What is "White Soup"?
Hello regency romance and Jane Austen fans! I have been making a start on my next JAFF novel (it is a sequel to Northanger Abbey!) and early in the novel I had to do some research for what would appear on a regency dinner table. Very popular in England at this time was something called, ‘white soup’.
It appears in many novels and of course in many cookbooks of the time, and was apparently a staple dish on the regency table. Jane Austen herself mentions the delicacy in Pride and Prejudice as being prepared in large quantities for the ball at Netherfield. Joyce White in her regency blog mentions that it's making involved a large and expensive quantity of ingredients, and that its value lay in its colour; white foods (white flour, white sugar, etc) were considered things richer people only could afford and thus white foods, including white soup, was seen as a status indicator.
So what, exactly, is white soup? The Regency Cookbook notes that it was a veal broth, made from either veal or chicken, with the addition of any of the following: anchovies, eggs yolks, ground almonds, rice, vegetables, lettuce heads, and cream, just to name a few – the actual ingredients varied, and some recipes are quite different to others. It is called white soup because no red meats are used in making it.
Finally, Delicious Magazine published a very easy to follow recipe for this soup in 2014, which I have included here for those curious souls who would like to recreate this Regency delicacy!
Put the bones, whole chicken and bacon chunks into a large pan, then add the peppercorns, herbs, lemon zest, onion, celery and mace. Cover with water, then bring to a boil, skimming off any scum. reduce the heat, then simmer very gently for 2½ hours. Remove the chicken and set aside, then strain the stock through a fine sieve (discard flavourings) and cool (overnight if possible).
When cool, skim off the fat, then return about 700ml stock to a clean pan and heat gently. Pound the almonds in a pestle and mortar with 2 tbsp cold water to make a coarse paste (or pulse in a small food processor). Put the cream in a pan and add the almonds, bread, lemon zest and powdered mace. Bring to the boil, simmer for 1-2 minutes, then add to the pan of stock. Simmer for 2 minutes, then strain again, pressing with the back of a spoon. Shred the meat from the reserved chicken, then add to the soup to warm through. Serve simply, with a little bread if you like.
veal or beef bones
(from butcher’s shops), chopped
1 small free-range chicken
British free-range unsmoked bacon, cut into chunks
6 black peppercorns
(or a bundle of fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, bay leaf, marjoram)
Pared zest ½ lemon
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
3 mace blades
1 thick stale bread slice, whizzed into breadcrumbs
Lemon zest strip
1 mace blade, crushed to a powder