The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Favorite Sawrey Village Recipes

The Tale of Hill Top Farm (#1)

The Tale of Hill Top Farm (#1)
(click for pdf [printable] version)

These are the recipes that are included in The Tale of Hill Top Farm (#1). Authentic Lake District foods are usually calorie-rich and based on locally grown meat, poultry, vegetables, garden-grown fruit and berries, and dairy. Mutton and lamb are favorite meats (cattle are mostly kept for their milk, rather than meat).

Tatie Pot / Elsa Grape's Gooseberry Sauce / Sponge Cake /
Bertha Stubbs' Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart / Gingersnaps / Mrs. Stokes' Treacle Pudding

Tatie Pot

This version of tatie pot comes from Beatrix Potter's Country Cooking, by Sarah Paston-Williams (Claremont/Warne) and is reprinted with permission.

Tatie pot is a familiar dish in the Lake District, and every cook had her own recipe. Black pudding (made from pig's blood and oatmeal) is a delicacy in northern England, and makes a dark, rich gravy; it can be omitted from the recipe if you can't find it. Mathilda Crook would have used Herdwick mutton and vegetables and herbs from her garden, and served her tatie pot with mashed turnips, pickled onions, and pickled red cabbage.

1.6 kg (3½ lb) best end and middle neck of lamb, in chops
Seasoned flour
3 large onions, finely sliced
4 large carrots, thickly sliced
1 large turnip or swede, roughly chopped
Lamb stock or water, to cover
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
450 g (1 lb) black pudding, thickly sliced
900 g (2 lb) potatoes, thinly sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 140°C (275°F, gas mark 1).

Trim the fat and skin from the meat and cut up the fat finely. Melt it in a large frying pan. Roll the trimmed chops in seasoned flour, then brown all over in the fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange n a large, shallow ovenproof dish. Fry the onions, adding extra dripping if necessary, until soft. Add the carrots and turnip and fry for a few minutes more.

Transfer the vegetables to the ovenproof dish and pour over enough stock or water to cover. Add the mint and bay leaf and season well. Cover with a lid and cook in a very slow oven for 4-5 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone easily. Strain off the cooking liquor and leave until cold, preferably overnight.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F, gas mark 5).

Bone the meat and cut into bite-sized chunks. Discard the mint and bay leaf. Arrange back in the cleaned ovenproof dish with the vegetables and cover with slices of black pudding. Remove and reserve the fat from the cold stock, then boil the stock up in a pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, and pour over the meat, to cover. Arrange overlapping slices of potato over the top and dot with the reserved lamb fat. Season the potato, then cover and cook in a fairly hot oven for about 1 hour, removing the cover after 30 minutes to crisp and brown the potatoes at the edges. (Brown under the grill for a few minutes if you wish.) Serves 6.

Elsa Grape's Gooseberry Sauce

1 cup gooseberries, tops and tails snipped off
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Stew the gooseberries in as little water as possible until very soft. Drain and puree. Return to pan over low heat and add the butter, sugar, and lemon juice, stirring until blended. Serve hot with fish.

Sponge Cake

This recipe for sponge cake, a tea-time favorite, comes from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. Popularly called Mrs. Beeton's, the housekeeping manual, first published in 1861, was a Victorian publishing phenomenon, selling 60,000 copies in the first year and over two million copies by 1868. It was an essential reference for every Victorian cook and housewife. In 1913, Beatrix wrote to a friend, "Now, if you want to get me a nice useful present that I shall always use and remember you by—get me Mrs. Beeton's Cookery, please, and write my name in it!"

Ingredients: The weight of 5 eggs in flour, the weight of 8 in pounded loaf sugar; flavoring to taste.

Mode: Let the flour be perfectly dry, and the sugar well pounded and sifted. Separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs, and beat the latter up with the sugar; then whisk the whites until they become rather stiff, and mix them with the yolks, but do not stir them more than is just necessary to mingle the ingredients well together. Dredge in the flour by degrees, add the flavoring; butter the tins well, pour in the batter, sift a little sugar over the cakes, and bake them in a rather quick oven, but do not allow them to take too much color, as they should be rather pale. Remove them from the tins before they get cold, and turn them on their faces, where let them remain until quite cold, when store them away in a closed tin canister or wide-mouthed glass bottle.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes in a quick oven.

Average cost: 1 penny each.

Bertha Stubbs' Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart

Pastry for a 2-crust 9" pie
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar (for lattice top)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9" pie plate. Trim leaving a ½" overhang, over the edge of the pie plate. Combine rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Mix well and pour into the pie shell. Roll out remaining pastry and cut into 8-1" strips. Place four strips at equal intervals across the filling. Crisscross these with remaining four strips, weaving them into a lattice. Trim the strips even with the edge of the pie plate. Fold the ½" of the bottom crust over the ends of the strips, and seal and flute the edges. Brush lattice top with egg, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust starts to brown. Reduce heat to 375°F and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until crust is golden, rhubarb is tender, and filling is thickened. (For easy cleanup of spills, place a cookie sheet or sheet of foil on the bottom of the oven.) Serve with ice cream for a real treat.


Beatrix Potter recalled with pleasure her Grandmama Compton's "very hard gingersnap biscuits." Hard cookies kept for a very long time on the pantry shelf—unless, of course, they were eaten first. These gingersnaps are chewy, rather than hard.

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup treacle (light or golden molasses)
1 egg
2 teaspoons soda
2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Melt shortening in saucepan, over low heat. Cool. Beat in sugar, molasses and egg. Sift flour, soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and salt together, and add to first mixture in two batches, mixing well. Form into 1" balls, roll in granulated sugar, and place on cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake in 350°F oven for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen.

Mrs. Stokes' Treacle Pudding

The traditional English treacle pudding is steamed on top of the range, but this oven-steamed adaptation is easier. Most English cooks prefer golden cane syrup (rather than corn syrup). This recipe includes a syrup sauce, but treacle pudding is often served with a thick vanilla custard. With regard to puddings, Mrs. Beeton observes wryly that in Great Britain, that flavor was less important than the size and number of proportions, and that the most important feature of any pudding was its "substantiality." This rich pudding offers both flavor and substantiality.

½ cup softened butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Grated zest of one lemon
1¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons milk
4 tablespooons syrup
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons syrup (dark or light)
light cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and lemon zest. Sift flour and baking powder together, and fold into creamed mixture. Gently stir in milk.

Grease a 3-cup ovenproof bowl and pour the syrup over the bottom. Pour pudding mixture over it. Grease a sheet of aluminum foil, place it loosely over the bowl, and place the bowl in a pan with 1" of water. (It's easier to put the bowl and pan in the oven, then pour in the water.) Bake 45 minutes, or until the pudding has set and the top has turned golden.

Turn the pudding onto a serving dish. With a spatula, scrape out any syrup left at the bottom of the bowl. To make sauce, slowly heat lemon juice, water, and syrup in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Pour it over the pudding. Serve warm, with a pitcher of cream. Makes 6-8 servings.

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Check out some other Cottage Tales recipes:
recipe index / The Tale of Holly How (#2)