100 year old recipes for curry powder, curry and chutnee

It so annoys me – which you may have guessed by now if you are kind enough to visit me regularly, that British cooking is supposed to have been as dull as ditch-water until Elizabeth David and others similar introduce “housewives” to garlic. A tiny gallop through the indices of nineteenth century cookery books (and those before) will show that garlic, spices, exotic fruit and vegetables imported from across the world were not just features of the rich, but the more ordinary folk too. I know I have mentioned it before, but my grandma, the daughter of a railway man and a mother who was cleaner before she married, regularly used garlic.

In my latest cookery book find, a second edition dated 1901 of The A1 Cookery Book, ‘written in the simplest possible manner to help the inexperienced’ ,has the following recipes and I use the book’s spellings;

Curry powder

Mix (there is no instruction to grind the seeds but they must be before use!):

  • 8 oz coriander seed
  • 4 oz cunien (cummin?) seed
  • 3 drachms Nepaul cayenne
  • 6 oz curcuma root (some sort of ginger?)
  • 1 oz black pepper
  • ½ oz cardamom seed
  • ¼ oz caraway seed
  • 1 oz fenugreek seed

Use 1 tablespoon of powder to 1 pound of meat


  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 piece of dripping or butter the size of an egg
  • 5 oz meat
  • 3 vegetables of any of the following: cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, broccolii – but not lettuce or spinach
  • 1 dsp curry powder
  • salt
  • gravy or water if using fresh meat
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  1. fry onions in fat
  2. fry meat until a good brown
  3. add vegetables
  4. mix and add curry powder and salt
  5. add meat and vegetables to onions and cook until all is a yellow colour
  6. add gravy or water and vinegar
  7. simmer until the meat is quite tender


  • 3 dozen apples, peeled cored and cut into eight
  • ½ lb preserved ginger scraped (grated)
  • 1 oz mustard seed picked and washed (no need to do that these days!)
  • 6 shalots (this is how shallots are spelled in the book!)
  • 5 Spanish onions cut in thin slices
  • 1½ oz bird’s-eye chillies
  • ½ lb salt (I think for our tastes we might use much less)
  • 2 lbs coarse brown sugar
  • 3 quarts brown vinegar
  • 4 oz sultana raisins
  1. dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar
  2. add everything else and boil until the apple is tender
  3. this chutnee is greatly improved by being kept for six months before being used

Considering the book was written for the inexperienced housewife, the instructions are not at all clear. I have other books which are much better written, but I think the idea of abbreviating everything to make it more like a handbook would have been useful for the more experienced cook!



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