Hen de la Wake or Hen of the Wake - the hen to be eaten during the Fair. This recipe, collected near Wigan in about 1900, is a version of a medieval dish. It is a true feast-day dish, as good to eat as it is colourful to look at with its white meat, black stuffing and yellow and green trimmings. The dish was made the day before the Fair and left ready at home for the returning revellers.
Halve and reserve 6 prunes for decoration. Mix all the other ingredients for the stuffing together and stuff the fowl, both breast and cavity. Sew up the breast flap; draw together and sew the skin at the vent. Place the chicken in a large saucepan of water to which the wine vinegar and brown sugar have been added. Simmer for 3 hours, then allow the chicken to get cold in the stock.
To prepare the sauce, mix the cornflour with the stock. Stir in the grated zest of 1 lemon, the juice of 2 lemons and seasoning. Bring to the boil for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs and stir them into the sauce. Return the sauce to a low heat and beat until thick and creamy. On no account allow the sauce to boil again. Leave to get quite cold.
To serve, put the chicken on a platter, pour the sauce over the top and decorate with the remaining grated lemon zest, lemon quarters, the reserved prunes and sprigs of parsley.
©1980 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton