17th Century

  1. Dairy-Free Cream Dairy-Free Cream - Here is very useful recipe for those looking to avoid dairy products or even to just reduce the amount of fat in their diet. By whisking together some smooth jam and a couple of egg-whites, a deliciously light and frothy ‘cream’ can be created, for use as a finishing touch to trifles, puddings and pastries, […]
  2. Chestnut Apple Pie - Lady Grisel Baillie was a Scottish noblewoman who lived in the 17th/18th century. She was married to a Scottish MP, and became known to social historians for the meticulously detailed account books she kept, which  offer a glimpse into the cost of living during that time, including food and drink, servants wages, travel costs and […]
  3. Buttered Oranges Buttered Oranges - For the past several years I have been making a searchable index of the digitised household books held at The Wellcome Library. In doing so, I’ve read over 300 manuscripts and logged more than 32,000 food and drink recipes and have a ‘To Do list of interesting recipes as long as my arm. ‘Buttering’ was […]
  4. Oatmeal pancakes Oatmeal Pancakes -   This recipe comes from the manuscript of Jane Newton dated circa 1675-1700. I like Jane’s manuscript a lot – she has ruled out the pages with red margins, still bright after more than 300 years, and stamps her character on them with occasional personal comments that are a pleasure to find. The one that […]
  5. Pickled Onions Pickled Onions - I do love a pickled onion, and not having had any for a while, decided to put to the test some of the old recipes from the Wellcome Insitute Library archives. The methods are a little different from modern recipes and I was curious to see the differences made to the final product, if any. […]
  6. Fruit Puffs Fruit Puffs - This recipe appears in the 17th century manuscript book of Lady Anne Fanshawe (MS.7113 at the Wellcome Collection), and is attributed to Lady Scarborough. What might appear, from the name, at first to be something pastry-based, is in fact a form of meringue. Unsweetened fruit (I used apples) pulp is mixed with sugar and eggwhites […]
  7. Ratafia Pancakes Ratafia Pancakes - Pancakes have been the traditional pre-Lenten meal for centuries. Pancake Day is preceded by Collop Monday, when the last  of the bacon and ham was fried up for the evening meal, usually with some eggs. The fat in the pan was then retained for frying the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. There are almost as many […]
  8. Apple Snow Apple Snow - This recipe is more usually served in the late summer and autumn months, but I’ve chosen it now because the weather outside today has carpeted the garden with a thick layer of snow. This is a classic dessert whose provenance stretches back centuries. Although the name ‘Apple Snow’ is the one more usually found in […]
  9. Dundee Marmalade Marmalade - It’s that time of year, when Seville oranges are in the shops and marmalade is the name of the game. For the competitively-minded, the Marmalade Awards are an annual competition to find the best marmalades across a number of categories. Whatever your forte  –  plain Seville, dark and chunky, boozy – or even if you […]
  10. Oat Cakes Oat Cakes - I’m using the recipe for these oatcakes as an example of the pitfalls of projecting 21st century understanding onto 17th century recipes. Mention the word ‘oatcakes’ and most people will think of small, crisp biscuits that are enjoyed with cheese, pate and the like. These oatcakes, however, come from an altogether different origin, resembling as […]
  11. Damson Preserves Damson Preserves - Here’s a trio of preserves that champion one of my favourite sorts of food – free stuff! Damsons grow wild in the hedgerows and along the canal banks and lanes of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, and the only cost is your time to pick them. They are tart, wild plums, about the size and shape […]
  12. Mini Chicken & Bacon Pies Mini Chicken and Bacon Pies - Jane Newton, circa 1675 Jane Newton’s 17th century manuscript recipe book (MS1325 at The Wellcome Library) is unusual for the time, because it appears to have been written by the lady herself, rather than a scribe. It is meticulously set out, beginning with an alphabetical index and progressing through a range of recipes, informally grouped […]
  13. Robert May's Chicken Pie Robert May’s Chicken Pie - Robert May had an extensive and impressive career spanning over fifty-five years and the most tumultuous part of the seventeenth century, from the twilight of the reign of Elizabeth I, through the civil war, the protectorate and the restoration of the monarchy. His cookery book, The Accomplisht Cook, was first published in 1660, when he […]
  14. Salmon Tartare - I find this recipe a delight because it’s such a modern-sounding dish, yet it is about 350 years old. It comes from one of my favourite manuscripts at The Wellcome Library, MS3009, owned initially by Elizabeth Jacob, which has been dated to 1654-c.1685. Intriguingly, I also found it in a second, anonymous manuscript, MS8097, dating […]
  15. Hot-Pickled Herring Hot-Pickled Herring - This recipe is something of a contradiction because, despite the name, it is eaten cold. The slow poaching in a lightly flavoured vinegar neutralises the oiliness of the herring to a certain extent, and the herbs and onion make for a fine, delicate flavour. This method is also much quicker than the traditional method of […]
  16. Sole Fricassee Flatfish Fricassee - Oh, I do love a bit of alliteration! Straight away I’m going to own up to changing this title from the original (Sole Fricassee) in order to stress the ease with which it can be used with a number of different fish, including sole, plaice and halibut. I also chose this recipe for the way […]
  17. Black Broth Black Broth - I have no idea who Mr Sparks was, but he obviously made an impression on at least one of the many ladies through whose hands one particular manuscript¹ passed, for there are no fewer than nine of his recipes included over the course of ten pages. I have been unable to find any printed cookery […]
  18. Pontack's Seafood Pottage Seafood Pottage - This recipe is an attempt to recreate a dish served at the legendary Pontack’s Head tavern in Abchurch Lane, which reigned supreme as London’s foremost eatery at the close of the seventeenth century. It is listed in the Johnson Family Receipts manuscript as Crayfish Pottage, but the instructions give so much leeway in terms of […]
