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The Forme of Cury

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The Forme of Cury
A page from late 14th-century manuscript in the John Rylands Library, Manchester[a]
AuthorThe master cooks of King Richard II
TranslatorSamuel Pegge
PublisherRichard II of England
Publication date
c. 1390
Publication placeEngland

The Forme of Cury (The Method of Cooking, cury from Old French queuerie, "cookery")[2] is an extensive 14th-century collection of medieval English recipes. Although the original manuscript is lost, the text appears in nine manuscripts, the most famous in the form of a scroll with a headnote citing it as the work of "the chief Master Cooks of King Richard II".[3][4] The name The Forme of Cury is generally used for the family of recipes rather than any single manuscript text. It is among the oldest extant English cookery books, and the earliest known to mention olive oil, gourds, and spices such as mace and cloves.


The collection was named The Forme of Cury by Samuel Pegge, who published an edition of one of the manuscripts in 1780 for a trustee of the British Museum, Gustavus Brander.[5] It is one of the best-known medieval guides to cooking. The Forme of Cury may have been written partly to compete with Le Viandier of Taillevent, a French cookery book created at about the same time. This supports the idea that banquets were a symbol of power and prestige for medieval lords and kings.[6]


In the preamble, the authors explain that the recipes are meant to teach a cook how to make common dishes and unusual or extravagant banquet dishes.[7] They also note that the recipes were written with the advice of the best experts in medicine and philosophy.[6]

The Forme of Cury is the first known English cookery book to mention some ingredients such as cloves, olive oil, mace and gourds. Many recipes contain what were then rare and valuable spices, such as nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. In addition to imparting flavour, many of the spices called for were included specifically to impart rich colouring to the finished dishes for the purpose of, as Pegge says, "gratifying the sight".[8][9] There is a particular emphasis on yellows, reds and greens, but gilding and silvering were also used in several of the recipes.[8] Yellow was achieved with saffron or egg yolk, red with "sanders" (sandalwood) or alkanet, and green often with minced parsley. There are recipes for preparing many types of animal meat, including whale, crane, curlew, heron, seal and porpoise.[7] There are about ten vegetable recipes, including one for a vinaigrette salad, which indicates influence from Portugal and Spain, as French cooks rarely used vegetables at that time. There are also several pasta dishes, evidence of Italian influence.[6]

Some recipes in The Forme of Cury appear to have been influenced by the Liber de Coquina, which had contributions from Arabic cuisine. For example, the recipe for mawmenee (see illustration) corresponds to the Arabic mamuniyya (a rich semolina pudding). The confectionery-like payn ragoun confirms the connection with Sicily (which had been Arab, Catalan and Norman), as it uses the Arab technique of cooking in soft ball syrup.[6]

Sample recipes[edit]

Title page of Samuel Pegge's 1780 version, the first printed edition

Sawse madame[edit]

Sawse madame. Take sawge, persel, ysope and saueray, quinces and peeres, garlek and grapes, and fylle the gees þerwith; and sowe the hole þat no grece come out, and roost hem wel, and kepe the grece þat fallith þerof. Take galytyne and grece and do in a possynet. Whan the gees buth rosted ynouh, take hem of & smyte hem on pecys, and take þat þat is withinne and do it in a possynet and put þerinne wyne, if it be to thyk; do þerto powdour of galyngale, powdour douce, and salt and boyle the sawse, and dresse þe gees in disshes & lay þe sowe onoward.[10]

In modern English:

Sauce Madame. Take sage, parsley, hyssop and savory, quinces and pears, garlic and grapes, and stuff the geese with them, and sew the hole so that no dripping comes out, and roast them well and keep the dripping that falls from them. Take the gelatin and dripping and place in a cooking-pot. When the geese are roasted enough, take them off and chop them in pieces, and take what is within and put it in a cooking-pot and put in wine if it is too thick. Add to it powder of galangal, powder-douce and salt, and boil the sauce and dress the geese in dishes and lay the sauce on.[11]


The Forme of Cury contains a cheese and pasta casserole known as makerouns, the earliest recipe for what is now known as macaroni and cheese.[12] It was made with fresh, hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese. The recipe given (in Middle English) was:

Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh. and kerve it on pieces, and cast hem on boiling water & seeþ it well. take cheese and grate it and butter cast bynethen and above as losyns. and serue forth.

In modern English:

Make a thin sheet of dough and cut it in pieces. Place them in boiling water and boil them well. Take cheese and grate it and add it and place butter beneath and above as with losyns [a dish similar to lasagne], and serve.[13]

Modern recreations[edit]

The Café at the Rylands, in Manchester's John Rylands Library where the manuscript is kept, cooked Tart in Ymber Day, Compast, Payn Puff, Frumenty and Gingerbrede, accompanied by Piment (spiced wine), for invited guests in 2009.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The page offers recipes for "Drepee":

    Take blanched Almandes grynde hem and temper hem up with gode broth take Oynouns a grete quantite parboyle hem and frye hem and do þerto. take smale bryddes parboyle hem and do þerto Pellydore and salt. and a lytel grece.

    and "Mawmenee":

    Take a pottel of wyne greke. and ii. pounde of sugur take and clarifye the sugur with a qantite of wyne an drawe it thurgh a straynour in to a pot of erthe take flour of Canell. and medle with sum of the wyne an cast to gydre. take pynes with Dates and frye hem a litell in grece oþer in oyle and cast hem to gydre. take clowes an flour of canel hool and cast þerto. take powdour gyngur. canel. clower, colour it with saundres a lytel yf hit be nede cast salt þerto. and lat it seeþ; warly with a slowe fyre and not to thyk, take brawn of Capouns yteysed. oþer of Fesauntes teysed small and cast þerto.[1]


  1. ^ "The Forme of Cury". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  2. ^ "cury". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/OED/1060805612. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Hieatt & Butler 1985, pp. 20–30
  4. ^ Hieatt 1988, pp. 45–52
  5. ^ Wright, Clarissa Dickson (2011). A History of English Food. Random House. pp. 46, 50–52. ISBN 978-1-905-21185-2.
  6. ^ a b c d Bouchut, Marie Josèphe Moncorgé; Bailey, Ian (trans.); Hunt, Leah (trans.). "Forme of Cury and cookery books in English". Mediæval. Old cook. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b "The Forme of cury – Pygg in sawse sawge". British Library. The Master-Cooks of King Richard II. 1390. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b The forme of cury, a roll of Ancient English cookery: compiled, about AD 1390, by the master-cooks of King Richard II. Pegge, Samuel, 1704–1796. Cambridge. ISBN 978-1-107-70727-6. OCLC 911037262.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Woolgar, C. M. (1 January 2018). "Medieval food and colour". Journal of Medieval History. 44 (1): 10. doi:10.1080/03044181.2017.1401391. ISSN 0304-4181. S2CID 165273557.
  10. ^ Hieatt & Butler 1985, p. 104
  11. ^ As cooked by Clarissa Dickson Wright on the BBC Four show Clarissa and the King's Cookbook
  12. ^ James L. Matterer. "Makerouns". Godecookery.com. Archived from the original on 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  13. ^ "The Forme Of Cury". Gutenberg.org. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  14. ^ "Oldest English recipes cooked up at John Rylands". Manchester University. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2015.


External links[edit]