Tag Archives: Brighton

Bringing Spice to the Kitchen – Or the British and ‘Curry’

The British in India, from the 17th century onwards, cheerfully lumped the many and varied styles of cooking, and the subtle differences in dishes they encountered, under the term ‘curry’, a word copied from the Portuguese. Pietro della Valle (died 1652) described as ‘caril’ or ‘carre’ the ‘broths… made  with Butter, the Pulp of Indian Nuts… and all sorts of Spices, particularly Cardamons and Ginger… besides herbs, fruits and a thousand other condiments [which are] poured in good quantity upon … boyl’d Rice.’

The British in India ate ‘curry’ with every meal, using the term to cover anything in a spicy sauce. No British lady would dream of undertaking her own cooking, so she would have no idea about how the dishes her Indian household served up were made. Eventually curry powder came to be considered a spice in its own right, completely ignoring the infinite varieties and combinations that might be used. Anglo-Indians might think they were immersing themselves in local culture – like the young East India Company employee above, listening to Indian musicians amongst his European furniture – but they seemed to have no appreciation of the subtleties of the cuisine.

As East India Company officials came back to Britain they brought their taste for curry with them and often they brought their Indian cooks with them. These men had learned to create the first Anglo-Indian cookery style to suit their employers and soon curry began to appear in ordinary household cookery books.

One enterprising India entrepreneur, Sake Dean Mahomed [Sidi Deen Mahomet in some sources], opened the first Indian restaurant in Britain in 1810. I discovered it (or, rather, where it had been) when I was researching for Walking Jane Austen’s London. It was located on the corner of George Street and Charles Street, just North of Portman Square, a fashionable area and one that was home to many retired Anglo-Indians.  The Hindostanee Coffee House even had a smoking room where patrons could smoke hookahs. Despite serving ‘Indian dishes in the highest perfection… allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequaled to any…ever made in England’ the business became bankrupt the following year. Possibly his choice of location was unfortunate and many of the Anglo-Indians could eat curry at home made by their own Indian cooks or they preferred to combine business with curry by patronising the various City coffee houses that served curry alongside English food. Norris Street Coffee House on Haymarket had been serving curry since 1773 when its ‘Mistress’ advertised in The Public Advertiser ‘true Indian curey paste.’ ‘At the shortest Notice [she would send] ready dressed Curey and Rice, also Indian Pilaws, to any Part of the Town.’ East India Company merchants had created almost a club for themselves at the Jerusalem Coffee House on Cornhill. No specialist Indian restaurant appeared again in Central London until the 1920s.

Sake Dean Mahomed (right. Painted by Thomas Mann Baines c.1810) had far more success with his bathing establishment in Brighton. “Mahomed’s Baths. These are ascertained [sic] by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of oriental bathing. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen, and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independently of the gratification it affords, particularly to those who have resided in the East.”  [W. Scott. The House Book or Family Chronicle of Useful Knowledge (1826)] The ‘luxuries of oriental bathing’, I learned when I was researching for The Georgian Seaside, included shampooing – not of the head, but of the whole body in a foaming massage.

The Epicure’s Almanac (1815) has a section on seasonal foods and for July mentions that ‘various preparations of curry afford a delectable repast to those who have acquired a taste for this Indian diet.’ Ready-made curry powder could be bought alongside other spices and was first mentioned in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery (1747).

Here is a recipe for curry made with curry powder from The New London Family Cook (1811) by Duncan McDonald, head cook at the Bedford Tavern and Hotel, Covent Garden. The Bedford Tavern and Hotel was a large establishment on the Great Piazza. It opened in 1726 and continued in business throughout most of the 19th century.

And this is from A New System of Domestic Cookery (1807)

curry 2

curry 3 For a fascinating history of Europe’s love affair with curry, try Lizzie Collingham’s Curry; a biography (2005).

 

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The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside Part 2 – Where to go?

A week after the first suggestion that they should spend the summer at a seaside resort the Witterings gather in the Egyptian (soon to be Chinese if the countess has her way) drawing room before dinner to decide where to go.

‘Brighton,’ says Viscount Ditherstone decisively. Wherever Prinny favours is bound to be lively and he might be able to get an invitation to the Pavilion. (Photo below) Besides, he has heard that all the Cyprians decamp to Brighton during the summer, so there is sure to be some high-class lightskirts to… er… admire.

Brighton pavilion

‘Certainly not,’ two firm female voices announce in concert. For once his wife and his mother are in accord. ‘One hears the most disgraceful things about the company there,’ his wife Almira adds with a significant look in the direction of her daughter.

