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Curry recipe found in 200-year-old book at abbey

The book, which dates back to 1793 (Downside Abbey Archives)

Recipes for chicken curry and fricassee of pigs’ feet and ears have been found in a handwritten book in the library at Downside Abbey in Somerset.

The book, dated 1793, is part of a collection donated to the library by descendants of the owners of Begbrook House in Frenchay, near Bristol. The house was burned down in 1913, probably by suffragettes.

Dom Christopher Calascione of Downside recreated one of the recipes, the Sally Lunn bread bun, on BBC Television last week, following the guidance to pat “the tops over with a feather dipt into the yolk of an egg”.

The chicken curry recipe appears in the book just 46 years after the first known curry recipe in English was published. Another recipe among the 142 in the book is for turtle soup.

The recipe book was apparently written by the Downside cook.

The book was discovered during a three-year project to make the abbey’s archive of half a million items – the oldest book is 1,000 years old – accessible online. Among the rarer items in the library are Cardinal John Henry Newman’s personal copy of the Bible, early Bibles printed in English and the 14th-century Book of Hours.