When the sauce is thick, pour over the pheasant and serve, decorated with orange sections. [Tip: You can substitute Cornish game hens for the pheasants, and canned mandarin orange sections for the fresh oranges. Try adding ½ tsp of orange extract for a more pronounced flavor.]


Veal Escalopes with Mushrooms

Mrs. Pratt has a copy of Charles Francatelli's new book (The Modern Cook was published in 1896), but she doesn't care for it all that much. She says it's too modern, and she's an old-fashioned cook. Most of the dishes are "fancy work," fun and exciting if you have plenty of time. But there is always a great deal to do in Mrs. Pratt's kitchen, and she doesn't have the luxury of fancy cooking. This recipe for Veal Escalopes, however, is simple and easy. The only problem is keeping the meat warm while it makes its long trek to the upstairs dining room!


  • 4 thin veal cutlets (about 1 lb)
  • flour for dredging veal
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tblsp butter
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Trim fat from veal and place between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and beat until thin with a wooden mallet or a rolling pin. Season and dredge in floor, shaking off the excess. Heat half the butter in a frying pan. When it foams, put in two pieces of the veal and cook until golden; turn and cook the other side. Keep warm. Repeat for remaining two pieces of veal. Heat the remaining butter in the same pan. Cook the mushrooms until golden, stirring. Add sherry and thyme, cook until sauce begins to thicken. Season. Add cream, parsley, and warm veal. Heat and serve.

The Modern Cook, Charles Francatelli, 1896


Carrots Vichy

With a large kitchen garden right outside the door, Mrs. Pratt always has plenty of vegetables to choose from. This simple recipe from Mrs. Beeton is one of her favorites.


  • 1 lb young carrots
  • 2 tblsp butter to glaze
  • 1 tblsp cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh mint
  • chopped parsley

The carrots may be cooked whole, or scraped and sliced. Cook in boiling, salted water until tender, then drain. Saute carrots for a minute or two in butter with mint, and sprinkle lightly with sugar to glaze. Just before serving, add cream and chopped parsley. Serves 4. [Cooking tip: Baby carrots would have charmed any Victorian cook!]


Gooseberry Fool

Gooseberries are grown in the garden at Bishop's Keep, and are in season in May and June. This dish, cooling and delicately tart, was an old-fashioned favorite. It was also a nursery dish and often prepared especially for the children. (Mrs. Pratt is just as glad that there are no young children at Bishop's Keep, for she does not have to prepare separate nursery meals. She's quite busy enough, cooking for the master and mistress upstairs, and for all the servants belowstairs!)


  • 1 lb green gooseberries
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 heaping tblsp sugar

Stew the gooseberries with the sugar until soft, in as little water as possible. (More sugar may be necessary if the fruit is very tart.) Put the cooked fruit through a sieve to puree and let stand until cold. Whip the cream until stiff and gently fold in the gooseberry puree. Don't attempt to blend completely; the fool is traditionally marbled. Chill for at least one hour before serving. Serve with sponge-cake fingers. [Tip: Instead of sieving the fruit, put it in your blender. Serve in your prettiest cut-glass dish.]


Angels on Horseback

The formal Victorian dinner was not complete without a savory course, which was traditionally served after dessert. (We call these appetizers and serve them before dinner!) Sometimes the savory course, along with coffee, was served to the men, who often lingered at the table to smoke and talk after the women had adjourned to the drawing room. Cheese and fruit might be served as well.


  • 12 oysters
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cut the bacon slices in half and season with pepper. Wrap each oyster in bacon. Roll and skewer and grill until browned. Remove skewer and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.




Up How to give a dinner Dining Room Etiquette Dinner Menus More Menus Christmas Dinner

More Links