Join Hazel Baker as she talks with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook, about the influence of the Regency period on food, French chefs, and fanciful flavours.
What would you recognise if you walked into a Regency Kitchen? What were the most popular foods and flavours?
Listen now to find out.
Hazel is an active Londoner, a keen theatre-goer and qualified CIGA London tour guide.
She has won awards for tour guiding and is proud to be involved with some great organisations. She is a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and am an honorary member of The Leaders Council.
I’m a history food teacher. I give online courses using historic recipes that take people back in time. I use a handwritten cookbook from the early nineteenth century and I’m lucky to give courses in an 1830s kitchen.
Hazel Baker: Hello and welcome to London Guided Walks London History podcast. In the coming episodes, we will be sharing our love and passion for London, its people, places and history in an espresso shot with a splash of personality. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Hazel Baker, founder of London Guided Walks, providing guided walks and private tours to Londoners and visitors alike.
Joining me in the studio today is Paul Couchman. The Regency Cook, a history foods teacher providing online courses using historic recipes that take people back in time. Hello Paul. Thanks for joining us today.
Paul Couchman: It’s lovely to be here.
Hazel Baker: So tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you became the Regency cook.
Paul Couchman: I started off as a volunteer in something in a lovely project called the mediacy townhouse, which is home. It’s a restoration of a very beautiful building. And in that building was this kitchen and I helped to restore the kitchen. And because the kitchen had to be cooked in, that’s when I decided to become the Regency cook because I was in the Regency kitchen.
So that’s where my name comes from the ministry. Tell us we have a long idea about the BBC, so we don’t just think of it as from 1811 to 1820 weeks. Find it light foods about 1850, really. Because what we take is some weeks to style and we just see style had a long footprints right up until basically Victorian style started developing, you know? And that took a while.
So the queen Victoria, as you know, it came to the phone 1837, but that’s her style. The Victorian stock took a lot longer to develop. And so the meetings we started, we still buy permanent like food especially in Brighton, especially in buildings as well. Life into the 1860s is what you get is people.
No hunt to build these beautiful Regency buildings. And they kept on doing it because there’s a demand for it because the Star’s popular. And so, yeah, so that means you start it’s all over bison and a lot of buildings that you think of as Regency or look Regency were built a lot later. Yeah, absolutely.
The Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich is known as a Regency style building and that was built in 1837. So what’s really fantastic is that you are working in a kitchen and Regency style kitchen, and you are using recipes that would have been made in kitchens like that all over the country. Where did you get these recipes from?
Well, I draw on a lot, his books from the 18th century, from the 17 hundreds when cookie writing really took off cookery books really took off and all these will to my women and the first one I ever used. And I think it’s over here, actually. It’s probably a bit battered now, but I, I use this version of Kind of glass.
So like I said, I’ve got this kitchen it’s old. I want to start cooking it now. I don’t know much about it. I started cooking at that point. And so I grabbed this book. It’s a book by Hannah Glass called the art of cookery made plain uneasy, massive big seller in the 1740s, but people still use it like foods in the 1830s onwards.
They were still using it. And so I took recipes from here and started cooking. The first one I did, I did some little cakes at one point at home, some like good Portuguese cakes and they’re, they’ve got coincide in them. The flavoured with Rose water. That’s quite an 18th century tastes as well. So yeah, that was the first stock recipe I tried from how the glass, and then I’d kind of all these other books I started delving into.
But the best thing I think was when I actually started cooking in the kitchen itself. So I started making mince pies down there from that. Another westbound, I found, you know, one of these old books just to make an old recipe in an old kitchen using, you know, the ingredients I probably would have used.
But you said about goose goose, a goose pimples. Okay. I could feel it on my, in my body. Yeah. That’s goose bumps. Yeah. That feeling of everything coming together or sort of time traveling as well in that kitchen and also that kitchen, how’s it being cooked in. When you think for about a hundred, at least a hundred years.
And so to get back in that space and to use it for what it was useful was really special. Yeah. Fantastic. And if people were transported back to a kitchen from the 1830s, what would be the most obvious differences? Yeah. So if I take you there, if we could all go back in time If you went through the kitchen door, I imagine you’d be hit by the heat.
