A chicken curry recipe dating back to 1793 has come to light at Downside Abbey, showing that tastes were becoming globalized as long ago as the 18th century.
Not to be confused with the fictional Downton Abbey, the inhabitants of Downside are Benedictine monks, not the Crawley family.
But the book’s original owners may have had a similarly colorful history to that the fictional television characters. Their library was donated to the abbey after their family seat, the rambling Begbrook House, near Bristol, was burnt down by suffragettes in 1913.
The chicken curry recipe forms part of a handwritten recipe book that remains in good condition, “but there are a few splatters of something or other all over it,” its current owners say.
The recipe calls for butter, rice powder, curry powder and veal gravy to be added to the chicken, but it cannot lay claim to be oldest source of a curry recipe recorded in the U.K., which dates 1747.
The book came to light as part of the monastery’s efforts to categorize their archive and library, which opened to the public last year.
A few of these Georgian recipes have been tried and tested by today’s inhabitants of the abbey and the response has not been unfavorable, but a review of the chicken curry dish has been made available.
Chicken curry remains in the top five favorite dishes in the U.K., showing that things don’t change that much over time.
Despite the great age of the recipe, in some shape or form, we can imagine it could have been served to Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, or other members of the Crawley family.