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Historical recipe: Brown Windsor soup – a meaty Victorian dish

In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates a hearty meat soup that was popular in the 19th century.

Published: November 3, 2021 at 5:55 pm
  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Total time
  • Difficulty 2/10
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The origins of Brown Windsor soup are unclear. No one is quite sure where the recipe originates, but it is said to be have been one of Queen Victoria’s favourite soups, and was often served at palace banquets.

The soup seems to have been viewed in a comedic light in the second half of the 20th century, and was featured in television and radio comedy shows such as Fawlty Towers and The Goon Show. But despite this (or maybe because of it) and because I am a big fan of robust, meaty soups and stews, I was intrigued to see what Brown Windsor soup would taste like.

I have to admit, sadly, I was a bit underwhelmed by the result. Perhaps with some tweaks to the recipe (less butter – lamb is quite fatty as it is – more seasoning and lots more fresh herbs, like thyme) the dish would be a bit more exciting. As it is, it seemed like a lot of effort for something that tasted rather plain and a bit fatty – and that looked very brown!

Ingredients

  • ¼lb Stewing beef
  • ¼lb Lamb steak or mutton
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1 Carrot, sliced
  • 1 Parsnip, sliced
  • 4 Beef stock
  • 2tbsp Butter
  • 2tbsp Flour
  • 1 Bouquet garni (bunch of herbs)
  • ½tsp Dried herbs
  • ½ Cooked rice (optional)
  • ¼ cup Madeira wine (optional)

Method

  • STEP 1

    Cut the lamb and beef into 1-inch cubes and roll in the flour.

  • STEP 2

    Place the butter in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Fry the meat off for three minutes and then add the rest of the flour. Fry for a minute longer until the butter and flour mix is a golden brown colour.

  • STEP 3

    Add the sliced vegetables and stir in the stock. Add the bouquet garni, partially cover the saucepan and simmer for two hours.

  • STEP 4

    Add the rice (if using). Stir in the Madeira wine (if using). Serve piping hot.

Recipe based on Food.com

This article was first published in the May 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

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