Category: British

Consider The Mutton Curry


Today we are taking a huge step back in time and heading back to  the time of gas lamps, hansom cabs and thick London fogs.  How nice then in this cold inhospitable atmosphere to pop into the Oriental Club for a spicy mutton curry to warm your cockles on a cold winter’s night!  Just think, Arthur Conan Doyle could have tucked into this curry as he pondered the intricacies of the first Sherlock Holmes story.  

And now you can too!

19th Century Curry 2 Our mutton curry comes from  1861  from The Oriental Club’s chef, Richard Terry who made use of the ingredients from the first Asian grocery warehouse in  London to recreate a curry recipe he had learned from Indian cooks.  It is also indicative of Britain’s and Briton’s long-lasting love of curry! 

This is certainly not a curry in a hurry!  There are several parts to making this, which is time-consuming but if you have the patience, it is well worth the effort.  Also, whilst the original recipe called for mutton, I used lamb.  I could not find mutton anywhere – not even dressed as lamb.  Funnily enough though, my mum says that in Sri Lanka when any recipe called for lamb or mutton, what they actually used was goat so use what you can get.

19th Century Curry Powder ingredientsFirst up, you need to roast up some spices to make a curry powder.  This will make more than you need for one curry so you will have supplies if you want to make this again or you can use it in other curries. 

19th Century Curry PowderOne thing that is strange about this curry is that you not only need a curry powder but also a curry paste. 

Whilst we’re roasting and grinding those spices, let’s talk Sherlock!  I am a HUGE fan of the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Andrew Scott because who doesn’t love a bad boy right?  And I am over the moon excited to see Series 4.  Tom Hiddleston! Colin Farrell! This series is  going to be AWESOME! 

19th Century Curry Paste IngredientsNow, a very weird thing about this curry paste is that it contains lentils which you grind up.  I have never heard of this technique before but…hey, if it’s good enough for the The Duke of Wellington, who was the President of the Oriental Club back in the day, it’s good enough for me!  The genius stroke is that they help to make the gravy lovely and thick. 

Mutton curry (maybe even one based on this recipe!) features as a clue in a Sherlock Holmes story.  In The Adventure of Silver Blaze, which not only contains the phrase”Consider the mutton curry,” the title of this post but also “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, a mutton curry is doused with powdered opium, putting the stable boy meant to be guarding the race horse Silver Blaze into a stupor and hence rendering him unable to do his job. 

19th Century Curry Paste

The paste mix will also make more than you need for one curry but will keep in the fridge for months.

Sadly, Sherlock Holmes may not have been a fan of curry.  At least not according to the 1946 film, Terror by Night.  This however is not based on a Conan Doyle story so this is open for debate.  Terror By Night is also available for free download here.  Personally, I think Sherlock would have been a fan of this mutton curry…with or without a garnish of powdered opium. 

  19th Century Curry 2

The 19th Century Mutton Curry was delicious, dark and spicy, thanks to those lentils, the gravy was lovely and thick and the meat was tender.  This was a winner!  And hey, I’ve got paste and powder left so I’ll definitely be making it again!

Best served with an ice-cold beer! Whilst watching Series 4 of Sherlock!

Any leftovers?  A curry jaffle is THE best hangover food known to man.  Just sayin’. Tis the season after all!

Oh and by the way, the Oriental Club still exists and curries still feature on the menu.  I am adding to the list for a trip to London next year!

