Food history is very popular, and people are always wondering when the first such and such arrived, was cooked, was invented, was reinvented. I saw an article today about the ‘Victorian’ way of making curry, and in fact I have pinched the same title for this post.
I’ve been doing a little research about Victorian cookery, not in huge detail, but I have been looking at a couple of nineteenth century cooks as part of my story of the Radwinter family… Thomas Radwinter is a real foodie, likes nothing better than reading recipes, buying fruit and vegetables, cooking, eating… The book I have been looking at is Modern Cookery by Eliza Acton, first published in 1845, and Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book and the edition I have was printed in 1912, fifty years after the original was written.
Eliza’s book isn’t mentioned in the article, which is a shame because she has quite a lot to say about curry, eight pages of her book are given over to currie (curry). She discusses currie in general and Mr Arnott’s currie in particular, and gives us his receipt (recipe) for currie-powder:
- 8 oz turmeric
- 4 oz coriander seed
- 2 oz cummin seed
- 2 oz fenugreek seed
- ½ oz cayenne (more, or less, to taste
Dry, pound and sift the seeds through a lawn sieve.
Eliza also gives Mr Arnott’s receipt using this curry mix:
- finely chop the heart of a cabbage (about the size of an egg)
- add a couple of apples thinly sliced, and the juice of 1 lemon, ½ tsp black pepper and 1 large tbsp of my currie-powder
- mix well
- finely chop and fry six onions until brown with a head of garlic (the size of a nutmeg), finely minced
- add two oz fresh butter and 2tbsp flour and 1 pint of strong mutton or beef gravy
- bring to the boil and add the cabbage, apples, lemon juice, black pepper and my currie-powder (add more cayenne if necessary)
- add roast chicken, or rabbit or lean chops or pork or mutton, or lobster, or the remains of yesterday’s calf’s head, or anything else you may fancy
Mr Arnott claims this will make a fine currie, fit for a king! He also includes a rice recipe, but Eliza prefers her own way of cooking it. She comments on the currie: “we have already given testimony to the excellence of Mr Arnott’s currie-powder, but we think the currie itself will be found somewhat too acid for English taste in general, and the proportion of onion and garlic by one half too much for any but well seasoned Anglo-Indian palates.”
Well of course, we all have lobster or a left-over calf’s head in our pantries!!
Eliza includes receipts for a Bengal currie. a dry currie, a common Indian currie, and Captain White’s receipt for Selim’s curries. She also has curried maccaroni, curried eggs, curried sweetbreads, curried toasts with anchovies, curried oysters (‘let a hundred large sea-oysters be opened into a basin without losing one drop of their liquor’) and curried gravy – I wonder how that would compare to what you get in chip shops? Eliza also mentions that a small portion of Indian pickled mango, or its liquor adds an extra something to a currie or to mullagatawny soup. She observes that in India curds are often added to curries (yoghurt maybe? Or paneer?) but she suggests that maybe because ‘sweet cream’ is scarce in the hot climate.
If you want to read the article which prompted me to write this, the link is below; the actual title is ‘Dripping, apples and milk: Making curry the Victorian way’ – Eliza uses neither dripping or milk!