Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

savouries constituted during the 19th century and much of the 20th century a course at the end of an English dinner. Small items, often with fanciful names like ‘angels on horseback’, they were thought to provide a suitable closing note to the meal and to aid digestion.

The term goes back to the 17th century, when it could also refer to a savoury appetizer served at the start of a meal, but this usage dropped out of sight. Savouries made with anchovy were popular. verral (1759) had anchovy fillets on fried fingers of bread, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, placed under the grill and then given a squeeze of Seville orange juice— ‘a trifling thing, but I never saw it come whole from table’. Mrs raffald (1782) had a similar savoury, but using plenty of Cheddar cheese and parsley. In the mid-19th century Eliza acton (1855) proposed what she called ‘savoury toasts’, small squares of toast buttered and spread with mustard and then covered with plenty of grated cheese and seasoned ham before being fried and then being placed in a Dutch oven to dissolve the cheese. Her ‘observations’ illuminate the role of such things in her time:

These toasts, … may be served in the cheese-course of a dinner. Such ‘mere relishes’ as they are called, do not seem to us to demand much of our space, or many of them which are very easy of preparation might be inserted here.