19th Century British Mutton Curry
A delicious mutton curry from the days of The Raj, Queen Victoria and Sherlock Holmes!
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19th Century British Curry Powder
  1. 2 tbsp ground turmeric
  2. 5 tsp ground coriander
  3. 2 tsp ground ginger
  4. 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  5. 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  8. 1/2 tsp ground cloves
19th Century British Curry Paste
  1. 4 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  2. 2 tbsp yellow split peas
  3. 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  4. 1 1/2 whole cumin seeds
  5. 1 tbsp whole brown mustard seeds
  6. 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  7. 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  8. 1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  9. 2 tsp salt
  10. 2 tsp sugar
  11. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  12. 120ml cider vinegar
  13. 6 tbsp corn, peanut or olive oil
  1. 675g bones lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  2. 2 tbsp 19th Century British Curry Powder
  3. 1 tbsp 19th Century British Curry Paste
  4. 200g onions, peeled and finely chopped
  5. 4 tbsp corn, peanut oil or ghee
  6. 3/4 - 1tsp salt
For The 19th Century British Curry Powder
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar. Mix. Cover with a tight lid.
  2. Store away from heat and sunlight.
  3. Makes 7 tablespoons.
For The 19th Century British Curry Powder
  1. Put the coriander seeds, split peas, peppercorns and cumin into a medium cast iron frypan and set on medium heat. Stir and roast until the split peas are reddish, the coriander has turned a shade darker and all the spices begin to give off a roasted aroma.
  2. Empty them into a bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Put the roasted spices and the mustard seeds into a spice grinder or food processor and grind as finely as possible. Place in a bowl.
  4. Add thee turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, salt, sugar, garlic and vinegar.
  5. Stir to mix.
  6. Pour the oil into a small non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat.
  7. Add the spice paste.
  8. Stir and fry for around 5 minutes or until it browns slightly.
  9. Cool, then empty into a jar.
  10. Cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.
For The Curry
  1. Put the oil or ghee in a heavy, wide, lidded pan. Set it over a medium high heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, stir in the onions and fry them until they are lightly browned.
  3. Add the curry powder and curry paste.
  4. Stir a few times then add the meat and half the salt.
  5. Stir and fry for a few minutes until the meat is coated in the spice mix.
  6. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
  7. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add 600ml water and increase the heat/ Bring to the boil.
  9. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick.
  10. Season to taste and serve.
  1. If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the lid and let it boil down.
Adapted from Richard Terry's Indian Cookery, 1861 via Madhur Jaffrey
Adapted from Richard Terry's Indian Cookery, 1861 via Madhur Jaffrey
Retro Food For Modern Times
Have a great week!  Enjoy your holidays if you are on them, enjoy Sherlock S4 if you are watching.  Let me know if you are, we can compare notes after!

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Sussex Pond Pudding

In a weird coincidence, the last three cookbooks I have read have all contained recipes for Sussex Pond Pudding. I had never heard of such a thing  before and suddenly, it was stalking me!  The universe was absolutely, positively telling me something.  And I took that message to be that I should make one.  Because that’s what the universe does right?  Offers a gentle guiding hand to point you in the direction of where you need to be going. 

But first, somewhat of a digression.  The cognitive bias that had me seeing Sussex Pond Pudding everywhere has a name – The Bader-Meinhof Phenomenom.  It occurs when a word, name or thing comes into your attention and shortly afterwards it reappears with what seems like greater than normal frequency.  I’d love to know if, after reading this any of you randomly hear the words Bader-Meinhof or Sussex Pond Pudding over the next few weeks.   Let me know if you do. 

My most recent sighting of a Sussex Pond Pudding (kinda makes it sound like the Loch Ness Monster) came from Big Table, Busy Kitchen by Allegra McEvedy.

I find Allegra McEvedy immensely likeable and all of her recipes that I have tried have been successful.  She describes the Sussex Pond Pudding as follows:

“This classic English Steamed Pudding is definitely of a superior nature to most of it’s steamy brethren…it’s the only steamed pudding I ever make and I need to make it at least once a winter”

High praise! 

The next reference came from  The National Trust’s Complete Traditional Recipe Book by Sarah Edington.

She offers some the following explanation of the name.

“Sussex and Kent extend their rivalry to puddings – the most famous being Sussex Pond Pudding and Kentish Well Pudding.  The former consists of a suet crust enclosing butter, brown sugar and a whole lemon, and in the latter currants are added.  Either way, when the pudding is cut open, a rich sweet syrup, the well or pond  – oozes out.”

The final book (which was actually the first book I read containing those three words was Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking.  Which you can read more about here.

You may have noticed that thus far, you have not seen any of my photos of the Sussex Pond Pudding.  I thought I would intersperse my pictures with Laurie’s commentary.

By the way, Laurie Colwin calls it Suffolk Pond Pudding.  For the sake of consistency, I will refer to it as Sussex Pond Pudding throughout.

