Archive | October, 2013

It’s ice-cream, Michael, but not as we know it

30 Oct
Ivan Day's wonderful ice-creams

Historic: Ivan Day’s wonderful ice-creams

After the horrors of making soap with Amanda, TV personality Michael Buerk was relieved to find himself back in our working Georgian kitchen making ice-cream.

Michael presents Inside the National Trust, the behind-the-scenes ITV series focusing on six National Trust properties, including my home, Wordsworth House and Garden.

In the latest episode, he can be seen working alongside leading food historian Ivan Day, a good friend of the Wordsworth House team, who shows him how to make an 18th-century delicacy: parmesan ice-cream.

As Ivan explains on his website, the first record of ice-cream in this country dates from 1671, when it was on the menu at a feast for the Knights of the Garter in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle. However, it was such an exclusive dish that it appeared only on the king’s table.

The earliest printed recipe featured in Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts, a little work on confectionery published in London in 1718. Mrs Eales claimed to have been confectioner to Queen Anne, during whose reign ice-cream continued to be a luxury enjoyed only at court and by the nobility. It wasn’t until the second half of the 18th century that ices became more widely available from confectioners’ shops.

Here’s the recipe Ivan used: Take six eggs, half a pint of syrup and a pint of cream. Put them into a stewpan and boil until it begins to thicken; then rasp three ounces of parmesan cheese, mix, pass through a sieve and freeze.

For more information about ancient ice-cream and fascinating historic foods of all kinds, visit his website.

Inside the National Trust is showing on ITV1 on Sundays, usually at around 12.25pm, over the autumn and winter – or you can catch up on your TV or PC.

Michael gets in “soapy bubble”* with Amanda

24 Oct
Soapwort is also known as Bouncing Bet, a nickname for the washerwomen who used it

History lesson: Soapwort is also known as Bouncing Bet, a nickname for the washerwomen who used it

If TV presenter Michael Buerk thought it was tough learning to be a Georgian manservant under the beady eyes of trainer Alex, he didn’t know what had hit him when my boss, Amanda, took him under her wing.

After spending the first three episodes of Inside the National Trust – the behind-the-scenes ITV series focusing on six National Trust properties, including my home, Wordsworth House and Garden – working indoors, this week Michael is moving outside.

He wasn’t amused when Amanda set him to digging up soapwort roots, as he was wearing some very smart and expensive looking trousers.

Once they had obtained the roots – with Amanda telling him off in the process for not giving his spadework enough welly – they moved back indoors to the Georgian kitchen to turn the roots into liquid soap.

To protect his shirt, Amanda very generously let him wear a replica 18th-century gardener’s smock. Strangely, he didn’t seem particularly impressed.

The results were not very impressive either – the kitchen is so grubby they ended up with a mixture that was more sooty than soapy.

If you want to try making your own soap, here are Amanda’s tips…

“Saponaria officinalis, or soapwort, is a lovely garden herb. It will grow in full sun or part shade, in any fertile moist soils. It is a bit of a thug, but if you’re prepared to plant it with other vigorous herbaceous perennials, it’s well worth growing.

“It yields a soapy sap which is ideal for laundering, especially delicate or precious fabrics.

“Gather the leaf stem and roots (the latter are best as they contain the most saponins).

“Clean the roots thoroughly and chop into small pieces. Cover with rain or soft water (not chemically treated tap water) and boil for 30 minutes, then use the soapy liquid. You can also wash your hair with it.

“Please note, however, that the roots are poisonous and shouldn’t be consumed, or grown near fish ponds – the excretions can poison the fish.”

Inside the National Trust is showing on ITV1 on Sundays, usually at around 12.25pm, over the autumn and winter – or you can follow the link to catch up on your TV or PC.

(*That’s Cockney rhyming slang for “trouble”.)

Michael’s last chance at Georgian servant bootcamp

18 Oct
Costumed servant Ruth oversees Michael in the kitchen

Cookery lesson: Costumed servant Ruth oversees Michael in the kitchen

Those of you who’ve watched the first two episodes of the new TV series Inside the National Trust will have realised that presenter Michael Buerk hasn’t been shaping up too well as an 18th-century manservant.

For those who haven’t yet caught the behind-the-scenes ITV programme focussing on six National Trust properties, my home, Wordsworth House and Garden, is one of the stars.

In each episode, Michael attempts a new skill in the house or garden. So far, he has been trying to learn the ropes in Georgian servant bootcamp – with less than impressive results.

The 20-part series is showing on ITV1 on Sundays, usually at around 12.25pm, over the autumn and winter.

My friend Alex, who looks after our team of costumed servants, has been doing her level best to train him, but with limited time and Michael’s tendency to see himself more in the role of master than servant, it has been far from easy for her.

After warnings for wearing his watch while in costume, making up facts, begging the visitors for applause and – worst of all – calling one a “bloody know all” (we’re really sorry, Mrs Morris), he’s very definitely on his last chance.

In this Sunday’s episode, Alex takes the risk of letting him loose on an unsuspecting audience who have come to listen to a talk about 18th-century dining. Tune in to find out how she rates his performance and whether he gets the sack.

If you missed the initial episodes, you can catch up on ITV Player. Each programme is available for about three weeks after broadcast, so don’t wait too long though, or you might miss them altogether.

Michael Buerk in a facepack and mouse brows – and ladies with no knickers

1 Oct
Fine and dandy: Michael Buerk in Georgian make up

Fine and dandy: Michael Buerk in Georgian make up

Poor Michael Buerk had an awful lot to put up with when he was filming with us for the new ITV series Inside the National Trust.

Wordsworth House and Garden is one of the stars of the 20-part behind-the-scenes programme starting this Sunday and showing over the autumn and winter.

In each episode, Michael had to learn a new skill, often with embarrassingly hilarious results.

Assistant director Hannah recalls: “The funniest moment for me was Michael being ‘helped’ by head gardener Amanda to slap dripping homemade 18th-century facepack onto his own cheeks! I nearly had to leave the room because I was laughing so much.

“The most interesting moments came when we were filming segments about Georgian make-up and underwear. I discovered they used mouse skins for eyebrows – and ladies wore no knickers!”

Inside the National Trust, presented by Michael Buerk and featuring six National Trust properties, is on ITV1 on Sundays at 12.25pm.

Filming: A servants'  "jingling match"

Filming: A servants’ “jingling match” with Michael Buerk. Hannah is in the yellow cardigan

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