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March’s Recipe from the Victorian Kitchen

This month’s recipe has a very long history. Jumbles go so far back in the mists of time that their origins have almost entered the realms of myths and legends – returning Crusaders, Venetian merchant traders and Moorish invaders have all figured in the telling. However, whatever the actual origins, the fact is that these biscuits have been part of our culinary history for centuries.

So, when visitors to this month’s Steaming Sunday were invited to ‘have a taste from bygone days’, they had no idea just how bygone the days were!

Jumbles were a delicacy in the Middle Ages. Rumour has it that Richard III had some tucked away in his saddle bags at the Battle of Bosworth. Obviously they were an ideal light snack for mid battle. In Tudor times they were tied into elaborate knots – single, double or Celtic, and some were shaped into forms which resemble those of the modern-day Pretzel.

The recipe given below is not that old! It’s taken from another cookery writer of the Victorian age – Eliza Acton. Her book Modern Cookery for Private Families was first published in 1845.

Many different flavourings historically have been used – cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger, nutmeg, rosewater, the list is almost endless. I have chosen to stick to Eliza’s – she used lemon zest.

Before you move onto the recipe itself, a word of caution needs to be issued. These are Biscuits NOT Cookies! Biscuits by their nature are CRISP and CRISP is what these biscuits are.

Comments made by some of our volunteers, who test all the recipes first, said that they were ideal for dunking!


  • 8oz (227g) plain flour
  • 8oz (227g) caster sugar
  • Finely grated rind 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 2 medium eggs – lightly beaten
  • 3oz (86g) melted butter – cooled
  1. Mix the flour and sugar together
  2. Stir in the lemon rind
  3. Add the beaten eggs and melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon to a soft paste
  4. Take small pieces of the paste and gently roll out like a sausage on a lightly floured table until long enough to be able to tie into a knot. Then carefully place on a greased baking tray, or use a silicon sheet. As a guide – this mixture makes about 24 good sized biscuits
  5. Bake at 180C, 160C fan, Gas Mark 4 for about 20 minutes until the biscuits are crisp but still quite pale
  6. Allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a cooling tray


  • Once the Jumbles are cooked the knot is less well defined
  • These biscuits keep well in a tin for several days

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