Monday, November 30, 2015

Almack's Assembly Rooms, Thatched House Tavern's chef Michael Willis, Cheap Cookery and... turkey gravy

A past post on The Thatched-House Tavern HERE described the social clubs which met there and it's cook Michael Willis, who wrote Cookery made Easy in 1824.  He wrote a second book, Cheap, nice, and nourishing Cookery in 1831 and was connected to William Almack.  Below is his recipe for turkey gravy made without using a turkey.

The wealthy William Almack died in 1781 and left the famous Almack's Assembly Rooms he founded in 1765 to his sister Ann (Almack) Tebb's daughter Elizabeth (1748-1798) and her husband James Willis (1744-1794).  A decade earlier, 1770, Willis had taken the lease for The Thatched House Tavern (Almack was the proprietor mid century).  After their deaths, two of their sons James, Jr. and William took over, then their sons until the Tavern closed in 1861, and the Assembly Rooms, (later called Willis' Rooms) closed by 1880.  

Michael the cook/author was most likely the nephew of the first James Willis.  That James had younger brothers Marmaduke Jr (1748-1806), Michael (1746-1814), and William (1753-1776). William apprenticed at the Thatched House Tavern starting in 1768; his brother James Sr. took over two years later. Marmaduke Jr had a large family including a Michael (c1786-1844 London) whose dates fit in with the chef Michael.

Michael Willis's second book was for "working people" living on a "small income"... "by the author of Cookery made Easy."  A third edition, corrected and enlarged to 58 pages, was published circa 1841.  And now for the gravy for turkey not using turkey drippings.
To make Gravy for a Turkey or Fowl.   

Take a pound of lean beef, hack it, and flour it; put a piece of butter as big as an egg into a stewpan; when melted, put in your beef, fry it on all sides a little brown, pour in three pints of boiling water, a bundle of sweet herbs, two blades of mace, three cloves, twelve whole pepper-corns, a piece of carrot, & crust of bread toasted brown; cover it close, and boil it till reduced to about a pint, or less; season it with salt, and strain it off.

Sources -
Cheap, nice and nourishing Cookery by Michael Willis
Dictionary of National Biography: William Almack.

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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1 comment:

  1. Use beef to make gravy for turkey! Today we'd consider that sacrilege.