Monks discover chicken curry recipe in 200-year-old cookbook

Monks at Downside Abbey have discovered a handwritten recipe book, dating from 1793, in their Monastery Library.

With recipes as diverse as Turtle Soup, Chicken Curry and Fricassee of Pigs Feet and Ears, there is also a controversial recipe for the historic Sally Lunn bun.

Fr Christopher Calascione, a Downside monk, recreated the Sally Lunn recipe for the BBC this week, with a taste-test at the renowned Bath eatery. 

“First and foremost we are a Monastic library and our specialisms are in history, theology and philosophy….but yes we do have unusual material such as cookbooks which are just as useful to a monk’s education as Thomas Aquinas.” Dr Simon Johnson, Keeper of Downside

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Abbey Archives and Library

Donated as part of a private collection, the book was originally from Begbrook House, near Bristol. According to local history, the house was burnt by suffragettes in the early 20th-century.

Treasures within the Library include Cardinal John Henry Newman’s personal copy of the Bible, early Bibles printed in English, and beautifully illustrated 14th-century Book of Hours and other medieval manuscripts, rare theological texts, and unusual donated collections.

These include books on sundials, birds, archaeology and local history, along with the archives of the English Benedictine Congregation dating back to the 17th century. Members of the public can access the collections by contacting collections@downside.co.uk 01761 235323.