But first.  Can we talk about suet? OMFG – was a more disgusting substance ever invented?  This has to figure right up there with the civet pooping coffee and that bird embryo they keep getting people to eat on Survivor and The Amazing Race.  I had to look it up because I was actually not too sure what it was.  I wish I hadn’t

Suet – raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys. 

I am really sorry British people who eat this stuff all the time but that is just disgusting.  Raw sheep kidney fat.  Exactly what I want in my sweet pudding. 

Turns out you can buy (fake?) suet in the supermarket and it looks kind of like breadcrumbs of butter.  So not as bad as you might think.  Just try not to think where those buttery breadcrumbs come from. 

And that pastry?  Was a bastard of a thing to make.  And I was not at all happy with the finished product. It was very both heavy//thick and fragile.  Getting it to line the pudding bowl was a nightmare. 

Suet PastryAnd now, over to Laurie Colwin.

“Sussex Pond Pudding although something of a curiousity sounded perfectly it splendid….it never occurred to me that nobody might want to eat it”

No one wanted to eat mine either.  The fussiest eater in the world took one look at it.

“What is that?”

It’s a Sussex Pond Pudding”

“It looks disgusting”

He comes from Kent.  Maybe I should have added currants.

Suet Pastry2Back to Laurie:

“My suet crust was masterful.  When unwrapped from it’s cloth, the crust was a beautiful deep honey colour”

Mine too, at least at the bottom, which became the top where all the butter and sugar had soaked into the pastry.

Sussex Pond Pudding

“My hostess look confused.  “It looks like a baked hat”, she said.

“It looks like the Alien,” my future husband said.

“Never mind, ” I said.  “It will be the most delicious thing you ever tasted”. 

Sussex Pond Pudding2

“I cut the pudding.  As Jane Grigson had promised, out ran a lemon-scented buttery toffee.  I sliced up the lemon which was soft and buttery too.  Each person was to get some crust, a slice of lemon and some sauce.  What a hit!  I thought.  Exactly the sort of thing I adored.  I looked around me happily and my happiness turned to ash”

The buttery lemony sauce was by far the best thing about this .  It was actually quite delicious.  And the soaked buttery pastry was not awful either. 

Sussex Pond Pudding4My host said: “This tastes like lemon-flavoured bacon fat”

“I’m sure it’s wonderful, ” said my hostess.  “I mean, in England”.

The woman guest said “This is awful.”

My future husband remained silent.

Mine did not taste like bacon fat, maybe because I used the fake supermarket suet. If you got it in the right ration of sauce (lots) to pastry (not much) it was actually not too bad.  It was not the “weird inedible sludge from outer space” Laurie Colwin describes however it is also not something I will feel compelled to make at least once a year like Allegra. Or ever again. 

Although I am going to have to find something to do with the rest of that suet!

Sussex Pond Pudding5I guess that sometimes, instead of being that gentle guiding hand, the universe is a smartrase little jokester who is six steps ahead of you laying down banana peels for you to prat fall on. 

And then, just as you are shaking your fist at it, it gives you a little wink and a grin and holds out its hands in a let’s be friends gesture.  In my instance, remember a couple of weeks ago  I said this:

I have a real hankering to go back and watch some early XFiles. I have yet to scratch that particular itch but it’s there….

And lo and behold, I was flicking channels on Saturday night during an ad break in, ok, I admit it, The Hunger Games and look what was on my telly:XfilesJust a couple of minutes before this scene Mulder was examining Scully’s butt for alien probes.  It was AWESOME!  I can’t wait for next Saturday!

Have a great week!

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Retro Food For Modern Times: The Knickerbocker Glory Years – Martin Lampen

“The Knickerbocker Glory Years” is Martin Lampen’s hilarious homage to all that is awful in British food.  From A – All You Can Eat £5.99 to Z – Zest, the book lays out the dark side of British cooking.

I really liked this book.  Lampen’s humour is of the very dry British style.  If you do not like my excerpts you will probably not like the rest of the book.  If you do like them, try to hunt down this book as you will thoroughly enjoy the rest of it.  Also, the same book is called “Sausage in A Basket” in some parts of the world.