  19. Saffron Trout Saffron Trout - Trout has a glorious, rich, coral-orange colour when raw, and a delicate poaching for a few minutes is all that is required to cook it to perfection. Alas, even this gentle treatment causes some of that fantastic colour to fade to a rather less interesting pastel pink. Jane Newton’s recipe, taken from her colourfully laid […]
  20. Broiled Mackerel Broiled Mackerel with Butter Sauce - Mackerel is an oily fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They have been an important food source for thousands of years, and are especially important to the fishing communities of coastal Scotland. Once in danger from overfishing, mackerel are now available through thoughtful and sustainable farming methods. They are beautiful to behold, with their dark […]
  21. Mussel Pottage Mussel Pottage - A pottage is a thickened, substantial cross between a soup and a stew. I was drawn to this recipe by the lazy cook in me that is always looking for a simpler, easier way to achieve tasty food. When this recipe was jotted down three hundred years ago, it would have been quite hard work […]
  22. Cockle and Mussel Pie Cockle and Mussel Puffs - Jane Parker, 1651 adapted from A New Booke of Cookerie, 1615 The availability of British seafood has increased dramatically with the introduction by the major supermarkets of dedicated fish counters staffed by professional fish mongers. No longer do we have to live close to our coastline in order to enjoy fresh seafood. Ideally, you would […]
  23. Batalia Fish Pie Batalia Fish Pie - Battalia Pie is a classic, double-crust pie from times past, the filling for which filling could be made from any of a number of ingredients. It’s origins are thought to come from the French béatilles, meaning titbits, and originally comprised of all the little odds and ends that are too small to use by themselves: […]
  24. Posset Pie Posset Pie - Joseph Cooper, 1654 The surfeted Groomes doe mock their charge With Snores. I have drugg’d their Possets. Macbeth, Act II, scene II The broadest description of a posset that I can think of is that of a hot syllabub: a thickened drink of either milk or cream, sweetened and flavoured with any of a number […]
  25. Pickled Cherries Pickled Cherries - This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library – page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings. Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to […]
  26. Three lemonades Old-Fashioned Lemonades - I don’t think I’ve done drinks on the blog before, but I’ve got a trio of delicious variations on lemonade, originating in the 17th century manuscript books at the Wellcome Library. They are each wonderfully thirst-quenching and will make for a delicious treat to have in the fridge. Mrs Yorke’s Lemonade – the best that […]
  27. Spiced Strawberry Tart Spiced Strawberry Tart - Jane Parker, 1651 adapted from The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1587 I was drawn to this recipe because it involved spicing strawberries and baking them in pastry, both details being so different from how we tend to use strawberries today. Originally, I was delighted to find the recipe in Jane Parker’s manuscript recipe book¹ but some […]
  28. Old English Bread Pudding - Mary Bent, circa 1670 I adore everything about this recipe. For a start, it epitomises the very British traits of not only being a hot pudding, but also having been created from almost nothing. The ingredients are modest, the flavouring minimal, yet these simple, little puddings are a real delight. Even more so when you […]
  29. Plum Pudding Plum Pudding - This pudding has a lot going for it: its fruity, spiced, zesty with candied peel, suet-free and thus vegetarian, less than 2 hours in the making/baking – and over 300 years old! I found this recipe in the manuscript recipe book of Elizabeth Philipps (circa 1694), when I was hunting for Christmas recipes. The recipe’s […]
  30. Tunbridge Cakes Tunbridge Cakes - Here’s another recipe resurrection, but I’ll give you fair warning, it’s a little caraway-heavy. If you’re not a fan of the taste of caraway, then you’re not going to have a fun time. The solution to that, of course, would be to substitute a different flavouring for the caraway – easy-peasy – aniseed or cumin […]
  31. Easter Simnel - Wotchers! We’re back to the history books this week, with an original Simnel recipe from the 1650s. And yes, I’m exactly a week late, since they were originally enjoyed on Mid-Lent Sunday, which has, over the years, segued into Mothering Sunday/Mothers’ Day. Still, they were popular throughout the Easter celebrations, so there’s still time to […]
  32. Raw honey dough bunny Honey Bunnies - The recipe for this dough comes from one of the many digital manuscripts made available by The Wellcome Library, and dates from 1699. The original was a bit sparse in some of the instructions (“add honey to sweeten” “what spice you will”), but I’ve experimented and come up with a version that is rich, not […]
  33. Cinder Toffee Cinder Toffee - Here’s another recipe that can, be part of a home-made Christmas, either for nibbling at home or prettily wrapped in cellophane as a gift, or indeed any suitable gift-giving time. It can also be customised in a number of ways, as I shall detail below, be it in the ingredients you choose or the finishing […]
  34. Apricot Jam Apricot Jam - I’m a big fan of the sharp-sweet tang of apricots, and with a respectable amount of pectin, there’s no need to Faff About™ adding any extra. The small quantity lemon juice helps anyway, both in the set and in sharpening the flavour of the apricots. This method, gleaned from several hand-written 17th century manuscripts, is […]
  35. Candied Peel Candied Peel - A forgotten art in British preserving is home-made candied peel. ‘But I can buy that!’ you shriek. Yes, I know. But if you’ve ever tasted fresh candied peel made with nothing more than sugar, peel and water – you’d understand. I used to hate store-bought candied peel, and avoided anything that included it, but home-made […]
  36. Roast Haunch of Venison - Mary Perrot, 1695 A haunch of venison is a glorious thing and very evocative of grand dining halls and long trestle tables of feasting lords and ladies. It’s also very straightforward to roast – you could simply follow the cooking times and temperatures for beef – but it is important to bear in mind that, […]