Thursday, 24 July 2014

Food for Angels

In my last post on Milton's Paradise Lost I referred to the episode where, prior to the Fall, the archangel Raphael visits Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and dines with them - see

Eve crushes grapes to make a non-alcoholic drink and makes mead - presumably also without alcohol - from berries, and also "from sweet kernels pressed / ... tempers dulcet creams" (Book V, ll. 346-47).  I assume that by kernels Milton means nuts and that Eve makes some form of nut cream to feed Raphael.  

As luck would have it, there are seventeenth-century recipes for almond cream, a dish that I am familiar with. The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery - how's that for the title of a cookery book! - published in 1675, provides the following recipe:  

            Take blanched Almonds beaten in a Mortar very small, putting in now and then one
            spoonful of Cream to keep them from Oyling; then boyl as much Cream as you please
            with your beaten Almonds, together with a blade of Mace, and season it with Sugar; then
            strain it, and stir it, till it be almost cold, and then let it stand till you serve it, and then
            Garnish your Dish with fine Sugar scraped thereon.
            (recipe available at

This is the recipe I use - which comes courtesy of my cookery classes at - merci mes amis!  I've added sliced nectarines as, according to Milton, these fruits grow abundantly in the Garden of Eden. 


55g sugar
55g soft unsalted butter
1 egg (beaten)
55g ground almonds
15g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 nectarine sliced thinly
(1/2 - 1 tablespoon pistachio paste - optional)

Heat the oven to 190C (170 fan), Gas mark 5.
Beat together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until soft and creamy. 
Add the beaten egg and mix until completely combined. 
Next add the ground almonds and flour and mix, and then finally stir in the almond extract. 
If you are using it, add the pistachio paste right at the end.  
Spoon the cream into two ramekins or a small ovenproof dish.  Then arrange the nectarine slices in a pattern on the cream, pushing them down slightly into the mixture.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and set on top. 

Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice-cream. 

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