New book tells story of 17th Century recipe and some fake news

Cromwell Museum curator Stuart Orme with the newly revised cookbook. 

Cromwell Museum curator Stuart Orme with the newly revised cookbook. - Credit: CROMWELL MUSEUM

WHAT do you get if you mix 400-year-old recipes with a salacious piece of 17th century ‘fake news’?

The story of one of the Britain’s most famous and controversial characters, Oliver Cromwell, and his wife Elizabeth is being told with a culinary twist in his Huntingdon birthplace.

Elizabeth Cromwell wrote the cookery book after her husband had died. 

Elizabeth Cromwell wrote the cookery book after her husband had died. - Credit: CROMWELL MUSEUM

The Cromwell Museum, which boasts the world’s largest and most important collection of artefacts, documents and artwork relating to this iconic historical figure.

These include an original copy of Mrs Cromwell’s Cookbook containing 102 recipes by Elizabeth Cromwell – Oliver’s wife – published as an explosive piece of royalist propaganda after his death.

A page from the original book published in 1664.

A page from the original book published in 1664. - Credit: CROMWELL MUSEUM

A controversial read for its time, ‘The Court & Kitchen of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwell, The Wife of the Late Usurper’, has been remastered; with a limited number printed and being sold to boost museum funds.

From cooking on an open fire with local and sustainable ingredients, the recipes in this fascinating book remain just as relevant today

“The court and kitchen of Elizabeth Cromwell is one of the strangest and most fascinating recipe books ever written; imagine today buying a celebrity chef’s book to find it has been published by their enemies, with the first third of it telling you what an awful person they were. 

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"It gives us a window into, not only the politics of the mid 1600s and attempts to blacken Cromwell’s name, but the sort of foods eaten by middle class families of the period, including possibly the Cromwells themselves.”

Keen cooks can challenge themselves to reproducing Barley Broth (a 17th century style of porridge), Green Sawce (a sorrel pesto style sauce for chicken) or learn how to ‘dresse a cod’s head’ or ‘how to bake a venison pasty’.

Eels, oysters, poultry and game were, as they are now, commonplace in Cromwellian cuisine in the 1600s, with some recipes coming full circle and not out of place in some of today’s fine dining restaurants.

Stuart Orme, the museum’s curator, has written the introduction to the new book: “The appearance of the book belies its significance as one of the strangest cookery books ever published; it allegedly contains the personal recipes collected by Oliver Cromwell’s wife Elizabeth.









“These are bound in a volume together with an extended introduction composed of essays condemning the Cromwellian regime in general, the evils of its court and targeting Elizabeth in particular, much of which was written as Royalist propaganda and would probably qualify as being a 17th century version of ‘fake news’.”

The original book is one of a number of iconic artefacts housed at the Museum that can be adopted Adopt an Object | Cromwell (cromwellmuseum.org).

The 2021 version of the book is now on sale at the Museum’s online shop priced £6.99. Only 500 copies have been printed and the proceeds will be donated back to the Museum. Copies will be available to purchase via the Museum’s online shop at: www.cromwellmuseum.org.

Fact File:

The Cromwell Museum opened in 1962. The building, which dates back to the 14th century, was used as a monastic hospital and in the 1600s was a school – attended by Oliver Cromwell himself. Threatened with closure in 2015, the museum (already established as an internationally-renowned tourist attraction) underwent a £170,000 revamp – thanks to grant funding – and received its official opening by its Patron the Rt Hon Sir John Major in March 2020.

Recipe to make an Eele Pye.

Your Eels being flead, washed, and cut in pieces, as long as you think convenient, put to them a handful of sweet herbs, parsley mixed with onion, season them with pepper, salt, cloves, mace, and nutmeg, and having your coffin made of good past, put them in and strew over them, two handful of currants, and a limon cut in slices, then put on butter and close the pye, when it is baked, put in at the funnel a little sweet butter, white wine and vinegar, beaten up with a couple of yolks of eggs.




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