Jane Austen Comfort Food

I’ve created a new category: The Writer’s Kitchen, featuring a) foods connected to, or known to be a favorite of a particular author or poet, b) foods associated with the writer’s era and culture, or c) food mentioned in a writer’s work.

My perusals at my local library yielded The Jane Austen Cookbook, a collection of Georgian era recipes modernized for the contemporary cook. Many of them were collected directly from the family of Jane Austen (1775-1817) by Martha Lloyd, Jane’s longtime friend. There were some recipes I was not adventurous enough to try, like pigeon pie, or the pudding made with brawn (calf or pig’s head) and suet. (Really, Jane? How could you?) And a lot of the recipes made quantities far greater than I wanted. I finally decided to make “eggs and onions,” often called simply “the onion dish.” I am hoping to paraphrase this recipe enough so as to not violate copyright laws.

To make the onion dish, peel and thinly slice a medium sized yellow onion, saute in butter until soft and golden; set aside. Hard boil two or three eggs. Let them cool, then peel and slice crosswise; set aside. Melt a little more butter, then to this add about a tablespoon of wine vinegar and a small amount of prepared mustard. Stir together to make a sauce, then gently fold the onions into it. Finally, gently fold in the egg slices.

Jane Austen dish 1The cookbook suggests that the dish be served “as a garnish for roast beef,” or “as a lunchtime or late-night snack” or supper dish, served on toast with a side salad. I chose to eat it as the latter, on dry toast, given how much butter was in the dish.

I found that the eggs didn’t stay intact very well, even while I was slicing them. The thin slices of yolk tended to want to pop out of the whites. (I wonder if cooking them just slightly less than a normal hard-boiled egg is cooked – say about 13 minutes – might not be in order, so that they’re not quite as dry.) Nevertheless I tossed them as gently as I could with the onions and sauce. I would also think about adding more of the butter, vinegar, and mustard to increase the amount of sauce that accompanies the meal.

None of the ingredients was new to me, but the combination was a first. I rather enjoyed the slightly tart, pungent taste the vinegar and mustard added when paired with the eggs and onions. It’s a recipe I will probably make again; it strikes me very much as a “comfort food.” I don’t know if this was a particular favorite of Jane Austen. But I would like to think she did enjoy it, especially as a “comfort food” snack as she pored over her manuscripts for Emma or Pride and Prejudice. And I relish the idea that Jane wouldn’t mind my less-than-pristine egg slices with their little rebel yolks pulling away from the whites.

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2 Responses to Jane Austen Comfort Food

  1. ohioladyj says:

    Not something I would enjoy particularly though they sounded somewhat like the beginnings of deviled eggs. I do like eggs with onions, peppers, cheese, mushrooms but eggs and onions alone with vinegar tossed in, a little too pungent for me. Love the photo!


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