TheTwelve Days of Christmas – Day 3 – Three French Hens

The Third Day of Christmas – Three French Hens

Please refer back to my previous blogs for the History of The Twelve  Days of Christmas and  the stories associated with The First and Second Day of Christmas

Verse 3 says:

On the third day of Christmas.

My true love sent to me

Three French Hens

Two Turtle doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree


Why French Hens were mentioned is a mystery. It is possible that the reference is to a specific French breed. This reference is another reason to believe that the original song is French and not English

The origin of the domestic chicken has been argued about for centuries

Faverolles Cock and Hen

The modern Chicken was thought to be the descendant of the Southeast Asian red jungle fowl which is said to have first been domesticated in India about 2000BC.  It is said that the chicken was first domesticated, not for food, but for cockfighting. Very little attention was given to egg or meat production.

Others claim that chickens were domesticated in Southern China in 6000BC, but it is believed that they contributed very little to the modern domestic fowl.

 Domesticated fowl made its way to Greece around 3000 BC, but was not introduced into Western Europe until about 1000BC.

However some recent genetic studies have suggested that the domestic fowl is a hybrid of the red jungle fowl and at least one other, most likely the Grey  Jungle fowl. It is this bird which is responsible for the gene for yellow skin of the chicken; most sought after in some societies

 There are hundreds of chicken breeds in existence. They are bred for many different characteristics depending on whether they will be used for food production , egg colour or for ornamental and show purposes.

The Faverolles is a French breed of chicken. The breed was developed in the 1860s in north-central France, in the vicinity of the villages of Houdan and Faverolles. The breed was given the name of the latter village, and therefore, the singular is also Faverolles, not Faverolle.

There are thousands of recipes for chicken and egg dishes but I am going to give you one for an Australian invention – a Dessert using eggs -which is ideal for a special meal such as Christmas dinner or any other special occasion.


But first the History of The Pavlova.

For the reader’s information there is a very detailed treatise on the Pavlova by Douglas Munster, a retired Professor of Engineering and amateur cook with an academic interest in food history which can be found on the Web

The famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova enthralled her audiences with her grace and style of dancing when she visited Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The book above about Anna Pavlova was written by the great British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

It is also worthwhile reading her story and obtaining the DVD of one of her greatest performances with that amazing  Russian born male dancer Rudolf  Nureyev. He was considered one of the most celebrated ballet dancers of the 20th century.

Many cooks and chefs in both Australia and New Zealand, vied for the honour of creating dishes which would capture this grace and elegance. There was a whole range of dishes from cakes to gelatine based creations and meringue based confections in various forms.

The honour for creating the “Traditional Pavlova”, goes to Chef Herbert Sachse at the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia ( my home town ) in 1935, to celebrate the visit of the great Russian Ballerina.

What is a Pavlova as we Aussies know it?

A Pavlova is a meringue based dessert in the form of a cake. It has a crunchy exterior and is filled with pure white, soft marshmallow (delicious)

The story of the Meringue is a fascinating story in itself. This was the invention of Lady Elinor Fettiplace of Appleton Manor in Berkshire ,England.

It is recorded in a hand written manuscript dated 1604. The recipe is for “ a baked beaten egg-white and sugar confection called “white biscuit bread”.

Essential ingredients are just that; those that define the particular characteristic of the unique dish-the Pavlova:

Egg whites, superfine(castor) sugar, cornstarch(corn flour), white vinegar, whipped cream and soft fruit (especially Passion fruit)

Enhancing ingredients: Pinch of Salt, Vanilla essence, Creme of Tartare

These are used to highlight a particular characteristic of the finished food, such as flavour, texture, colour or taste

(Picture from Wikipedia)

4-6 egg whites
pinch salt
8oz castor sugar/sugar (equal parts)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 level teaspoons cornflour

(Please note the following equivalents:
castor sugar or fine/super fine sugar
corn flour or cornstarch)

Preheat oven to 400F(200C).
Lightly grease oven tray, line with baking paper or use non-stick cooking spray.

Beat the whites of eggs with a pinch of salt until stiff (until peaks form).
Continue beating, gradually adding sugar, vinegar and vanilla, until of thick consistency.
Lightly fold in cornflour.

Pile mixture into circular shape, making hollow in centre for filling.
(Mixture will swell during cooking)

Electric oven: turn oven to 250F (130C) and bake undisturbed for 1 1/2 hours.
Gas oven: bake at 400F (200C) for ten minutes, then turn oven to 250F (130C) and bake a further hour.
(Fan forced oven: temperature and time needs to be adjusted accordingly.)

Turn oven off, leave pavlova in oven until cool.

Top with whipped cream and decorate with fruit as desired. This can be Passion Fruit, Strawberries or mixed berries, Kiwi Fruit or a mixture of diced fruits like a fruit salad

Be adventurous and make this recipe- The Traditional Pavlova


Doctor Bill

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