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How Elizabeth Cromwell led the way for the modern celebrity chef

PUBLISHED: 12:33 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:59 01 November 2019

Nora Gardner dressed in similar clothing to what Elizabeth Cromwell would have worn, outside Oliver Cromwell's House in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Nora Gardner dressed in similar clothing to what Elizabeth Cromwell would have worn, outside Oliver Cromwell's House in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Archant

Today, we're used to seeing the likes of Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson gracing book covers and our television screens.

A portrait of Oliver Cromwell's wife Elizabeth who was the first ever celebrity chef. Photo: Casey Cooper-FiskeA portrait of Oliver Cromwell's wife Elizabeth who was the first ever celebrity chef. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

But back in the 17th century, celebrity chefs were unheard of - until Elizabeth Cromwell arrived.

The lord protectress, and wife of military and political leader Oliver Cromwell, had regular recipes in the broadsheet newspapers of the time, which later became a cookbook.

But she was the subject of ridicule for many, who took aim at her simple cooking style, which made use of cheap cuts of meat.

According Nora Gardner, a tour guide at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely, who is an expert on Mrs Cromwell, the cook would have been more similar to Mary Berry or Two Fat Ladies' Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson than Nigella Lawson or Delia Smith.

Elizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-FiskeElizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Ms Gardner said Mrs Cromwell's advice to today's chefs would be to use everything up, adding that her recipes focused on wasting nothing, from the skin to the blood and internal organs.

She added that Mrs Cromwell was not too comfortable with her celebrity status at the time, but had to go along with it due to her husband's position.

She said: "From what we know about her she was just a good plain cook who wanted a quiet life with her children and was sort of pushed into being a celebrity.

"She had to do it because he was entertaining people from all over Europe, ambassadors and special kings and queens that were coming and negotiating with England, so she had to put on a good table."

Elizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-FiskeElizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Her favourite of Mrs Cromwell's dishes was her eel pie with oysters.

The recipe was as follows:

"Take the eels, wash them and gut them and dry them well in a cloth. To four good eels allow a pint of oysters well washed. Season them with pepper, salt and nutmeg and large mace, put half a pound of butter into the pie, as also half a lemon sliced, so bake it.

"When it is drawn take the yolks of two eggs, a couple of anchovies dissolved in a little white wine, with a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, melt it and mix all together... And put it into the pie."

Elizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-FiskeElizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Elizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-FiskeElizabeth Cromwell's kitchen at Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Nora Gardner with her attempts at some of Mrs Cromwell's dishes. Photo: Oliver Cromwell's HouseNora Gardner with her attempts at some of Mrs Cromwell's dishes. Photo: Oliver Cromwell's House

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Nora Gardner with her attempts at some of Mrs Cromwell's dishes. Photo: Oliver Cromwell's HouseNora Gardner with her attempts at some of Mrs Cromwell's dishes. Photo: Oliver Cromwell's House

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