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The Coronavirus pandemic has seen most people confined to their homes, so it seems fitting to post articles exploring the home life of Sir John Soane and his family, including last week's excerpt from Sue Palmer's book At Home With the Soanes.

The need to cook has remained throughout lockdown, and for some, lockdown has been a chance to test out some new recipes. As it turns out, 'cookery' was a subject of interest to the Soanes. Amongst Eliza Soane’s extensive collection of books was a copy of the popular cookbook The London Art of Cookery by John Farley, which was published in 1783, the year before her marriage to John Soane. 

One of the features of this book is a series of engravings of suggested menus for each month, based on the food then in season, and showing how the dishes for the first two courses, a mixture of sweet and savoury, would have been laid out on the table.

Below are a couple of the dishes for May - a dish using pig ears and feet, and a simple recipe for cooking asparagus:

Ragoo of Pigs Feet and Ears

Having boiled the feet and ears, split the feet down the middle, and cut the ears in narrow slices. Dip them in butter, and fry them brown. Put a little beef gravy in a tossing-pan, with a tea-spoonful of lemon-pickle, a large one of mushroom ketchup, the same of browning, and a little salt. Thicken it with a lump of butter rolled in flour, and put in your feet and ears. Let them boil gently, and when they be enough, lay your feet in the middle of the dish, and the ears around them; then strain your gravy, pour it over them, and garnish with curled parsley.


Having scraped all the stalks very carefully till they look white, cut all the stalks even alike, throw them into water, and have ready a stewpan boiling. Put in some salt, and tie the asparagus in little bunches. Let the water keep boiling, and when they be a little tender take them up. If you boil them too much they will lose both their colour and taste. Cut a round of a small loaf, about half and inch thick, and toast it brown on both sides. Then dip it in the liquor the asparagus was boiled in, and lay it in your dish. Pour a little butter over your toast, then lay your asparagus on the toast all round your dish, with the white tops outwards. Send up your butter in a bason, and do not pour it over your asparagus, as that will make them greasy to the fingers.

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