Boke of Kokery

This cookery manuscript, entitled A Boke of Kokery, was written in c.1440. It is one of about 50 medieval cookery manuscripts still in existence. Manuscripts were still an expensive luxury at this time, and this list of recipes would probably have belonged to a wealthy nobleman.

The experienced reader would have found the recipes to be very instructive: surprisingly detailed directions show the cook how to hew (chop), mele (mix), powdr (salt) and strain; how to flavour, how to alter techniques for old or young meat, and how to adjust the recipes for lent.

The Language of Cookery

Many of the words used in these recipes are altered forms of the French, for example let rather than lait for milk, or fryit instead of froid for cold. This page shows a recipe for custard. We think of custard as the thick vanilla-flavoured sauce that's poured over puddings. But until the 1800s, a custarde was a kind of open pie containing pieces of meat or fruit, and covered with a sweet and spicy egg and milk sauce (the sauce was rather like today's custard). These pies were also known as crustardes, showing us that the word custard is closely related to the word crust - as in pastry crust.