I’m laughing a little, because this Stress Free Steampunk Dinner Party, is an almost but not quite Stress Free Victorian Dinner Party, because Steampunk is a futuristic science fiction genre powered by Victorian steam technology.
I’ve selected dishes from a menu given in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management: Dinner for six persons (September) I. It’s actually five courses of between two and six dishes each, but I’ve taken pity on all of us and cut it to the usual three courses of one dish each. And I’ve tried to pick dishes that might appeal to a more modern palate.
I’ve also made some substitutions where Victorian ingredients (e.g., veal knuckle based white stock) are hard to come by.
The menu doesn’t specify drinks, and in any case, you’d defer to your Butler’s judgement. The Victorians also tended to match drinks to courses, rather than dishes, so I’ve done a little research and tried to pick wines that would be more or less correct for the period.
Victorian or Steampunk.
As always, six guests invited to arrive at 6.30 for 7.00 pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Anchovy Toast and Sauternes
While the Victorians didn’t do aperitifs the way we understand them today, I’ve tried to pick something contemporaneous.
Wash bone and dry a dozen anchovies, then pound to a paste in a mortar with a pestle. Combine with 115 g (¼ oz) butter and force through a fine sieve. You can alter the taste by adding mace, cayenne or nutmeg to taste.
Toast or fry some bread, spread with a little mustard and top with the anchovy paste. Cut into bite size pieces.
7.00 Entrée: Salmon à la Genévése with Madeira
Rub the bottom of a pan with butter. Add two chopped shallots, a small bunch of herbs (including parsley), two bay leaves, 2 carrots, mace, salt and pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, then add four tablespoons of Madeira, and simmer for half an hour.
Put two good size pieces of salmon into a pan and strain the fish stock over the top. Simmer gently five to ten minutes until the fish is done.
Meanwhile, melt 40 g (1½ oz) butter in a pan, add an equal quantity of flour, and stir until it forms a smooth paste (a roux). Cook for a couple of minutes until the flour is cooked.
Decant the bulk of the stock into the roux, leaving just enough to keep the salmon moist. Add 300 ml (½ pint) of half strength chicken stock, the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of anchovy essence, cayenne and salt to taste. Stir until it thickens.
To serve, slice the salmon and divide between your plates. Pour a little of the sauce over the top.
8.00 Main: Boiled Leg of Mutton and Caper Sauce with Claret
When it comes to the meat of sheep, lamb is an animal up to one-year-old, hoggett one to two years, and mutton the adult. Many countries permit the sale of all sheep meat under the term “lamb” (so rude), but you’re looking for meat that is denser in texture and darker in colour. Some countries also require that the carcass is stamped to certify what the meat is.
Cut the shank off from a moderately sized leg, trim the knuckle, clean the leg under running water and add to a pot of boiling water. Add a little salt and bring back to the boil, then simmer for 2¼ hours.
Scrub six large turnips and six large carrots. After 1¼ hours add them to the meat.
When the meat is done, mash the vegetables, slice the meat and serve with caper sauce.
Caper Sauce: Melt 115 g (¼ oz) butter, add a dessertspoon of flour, wineglass of water, three tablespoons of chopped capers and one tablespoon of the caper liquor. Stir consistently in one direction while you bring it to a simmer.
9.00 Dessert: Charlotte Russe with Liqueur
Separate an egg, and use the white to glue together the lady-finger (sponge) biscuits. Start by lining the base of a plain mould in a pretty pattern, and then line them up around the edges. Make them as tight as possible to minimise leakage. Pop into a warm oven for a few minutes to set the egg.
Whisk 375 ml (¾ pint) of very fresh full-fat cream with a tablespoon of sugar, 15 g (½ oz) of prepared gelatin, and a tablespoon of your favourite liqueur until stiff peaks form and pour into the mould. Cover the bottom with a slice of sponge cake and refrigerate to set.
10.00 Coffee, Cheddar and Port
The Victorians didn’t have a cheese course per se, and Port was a Man’s drink (much too strong for ladies). But we’ll have a good strong cheddar with port and crackers anyway.
3.30 Make the Charlotte Russe.
4.00 Make the anchovy paste.
4.30 Make the stock and roux for the salmon. Prepare the bulk of the sauce so you’re ready to go.
5.00 Prepare the lamb.
6.15 Make the anchovy toasts
6.30 Guests arrive!
6.45 Cook the salmon, finish the sauce and serve
7.40 Make the sauce, mash the vegetables, slice the mutton and serve.
9.00 Serve the Russe.
10.00 Serve coffee
This Dinner Party was put together using the techniques I describe in my book Stress Free Dinner Parties. It covers how to choose guests, develop your menu, prepare your home and plan your schedule, all so you can relax on the night and enjoy the party too.
If this Dinner Party is not quite what you are looking for, here are some I prepared earlier. When it comes to Dinner Parties, your only limit is your imagination; if you’d like to challenge me to develop a menu for your theme tell me in the comments below.