SPECIAL FEATURE – FOOD LOVERS MAGAZINE WINTER 2015

Preserving Colonial Flavours

Bridget White-Kumar, author of six Anglo-Indian cookbooks, reflects on culture and tradition from the Colonial Anglo-Indian Era.

I hail from a charming little mining town called Kolar Gold Fields, in the erstwhile Mysore State, now a part of Karnataka. I was born into a well-known Anglo-Indian family in KGF, tracing our roots back to British, Portuguese and Dutch ancestry. The Kolar Gold Mines were owned and operated by the British mining firm of John Taylor & Sons for almost a century. Four generations of my family lived and worked in the KGF Mines. The town had an old-world bonhomie about it, and was known for its affectionate and warm people. It was unique in its secular and egalitarian society. KGF was known as ‘Little England’ due to its colonial ambience, and European and Anglo-Indian population. Our lives were greatly influenced by the culture and ways of the Raj. There was no dearth of British goods in the 1940s and 50s. Goods were imported from England and sold through The English Ware House, Spencer’s Stores and various clubs in KGF. For as long as I can remember, there was always a good supply of Kraft Cheese, Tuna Fish, Polson’s Butter, Colman’s Mustard, Sardines, Baked Beans, Jams, Jellies and Quaker Oats, in our home.

Our food habits were typically Anglo-Indian. Breakfast was normally a bowl of porridge, toast with butter, jam and eggs. Sundays saw sausages, bacon or ham on the table. Lunch was a typical Anglo-Indian meal consisting of steamed rice, beef curry with vegetables, ‘pepper water,’ and a vegetable side-dish. Dinner was always dinner rolls with a meat dish; it was an unwritten rule that no one ate rice at dinnertime. We ate beef or mutton every day, fish invariably on Wednesdays and Fridays, and either Pork, Chicken or Duck on Sundays.

 

quote1(1)  My mum made asimple and delicious dessert, Bread and Butter Pudding, practically every Sunday. She followed an old handwritten recipe that was handed down to her from her grandmother. It was real comfort food; on a cold rainy night, I still feel nostalgic for my mum’s warm Bread Pudding. quote2(1)

My mum was an exceptional cook; even simple dishes tasted delicious when she cooked them. She was versatile and imaginative in the kitchen. She would improvise and turn out the most delicious curries with whatever ingredients were on hand. Our Ayah would grind the masalas for the curry on the grinding stone; in those days everything was prepared fresh and from scratch. Ready-made curry powders were unheard of. And since we had no gas or kerosene stoves back then, every dish was cooked over a wood-fired stove, which only added to the wonderful taste!

Lunch on the weekends were special. Saturday lunch was invariably Mince Ball Curry, Saffron-Coconut Rice and Devil Chutney. On Saturdays, we only had half-days at school, so we were back home by 12.30 pm, ravenously hungry and we’d be assailed by the delicious aromas of mum’s cooking even before we reached our gate.

 

Cauliflower Foogath

The mince for the Ball Curry, had to be just right. The meat was brought fresh from the Butcher Shop, cut into pieces, washed and then minced at home. Like every Anglo-Indian family, we had our own meat-mincing machine, which was fixed to the kitchen table. The freshly ground meat from the machine was then mixed with the required ingredients, shaped into even balls, then slowly dropped into the boiling gravy and left to simmer in a rich coriander and coconut sauce. The curry was famously known as ‘bad-word curry.’ The word ‘ball’ was considered a bad word in those days, and family elders wouldn’t dare utter it for fear of committing a sin.

The Saffron or Yellow Coconut Rice was always prepared with freshly squeezed coconut milk and butter. Like the meat mincer, the coconut scraper was another important appendage of the Anglo-Indian kitchen, fixed firmly to the other side of the kitchen worktable. Sometimes, two fresh coconuts would be broken and grated for the Coconut Rice. The grated coconut had to be soaked in hot water and the thick milk extracted. For every cup of rice, twice the quantity of coconut milk was added – a little more would make the rice ‘pish pash’ or over-cooked, and a little less would leave the rice under-cooked. The raw rice and coconut milk would then be simmered with ghee or butter, saffron, bay leaves and a few whole spices of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves till the rice was cooked perfectly.

