A Booke of Cookery & Houskeeping 1707

Moulds as described in Katherine Windham's cookbook

We believe that Katherine started her collection of some 400 recipes and household remedies at the time of her marriage to William Windham in 1669. When the book was collated in 1707, she had been a widow for 18 years and the mistress of Felbrigg for 38. Katherine, or any other women in her position, would probably have done little if any cooking, but it was the duty of the mistress to direct the cook and supervise the running of the house.

Katherine Windham (1652-1729) 

The book is written by Katherine and has a comprehensive list of recipes. These include; ‘artificial sturgion’, ‘potage for Lent’, details of bread and beer making and keeping bees, a list of ‘fish all sorts boyled & stewed’ and a long list of first and second course dishes for the table.
At the back of the book is ‘A Booke of preserving’ which contains recipes for cake and biscuit making and the drying and preserving of fruits. Some of the household remedies are amusing and alarming such as discouraging bed bugs by placing broken cucumbers around the bed and rubbing your face with lemon juice.

Visit by Food Historian

We were delighted that Food Historian, Ivan Day recently visited Felbrigg especially to view Katherine’s book. With his specialist knowledge of  17th and 18th century recipes Ivan appraised Katherine’s collection and was particularly interested in certain recipes, for example;  

  • ‘To make Leaven Bread when you can get no Yeast’ (133) a very rare example at this period for what we would now call sour dough bread.
  • ‘The best Rasberry Jambe’ (21) an early recipe for jam,
  • ‘To make Bourbon Biskets’ (39) Katherine’s version is the original Bourbon biscuit, quite different to its modern chocolate incarnation.
  • ‘Chocolet Almonds’ (31) an early and fascinating recipe.
Viewing the cookbook
Food historian Ivan Day and volunteer Bonnie Lovelock viewing the cookbook
Viewing the cookbook

Ivan said ‘of some local importance is a recipe for drying Norfolk Beefing Apples (13). Katherine's recipe is the earliest I have ever seen for drying them. She even offers a primitive illustration of a sieve used to dry them in the oven. There is some evidence that dried beefings were used for victualling the navy’ (Felbrigg’s walled garden includes a Beefing apple tree, although from a later date) and ‘of particular interest are Katherine's various recipes for jumbals, a kind of knotted biscuit (36) and (41), Katherine's tiny sketches of these biscuits are the only English ones I have ever seen. They are clear enough to be able to replicate jumbals in her suggested shapes’.  

Katherine’s family recipes ‘To make my sons rice pudding’, ‘A Winter Cream Cheese yr Lady Townshend’ (Katherine’s sister) and others from Blickling and Houghton Hall all add interest.

Hanging at Felbrigg we have Sir Peter Lely portraits of Katherine, her husband, sister and father. Ivan said Katherine's recipe collection gives the social historian a valuable insight into domestic life of Felbrigg and other grand houses; the book has a strong historical presence – it is a fabulous book which is kept in the Norfolk Record office (Norfolk Records Office reference: WKC 6/457)