David Fairer Author & Literary Historian
David Fairer Author & Literary Historian

Two of Mrs Dawes' Recipes

“At the far end of the room a woman’s face peeped round an open cupboard, and there emerged a figure in a long white apron. It was surprisingly trim for someone who had such an appreciation for rich flavours and good crusts . . .”

Readers of Chapter 50 of Chocolate House Treason will realise that Mrs Dawes was a pioneer in the introduction of tapas into England . . . 

Bean cakes with mashed pea and paprika

“Captain Roebuck was commending the small bean-cakes coated with mashed pea and paprika, and had to be restrained from carrying the lot away to his table – which was thought to be against the principle of the thing . . .”

Ingredients (to make a dozen cakes):

Two large shallots

Green peas (300g = 10 oz.)

Cider vinegar (or 21st C apple balsamic)

Cooked black beans (400g)

1 hen’s egg, lightly beaten

Ground cumin

Ground paprika

Salt & pepper


Oil of olive

Sprigs of fresh mint

Four dessert spoons of dried breadcrumbs


Chop the shallots very fine and sauté them in butter until soft and lightly caramelised. Allow to drain and cool.

Cook the peas in a little water with lots of fresh mint, until tender. Drain, and mash the mixture thoroughly, adding a dash of cider vinegar (or apple balsamic) in the process. Allow to cool.

Dry the beans well, removing as much moisture as you can. Mash them until they make a smooth paste. Combine with the shallot, salt, pepper, cumin, and mix well, adding breadcrumbs and binding with the beaten egg. Divide the mixture into 8 small, flat patties, which should be firm yet soft enough to press into shape (add a little oil of olive if necessary).

Fry them very lightly on both sides.

Remove and drain. Coat the top of each one carefully with the mashed pea mixture, pressing it down on the surface, and place the cakes in the oven (190° fan) for 10-15 minutes (check).

Brush each cake with a little olive oil, and sprinkle ground paprika to taste.

Allow to rest, and serve cold.


Bay-Tree Chocolate

This is Mrs Dawes’s adaptation of Monsieur St Didier’s recipe published in Philippe Sylvestre DuFour’s Traitez Nouveaux & Curieux Du Café, Du Thé, et Du Chocolate, 3rd edition, La Haye, 1693.

Ingredients (for five people):

40g dark chocolate (90% cocoa)

30g fine sugar

Half a pint of semi-skimmed milk (= 0.3 litres) mixed with the same amount of water

One hen’s egg

A quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 clove

A dash of vanilla essence

A tiny amount of hot red chilli (very tiny!)

A level teaspoon of lemon zest


Melt the chocolate in a pan slowly and on a very low heat. As soon as it has melted, gradually blend in the milk/water, and the sugar, stirring continuously. Take your time. As the mixture warms, add the beaten egg, continuing to stir.

In a mortar, grind to a paste the cinnamon, clove, vanilla essence, chilli, and lemon zest. Add a teaspoon of water to the mix.

Add this to the warm chocolate and continue stirring gently until there’s a hint of bubbles breaking the surface. Don’t allow to boil. Simmer and stir. The chocolate should be rich and smooth – pourable with the consistency of a thick soup.

Serve in small china cups or bowls. Spoons should be provided!


In 1652 the new ‘chocolate’ could be regarded as a miracle drink:

“The vertues thereof are no less various than admirable. For, besides that it preserves health, and makes such as drink it often, fat and corpulent, faire and amiable, it vehemently incites to Venus, and causeth conception in women, hastens and facilitates their delivery: it is an excellent help to digestion, it cures consumptions, and the cough of the lungs, the new disease, or plague of the guts, and other fluxes, the green sickness, jaundice, and all manner of inflammations, opilations, and obstructions. It quite takes away the morphew, cleanseth the teeth, and sweeteneth the breath, provokes urine, cures the stone, and strangury, expels poison, and preserves from all infectious diseases.”

James Wadsworth, Chocolate: Or, An Indian Drinke (London, 1652).


Coffee-houses make all sorts of people sociable, the rich and the poor meet together, as also do the learned and unlearned. It improves arts, merchandize, and all other knowledge; for here an inquisitive man, that aims at good learning, may get more in an evening than he shall by Books in a month: he may find out such coffee-houses, where men frequent, who are studious in such matters as his enquiry tends to, and he may in short space gain the pith and marrow of the others reading and studies. I have heard a worthy friend of mine . . . who was of good learning . . . say, that he did think, that coffee-houses had improved useful knowledge, as much as [the universities] have, and spake in no way of slight to them neither,”

 John Houghton, A Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry and Trade (1727), III.132 [no. 461. 23 May 1701].