“Now, look here, Mr. Holmes, it’s half-past eleven now and I am going back right away to my hotel. Suppose you and your friend Dr. Watson, come round and lunch with us at two.” —The Hound of the Baskervilles
When I think of Sherlock Holmes, I imagine him almost anywhere but the kitchen. And yet, there are at least three Holmes inspired cookbooks out there in the world ready to help you create a fabulous Sherlock-inspired book club meeting or themed dinner party. If you inhale, you can smell the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The recipes range from Fried Ox Eyeballs (no thank you) to Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale (yes, please) and thankfully none of these books pretended that Holmes cooked any of these meals. They do suggest that he might have eaten a great many of them.
Ready to play Mrs. Hudson? Lets’s have a look at the books.
#1 The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook by Sean Wright and John Farrell
Published in 1976, the book features a sensible approach to preparing British food from the Victorian era, while connecting actual menus to specific stories. It also has excellent cartoons of Holmes and Watson dining.
Menus are laid out by adventure such as:
“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” menu, featuring:
- Crab Stearndale, a la Devil’s Foot
- Crazy Brothers’ Devils Root Foot Sauce
- Radix Pedis Diaboli Eggs (deviled eggs with a snappy title)
“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” menu, featuring:
- Toller’s Gin Alexanders
- Rucastle’s Roast Beef Sandwich
- Violet’s Chestnut-Brown Sauce
This is my favorite of the three books. Even if you don’t feel like cooking, you can be transported to a Victorian kitchen in seconds.
#2 Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt
This book was first printed in 1976 as well and reprinted again in 1990. Recipes are divided into different eating occasions in Holmes life, such as “Breakfast at Baker Street,” “On the Chase,” and my personal favorite, “The Horrors of a Country Inn,” which breaks out meals by the name of the Inns where Watson and Sherlock dined.
#3 The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook: The Favorite Recipes of the Great Detective and Dr. Watson
Published in 1977, this book is laid out by type of dish – soups, salads, meats, etc, Story quotes appear at the top of each recipe. Rather than support a notion that Holmes was interested in food, the quotes reinforce how focused he was on the case at hand. The quote that appears under the recipe for Bohemian Scandal Pickled Eggs from A Scandal in Bohemia is below. You can see how little it has to do with the recipe.
“I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and I received in exchange two-pence, a glass of half-and-half, two fills of shag tobacco and as much information as I could desire about Miss Adler…”
And if we can get Holmes to stop thinking about Miss Adler long enough to eat his soup, I suggest you try this recipe from The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook. The credited source for the dish is “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” (1861), but it looks hip enough to me to appear on the menu of a cool microbrewery eatery today – although I can’t think of another time that I ever added sugar to soup.
Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale
2lb lean beef, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
5 cups beef stock
1 cup pale ale or beer
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried mint
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 bunches asparagus stalks
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dust the beef with the flour. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the meat until it browns on all sides. Add the stock, ale, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.
Add the marjoram, mint, and spinach. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Cut the top 3 inches from the asparagus stalks, and chop them into bite-sized pieces (the remainder of the stalks can be saved for vegetable stock). Add the asparagus tops to the soup and simmer until they are tender (4-5 minutes). Stir in the sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Even though these recipes aren’t found in the text of the Holmes stories, it is fun to get to know Sherlock through the food of his time period and an excellent way to create an unforgettable meal.
Now that we’ve sorted out the party food, it’s time to decorate. What would you suggest?
Deborah Lacy is an avid mystery reader who lives in California.