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22 July 2021

Mrs Carthew’s recipe book

In the India Office Private Papers is a manuscript book of recipes inscribed ‘Mrs Carthew’s receipt Book: copied by V.L. Peter “Butler”, Rangoon, 1 August 1862’.  The book contains recipes for a wide variety of Indian and European dishes, such as Bengal chutney, curry, curry paste, a pillar of rice, gingerbread, blancmange, cheap soup, rhubarb cake, wedding cake, plain cake for children, transparent pudding, cream cheese, citron preserve, coconut biscuits, rice ragout, cheese fritters, potato pudding, junket, chocolate cream, peppermint cordial, Indian sandwiches, and milk punch.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwichesMss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwiches Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Indian sandwiches were made from chicken, veal or game; ham or tongue; anchovies, white sauce; curry powder; lemon juice; fried bread; grated cheese; and butter.  The ingredients for Mrs Carthew's 'cheap soup' were 2oz dripping, 1lb of diced meat, ¼lb onions, ¼lb turnips, 2oz leeks, 3oz celery, 8oz rice or pearl barley, 3oz salt, 4¼oz brown sugar, and water.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash

Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also recipes for hair wash and soap jelly, instructions for knitting a jumper and for making Brigadier James’s cholera cure.  The cure consisted of cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, and sugar candy ‘bruised up together’ and added to a bottle of best brandy.  This mixture was then set alight and reduced by a half.  After standing for a day, it was strained and bottled.  Dosage was a teaspoonful for ‘a little derangement’ and a tablespoonful (or even more) for more severe illness.

Who was Mrs Carthew?  The most likely candidate appears to be Jemima Borland Carthew, wife of Morden Carthew of the East India Company's Madras Army.  The family was linked to Burma in the early 1860s when the book was created. Major General Carthew was appointed Divisional Commander of Pegu Province in Lower Burma in 1861.  The Carthews’ daughter Jemima Fanny was married in Rangoon in July 1862.

Jemima Borland Carthew (née Ewart) was born in Scotland on 4 September 1810, the fifth and youngest daughter of John Ewart.  She sailed to India in 1826 and married Lieutenant Carthew on 16 July 1827.  They had ten children born between 1828 and 1847, three of whom died in infancy.

At the time of the 1861 census, Mrs Carthew was lodging in Cheltenham with five of her children.  Morden Carthew returned from Burma on leave to England in early 1863.  He did not resume his career in India.  On 19 April 1863 Jemima Carthew died at 64 Baker Street London aged 52.  The cause of death was given as ‘Softening of Brain, Paralysis’.  She was buried on 22 April 1863 at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.

Photographic portrait of Mrs Morden CarthewMrs Morden Carthew by Camille Silvy, 17 November 1862 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG Ax61899

There is another Mrs Carthew who might possibly have owned the original recipe book - the wife of Jemima's son Morden, who also served with the Madras Army in Burma.  Maynard Eliza Charlotte Rochfort Bogle married Morden Carthew junior in 1854 in Moulmein.  Her father Sir Archibald Bogle was Chief Commissioner of the Tenasserim and Martaban Provinces. The Carthews'  two elder children were born in Burma, but their son Morden Ewart was born in Marylebone in 1858.  Morden Carthew resigned from the Army in March 1862.  In November 1862 the above photograph of ‘Mrs Morden Carthew’ was taken by Camille Silvy who had a portrait studio in London. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew’s receipt book


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