Friday, November 18, 2011

Curring Flavour.

I am very interested in one of the earliest versions of convenience food - the idea of pre-prepared mixes and flavourings.  The idea goes back at least to medieval times with the use of the ‘strong’ and ‘sweet’ spice mixes known as powder forte and powder douce. We don’t know the exact compositions of these mixes unfortunately, and it is likely in any case, that the formula varied slightly from cook to cook, as such things to today.

The master of the concept of pre-mixed flavourings was the inimitable Dr. William Kitchener (1775-1827) whose Magazine of Taste, was the feature for a whole week of posts some time ago. The most ubiquitous and iniquitous modern take on the theme is of course ‘curry powder’, which can include almost anything and therefore means nothing but confusion.

I have a couple of interesting spins on the concept of curry powder today. They are taken from Tempting Curry Dishes (1891) a small promotional booklet for J. P. Smith's Curry Powder. You can of course substitute the curry powder of your choice (perhaps even your own mix.) The ideas might even make interesting gifts.

Curry Oil.
One of the agreeable and at the same time useful oils which should find a place on the shelf of every kitchen or butler's pantry, is known as Curry Oil. It is made by putting into a six-ounce, large-mouthed, glass stopper bottle two tablespoonfuls of J. P. Smith's Curry Powder,
then filling up the bottle- with Antonini Olive Oil. In a week it will be ready for use. A few drops of it should be added to sauces and salads.

Curry Vinegar.
Put into a pint of good cider or wine vinegar a tablespoonful of J. P. Smith's Curry Powder, shake it well from time to time, and in ten days it will be fit for use. It is excellent for flavoring soups, etc.

Curry Essence.
Add three ounces of J. P. Smith's Curry Powder to a quart of white wine vinegar. Put the bottle into a pot of warm water and cork it the same as in cooking beef tea; let it boil an hour, then place at one side to cool and settle. When thoroughly settled pour off the clear liquid and use for flavoring soups and sauces.

Quotation for the Day.

This curry was like a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony that I'd once heard.....especially the last movement, with everything screaming and banging 'Joy.' It stunned, it made one fear great art. My father could say nothing after the meal.
Anthony Burgess

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