Robert May’s “The Accomplisht Cook”, Cowdray Palace’s Tudor Kitchen and Lumber Pie

by hillaryshort

In 1660, the chef Robert May, who was 72 at the time, wrote and published a cookbook called “The Accomplisht Cook”. His book provided many recipes that were read by the upper classes and used at court for social occasions. He also shared experiences and secrets in his profession. Most cookbooks at that time were published by housewives and featured fruit, conserves and confectionary. May’s dishes were vast and varied.

May was a catholic and came from a family of chefs. He was sent to Paris at the age of 10, for 5 years, to train as a chef. This was probably due to the fact that he was catholic and his parents wanted to protect him from the unrest in England at the time. Upon his return, he worked in for many aristocratic, catholic families. One of his positions was at Cowdray Palace.

Cowdray's Tudor Kitchen today

Cowdray Palace is a 20 minute drive from my home in West Sussex. The actual palace was mainly burned down in the mid 18th century, but the kitchen remains intact. There are 3 open fires and a large hot plate. The kitchen is hexagonal, stone floor and has a 26′ diameter. There are large windows to provide light. This tudor kitchen would have provided food for approximately 200 people twice daily. The food would be carried to Buck Hall, which was considered a magnificent dinning hall at that time. King Henry VIII was a guest. Robert May was a chef at the Palace. The kitchen would have 40 fit, hard working men preparing and cooking the meals. Here is a list of foods that would have been prepared:
Fresh meat – cooked on the spit or braised in a cauldron
Seasonal game
Fish boiled or wrapped in pastry
Pottage (soup)
Fruit, herbs and vegetable from the gardens
Spices from the Orient or Europe
Sugar, limited to Henry VIII because it was too expensive for anyone else. Fruit and honey was used as an alternative
Pies, pastries, open tarts and salads.

Inside a lumber pie

Lumber pie with it's crust

Note: Images Made by Ivan Day of historic

Robert May’s Lumber Pie recipe:

“Take some grated bread, and beef-suet cut into bits like great dice, and some cloves and mace, then some veal or capon minced small with beef suet, sweet herbs, fair sugar, the yolks of six eggs boil’d hard and cut in quarters, put them to the other ingredients, with some barberries, some yolks of raw eggs, and a little cream, work up all together and put it in the caul of veal like little sausages; then bake them in a dish, and being half baked have a pie made and dried in the oven ; put these puddings into it with some butter, verjuyce sugar, some dates on them, large mace, grapes, or barberries, and marrow – being baked, serve it with a cut cover on it, and scrape sugar on it”.