Paul Couchman, popularly known as The Regency Cook, began his journey by volunteering in a unique project called The Regency Townhouse. This project was dedicated to restoring a beautiful historical building, housing a kitchen where Paul lent his hand. It was here in this Regency kitchen, that Couchman decided to adopt the title of the Regency Cook.
Understanding the Regency Period
While the Regency period technically spans from 1811 to 1820, Couchman explains that its influence reaches out until around 1850. This timeframe reflects the enduring style of the era, which persisted until the rise of Victorian trends. Although Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, her namesake style took much longer to take hold. Several structures we associate with the Regency style were in fact built much later, such as the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich, which was constructed in 1837.
Discovering Regency Recipes
Working in a Regency-style kitchen, Couchman started using recipes that were likely created in similar kitchens all over the country. He sourced these recipes from various 18th-century cookery books, when cookery writing was gaining popularity. The first book he used was a slightly battered copy of Hannah Glasse’s ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.’ This publication was a bestseller in the 1740s, and cooks were still referring to it as late as the 1830s.
The first recipe Couchman attempted was for little cakes known as Portuguese cakes, filled with raisins and flavored with rose water – a very 18th-century taste. Delighted with this initial success, he ventured deeper into other cookery books, exploring more recipes of the era.
Cooking in a Regency Kitchen
What Couchman found most rewarding was the experience of cooking in the Regency kitchen itself. His first endeavor was making mince pies from a recipe he found in one of the old cookery books. The feeling of creating an old recipe in an old kitchen, using ingredients that would have been available at the time, gave him goosebumps. He describes it as a form of time travel, especially considering that the kitchen had been used for cooking for over a hundred years.
Returning to this historical space and using it for its original purpose felt truly special to Couchman, emphasizing the significant link between past and present.
Find more about the captivating journey of the Regency Cook on our London History Podcast. You can hear more on our London History Podcast Episode 55: The Regency Cook.
Hazel Baker is an award-winning London Tour Guide and qualified CIGA guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Hazel’s walking tours.