Boke of Kokery - Custarde

We think of custard as the thick vanilla-flavoured sauce that's poured over puddings. However, until the 19th century the word 'custarde' had a different definition. 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.

This page includes a recipe for 'custarde lumbarde' - an open pie containing cream, eggs, and dates.

About Boke of Kokery


This manuscript, entitled A Boke of Kokery, was written around 1440, and contains 182 recipes.

Many of the words used in these recipes are altered forms of the French, for example 'let' ('lait') for milk, or 'fryit' ('froid') for cold.

In general the recipes are quite imprecise. They do not provide the reader with quantities or cooking times. It is unlikely therefore that the reader would have used the book to learn to cook. What is more probable is that trained chefs working in grand households would have used the book to be reminded of the kinds of dishes served at royal tables. The experienced reader, however, 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; and how to flavour, how to alter techniques for old or young meat, and how to adjust recipes for Lent.

It is likely that the book would also have been used by those servants responsible for keeping kitchen supplies well stocked, and for ensuring that there was as little waste (and theft) as possible. These servants would have been expected to know which ingredients were necessary for each meal. The descriptions of grand and indulgent feasts suggest that the book may also have been used to heighten the prestige of the owner.

There are over fifty medieval recipe manuscripts still in existence - and this does not count the manuscripts of medical recipes, many of which include culinary recipes.

Taken from: Boke of Kokery
Date: c. 1440
Copyright: By permission of the British Library
Shelfmark: Harley MS 4016