Monday, 27 October 2014

The Bloomsbury Cookbook- book review plus recipe!

Does anyone else love Virginia Woolf?  I have long loved her work and have read everything ever published by her and about her, and about the Bloomsbury set.  So loving her and food how could I resist adding this cookbook to my evergrowing collection?  It appeals to me enormously, but honestly I think you would have to be a die-hard fan to really enjoy it. There are recipes scattered throughout, but it is mostly about the characters involved in the Bloomsbury set, with delightful artworks set amongst the pages.  These were people who lived in the Bloomsbury area of London who were heavily involved in the art and literary scene in the first half of the 20th century.  They were, to put it indelicately, in and out of each other's knickers constantly; male or female it didn't seem to matter. What an energetic bunch!  Many of them were of the upper classes and had servants so didn't actually cook themselves, but loved food and drink and parties. Vanessa Bell, the sister of Virginia Woolf, did have a cook/housekeeper who was with them for 50 years, and I have chosen one of Grace's recipes to make for this post.  It is fascinating to see how little information is given, and how much is expected of the reader/cook to fill in the gaps when making the dish.  Clearly you are expected to have a working knowledge of the kitchen already, so woe betide the novice cook if she/he is trying to cook for the household based on these scanty recipes!
Here is the recipe as given by Grace for her Algerian omelette:

oh so scanty details for this recipe!

Sorry you may need a magnifying glass to read it!  And here is my interpretation:


1 onion chopped finely
20g butter
1 tbs uncooked rice
1 cup chicken or beef stock
salt and pepper
4 large eggs
1 tbs water
extra salt and pepper
small knob of butter for frying
any leftover meat and/or vegies you have in the fridge can be added in to the rice mixture
herbs like fresh parsley or chives
tomato sauce to serve


Fry the onion in the butter till golden and smelling delicious
Add the rice, stir into the onion mixture and allow it to get beautifully coloured
Pour in the stock and add the seasoning
Cover the pan and leave for 15 minutes  (the mixture was still quite liquidy at 15 minutes so I let it cook out for a few more)
Make the omelette by whisking the eggs, adding water and seasoning
And pour into a hot pan once the knob of butter is sizzling
Cook the eggs quickly by running your spatula around the edges
Allow the eggs in the middle to run out to the edges so they cook also
Once the omelette is almost all set, add the rice mixture over it and fold
Serve with tomato sauce if desired

frying the onion, then adding the rice and stock

omelette whisking  (and I added leftover meatballs to my rice mixture!)

omelette made, filled and rolled!

I know it looks a bit brown and ikky but it was delish!

I was really pleased with how the omelette turned out, and it was delicious, but rather rich with the butter and the stock. Fresh herbs and some baby spinach leaves instead of meat would make it truly delightful I think.

the young and beautiful Virginia before madness set in
(stock image)

and just because I love this photo,
I have added in this portrait of Julia Jackson
(Virginia's mother)
 by Julia Margaret Cameron her great-aunt


  1. I don't know that I'd cook from that book but it would be a great read. :)

    1. it is a great read maureen but yes the recipes are a little lacking in detail and perhaps not according to modern tastes.

  2. Oh, that does look an interesting book, Sherry - must see if I can get my hands on a copy - I love food history (even that of not that long ago and I think we would get a glimpse of the era here!)

    1. hi rachel
      i really love this book but as i said in the post, i just adore anything bloomsbury!:)

  3. That omelette looks amazingly good! I love that it uses leftovers so it can be so versatile :D

    1. i was really pleased with the omelette lorraine as i hadn't made one in years!

  4. Hi Sherry, I bet this omelet is delicious, have never thought to add rice before. Love reading about Virginia Woolf!

    1. hi cheri
      rice was a new thought to me too in an omelette. Virginia is wonderful:)

  5. I think I need to read about the bloomsbury set. They sound very high energy indeed. Maybe it's because they didn't do any cooking! The omelette looks great xx

    1. Thanks Charlie. They were an interesting bunch for sure.

    2. Your omelette looks really good Sherry and I would never think to use rice in an omelette, very tasty I imagine. The Bloomsbury Set eh? You've piqued my interest now. Another book to read. Thanks for an interesting post. Cheers, Pauline

    3. hi pauline
      lovely to see you here on one of my old posts:) yep there is a huge amount of material on the Bloomsbury set. Many many books by and about them. cheers S x


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