A taste of history: 200 year-old cookbook found in old kitchen draw

August 12, 2011 | by | 2 Comments

A 200 year-old cookbook by the 18th century equivalent to ‘Fanny Craddock’ found in the back of an old kitchen drawer – contains the first ever English recipe for curry.

A taste of history: 200 year-old cookbook found in old kitchen draw

The rare recipe book, ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’, lifts the lid on the unusual culinary tastes of Georgian Britain and includes baked calf’s head and pickled pigs feet.

The crumbling book, written by renowned author Hannah Glasse, dates back to 1796 and features hundreds of recipes and dozens of cures for ailments for things like rabies and the plague.

But it carries the first ever recipe seen in an English cookery book for curry.

The recipe is remarkably similar to those seen today and includes frying two chickens with herbs and spices before adding cream and stock.

Among the recipes are cures for illnesses, including an antidote for rabies, entitled ‘A certain Cure for the bite of a Mad Dog’ and ‘Receipt against the Plague’.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy is credited as being the first of its kind widely available in Britain and is responsible for the raft of subsequent cookery books.

Great-grandmother Sylvia Sibley, 73, stumbled across the cookery book as she cleared out some of her late mother’s possessions at her home in Plymouth, Devon.

Sylvia said: ”Some of the recipes are certainly very unusual and I wouldn’t necessarily fancy them.

”I have read through it but the recipes are very complicated. The list of ingredients is very long and uses meat like ‘calf’s head’ which I wouldn’t fancy cooking.

”It is interesting to see the difference between these recipes and modern cooking.”

The cookery book is a later edition of one of the first ever widely available cookery books, which was first published in 1747.

In the introduction, Hannah Glasse describes her simple and accessible style and says the book is intended as an instruction manual for servants – which she refers to as ‘the lower sort’.

She says: ”I have not wrote in the high profile style, I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort and therefore must treat them in their own way.”

Hannah goes on to lament the increased reliance on foreign cooking.

She added: ”So much is the blind folly of this age that they would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook!”

One unusual recipe, called ‘Calf’s Head Surprize’ instructs followers to ‘Take a calf’s head with the skin on, take a sharp knife and raise off the skin with as much meat from the bone as you can possibly get, so that it may appear like a whole head when stuffed.

‘Stuff the head with ingredients including beef suet, veal, bacon and herbs’ before putting the whole thing in the oven for two and a half hours’.

Another reveals how to make a ‘mock-turtle’ – a stuffed and boiled calf’s head split into three – and arranged on a dish and covered gravy.

A certain Cure for the bite of a Mad Dog can also be found in the miscellaneous section at the back, which includes a host of ‘medical recipes’.

It states: ‘Let the patient be blooded at the arm nine or ten ounces.

‘Take of the herb called in Latin lichen cinereus terrestris, in English, ash-coloured, ground liverwort, cleaned, dried and powdered, half an ounce. Of black pepper, powdered, two drachms.

‘Mix these well together, and divide the powder into four doses, one of which must be taken every morning fasting, four mornings successively, in half a pint of cow’s milk warm.

‘After these four doses are taken, the patient must go into the cold bath, or a cold spring or river every morning fasting for a month.

‘He must be dipped all over but not to stay in (with his head above water) longer than half a minute, if the water be very cold. After this he must go in three times a week for a fortnight longer.’

Page 129 of ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ is devoted to curry and carries two recipes — one for chicken and another for RABBIT.

The passage entitled ‘To make a Curry the Indian Way’ states: ”Take two small chickens, skin them and cut them as for fricassee, wash them clean, and stew them in about a quart of water for about five minutes.

”Then drain off the liquor and out the chickens in a clean dish, take three large onions, chop them small and fry them in about two ounces of butter.

”Then put in the chickens and fry them together till they are brown, take a quarter of an ounce of turmeric, a large spoonful of ginger and beaten pepper together, and a little salt to your palate, strew all these ingredients over the chickens whilst frying.

”Then pour in the liquor and let it stew for about half an hour, then put in a quarter of a pint of cream and the juice of two lemons and serve it up.

”The ginger, pepper and turmeric must be beat very fine.”

A second recipe for curried chicken or rabbit – ‘Another Way to make a Curry; easier, and much approved’ – reads;

”Fry your chickens or rabbits a light brown, fry three onions and put to them, add some water, Cayenne pepper, salt, and two large spoonfuls or curry powder.

”Cover your pan close and set it over the fire to stew it all together till your gravy is thick, then put in a few pickles chopped small, and half the juice of a lemon.

”You may make it of veal or mutton the same way. The chickens or rabbits are to be cut up as for a fricassee.”

Mrs Sibley said she had not had the book valued but cookery books of a similar age have previously been sold for hundreds of pounds.

She added: ”I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it now. I quite like the book and it is certainly very unusual so would like to hold onto it.

”I think it would be quite nice to hand it down to my children one day and keep it in the family.”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Henry Cook says:

    Wow, that’s quite a find there! Not only is the difference in ingredients between the old and the new interesting, but the chance to have a taste at the old as well. Has anyone tried cooking and eating these old recipes?

  2. In Asian cooking, a similar effect is obtained from a mixture of rice or corn starch and water. These techniques rely on the properties of starches to create simpler mucilaginous saccharides during cooking, which causes the familiar thickening of sauces. This thickening will break down, however, under additional heat.

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