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!
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.
First 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.
One 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!
Now, 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.
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.
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!
- 2 tbsp ground turmeric
- 5 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 4 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp yellow split peas
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 whole cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp whole brown mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 120ml cider vinegar
- 6 tbsp corn, peanut or olive oil
- 675g bones lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes
- 2 tbsp 19th Century British Curry Powder
- 1 tbsp 19th Century British Curry Paste
- 200g onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 tbsp corn, peanut oil or ghee
- 3/4 - 1tsp salt
- Combine all the ingredients in a jar. Mix. Cover with a tight lid.
- Store away from heat and sunlight.
- Makes 7 tablespoons.
- 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.
- Empty them into a bowl and allow to cool.
- 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.
- Add thee turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, salt, sugar, garlic and vinegar.
- Stir to mix.
- Pour the oil into a small non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat.
- Add the spice paste.
- Stir and fry for around 5 minutes or until it browns slightly.
- Cool, then empty into a jar.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.
- Put the oil or ghee in a heavy, wide, lidded pan. Set it over a medium high heat.
- When the oil is hot, stir in the onions and fry them until they are lightly browned.
- Add the curry powder and curry paste.
- Stir a few times then add the meat and half the salt.
- Stir and fry for a few minutes until the meat is coated in the spice mix.
- Cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add 600ml water and increase the heat/ Bring to the boil.
- Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick.
- Season to taste and serve.
- If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the lid and let it boil down.