Because what you’ve got is a big old range that used to use and a big sort of cast iron heated box, really, you know, and they’d glow and they’d burn like like Argos now actually I’ve really hit the space up, so it would have been absolute boiling hot. So that’s the first thing you notice is great, big old range.
On the other side, they would have had a massive dresser. So that’s why we’ve addressed this now, but we bake really full of storage. Big kitchen table. You can imagine a big wooden kitchen table in the middle, and then all of these people that would have been there. So there would have been probably about four or five, many women actually in the kitchen or working together.
And the kitchen itself is very labour intensive. So there’s none of the devices we have now, obviously. So you have to grind things. You have to chop things very small. You have to push on to page 36, so you can imagine all that activity going on. And then if you look above you in this speech with the kitchen, you’ve got a skylight which would allow ventilation or solar lightens.
If it was beautiful light that comes in from above and a beautiful tiled floor as well. Yeah. Tell me the different spaces that cause it, I mean, it’s the size, it’s a scale of a kitchen. Do you know the big spaces because it needs to fit all these people in, so our kitchen, so it’d be a lot smaller that way.
Some of the most expensive ingredients that would have been used in Regency’s times in the kitchens. So I mean, a few of them we know now is expensive. Cause I was looking for this recipes for Safwan bonds. And, you know, saffron obviously is the most expensive spice, probably the same price they say of gold, you know?
And in the period that we were, it was actually manufactured where you probably know, or may, which will grow naturally. You suffer from Walden and in Cornwell as well. So that’s why you get a lot of stuff and bugs and stuff come from pool. Cause that’s what second came from. And also saffron Hill in clocking.
Well, that’s how it got its name. Hard to imagine that now it’s in zone one. So, yeah, incredibly expensive, but they did use it a lot. And I suppose it’s necessarily the ingredient is it it’s the amount of time it takes to, to prepare the food. So manual labour, that’s got to be one of the big expenses, hasn’t it?
Yeah, of course. Because if you think about it and this, this is always what I love about it. If you think about anything that’s processed or mashed at this point, you’re now, you know, like baby food or any poufy food. That would have taken absolutely ages to make. And so had the highest status. So if you had to a puree on your table, In this period in 1930s, people would know instinctively that it was a full kitchen maids, probably spending a few hours, pushing that through a sale to get to that texture.
Whereas now we have a machine that can do that in seconds. And so we don’t see that as high status. So no we’re looking for, you know, things that have of course attached to it or come from a particular, you know, particular field or something like that. That’s got high status now, but that the purchasing would have had the high status.
So things like jellies and ice creams, which we, yeah, it’s, it’s quite mass produced stuff now, but that would have been actually made in house. I would have taken someone dies to make, you know, make a jump at you, take cows feeds and stuff like that. Now sit down to get the jealousy news, that gelatine to make the journey, all of those processes, you know, no, we buy bounties jelly in an old pocket and put that, and then we say it’s a very different Yeah, just by different.
And so we think of jelly is cheap food and they thought jelly is as high stakes food. It’s amazing. Isn’t it? So I’m just thinking 1980s, when I was growing up, if you went to a a kid’s party, you’d get jelly and ice cream to expensive things in the Regency period. Yeah. To high status, elite food. Yeah.
Yeah. So how would a how would a kitchen like yours get access to ice? Okay. So what we found, I mean, the townhouse itself is quite actually quite close to markets and stuff. So if you think of country houses that are quite remote country houses would have had the supply salads. And these are basically great big pits, which are whipped lines where.
I think it might be twice a you try up, especially in the winter, obviously with a great big block of ice, put down into the salad and it would very slowly melt. Then over the year they could go and take chunks off it. So that’s how you did it in a country house, but the house or the town as you go to the market and that’s it.
And we have storage in the yard as well. You have some notes covered that we think was actually a lice larder where they would have put ice. Small bits of ice to keep for when they needed it in the kitchen. And that’s obviously in the shaded part of the backyard, you know, so it doesn’t get any sun at all, so you can keep her longer, but they could go, they could go and get it from the market quite easily as well.
