Archives give us a unique insight into the kitchens of our ancestors We can discover ingredients unfamiliar to our modern taste buds and methods that are no longer used in a modern kitchen. We can also discover surprisingly familiar ingredients and methods which wouldn’t look out of place in a 21st century cookery book.
The following recipes have been transcribed, the spellings are left in the original form e.g. flower = flour, where more of an explanation is required this is provided in brackets. Also note that Y n = then and Y t = that.
This early 19th century recipe for Anchovy Toast (Norfolk Record Office, MC 43/6) from the Foster, Cubitt and Weston family papers, seems very modern.
Cut bread in ringes fry them, let them
stand till cold then wash and flee (skin) your anchovys’, lay them on your toast and
strew crumbs of White Bread and young
Parsley over them
Strewing of breadcrumbs is very Nigella!
The Bulwer Family of Heydon papers (NRO, NRS 26354) provide recipes from the 17th and 18th centuries. After a lockdown of baking banana bread why not try a potato bread?
The mealy potatoes in the recipe refer to a floury potato. Modern recipes for potato bread, require us to make mashed potato then add a yeast mixture while still warm before going on to make the bread, here the potato is cooked and sieved down into a flour like consistency, and a wheat flour is added.
One of the things that is out of place to a modern eye is the huge quantities that are made. 12 lbs of cooked potato, 20 lbs of wheat flour to make 42 lbs of bread.
Take the mealy sort of potatoe boil and skin them
Take 12 pounds, break and strain well thro’ a very
Coarse seive of hair, or a fine one of wire, in such man-
ner as to reduce them to a state of flower.
Mix it with 20 Pounds of Wheaten flower
of this mixture make and set the Dough as for
This quantity will make nine loaves of about
five pounds each in the Dough and when baked
about 2 hours will produce forty two pounds of
The raw Potatoe skinned and grated down and
mixed with flower in the above proportion makes
From the same collection comes this recipe for chicken pie.
To make a Chicken Pye
Take 2 chickens, roast them, and when cold take
the skins of, then pull the flesh into small pieces. Put
them into a tospan (saute pan), and season the meat to your
Tast, with a little salt, pepper, beaten mace, two
shallotts and a little leomon peel sliced. Then add
to it some White Gravy, made of the chicken bones
and a piece of veal with a small onion, a blade of
Mace, a little whole pepper and a faggott (bouquet garni) of Herbs
Let them all simmer over the fire sometime. Then
thicken it up with a lump of butter a littler flower
the yolks of 2 eggs and half a pint of cream , toss it
Up as you do a fricassee. The crust must be
bak’d with Brown Bread in it, which is to be taken out
Then put the meat in and serve it up.
The pie case was blind baked with brown bread in it instead of baking beans, before being filled with the rich meat mixture. The meat itself seems to be pulled chicken which seems to be a very 21st century technique.
This mid-18th century recipe for Lady Robinson’s Thin Biscuits (NRO, NRS 26354) is from the same collection. Unfortunately, we do not know who Lady Robinson was. Again the large quantities of ingredients seems unusual to our modern eyes.
To make thin Biskuets Lady Robinsons
Take two pound and a half of fine flower
well dried – and a pint of milk (or cream
If you love them rich) and melt in it half a pound
of Butter and when it is almost cold put it
into ye flower and a pound
of sugar & two ounces of carraway seeds
mix them all together & rowl them thin
prick ‘em very thick & full of holes and bake
them on flowered papers.
A Book of Cookery and Housekeeping’ dated 1707 from Ketton-Cremer’s of Felbrigg Hall collection (NRO, WKC 6/457) has this intriguing recipe for Solid Soup which would be taken on long voyages or adventures……..
Cut of the fat of a leg of veal yn make strong broth
of the meat, strain it, & put it in a stew pan, well tinned
let it simper (simmer) over a gentle fire of charcoal, till it begins
to grow very thicke, yn let yr stew pan over water yt is
kept constantly boyling, in this maner let it evaporate
stiring it often, till it becomes as hard a substance as
Glue, let it dry, by a gentle warmth & keep it from
moisture, & it will hold good an East India voyage, when
You use it, pour boyling water on it & season it with
We have some early 18th century recipes from the Fellowes family of Shotesham (NRO, FEL 984). Fricassee is traditionally method of frying meat then braising in a liquid. This recipe boils the chicken then uses that stock flavoured with pepper, mace and lemon, then combined with cream and white wine and thickened with egg yolk and flour. The chicken is warmed through in the mixture.
To make a white Fricasse of Chickens
Boil them enough to be tender in a little
water then put that water in a stue pan with
pepper mace and lemmon peal to yr taste cream
an enough to make them of a good colour a little
white wine a little juice of lemmon toss them
up with the yolk of one egg and a little
flour you must not let them be longer
apon the fire then till the chickens ar hot
From the same collection we have this recipe for potted Cheshire cheese, the volume of which is extraordinary considering there was no refrigeration.
To pot Cheshire Cheese
Take three pound of Cheshire Cheese
& put into a mortar, with half a pound of the
best fresh Butter, pd them together, & in yr beating
add two glasses of sack (sherry), & half an ounce of mace
so finely beat & sifted that it may not be desernd
when all is extremely well mix’d, press it hard
down into a pot, cover it w:th melted Butter &
keep it cool
We next have two recipes from the same collection which are for those with a stronger stomach.
how to pickel oysters
Take a pack of oysters and open
them take them from the licker
pore yr licker clear of in to a sos-
pan then put in a skillet a little
hole pepper a little all spice a
Blade of mace a bit of Lemmon
peal and a little nutmeg and
a little salt to yr tast then
Boil it a little while then put
in yr oysters and a qr of a pint
of white wine and let them
Boil half a qr of an hour then
take them out clear from the
licker and put in half a qr of
a pint veneger in to yr licker
and boil it up
then take it of and let it coul
then put it to yr oysters
that is all
To Make Carpe Sauce
Take the blood of the Carpe, half a pint of
White wine, three or four spoonfulls of Elder
vinegar the Liver of ye Carp 2 anchovies a little
parsley, time and one onion. Chop these
alltogether very small, and put them into the
Liquor, then stew them gentley for half an hour
Draw up a pound of Butter very thick and
Put it to your sauce when you dish
This 18th recipe for a Sponge cake from the Hammond family of Westacre collection, NRO, HMN 4/6, it offers extra insights into the stages of cake making, drying the flour by the fire, rolling your sugar until it is fine, and finally beating the mixture for an hour!
Sponge Cake very excellent
One pound of flour well dried by the fire one pound of loaf
Sugar Rolled fine and sifted beat 8 eggs till they are quite thin
and clear, put the sugar in by degrees and beat it till it is a froth
Then add the flour by degrees and beat it for an hour, butter the
Tins and bake it in a slow oven
Finally to round of our culinary journey through the archives we have a 19th century recipe from the Coxon family papers ( NRO, NEV 8/2).
Put the rinds of 8 Seville
Oranges and 8 lemons peeled
very thin, 3 lbs loaf sugar and
a little hay saffron (3^d) into
a gallon of good Brandy,
Whiskey or gin
Shake the jar several times
a day for a week or ten days
let it stand for 24 hours then
strain through paper into
jugs and bottle
Have you tried any of the family recipes that lie on your shelves?