“VDo you know this would never have happened without Instagram? “Two years ago, Paul Couchman was contacted via the famous social network by the artist Lucinda Ganderton, who then emptied his attic. “We exchanged. Knowing my love for old kitchen utensils, she had put a lot of things aside for me. Among the casseroles and various implements, this old frayed leather book, with the damaged and illegible binding, which she had paid 40 pounds * in a second-hand market at Oxfam. By offering it to me, she was far from suspecting the invaluable value of the collection… ”The Briton Paul Couchman is not a chef like the others. The passion of this history buff? Cooking like in the 18th centurye century. He has made it his profession since he is now in the kitchen of the Regency Town House, in Brighton, a delightful manor-museum from 1820 where the visitor can push the vice of going back in time to the plate by savoring puddings and meat pies old.
To make his “historic dinners” and the old-fashioned cooking classes he offers online, Couchman spends hours in specialist libraries searching for books on period gastronomy and old cookbooks. So he sees Lucinda Ganderton’s gift as a miracle. The book houses 150 pages of yellowed paper filled with recipes handwritten by several foodies or cooks. Obviously, these are not signed, but every now and then a date appears, scribbled in a corner, most of which indicates the XVIII.e century. A tiny “1831”, added to the inside binding of the back, suggests that the work was enriched in the 19th century.e century. “Despite the few clues that I was able to analyze, this book remains a mystery. But whatever, the main thing for me is to be able to reproduce these dishes. “
FOLDERJourney into French gastronomy
Who did this manuscript belong to? How to explain that it was written by several hands? Who were these dishes for? “Given the spices used and the quantities of flour and eggs required for certain recipes, it seems obvious to me that we are dealing with a high-ranking family who regularly gave receptions,” says Couchman. Some pages, like the recipe for “Mother Eve’s Pudding”, so called in reference to the biblical Eve and the forbidden fruit, are written in verse, no doubt to facilitate oral transmission to cooks who could not read.
The manuscript offers, in addition to the classic soup or pastry recipes, tips for salting meats, making a successful Picalilly, slicing hams or marinating salmon. As is customary in the 18th centurye, it is not only about cooking in this book, but also medicinal decoctions, or even preparations for household products. Remedies for plague, stomach aches, toothache …
“A priori, there is enough to cure just about everything,” Couchman laughs, even if I wouldn’t venture to try all these potions. Who knows, maybe I have the Covid antidote? Until Couchman saves the planet and the book is published – the chef is working on it – some recipes from the manuscript can be found on the Regency Cook website. Enjoy your meal !
WATCH the Christmas Pudding recipe by Paul Couchman:
* the equivalent of 45 euros.