So it’s a different relationship. And also our kitchens are quite small compared to the country house kitchen. Cause we didn’t need all those extensive rooms. You’re not the dairies. You know, if you go to country house, they often have all these. Specific news and I can choose and stuff, whereas we can actually buy a lot of that.
So not everything was made in, in a house and in in the timeless anyway. Yeah, very true. And to bring it back to this, this for London, if you want to see an example of an ice house from a country estate, then in Holland park, there is a converted ice house, which is now a lovely gallery. And also the canal museum Carlos Gatti, and his ice production and storage.
You can actually learn all about him and the ice. That he was doing in the the early 1830s there. So there’s lots of ways for you to physically go out and explore. And of course, a day trip to to Brighton is certainly worth it as well. So we were just talking pool about ice, but what about, how do they store that dairy and their fish?
Was that different or was that just an iConnect on layer in the ice covenant? So what we think we’ve actually got remains of where the cupboards were, which we will, we will, we aren’t going to be store eventually. So what you have in instead of a fridge is you have two large as usually you have a dry, larger, and a wetland and the wetland is place close to the back door.
So you can get some ventilation in there. And the wetland is where you keep your fish and your meats. Those sort of things, cheese, if you don’t have a dairy larder as well, and then basically it’s a big cool cupboard. So it’s built on the side of the house, whether no sunlight hits it as well.
And like I said, he got this ventilation from the back door as well, but usually then somewhere inside the kitchen itself, you’ve got a giant artery keeping some flour and all those other things that needs to be kept. You don’t want to get moist. Do you want me to keep a bit too? I obviously, so those are the two distinctions.
They would have been lined with shelves and stuff. And as I said, we want to put it back in the talus as well. I’ve got like a a metal cupboard in there at the moment in the space, but I’d love to have it properly lines, you know, with proper wooden shelves and stuff. So it looked like an old monitor, but we didn’t use that space in that, which is quite nice.
Yeah. And what about food fashions? Cause we were talking about, we touched on a Regency fashion for clothing, which had an impact for, for many years. What about fashions for food? Well, we’ve touched a bit on the main one. I’m the ice cream thing was massive and I love hearing stories about, you know, the bizarre flavours they had and one of my favourite food fashion is art.
She’s one of the, I think somebody tried to bring this back is a sort of Parmesan ice cream. So they made some ice creams with more I think there was one of his fellow guests as well. And they did do some PI screens is one or two must be for, you know, which quite unusual, you know, and you think Joe nouveau cuisine and those sort of things, they probably, you know, pay for that as well.
Have you had palms on ice cream before? I haven’t, I’ve heard I’ve had olive oil ice cream and that was weird. But I think PAI screen would be lovely and refreshing, but asparagus that makes some people the smell. Doesn’t it? I don’t think
my favourite ice creams are either pistachio and Elman. Yeah. Both of those are really 18th century, you know, Alvin is in loads and loads of recipes and pistachio as well. Because of the colours and the textures and the, and the taste, obviously both of them, but very popular. Yeah. If you think back of moons, am I covering other, we will touch on next time, but it’s one of the things you see in all the sets is the macaroons.
Yeah. So that I see elements, especially, especially, I’m not going as well. So two, two ties together. Yeah. Oh, and you mentioned before the combination of current and road water, I wouldn’t have said they went together, but how were they? Delicious. You’ve got be the calf with the rice water. You don’t overpower it cause it can, it tastes like, you know, 7% you’ll be BD capital, but I a lot to pay for.
And I really like her, you know, so, and I was talking this morning with someone about Rose water. She was from Yvonne course. They use it a lot there and in India as well, you know, there’s traditions are still calling on and they use it a lot in food, especially those pencils and using food. So you can see the links between fitness.
We were doing an 18th century and things that are still happening, food all over the world now. So the tastes are still good. It’s just, we’ve got out of the habit of putting them into. Oh food. You know, we don’t use waste water too much. Anyway. Hey, bring Batman. I do dry my own roses from the garden and my own lavender tea with lemon biscuits, lavender lemon.
