Special Sub-Topic: Recipes of the Raj
|Welcome, honoured guest to our daylong feast. In this heat it is always best to eat fish early in the day whilst it remains fresh, so our first dish will be an Anglo adaptation of the traditional Indian dish of khichri, or khichdi; a combination of rice, spice and lentils. Our British recipe has taken away the lentils and added boiled eggs and haddock. What is this concoction that we are serving?|
Kedgeree. Kedgeree is often reported as being a Scottish dish but this is probably because it is most commonly served with smoked haddock, a speciality of the eastern ports of Scotland, such as Aberdeen. In truth, kedgeree bears little resemblance to traditional khichri, except for the use of rice. Its name was anglicised when it came to naming the Raj dish nevertheless.
|For those not too keen on fish at this time in the morning, we have a selection of alternative dishes for you all. There's rumble-tumble, craggy toast and ox eyes. The key ingredient to all these dishes has been produced here from animals brought over from England. What is that ingredient?|
Eggs. Rumble-tumble was the Raj name for scrambled eggs. If tomatoes were added to rumble-tumble then it became craggy toast. Ox eyes were slices of fried bread with the centre cut out and replaced by an egg and then baked.
The British were distinctly unimpressed with the eggs that the native chickens produced in India; they were considered too small and too lacking in flavour, so many households raised their own that had been imported from England.
|After such a hearty breakfast, I suggest everyone retires to the veranda for a while to rest. I will call everyone back when its time to serve Tiffin. In the time of the British Raj, what was Tiffin?|
Luncheon. The word Tiffin comes from an eighteenth-century English slang word "tiffing" meaning "sipping". In British India, the term was used to describe the meal that was served between breakfast and dinner, usually around midday time. In parts of modern India, the word remains in use regarding the packed lunches taken to work by Indian men.
|The dish we are serving for our midday meal is a chicken curry dish that has reached out beyond the British Raj to achieve popularity in the Southern US. The chicken is cooked with onions, ginger, garlic and turmeric although not the raisins that are usually added to the American version of the dish. Do you know what we are serving?|
Country Captain. The simplest of Country Captain recipes require nothing more than for chicken to be fried with ghee, turmeric and chillies and served on a bed of fried onions. The recipe that has survived in the USA has many more elements with variations including ingredients such as bacon, almonds, raisins, bell peppers and chicken broth.
The derivation of the name "country captain" is not certain. The word "country" was used by the British to denote anything that came from India and it is assumed the captain came from a real life sea captain, but whether that captain was an Indian native or otherwise is anyone's guess.
|After a leisurely game of croquet on the lawn and as the sun begins its descent towards the horizon, we shall be serving aperitifs. Sherry is available for the ladies but for the gentlemen, we have one of British India's most famous concoctions; three parts gin to one part lime juice with a dash of soda water. Do you know what this cocktail is called?|
Gimlet. Alcohol played a large role in the era of the British Raj, mainly due to the absence of anything else that was safe to drink. Before the popularity of tea enveloped the whole of the British Empire and provided a cure for impure water by boiling it, it was believed that the best way to deal with unclean water was to mix it with alcohol. A culture of heavy drinking soon took hold, only to fall victim to Victorian morality in the latter half of the nineteenth century; drinking before sunset and after dinner were frowned upon, so the aperitif became very "de rigueur".
The fashion for drinks in the Raj moved rapidly. Wine, beer, brandy and whisky were each the predominant fashion before gin's turn in the spotlight. Gin's popularity came about due to the threat of malaria. One of the best defences against the disease known at the time of the Raj was Quinine, a substance extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree. It was figured that the best way to deliver quinine en masse to the ex-pats was to serve it in drink form and so tonic water was born. As the taste of the tonic was a little too bitter for the English palate, it began to be served with gin to soften the taste and so, gin and tonic became the drink of choice.
With the development by British company L. Rose & Co of a method of preserving citrus juice in the latter half of the 19th century, lime cordial arrived in India and the Gimlet was invented.
|If you've all finished your drinks and are steady enough, then please make your way to the dining room. You will soon be served your starter; a soup that was created by the British adding meat and stock to the local "pepper water" soups. The soup's name comes from two words meaning "pepper" and "water". What is our starter?|
Mulligatawny. Soups were not part of the Indian menu before the British arrived, so when the British insisted on soup being served, their Indian cooks served the closest approximation. Rasam, which was a mixture of spices boiled in water with fried onions and tamarind, soon became known to the British as "pepper water". When the recipe was amended to include meat, the name for mulligatawny came from the Tamil word "milagu" meaning pepper and "tunni" meaning water.
