Mrs Beeton: the godmother of British cookery… and the original Martha Stewart!

Isabella Beeton, 1836-1865

Born in 1836 in Cheapside, East London, Isabella Beeton is remembered to this day as one of the most influential cookery writers of all time.Her seminal book Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gave advice on all important aspects of running a household, from fashion, childcare, animal husbandry and the management of servants to notes on science, religion and industrialism. At over 1,112 pages long, the book contained 900 recipes and Mrs Beeton was a keen advocate of the use of local and seasonal produce; ideas which we at Tea & Sympathy hold dear.

Original cover of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, first published in 1851.

Pretty much every cookery great since – see Elizabeth David, Julia Child, Delia Smith and Martha Stewart – owe something to this amazing woman. The book is also remarkable for its beautiful illustrations. We thought we’d treat you today with a few our favourites, which define vintage chic as well as make our mouths water!

And that all British classic: the Christmas plum pudding. Beautiful – to the taste buds and the eyes!

Summer Pudding

So, after a questionable spring, summer is well and truly here. While our compatriots back home are well and truly soaking, the telltale signs of July in New York – blasting aircon and smelly sidewalks – can’t be ignored. And there’s only more to come. So here at Tea & Sympathy, we thought we’d do our best to help you replicate one of Britain’s finest features – a glorious summer’s day – with a few of our favorite seasonal recipes from our cookbook Tea & Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York. If you’d like to be the proud owner of a brand spanking new copy, we’ll happily ship – please see our contact details below.

Where better to start than with Summer Pudding. In America, puddings are soft, mousse-like affairs. In England, pudding means any kind of dessert. This is the easiest pudding to make, but people think you are a creative genius, because it looks like a lot of work has gone into it. Use a smooth round bowl so it will come out in a nice dome shape, then sprinkle a few fresh berries around the dish and plop a sprig of mint on top. We love it with a dollop of clotted cream or slightly whipped heavy cream. We stock both in our store, imported from the UK, and can ship to you. Please see our contact details below if you would like to make an order.

Summer Pudding

Serves 6-8

2 lbs. fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
½ cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
8-10 slices of white bread
Whole berries for garnish
Mint sprig for garnish (optional)
Clotted cream or heavy cream (optional)

  • Simmer the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice for 5 minutes, until the fruit has softened. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
  • Remove the crusts from the bread and line a dessert bowl with the slices, reserving enough bread to cover the top of the fruit.
  • Fill the bread-lined bowl with the fruit and then cover with the remaining bread slices.
  • Cover the bowl with a plate that fits inside of the bowl, so it sits directly on top of the pudding. Put something heavy on top to weight it down, and chill overnight.
  • When ready to serve, place a large plate upside-down on top of the pudding and flip over the pudding with the plate. The pudding should come out whole. (If the pudding doesn’t come out whole, just serve it in individual service dishes and garnish as below.
  • Garnish with some fresh berries and a sprig of mint. Serve with clotted cream, or fresh heavy cream, poured or whipped.

Now sit back, relax and imagine sipping from a glass of Pimm’s and watching a game of cricket on the village green, as dappled sunlight dances in the afternoon breeze on the grass below. Bliss.

If you would like to order a new copy of our cookbook, heavy cream, or clotted cream, to be delivered to your doorstep, please call us on 212-807-8329 / 212-989-9735, or email us at If you’re in the neighborhood, pop in to enjoy other summer specials: our menu is currently heaving with delights such as kedgeree, summer bean salad and asparagus, stilton and tomato quiche to name a few.

Stay tuned for more recipes in the coming weeks. God bless the Queen!