Again, you’ve got to be careful. I mean, again, yeah, you can put too much in, but that Hayden’s just, the hand is beautiful. Isn’t it? Yeah. I love those flavours. You’re good in ice cream as well. It wasn’t there. We took the ice cream. We talked about the fashions of Regency food. And what about the fashion for having a French chef?
Really from that opened in 17 hundreds. Why foods? Eggs, and hundreds. If you were anyone you’d have a French chef. And of course the most famous French has come in and he works for, I think, three years for the Prince leads and at the pavilion and make amazing menus. But of course, what the war was, do, everyone else wants to copy.
And so French chefs were either, either you had one permanently or you’d hire one for the, for the free evening party. You know, and we, we, Oh, we can just imagine how the normal cook would be really quite upset to have this man suddenly turn up and take over the cookery for the evening. I’d love to, I love to be a fly on the wall in those households and they’re not helping, so going on to be wonderful to watch.
But yeah, that’s what they did. So they had them in for did. The thing is in this period as well, men were paid double the amounts of women anyway, and a French chef then could command even more than a normal male cook. So you can imagine the amount of money that must’ve been spent on these people.
Yeah. So French chefs who dropped by well at this period. Yeah. And what the stories of families pinching other French chefs. Yeah. This is fairly common. I mean, the thing is we’re sevens anyway. You know, if you had a really good serving a good housekeeper, a good cook. When people turned up for parties, you’d often hear stories about how they, you know, you’d catch them chatting with the, with the cocoa, the housekeeper that’s sprayed them to come and work with them because there was always this talk about the servant problem, but you know, about finding good service, especially keeping them, you know, Yeah.
I mean, I’ve got books of stories of when it went wrong, you know, cause you’ve got lots of reports in the papers about, you know, sevens stealing really bad that to me or not being prepared to do certain things and the employers having to plus-size, you know, all those sorts of stories went on. So it wasn’t easy keeping a seven, it wasn’t an easy thing.
And that sounds lovely. Doesn’t matter. But. That’s fair. There was no problems involved in it and it’s lovely to read the reports. It’s really, really, really good. So I know you’ve been doing a course recently, Paul what have we got to look forward to in the future from you? I’ve just finished the whole correspond course, basically.
So I teach to people all over the world, man. So it’s all online and they they sort of. Non did my kitchen food freezing, and we cook the things together, which is lovely. And I, I do seem to one, so basically I’ve just done the whole quest ones, but I do Christmas put in ones at Christmas. Christmas cakes will be coming up at some point as well.
I thought this next one I’m going to date is about pies. And I’ve also thought about doing a Chelsea bun one. The way you can contact me. Yeah, trust you. He doesn’t like the Tennessee farm and there’s layers of history to it as well. The best way you can get in touch with me is through my website.
And there’s also you can just join my email list. I send out an email every week with a few of the recipes from the book actually. So I take one or two recipes from here and just pop them in an email so that nice people. And also then you’ll know when the next course is, are. And we’ll include all of Paul’s details in the show notes.
If you go to London, guided walks.co.uk forward slash podcast and click on episode 55, I’m on that list. So I get the weekly emails and. Yes. And that chocolate tart. Oh my goodness. We just very, very bad for my waist. Yes.
I should tell people the chocolates are, is a Hannah Glass recipe also from the 1740s. And I’ve got it as a sort of lead magnet free resource that people can sign up for. But I think I lost you. A portion of people have made it and it is it’s somebody made it for their birthday, which I loved. So you told me about it.
She’s got this birthday coming up and to make it for my partner and she made it and she told me how lovely it was and this lovely. That’s why I do these things, you know, to, to make other people happy with food. It’s it gives me great pleasure in myself.
Hazel Baker: Well, Paul, you’ve been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us today.
And if you’re a fan of the Regency period, then maybe you’ll enjoy Episode 37, which is Bridgerton and Regency London. And we also have Episode 49 with the wonderful Hillary Davidson, a dress historian who busts some mess on Regency style dress, including corsets, visible nipples and the invention of the trouser.
But that’s all we got time for now. Thanks very much. And I’ll catch you next week.