On this day in 1880, a dinner was given in honour of Lord Frederick Roberts, to commemorate his actions as commander in the second Anglo-Afghan War. The Treaty of Gandamak which officially ended the first phase of the war was signed on 26 May 1879. Major-General Roberts had taken possession of Kabul by mid-October of that year, and by the end of August 1880 he had reached and successfully taken Kandahar. Roberts, who had been born in India, was, in 1881, appointed as commander-in-chief of the Madras army (1881)
The event – which became known as ‘the Afghan War Dinner’ - was held on October 20 1880, at Government House in Calcutta. This is the bill of fare:
Diner du 20 Octobre.
Consommé au soldat victorieux.
Purée a la Kurrum.
Petites Bombes à la Peiwar Kotal, sauce Goorkha.
Mouton rôti a l'Afghan.
Poules de Charasiab à la blanc.
Le Hachis de Sherpur à la Mahomed Jan.
Galantine a la General Roberts.
Côtelettes sans culottes à la quatre-vingt-douze.
Faisans et Perdreaux rôtis à la Ayoub.
Asperges en branches.
Pudding de Marza.
Pains de Kandahar à la Ghazi blanc.
Officiers Russes en paille.
As can easily be seen, many of the dishes on the menu paid homage to significant names and places of the war. I will leave a full explanation to a military historian, if one of them sees fit to comment, but a few examples are:
Ayoub: the leader of the Afghan forces in Kandahar.
Peiwar Kotal: site of a battle fought on December 2, 1879.
Mahomed Jan: a Wardak ([Pashtun) general.
Charasiab: site of a battle fought on October 6, 1879.
These names of course tell us nothing about the actual food, but they were almost certainly classic British Victorian-era dishes tweaked slightly (or not) and re-named for the occasion. Generally speaking, innovation in cookery was not a highly valued attribute at the time, – a fine cook was expected to reproduce and garnish the classic dishes well. And in any case – to invent so many new dishes would have been a huge task.
The dish named for Roberts himself is a galantine, so that is what I will give you today – and a very fine and elegant one it is too.
Pick, draw, and singe a fat hen-turkey; cut off the legs, pinions, and neck, leaving the crop skin whole; bone it entirely, and remove almost all the meat from the fillets and legs, and free the leg parts of all sinew;
Make some forcemeat, with:
4 lbs. of fillet of veal, well freed from skin and gristle;
4 lbs. of fat bacon, freed from rind and gristle;
Season with 2 ½ oz. of spiced salt;
Chop and pound both together in a mortar;
Make a salpicon of 1 ½ lb. of tongue, 1 ½ lb. of peeled truffles, and 1 ½ lb. of blanched fat bacon;
Cut the whole in ¾ inch dice;
Spread the turkey-skin on the board; on it make a 1-inch layer of the forcemeat; then a layer of the meat cut from the turkey; sprinkle over some spiced salt, and make a layer of salpicon, another layer of forcemeat; spread on it the remainder of the turkey-meat; season with spiced salt; make another layer of salpicon, and lastly a layer of forcemeat; fold over the skin to enclose the whole, and sew it together with a trussing needle and fine twine;
Wrap the galantine in a napkin, and tie each end securely; tie it across in two places, to keep the galantine of an oval shape with round ends; put it in a braizing stewpan; cover it well with Mirepoix;
Close the stewpan, and boil and simmer gently for four hours; when the galantine is done, take the stewpan off the fire; let the galantine cool in the liquor for an hour;
Drain and untie it; tie it up again in a clean napkin; and put it on a dish with a 7 lbs. weight on the top; when cold, take the galantine out of the napkin; put it on a baking-sheet in front of the open oven for two minutes to melt the fat; wipe it off with a cloth, and glaze the galantine with Chicken Glaze;
Make a rice socle 2 inches high, and of the size and shape of the galantine; spread some Montpellier Butter on it, and put it on a dish; place the galantine on it, and garnish the top of the galantine and round the bottom of the socle with croutons of Meat Jelly.
Three silver skewers, garnished with cocks' combs and truffles, may be stuck in the galantine, and will improve its appearance.
The Royal Cookery Book (1869) BY Jules Gouffé.