Many of the entries are short.  For instance, the entry for Wood Fired Pizza  is:

“Big Fucking Deal”

The longest entry is 13 pages and documents Lampen’s first dinner party in all it’s excruciating awkwardness. This is the type of book you can dip in and dip out of as you require, it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover.

Given that I touched on the 1970’s fondness for Ham Steak and Pineapple in the last post, Lampen’s take on Gammon is:

“The pig is slaughtered, its hind legs are removed, cured, glazed in honey and sliced into steaks.  If this isn’t indignity enough, the steaks are then topped with a single wet pineapple ring from a dented tin and a waxy maraschino cherry.

Yes, gammon steak when topped with egg or pineapple is a peculiarly British dish: a bloated pink slab of fatty meat, topped with a garish fruit hat. Rather like a ‘Nikita’-era Elton John”

On the subject of pineapple, the entry for Tropical is:

“In Britain, any food or drink – be it a concentrated juice, cordial or sugary carbonated fizz – containing lemon, lime, pineapple or mango is tagged as ‘tropical’.

It’s important to note that other items included in the taxonomy ‘tropical’ are tuberculosis, typhoid, tularemia, (and) tropical storm Arlene”

Or, this for Guacamole:

“A filthy Soylent Green-style dip, guacamole is usually served with stale Doritos,  a mountain of melted Cheddar cheese and mayonnaise on  chain-pub’s nacho platter . It’s made from dead people.”

As for the eponymous Knickerbocker Glory Lampen has this to say:

“The knickerbocker glory, a layered dessert served in a tall glass and made with ice cream, tinned peaches, chocolate or fruit sauce and strawberry puree was the first post war dessert to be made in Britain that did not contain suet.

For a young male aged between eight and fourteen in the 1980’s, the knickerbocker glory was the greatest sensual experience one could imagine.  Greater even than being interfered with by Bananarama”

For those of you who have no idea what Bananarama is, firstly it was a they and they were an immensely popular girl band of the 1980’s.

In homage to this book I made my own Knickerbocker Glory and it was about the funnest thing I have eaten all year!!!  And I know full well funnest isn’t a word, but it was so much fun I lost all thoughts about grammar.

My version of Knickerbocker Glory differs from Lampen’s in that I always thought Knickerbocker Glory should contain jelly.  My version contained the following layers:

  • Strawberry jelly (Jello)
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate cookie crumbs
  • Sliced Banana
  • Strawberry Jelly
  • Strawberry Ice-cream
  • Frangelico Fudge Sauce (Recipe follows or you could just use your preferred chocolate sauce)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Rosewater & Almond Tuile (Recipe follows or you could use a bought wafer)
  • Strawberry Garnish

For something that is largely put together from bits and pieces, this looks spectacular! And tastes even better!!!



Frangelico Fudge Sauce

This makes 6 cups, you can obviously adjust quantities down if you do not want this much. This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious!

1 litre cream

250g dark chocolate

200g marshmallows

Frangelico to taste

  1. Heat the cream, chocolate and marshmallows slowly until melted and well combined.
  2. Stir in Frangelico to taste.

Almond and Rosewater Tuiles

These are a little troublesome to make but are worth it in the end!

50g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1 egg-white

1/4 tsp rosewater

Finely grated rind of 1/2 an orange

35g plain flower

30g flaked almonds

pinch of salt

  1. Make a template by drawing a triangle, circle or any shape you want on a plastic lid or a sheet of firm plastic, then cut the shape out.  The shape should be no larger than 5cm in diameter.  Set the template aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add eggwhite and beat on lowest speed until incorporated.
  3. Add rosewater, orange rind, flour and a pinch of salt.  Mix lightly until combined, then refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.  (The batter will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°.  Place template on a baking paper lined tray, add a teaspoon of the batter into the template and spread the mixture with an offset palette knife so that it fills the template in a thin even layer.
  5. Repeat until the baking tray is full.  Scatter almond flakes over each until tuiles are golden brown on the edges (8-10) minutes. While still warm you can shape around a rolling-pin if desired or cool on tray and carefully remove.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter.
  7. Tuiles will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.
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