Saturday, April 14, 2007

Curried Eggs.



Karen piqued my interest and my memory with her comment on the Eggs, Nineteenth Century Style post of a few days ago. She mentioned a Curried Egg recipe from the marvellous, inimitable M.F.K. Fisher’s An Alphabet for Gourmets with the wonderful name of Hindu Eggs. I remembered then a Curried Eggs recipe from my childhood in England – a dreadful mess of hard-boiled eggs and apples which I could never quite fathom.

Curried Eggs are, like kedgeree, mulligatawney soup, and ‘devilled’ dishes an Anglo-Indian concept that is a legacy of the British Empire. Curried Eggs intersect at some point with ‘Devilled’ Eggs, and the distinction seems to be that the devilled version contains cayenne pepper (plus perhaps other savoury ingredients such as anchovy sauce) and is ‘dry’, whereas the curried version includes ‘curry powder’ and has a sauce or ‘gravy’. The curry powder may be in the eggs or the sauce. These ‘distinctions ’ only serve to highlight the decidedly Anglo-Indian concept of ‘curry’ itself of course.

Karen’s comment set me on a trail in search of historic recipes for Curried Eggs, and I now pass on my findings (to date) for your enjoyment.

Mrs Beeton (1861) does not have a recipe for Curried Eggs, which is perhaps surprising. The earliest recipe I have found to date is from the 1870’s (I am sure there will be earlier ones, and I eagerly await your comments). I rediscovered the recipe for Hindu Eggs (1949), thanks to Karen, and also found a version of my childhood nightmare, complete with apples.

1870’s:

Eggs, Curried.
Fry a couple of middle-sized onions in butter, and stir into the pan,as soon as the onions are slightly browned,one tablespoonful of curry powder. Mix well, and add by degrees half a pint of veal stock; keep stirring the sauce till it is smooth and thick. When the mixture has simmered from ten to fifteen minutes, add, carefully stirring, two table-spoonfuls of cream, and let it simmer a few minutes longer. Have ready sliced half a dozen hard boiled eggs, lay them in the curry sauce long enough to get quite hot, then serve both together on a dish.
[Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; England; 1870’s]

1908:

India Curried Eggs.
Cut hard-boiled eggs in halves; then fry 1 small chopped onion and 1 chopped apple in hot butter; add ¼ cup of pounded almonds and 1 pint of milk, mixed with ½ tablespoonful of cornstarch. Season with salt and a dessertspoonful of curry-powder. Let cook ten minutes; then add the eggs. Let all get very hot. Serve with croutons; garnish with fried parsley.
[365 Foreign Dishes; England; 1908]

1925:

Curried Eggs.
Three eggs, half a pint of milk, one ounce of butter, half an ounce of flour, quarter of a teaspoonful of curry powder, quarter of a teaspoonful of salt, pepper.
Hard boil the eggs. Melt the butter and stir in the flour, curry powder , etc. and gradually stir in the milk, which must be hot.
Cut the eggs in half lengthways, and then again, and heat them in the sauce. Serve them very hot.
[The Gentle Art of Cookery; England; Mrs C F Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley; 1925]

1943:

This British wartime recipe came under the heading of Suggested Egg Dishes to replace or eke out Meat. The author recommends using hard-boiled eggs as a substitute in the following recipe – which includes not only apples but also plum jam. Please take particular notice of the optional ingredients too. If you make this recipe,do let us know, wont you?

Curry of Cold Meat.
1 lb of cold meat, cut into small pieces
1 apple, (peeled, cored, and chopped)
3 heaped teaspoons of Flour
1 small onion, (chopped finely)
1 tomato, (skinned and sliced), if in season
1 teaspoonful of chutney
juice of ½ lemon
¾ pint of stock or water or milk and water
1 ½ oz of butter or margarine
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 dessertspoonful of jam (preferably plum)
(sliced bananas, shredded or dessicated coconut, sultanas etc may be added to taste)

Fry the onion in the butter in a saucepan, add the apple and tomato (if used), fry a minute or two longer; mix flour and curry powder, add to the butter etc, and cook for 3 mintues, stirring and shaking the pan well; add the chutney, jam, and lemon juice, lastly the stock or liquid used; bring to the boil, then skim and simmer for 1 hour. Add the meat and simmer for ½ hour longer. Serve on a hot dish with a border of boiled reice. Garnish with lemon, or slices of hard-boiled eggs.
[Practical Cookery: Cookery under Rationing; England; 1943]

1949:

Hindu Eggs, 1949
12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3-4 cups heavy cream sauce.

