Housed in his chefs’ academy in a quiet south-west London backstreet, the library is a modern space, lit by huge windows and with a ceiling high enough that you could imagine clouds forming. Nearly 6,000 cookbooks stretch along the shelves, taking in seven languages, half a dozen centuries and a staggering diversity of subjects. Some of the ingredients in Mosimann’s older books are fairly unappealing. Boiled cow’s udders jump out from Meg Dodd’s 17th-century book, Cookery: A Practical System of Modern Domestic Cookery, sliced and served with tomato or onion sauce, unless you would prefer them simmered and salted, served cold with oil and vinegar.
Among the earliest handwritten recipe collections in English was The Forme of Cury (cury meaning cooked food, derived from the French cuire – to cook), compiled around 1390 by a master cook to Richard II to show readers how “to make common pottages and common meats for the household, as they should be made, craftily and wholesomely”. A decade earlier, Guillaume Tirel, chef to the French royal family, produced the first known French cookbook, Viandier. Original copies no longer exist, although an 18th-century version of The Forme of Cury is available on Amazon and you also can download it free from manybooks.net.
England’s entry into the printed cookbook stakes occurred in 1500, when Richard Pynson – one of the first English printers – published The Boke of Cokery [sic], though it was thought to be lost until a copy reappeared in 2002 during a clearout by the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House.