The seventeenth century was one of the richest, most vibrant and exciting periods in English culinary history with fascinating cookbooks. First published in 1660, this is the work of a chef who cooked in the aristocratic houses of England, having been trained by his father, also a chef, in the kitchens of seventeenth century Parisian nobility. Dishes in the “French fashion” abound, as do recipes inspired by sources as diverse as Turkey, Poland, Portugal and Italy. In true chef’s style he also has a penchant for random phonetic spelling, which I find very endearing. Thus on one page we have, for halibut, both “hollyburt” and “holyburt”. Most of all, I like his recipe for “wivos mequidos”, none other than a dish of “huevos” or eggs “in the Spanish fashion”. Apart from the extreme deliciousness and ‘cookability’ of many of his recipes - lemon cream flavoured with orange flower water, little Portuguese sponge cakes flavoured with rosewater, a lobster pie, a very fine rice pudding, a crayfish pottage, some interesting ways with veal including small veal or chicken pies and delicious oyster pies and oyster jellies which have become part of my own culinary repertoire - I find the book enormously comforting in that it demonstrates what I have long held to be true. There has not been a revolution in the British kitchen, merely an evolution. We have been here before.
Food writer and historian
This is the book to turn to if you want to be reminded that cooking is not all a story of progress. In 1685, May understood more about flavours than many cooks today. Highlights include 21 ways of making omelettes, including one with asparagus and verjuice.
Subtitled: "The art & mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, than hath been publisht in any language."
The most complete record of England's finest period of creative and innovative cooking (Elizabethan and Jacobean) - it is also usable by the modern cook
Just the most important 17th century cookery book and a pioneer in so many ways.