Though the recipe nowadays varies wildly from chef to chef, a basic recipe was printed in ES Poynter's "What Shall We Have and How Shall We Have It?" published in Calcutta in 1904. The instructions are as follows;
"Cut up a chicken or piece of mutton into small pieces and wash well. Fry some onions in ghee, take them out, and fry in the ghee one tablespoon curry condiments, sprinkle a little water over them whilst frying, and then add the meat with a teaspoon of salt. When nearly brown, pour in some stock and the fried onions, close the lid. Simmer over a slow fire until the meat is perfectly tender, about one hour. Serve with rice and lemons cut up."
|The centrepiece of the day's offerings is a fine bird that you wouldn't find on the menu back in Old Blighty. However, out here in the time of the Raj, in the absence of turkey this would often be the main meat in the Christmas meal. Which glamorous bird, the national bird of India, is it?|
Peacock. Though the turkey was introduced to India from America in the late eighteenth century, it was never bred particularly well as food. Many didn't adapt to the climate and died. Those that could be bred to maturity tended to be much more fatty than the birds usually served on the Christmas menu. Peacock was considered to be far superior meat, although in certain parts of India it was not served, in deference to Hindus who considered the bird sacred.
Peacock tends to be a very dry meat so had to be continuously basted. This was usually done using bacon fat and the result, according to Emma Roberts writing in 1837, had "the flavour of the pheasant with the juiciness of the turkey."
|As well as adapting Indian styles of cooking into their own diets, the British introduced new vegetables to the Indian diet. One such vegetable was the cauliflower. Our vegetable accompaniment to the main course is a dish containing cauliflower. Which dish is this?|
Aloo Gobi. The cauliflower was brought over from England some time in the mid-eighteenth century and was an instant and spectacular success, to the extent that in parts of Northern India, particularly Bengal, Aloo Gobi is almost considered a national dish.
Gobi is the Hindi word for cauliflower, and aloo the word for potato. These two ingredients are at the centre of the dish but it is the spices added that make it such a wonderful creation. Turmeric, cumin and kalonji seeds, fenugreek, coriander and garam masala are blended with garlic, ginger, a touch of lemon and tomatoes to create a beautifully aromatic dish.
|In the centre of the table you will find some condiments that you should recognise from your larder at home in Britain. It may surprise you to learn that one of them comes from a recipe that was devised in India. Do you know which one?|
Worcestershire Sauce. The recipe for Worcestershire Sauce, which is still a closely guarded secret today, was first brought back from India by a member of the Sandys family, most likely Lady Sandys, in 1835. It was taken to a chemist shop run by two men, by the names of John Lea and William Perrins, who were asked to make up the sauce. Messrs Lea and Perrins obliging made a barrel of the concoction and dutifully tried it. Finding it unbearably hot and unpleasant, the barrel was confined to the cellar.
Many months later, whilst clearing out the cellars, they came across the barrel again. Just to confirm their first reaction, they tried the liquid again and found that, through fermentation, it had turned into something quite special. Delighted with their discovery, Lea and Perrins bought the recipe from Sandys and launched the sauce commercially in 1838.
Henderson's relish, though similar to Worcestershire sauce, was invented in Sheffield in the late eighteenth century.
|After such a large dinner, it is probably best that we end on something light, a simple dessert of a fruit with condensed milk. This fruit, native to India, was a revelation to the British when they arrived here but now is ubiquitous in Indian restaurants and supermarkets across the UK, in its chutney form. Which juicy orange-fleshed fruit is it?|
Mango. The mango, which is the national fruit of both India and Pakistan, was unknown to the British before their arrival in India but became an overnight sensation upon their discovery. Samples were sent back home and recipes for mango puddings sprung up throughout the nation.
Eating the fruit itself was considered to be such a messy occupation that it was recommended that the best place to undertake the process was in the bath tub.
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