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The 5th Hew Cullan story, Queen & Country, is drawing to a satisfying close and should be out in due course. While Hew is embroiled these pages may be quiet for a while, but lots more to come in the coming year.
Here is a receipt for one of Hew's detested possets [published in 1682, 'for the common good'] to cheer in the meantime, promising relief from a cold or cough 'which hath cured many persons, both young and old':
Take a quart of milk, and make a Posset thereof with a pint of Ale, then strain it, and put into it two spoonfulls of Aniseeds beaten, two Pippins sliced with the parings, and a stick of Liquoras bruised, and a quarter of a pound of Raisons stoned; let it boil gently for half an hour, then strain it again, and drink a draught thereof warm with a little piece of fresh Butter in it. Take it two or three times a day.
And all will be well again (or not).
Mince pies, as Meg Cullan might have made them. Here are two old recipes for mincemeat pies with fruits and spices, the first, from Thomas Dawson, 1587, The Good huswifes iewel:
Take a legge of Lambe, and cut out all the flesh, and saue the skinne whole, then mince it fine and white with it, then put in grated bread, and some egges white and all, and some Dates and Currantes, then season it with some Pepper, Synamome, Ginger, and some Nutmegges and Carrawaies, and a litle creame, and temper it all together, then put it into the leg of the Lambe againe, and let it bake a little before you put it into your Pye, and when you haue put it into your pie, then put in a little of the Pudding about it, and when it is almost baked, then put in vergice, su|ger and swéete butter, and so serue it.
the second for a modest 'chikin pye' from 1588:
IF you will make one so bigge, take nine or ten Chickins of a moneth olde, trusse them round and breake their bones, take to season them withall a quarter of an vnce of Sinamon, and a quarter of cloues and Mace, a little Pepper and Salte, as much as you think will season your Pye two or thrée Orrenge péeles small shread, take the marow of a shorte marow bone cleaue it long waies and take out the marowe as whole as you can, then cut it in foure or fiue péeces and put it in your pye take halfe a pounde of Currans, a good hand full of Prunes, eight Dates, fower cut in halfe and fower shred, a pounde of Suger with that in your crust and all, halfe a dossen spoonefuls of Rosewater, so heate your Ouen reasonablye, and let it stand in two howers and a halfe or thrée howers, a quarter of an hower before you draw it take three yolkes of egges, fower or fiue spoonefulles of Rosewater, beate them together and let them boyle a waume stir it still till you take it off, when it is somewhat coole put in thrée or foure spoonfull of Vergis and a little suger, and put it into your pye quish your couer and so serue it in.
[From The good hous-wiues treasurie Beeing a verye necessarie booke instructing to the dressing of meates. Hereunto is also annexed sundrie holsome medicines for diuers diseases]
Good will and season's best to all our readers! And a pie or two...
from Hew, Giles and Meg
Buxton Opera House, By Ian from Buxton, United Kingdom [Creative Commons]
Built as a theatre in 1903 by Frank Matcham, and beautifully restored. Picture courtesy of 'Ian from Buxton' used here to llustrate my new short story, 'Mrs Wilkes', now uploaded. (You can find it in Short Stories on the right hand side.)
'Mrs Wilkes' is set in c.1908, crucially depending on the social conventions and pretensions of its day. A far cry from Hew, it may seem at first sight. But the story was inspired by a trip I made to Derbyshire earlier this year, researching for the fifth Hew Cullan, Queen & Country, to the Old Hall Hotel, formerly the guest house of the earl of Shrewsbury, the keeper in captivity of Mary, queen of Scots, who took the waters here. The Old Hall Hotel, in its Edwardian incarnation, is the backdrop too for 'Mrs Wilkes.' The present structure dates to the Duke of Devonshire in the 1670s, but its earlier foundation in 1576 is visible in parts within its wall; it has a solid claim as the oldest hotel open still in England - the second of two hostelries visited by Hew in business still today. (The first is the Campveerse Toren in Veere in the Netherlands, where Hew spends a night in Time & Tide.)
I have just returned from a visit to the book festival on Skye - filling in at the last minute for Rosemary Goring (whose moving After Flodden I can highly recommend http://www.birlinn.co.uk/After-Flodden.html). This festival is well worth marking in your diary for next year: an impassioned and imaginative programme of events combined with the warmest of welcomes, in a spectacular setting, is not one to be missed.
I was privileged too to be present at the launch of the 'Great Book of Skye', 'The most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the people of the Isle of Skye,' a labour of unprecedented scholarship and love, by Norman Macdonald and Cailean Maclean. Breathtaking. http://greatbookofskye.com/
Hew Cullan book 5 is well under way. And for those who have finished Friend & Foe, and are concerned that Hew may be abandoning his roots...do not fear! The fifth book sees him safely in St Andrews, and with Giles and Meg. Which is all, for now. No spoilers here!
I will be reading from, and talking about, Friend & Foe at Leven public library on Thursday 22nd of May from 7.30 pm.