Our latest podcast episode is about Regency food, flavours and fashions with guest Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook.
I asked Paul to tell us a little bit about his backstory and how he became The Regency Cook.
This is what he had to say:
Paul Couchman: I started off as a volunteer in something in a lovely project called The Regency Townhouse, it’s a restoration of a very beautiful building. And in that building was this kitchen and I helped to restore the kitchen because the kitchen had to be cooked in that’s when I decided to become the easy cook because I was in the Regency kitchen. So that’s where my name comes.
We have a long idea about the Regency period, we don’t just think of it as from 1811 to 1820 but find its influence up until about 1850. Because what we take is some style and we just see that it had a long footprints right up until basically the Victorian style started developing. And that took a while. Queen Victoria, as you know, came to the throne in 1837, but her style, the Victorian style, took a lot longer to develop. A lot of buildings that you think of as Regency or look Regency were built a lot later.
Hazel Baker: 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?
Paul Couchman: Well, I draw on a lot, his books from the 18th century, from the 1700s when cookery 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 Hannah Glasse.
So like I said, I’ve got this kitchen, it’s old, and I wanted to start cooking it. I don’t know much about it cooking and so I started cooking at that point. I grabbed this book, it’s a book by Hannah Glasse called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, a 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 recipe I did was some little cakes called Portuguese cakes and they’ve got raisins inside them and then flavoured with rose water. That’s quite an 18th century taste as well. So yeah, that was the first recipe I tried from Hannah Glasse, and then I found of all these other books I started delving into them.
The best thing I think was when I actually started cooking in the kitchen itself. So I started making mince pies down there. I had found one of these old cookery books. Just to make an old recipe in an old kitchen using the ingredients I probably would have used.
But you said about goose bumps, 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 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. Fantastic.
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.