Tag: eggs

Curried favour

Curried favour

This was going to be a post about eggs,  but  I got distracted by curry.

It happened like this. When you start fossicking around newspapers in Trove for egg recipes, curried eggs feature pretty heavily, right back to the late nineteenth century. While my experience of curried egg mainly involves sandwich fillings, these recipes largely involve a curry sauce sauce coating sliced hardboiled eggs.

In fact if you believe newspaper recipes from the first half of last century, Australians were willing to curry just about anything: rabbit, beef, lamb, tongue, tripe, cheese, macaroni, sardines, celery, oysters and even peaches get the curry treatment. (Let’s remember a good, strong curry sauce could spice up the glut ingredient you’d already eaten in every other possible form over months, and disguise meat on the turn.)

Curry’s early popularity in Australia makes perfect sense, given the spread of the British Empire diaspora.  According to Kate Colquhoun’s Taste, Hannah Glasse published a recipe for ‘Currey the India Way’ in her 1747 English cookbook, and from there on curry flavours became more and more popular through Regency and Victorian times.

In spite of the occasional recipe that seems more authentic to our modern understanding (like this 1911 one with red lentils – basically a dhal), early 20th century curry often involved sweet ingredients like sultanas (why oh why?), banana, or apple. Some recipes even included jam. That’s the sort of curry we children of the 1970s recognise.

Keen’s curry

Although it’s part of a wider Empire tradition, Australia’s curry tradition is also distinctive. The curry powder we had in our 1970s cupboard was always Keen’s, originally a Tasmanian brand. After migrating from England in 1842,  Joseph Keen ran a bakery, grocery and postmaster near Hobart. He and his wife, Annie Burrows manufactured their own sauces and spice mixes, including their prize-winning curry powder.

The Keen family liked a minimalist advertising style (Tasmanian News, 20 May 1898, Trove, National Libary of Australia)

We all usually had Keen’s mustard too. But did you know that these two products had completely unrelated histories until the 1950s? Keen’s mustard dates back to 1740s England. Reckitt & Colman, who made Keen’s mustard in Australia, bought the formula rights to Keen’s curry in 1954, and they’ve both been owned by McCormick Food since 1998.

A curry recipe

Of course now we’d be more likely to roast and grind our own spices for a curry, or buy a paste. And we’d first check if it’s a Thai curry or Indian,  Sri Lankan or Malaysian. The days of curry just being curry are long gone.

Unless we’re talking curried eggs. You don’t really need a recipe, but here’s how I do mine. Like many foods of childhood, people have mixed feelings about curried egg, but in my view you can’t beat a classic.

You need some mayo to stick things together, but not so much that you overpower the flavour.  On the other hand, you need a solid hit of curry or else what’s the point?

Curried egg sandwiches

Serves 2.

  • 4 slices of bread, buttered
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of curry powder of your choice (to taste)
  • a few chives, snipped
  • lettuce

Hard boil the eggs. When cooled, peel and mash the eggs. Add mayonnaise, curry powder, chives and salt, stir well. Butter the bread, and layer egg evenly then add lettuce. Sit back and relive your childhood.




The sincerest form of flattery

The sincerest form of flattery

Are ‘mock’ foods poor imitations or making the best of what you have?

We’re pretty familiar with the idea of replicating a favourite food using other ingredients. Catering for common dietary restrictions and food intolerances have introduced us to vegan hotdogs, fakon, soy milk, and egg substitutes. Just because we can’t eat a food doesn’t mean we don’t want to feel like we’re eating it from time to time.

And disguising foods is nothing new. As kids we’ve all been told that there was defintiely no [insert hated ingredient here] in the meal in front of us.

Old recipes abound for all sorts of ‘mock’ dishes – everything from mock duck, pigeon, goose or fish through to mock raspberry jam or mock cream. Maybe the real thing was unobtainable (mock cream). Perhaps you had a glut of produce (mock rasperry jam was made of tomatoes or melons). Or you wanted to dress up less palatable foodstuffs – even disguise their borderline freshness.

Savory duck recipe, Camperdown Chronicle

Have a look at this recipe for ‘Savory duck’, from my home town paper, the Camperdown Chronicle, in 1934. You have to admit that calling it ‘Ox liver balls wrapped in pig’s caul and shaped like turkey eggs’ wouldn’t be anywhere near as appealing. See the original recipe on the National Library of Australia’s Trove website.

Transcript below:

“Savory Duck —Mince one pound of ox liver and add to it eight ounces of white breadcrumbs, two large onions parboiled and chopped, half a small teaspoonful of powdered sage, and pepper and salt to taste. Mix the ingredients well together and form the mixture into balls the size of turkey eggs. Wrap each portion in a piece of pig’s caul and place them side by side in a baking-tin. Moisten them with a teacupful of gravy or water and bake them in a slow oven for an hour.”

Then there are dishes that just defy explanation, like this 1932 mock tripe recipe from the Port Lincoln Times. It replaces tripe with ‘lamb flaps’. Hard to pick the least appetising option there.

Mock chicken

Not surprisingly, the poor old rabbit was something that regularly got disguised. Australian recipes from the 40s and 50s feature plenty of ‘mock chicken’, rabbit-based dishes. I don’t imagine anyone was fooled – and perhaps that wasn’t the point. If rabbit was your only meat most of the week, it was probably just nice to pretend it was something else from time to time. And what better than chicken, which you probably only got at Christmas IF you were lucky?

Mock chicken sandwiches were pretty easy to come by at the country hall afternoon teas of my childhood. Rather than rabbit, this was a savoury cheese and egg mixture. I recall my aunt making a particularly good version (she makes a particularly good version of pretty much everything).

I had a go at making this version from my copy of Cookery the Australian Way. They call it Mock Duck – perhaps by the time of my edition chicken had become a bit commonplace.

For this to be the legit mock chicken of my childhood, you really have to use Kraft cheddar. Which I did.

Mock chicken (or duck if you want to be all fancy like Cookery the Australian Way)

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 shakes pepper
  • 1 teaspoon herbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs grated cheese

Peel and chop tomatoes. Melt butter in saucepan and saute onion. Add tomatoes, pepper and herbs. Cook until tender (10 mins). Beat egg and add with cheese to mixture. Stir over low heat until thickened.

The result is quite a tasty, slightly scrambled eggy, topping. It looks nothing like chicken, and no one would think it WAS chicken – but I suppose the onion and herbs do supply a savouriness reminiscent of roast chicken.

And maybe that’s a reason for eating ‘mock’ food that we share with cooks of earlier times: in the end it’s just a way to evoke a flavour, a texture, even the idea of a food, when you don’t have the real thing.