Christmas Recipes from The “Olio” Cookery Book

At the start of December I posted a blog about Mrs Beeton’s Festive Recipes, looking at the Christmassy recipes from our 1888 family copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. We’ve another rather lovely vintage cookery book in our family archive, so I thought I’d explore the festive recipes within this one too.

The “Olio” Cookery Book



So this vintage cookery book, The “Olio” Cookery Book by L. Sykes, is not as old as the Mrs Beeton book, but it’s got some rather lovely touches. There is an inscription on the first page, showing that the book was given to Louie, my Mother’s Aunt, by her father at the start of December 1923. One wonders if Louie’s father was hinting that her housewife and cooking skills needed some work, as the front cover (above) states that the book will ‘assist the average woman to become an efficient housewife and experienced cook’.


To Louie

From Father. Dec. 8th 1923.


Another rather lovely element to this cookery book is the poetry. There is a quite delightful poem (above) at the start, which provides a little introduction to the book.

The welcome given to this small book,

The praise that it has met

Has justified its friends to look

For more editions yet.


Now ladies young, and ladies old,

Be wise and use this book;

For men all o’er think less of gold

Than of a dainty cook.


The inner man must first be fed,

The outer to appease;

By soups and fish he may be led

To fall upon his knees.


By joints and sweets, all nicely served,

Your lover’s mind will be

In humour bold; and he’ll be nerved,

His fate, to ask of thee.


In winter’s cold and dreary span

Sustaining food we need;

But summer here, the inner man

Should ever lightly feed.


And thus the cook, who day by day

A proper menu writes,

Does fortify us for our play,

And for our daily fights.


We’ve meat and fish and soup and jam,

And cure for tender feet;

We’ve polishes, and roasted ham,

And how to clean our teeth.


We’ve fresh-air wrinkles, headache cure,

Fireguards, and boiling “tips”;

We’ve mustard plasters, action sure;

Liqueurs, cakes, sweets, ale flips.


We’ve scones and pastry, fritters hot,

We’ve biscuits, toffee, eggs;

In fact, we’ve food to suit the lot

Of prince, or he who begs.

The poem is definitely of its time; it follows the notion that the women are the cooks, providing sustenance for their men who go out and work, and it also includes recipes for ‘mustard plasters’, mustard poultices which heat the body, and were typically applied to areas of chronic pain.


“SAFETY FIRST” is now the cry,

So look within before you buy;

Then USE the “OLIO” day by day,

You’ll find you’ve saved in every way.


The”COOKALL” Stove described within

Is guaranteed the very thing;

For SAVING gas, and time and space,

It can be used in any place.

The other poem (above) can be found on the back cover, recommending the cookery book and a particular brand of stove.

Festive Recipes

Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and plum puddings appear to be Christmas staples, as these are the festive recipes that appear in both this cookery book, and Mrs Beeton’s earlier book.


The “Olio” provides a whole host of different plum pudding recipes which all involve fairly similar ingredients. Like Mrs Beeton, the “Olio” provides options that do and do not include any liquor, like rum or brandy. Unlike Mrs Beeton, the Christmas Plum Pudding does not include any liquor, but the ‘plain’ pudding does. Mrs Beeton’s plain version was aimed at children, so that accounts for the lack of liquor. The “Olio” appears to take the approach of providing a variety of plum pudding recipes, possibly to suit different occasions, or maybe to suit different people’s larder contents. If you take a closer look at the ‘Rather Plain Plum Pudding’, it calls for ‘1 gill milk’. I had to research this terminology, and apparently a ‘gill’ is a unit of liquid measurement, equal to a quarter of a pint. Presumably contemporary users of the “Olio” knew what a’gill’ was!


The “Olio” provides a recipe for a Christmas Pudding, together with yet another recipe for a plum pudding, but there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about this Christmas Pudding. Maybe it’s all about the cook’s personal touch with the decorations once the pudding has been made?


The recipes for the Plain Plum Cake again provides us with an unusual element, as it calls for ‘breakfastcupful’ measurements. Today we have measurements such as a cupful of this or half a cup of that, so this is not too unrecognisable. The Christmas Cake recipe is, however, more recognisable as a Dundee Cake, as it involves liquor but no marzipan or icing. Definitely not my kind of cake at all – the more marzipan, the merrier!

So that’s it. I’ve raided our family archives for all the vintage festive recipes, and Mrs Beeton and the “Olio” have provided the goods. I’m not a fan of Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, so I’ll head straight for the brandy butter and park myself there when it comes to Christmas puddings.


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