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Take a historical recipe and bring it into a modern-day kitchen. That’s the gauntlet that has been thrown down to staff from Heritage & Culture Warwickshire, with the whole experience being d...

Take a historical recipe and bring it into a modern-day kitchen.

That’s the gauntlet that has been thrown down to staff from Heritage & Culture Warwickshire, with the whole experience being documented in a series of YouTube videos.

They’ve been challenging each other to create culinary delights from the past, using recipes from centuries gone by that are held in Warwickshire’s historical records.

The historical ‘master chefs’ are documenting their experiences in home-made videos, the first of which is a recipe for ‘Swiss Milk Toffee’ from a household book written around the time of the First World War, cooked by Senior Archivist, Rob Eyre and his family.

Rob’s video can be watched on Heritage & Culture Warwickshire’s YouTube channel here.

All the cookery challenge videos will also be featured on the Our Warwickshire website, www.ourwarwickshire.org.uk.

Warwickshire’s County Record Office has a wide variety of recipe books in its collections, the most famous being Mary Wise’s cookbook from the mid-18th century.   

For the cookery challenge videos, staff have used Elizabeth Barkham's recipe book and Isabella Fetherston's book, both from the collection of the Fetherston-Dilke family of Maxstoke Castle, which have provided recipes for ‘Biskett Bread’ and ‘Hedge Hog Pudding’, as well as a book written by a variety of cooks from the Newdegate family of Arbury which includes a recipe for ‘The Queen's Cake’. 

It’s not the first time that Heritage & Culture Warwickshire staff have volunteered to take on the challenge of cooking heritage recipes, with the aim of introducing historical documents to the public and seeing how our present-day culinary skills match those of our ancestors.

Because the upper classes were able to write and had time to devise recipes and money to buy ingredients, older recipe books tend to come from family estate papers. 

The more up-to-date recipes from the 20th century are written by less affluent households, as more people were taught to write. 

The ‘Swiss Milk Toffee’ recipe, which features in the first video, is from a Miss M Keeling who lived in Ansley, near Atherstone, while the recipe for Crystal Palace Pudding is by an anonymous writer who also included knitting patterns in their recipe book.  

Heritage & Culture Warwickshire staff have found it extremely interesting to compare the ingredients and methodologies from centuries gone by with modern recipes and hope that, by sharing their home cookery videos, they can demystify some of Warwickshire’s historical documents.

Councillor Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment and Heritage & Culture, said:

“These heritage recipes provide a fascinating insight into Warwickshire’s culinary history and demonstrate the range of historical records and information that is preserved in the Warwickshire County Record Office archives and that the public can access on the ‘Our Warwickshire’ website.”

If you want to try making the heritage recipes yourself at home, follow the ‘Our Warwickshire’ Twitter account @OurWarwickshire and look out for the recipe posts with links to the videos.

Or you can visit the ‘Our Warwickshire’ website, www.ourwarwickshire.org.uk, which also contains thousands of archive photos, stories, memories and maps documenting the history, heritage and natural environment of Warwickshire, which have been uploaded by local people, museums and archives.

Published: 15th September 2020