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A culinary challenge

July 14, 2014

From early modern recipe books to MasterChef – by the Wellcome History team

In 1897 Henry Wellcome purchased his first domestic recipe book at a London saleroom. He went on to collect many more, giving unique insights into the history of food and domestic medicine. Today, the Wellcome Library has digitised these fascinating sources, making them freely available online for the first time to every budding masterchef. This unrivalled collection of nearly 300 volumes spans from the early 16th century to the late 19th century.

Recipe book, 1680-c.1725. Wellcome Library

Recipe book, 1680-c.1725. Wellcome Library

So this summer we have a culinary challenge for all the readers of Wellcome History who love to cook. Here we reproduce five recipes from a book written by unknown authors between 1680 and c.1725; it seems to have later been owned by Henry Stopes (father of Marie Stopes). Cook them if you dare!

Do let us know how you get on in the kitchen – though please note that the Wellcome Trust accepts no legal responsibility for any aches, pains, wind, indigestion, stomach upsets, bowel complaints or deaths that may occur as a result of using these recipes.

To Make Almond Cakes

Take half a pound of sugar sieved as much as Almonds [same weight of each] beaten very fine with 3 spoonfuls of orange water – then ye whits [whites] of 15 eggs beaten – take the froth of the eggs and set with ye almonds [stirred in together] on a chafing dish [oven ready] when hot cook well and then let it go cold – roll it up and make it into almond cakes.

To Make Roseberry Cakes

Take 2 pounds of flour and one pound of butter, rub it into the flour with one pound of sugar – let ye butter be [first] steeped [soaked] in rose water all night well – 4 eggs and 4 spoonfuls of rose water work well – and then [taking all the ingredients, sugar, flour, rosewater and eggs] make ye cakes round and thin, and bake them in a quick hot oven.

To Make China Ale

Take 15 gallons of ale when it hath done working, put it into 4 ounces of coriander seeds bruised and 2 penny worth of cloves – let it stand a week or 9 days – to every three dozen bottles put a pound of sugar and if you will have it very sweet you must have half a spoonful of sack [sweet syrup] put into every bottle.

To Make Lemon Cream

Take 6 egg wits [whites] & yolks and beate them very well with a spoonful of rose water, but six hours before you beat the eggs pare of the peel of 4 lemons as thick as you can and put it in half a pint of faire water. Bruise the peel that the water may taste of it well, then take it out and put in the juice of the lemons & the eggs that was beat – stir it well together and serve it in half a pound of fine sugar & then straine it and set it on the fire until it be as thick as good cream – then take it off the fire & stir it still it be cold then put it in a dish you will save it in – you must stir it all the while it is on the fire.
[Sadly there are no details of how hot the fire should be or how long to cook it for.]

To Boil Mackerel

Take ye mackerel and draw it [removethe guts] as ye would herring and wash it very clean and dry it – Ye then take parsley and thyme and work it with butter and a little salt to fill up the belly of the mackerel – ye then take a sheet of white paper [greaseproof] and dip it in [more] melted butter and wrap ye mackerel upon it and put it on a and slow fire until all the flesh is cooked – serve.

Happy cooking and summer picnics!

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