Monks have discovered a recipe book that dates back to 1793 stashed away in their archives, which contains some unusual recipes for pigs ears and even one of the first chicken curries.
The handwritten pages were compiled by generations of cooks in the kitchen of Begbrook House in Frenchay, near Bristol, which belonged to a wealthy local family.
But when the house was burnt down by suffragettes in 1913, the fragile book of 142 recipes was passed onto the monks at Downside Abbey, in Somerset.
Among the food-spattered pages of appetising recipes is one for Fricassee of Pigs Feet and Ears – which is stewed meat served in a thick white sauce – and also a pigeon stew.
The book also contains a recipe for a chicken curry. The first known curry recipe written in English was published just 46 years before the book, by Hannah Glasse in 1747.
‘You can tell it’s been very well used,’ said Dr Simon Johnson, keeper of the Abbey’s archives and library.
‘It’s in pretty good condition, but there are a few splatters of something or other all over it.
‘It’s in the hand of the actual cook and there’s a variety of recipes such as plum loaf and how to cure a ham.
‘It seems to be a working kitchen cookbook as opposed to being for special occasions. But it’s evoked so much interest because it’s a Georgian, Regency cookbook.
‘I think people are generally interested in the more domestic parts of history.
‘The social history is forgotten – the day to day running of a house.’
One of the most intriguing recipes in the book is one entitled ‘Turtle Soup’, which requires either two calf’s feet or a calf’s head.
Rather than a real turtle soup, the recipe details how to make the popular English dish ‘Mockturtle soup’, which was created in the mid-18th century as a cheaper imitation of green turtle soup.
It often used brains and organ meats such as calf’s head or a calf’s foot to recreate the texture and flavour of the original turtle meat.
The soup is also the basis for the character of the Mock Turtle in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – in which the author joked that the famous soup was made from these creatures.
One adventurous monk, Dom Christopher Calascione, recreated one of the recipes after the book was discovered – a Sally Lunn bread bun which requires patting ‘the tops over with a feather dipt into the yolk of an egg’.
‘As the monastery has been in existence for nearly 500 years we have picked up a lot of archives – ancient papers and books – and among them this recipe book appeared,’ he said.
The book was only discovered when the Benedictine monks at the abbey in Radstock started exploring the private collection.
There are also some more recognisable recipes among the pages, such as semolina pudding, pancakes, carrot soup and even mince pies.
The monastic library was opened to the public last year after a major refurbishment.