Cut the eggs once lengthwise and then mix their yolks well with all the other ingredients except the cream sauce; that is, make a good recipe for deviled eggs of any proper picnic, but adding curry powder. Stuff the eggs, put them together in their proper shape, and let stand several hours or overnight, to bring out the heat of the curry. Place in a shallow buttered casserole, cover with hot bland sauce, place in a medium oven till almost bubbling, and serve. Use more cream sauce if it is to be served with rice. The eggs should have a strong curry flavour, in contrast to the gentle sauce, so some experimentation with your brand of curry powder is a good idea.
[The Alphabetical Gourmet; M.F.K.Fisher]

Fisher suggests that this is a good hot weather dish, and recommends it be served with a green salad and some beer. Sounds good to me.

11 comments:

Karen Resta said...

Wow. That curried eggs with the apples *is* a bit scary, Janet. Most recipes I can taste by reading, but really I can not quite "get" this one. Hmmm. I wonder. Should I try it some day?

Then my children could have this memory, too. :)

The Old Foodie said...

Karen - there are only so many meals one can eat in a lifetime, so I would strongly advise that you dont try the egg-curry-with-apples. You dont want to give your children THAT sort of memory, do you?
The Hindu Eggs sounds pretty good though - and the sort of thing that kids would find fun.

Paul said...

I had to go back to my old copy of MFK Fisher for the Hindu Egg recipe and then I remembered a series of recipes from Madhur Jaffrey in her “World Vegetarian Cookbook.” I originally read it collected in Holly Hughes’s Best Food Writing 2000. Madhur discussed her fathers absolute love of fried eggs dotted with her mother’s special salt mixture (a mixture that included ground and roasted cumin seeds). She mentions that the Indian way of frying eggs, fried eggs karara (or “crisp”), is “over high heat in lots of oil so that the edges of the whites turned crisp and brown.” She goes on to give a salt mixture that I believe is the one her mother used:

Indian Salt Mixture

1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp kosher salt

Put the cumin, coriander, and peppercorns in a small cast-iron frying pan over meduim-high heat. Stir and roast for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cumin seeds turn a shade darker. Turn off the heat and cool off. Grind the seeds finely in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Add the salt and mix. Store in a tightly lidded jar.

Makes about 2 tbsp.

Personally, I like my eggs poached, with a simple pinch of fleur de sel and sweet smoked parika.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Paul, that fried egg with special salt recipe sounds really great, thanks for sharing it with us. I've been over to visit your blog too - keep up the good work! Janet

Liz O'Dwyer said...

Just discovered your site. Resally interesting and well-informed.
Keep up the good work!

Liz

Robin said...

Anglo-Indian curries are a speciality that haven't travelled well; if it's true that Canada is awash in excellent, authentic Subcontinental cuisines, it's also true that the old "whitened" comfort foods deserve mention in the curry pantheon.

Years ago I had a recipe for curried eggs that included no cream sauce. It was prepared as a stir-fry, in a curried-imbibed oil, with vegetables, and served over rice. Sadly I've lost it now. As I recall, it was good nosh.

Great blog!

Robin

Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit
http://rustyring.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Soft-scrambled eggs with just a pinch of yellow curry -- absolute heaven. Just try it.

Val and Ollie said...

I've had the 1925 version a number of times and it is pretty good! I love curry so it wasn't a stretch. Served with steamed rice or wedges of toast. I think it was a "grown up brunch" item my mum had served...

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Val and Ollie - I love it when a story strikes a personal chord. thanks for sharing.
Janet

Anonymous said...

My British mother grew up in 1920s and early 1930s India. Her father was a District medical officer in rural Bihar. She used to tell me that when a hostess served her guests curried eggs, it was an unspoken indication that you had stayed long enough. The budget could not run to serving meat any longer.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Anonymous - I love your story! Thanks so much for sharing.
Paul - I am absolutely definitely going to make that salt mix.