‘Weymouth is highly respectable, as is Hastings,’ she suggests. ‘And dear Princess Charlotte visited Southend on several occasions (Print below). I have heard it is most select.’

Southend

‘The scenery is nothing out of the ordinary in any of those places.’ The countess is eager to draw scenes of wild seas and craggy cliffs. ‘The Isle of Wight or Scarborough, now, those are said to have fine Romantic views.’

‘Scarborough? Full of northern merchants, I’ll be bound,’ the Earl snorts. ‘You’ll be suggesting Blackpool next! And the Isle of Wight involves a sea crossing.’

‘Fossils and geology though,’ young Arthur pipes up. ‘The Isle of Wight, that is. And interesting sands and cliffs and the Needles for Grandmama.’

‘A good Assembly Room, a theatre and shops are essential.’ Miss Emily, seventeen, has heard about the troops stationed along the Channel coast. So many officers in scarlet coats. Why, it must be a patriotic duty to flirt with such heroes. But she knows better than to mention the fact.

‘Weymouth,’ the Earl decides with unusual firmness. Respectable, lively and good enough for the royal family. ‘You’ll have all the views a person could want, my dear and there are bound to be rocks for young Arthur. And it is as far as I’m prepared to drive, so let that be an end to it. Porrett!’

Weymouth bay from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide-cropped

His secretary, lurking discretely in a corner where he can sigh over Miss Emily’s perfect profile, jumps like a scalded cat. ‘My lord!’

‘Weymouth it is. Sort out accommodation. We will travel at the beginning of June and stay until the end of August.’

‘My lord, I will attend to it with all dispatch.’

Where will Porrett find them to stay? Will Porrett be allowed to come too? You can follow their summer adventures here over the next few months and read about the vibrant world of the early English seaside holiday  in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEB

 

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The Road to Waterloo Week 12 – Income Tax is Here to Stay, A Famous Dipper Dies and Naploleon Digs In

The Fédéres, the hard-core revolutionary group, had attracted tens of thousands of supporters by the second week in May – but this was out of a nation of thirty million and the level of true support for Napoleon was still unclear, not only abroad but also in France. On Sunday 14th May twelve thousand Fédéres marched past Napoleon in the Tuileries, just before the usual Sunday military parade. They were unarmed and appeared in their working clothes – “labouring dresses and dustmen’s hats” according to one observer. While they waited for the muskets that Napoleon promised them (and his Ministers were very dubious about providing) they continued to work on the barricades. Napoleon would ride out every morning to inspect the works which created vast muddy ramparts from Montmartre to Vincennes. Champ de Mars Since early April work had been going on to create a huge temporary amphitheatre on the Champ de Mars. This was intended to house the Champ de Mai which would include a national congress – or perhaps a celebration of the new constitution or… Plans wavered, were changed, fiddled with… but the work went on, with platforms and flag staffs, a vast throne on top of a pyramid and hordes of eagles. Eventually it was held on June 1st. The Champ de Mars still remains as a public park in Paris, located between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. It was named after the Campus Martius in Rome – the field of Mars, the Roman god of war. The space was intended as a drilling and marching ground for the French army. The print shows the École Militaire end of the Field. In England feelings were unsettled. War had still not been declared, but military encampments were springing up all over the south of England, 6,000 horses had been purchased and sent to the Thames ports and 1.5 million cartridges were shipped out of the Ordnance Wharf at Chatham. To further lower the public mood the weather was atrocious, the price of bread was rising, the King’s health was very poor and the promised abolition of the Income Tax had not occurred – in fact on May 12th a Act had been passed to extend it for another year. Newspapers recorded petitions against the war, but the opinion columns made it clear that a declaration was inevitable. Marth Gunn A notable personality had passed away the week before and on Monday the Morning Chronicle recorded the funeral of Martha Gunn, a famous ‘dipper’ or bathing woman from Brighton. “The whole town was in motion to witness [the funeral]. Her remains were followed to the grave by about forty relatives and friends, chiefly bathers. The ceremony throughout was conducted with the greatest order and solemnity.” The print shows the sturdy figure of Martha – she must have needed that solidity and layer of fat to stand in the sea day in, day out, helping to dunk bathers who had been prescribed regular immersion in the sea by their doctors. Dipping The detail from a coloured print shows two sturdy dippers assisting a completely naked female bather, with another striking out from her bathing machine unaided. This is from Political Sketches of Scarborough (1818) and it is interesting that the bathers are nude and that no-one on shore shows the slightest interest in them.

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