First English cookery manuscript


English cookery manuscript


  • Intro

    This is the oldest known cookery manuscript in the English language. It is entitled The Forme of Cury (meaning 'Form of Cookery' in Middle English). It was written by the master-cooks of King Richard II, and is in the form of a scroll made of vellum – a kind of fine calfskin parchment. This section shows a recipe for ‘chastletes’, which were small pastry castles. The pastries were filled with pork or almonds and coloured with saffron or sandalwood. The word 'coffin' referred to the pastry case, which was made in advance.


    At the beginning of the manuscript, the author writes that the recipes are intended to teach a cook to make everyday dishes ('Common pottages and common meats for the household, as they should be made, craftily and wholesomely'), as well as unusually spiced and spectacular dishes for banquets ('curious potages and meats and sotiltees for all manner of States both high and low’) The word 'sotiltee' (or subtlety) refers to the elaborate edible sugar sculptures that were often made for grand feasts.

  • Transcript

    The Forme of Cury - Coffins and chastletes

    Chastelets [Little castles, as is evident from the kernelling and the battlements mentioned].


    Take and make a foyle of gode past with a roller of a foot brode. & lyngur by cumpas. make iiii Coffyns of þe self past uppon þe rolleres þe gretnesse of þe smale of þyn Arme. of vi ynche depnesse. make þe gretust in þe myddell. fasten þe foile in þe mouth upwarde. & fasten þee oþere foure in euery syde. kerue out keyntlich kyrnels above in þe manere of bataiwyng and drye hem harde in an Ovene. oþer in þe Sunne. In þe myddel Coffyn do a fars of Pork with gode Pork & ayrenn rawe wiþ salt. & colour it wiþ safroun and do in anoþer Creme of Almandes. and helde it in anoþer creme of Cowe mylke with ayrenn. colour it with saundres. anoþur manur. Fars of Fygur. of raysouns. of Apples. of Peeres. & holde it in broun. anoþer manere. do fars as to frytours blanched. and colour it with grene. put þis to þe ovene & bake it wel. & serue it forth with ew ardaunt.

    In present day English: 


    Take and make a foyle of good pastry [foyles as in paper, i.e. sheets of pastry as thin as paper] with a roll a foot long and longer in proportion. Make four coffins [pastry cases] from the same pastry, with the roll the width of the small of your arm, and six inches deep. Make the biggest one in the middle. Fasten the pastry sheets at the mouth upwards. And fasten your other four [sic] on every side. Quaintly carve out keyntlich [battlements] above in the manner of embattling, and dry them until they’re hard in an oven or in the sun. In the middle coffin, do a mixture of pork with good pork and raw egg with salt. And colour it with saffron and do another crème of almonds, and put in the other cream of cow’s milk with egg. Colour it with sandlewood. Another manner – meat of figs, raisons, apples and pears and make it brown. Another manner - do the meat as you would for blanched fritters and colour it with green. Put this into the oven and bake it well. And serve it with hot water.

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