 

A recipe book from the early 20th Century, handed down to Bridget from her mother.

My favourite dessert was Bread and Butter Pudding. My mum made this simple and delicious dessert practically every Sunday. She followed an old handwritten recipe that was handed down to her from her grandmother. It was real comfort food; on a cold rainy night, I still feel nostalgic for my mum’s warm Bread Pudding.

The Anglo-Indian community has a long history that can be traced back to the early part of the 16th Century, to the advent of the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish, who came to India to trade in spices. Towards the latter half of the 18th century, the British made their presence felt with the establishment of the East India Company. With inter-marrying, a new multi-racial community came into existence, which evolved into the Anglo-Indian community.

quote1(1)  In a world fast morphing into a Global Village, many of the old traditional colonial dishes are not prepared in Anglo-Indian homes, as recipes have died with the older generation who cooked with intuition and memory rather than from written notes. quote2(1)

 

Anglo-Indian cuisine therefore evolved over many hundred years as a result of reinterpreting a quintessentially western cuisine by assimilating ingredients and cooking techniques from all over the Indian sub-continent. Thus a new contemporary cuisine came into existence making it truly ‘Anglo’ and ‘Indian’ in nature; neither too bland nor too spicy, but with a distinct flavour of its own. It became a direct reflection of the new colonial population.

The British did not like Indian food and taught their khansamas to prepare dishes from their own hometowns. However, over a period of time, a few local ingredients were added to the dishes, and they experimented with making puddings and sweets using local ingredients. Their soups were seasoned with cumin and pepper, roasts were cooked in whole spices like cloves, pepper and cinnamon, and rissoles and croquettes flavored with turmeric and spices. Mulligatawny Soup, Meat Jalfraze, Devilled Beef and Pork were some of these early innovations.

 

Anglo-Indian Cuisine is a gourmet’s delight mostly because it makes use of spices like pepper, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Indian garnishes like chillies, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and vinegar are also added in moderation. Yogurt and milk are used in certain preparations to offset pungency. Many dishes have rhyming alliterative names like Doldol, Kalkal, Ding-Ding and Posthole! The very nomenclature of these dishes is unique and original, and synonymous only with the Anglo-Indian community.

However over a period of time, Anglo-Indian cooking became more Indian than British and more regional. Local ingredients and flavours of a particular region were incorporated in the dishes while the basic ingredients remained the same throughout the country. Coconut-based curries were popular in Anglo-Indian dishes in the south, while mustard oil and fresh water fish were popular ingredients in the Anglo-Indian dishes of Calcutta and West Bengal. And a strong Mughlai influence seeped into Anglo-Indian dishes cooked in Lucknow and parts of North of India. But today, in a world fast morphing into a Global Village, many of the old traditional colonial dishes are not prepared in Anglo-Indian homes, as recipes have died with the older generation who cooked with intuition and memory rather than from written notes. With the intention of preserving those authentic tastes and flavours, I have published six recipe books exclusively on Anglo-Indian cuisine. This personal collection of recipes was compiled with the intent of reviving the old tastes of the colonial era, and thereby preserving the culinary culture and heritage of the Anglo-Indian Community.

Photography by Krishanu Chatterjee
Posted: January 6, 2017

A SIMPLE ANGLO-INDIA LUNCH – White Steamed Rice, Simple Fried Fish, Raddish and Dol Curry (Red Lentils), Plain Pepper Water, Beans Foogath and Tomato Sambal

A SIMPLE ANGLO-INDIA LUNCH – White Steamed Rice, Simple Fried Fish, Raddish and Dol Curry (Red Lentils), Plain Pepper Water, Beans Foogath and Tomato Sambal

PLAIN WHITE STEAMED RICE

Serves 6       Time required: 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup raw rice

2 cups water

A pinch of salt

Wash the rice and soak in 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes. Place on heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook on low heat till done and all the water is absorbed. Cover and allow to stand  for 15 minutes before serving. This is the standard plain steamed rice eaten every day. Serve with any curry, dhal or pepper water.

SIMPLE FRIED FISH

Serves 6     Time required: 45 minutes

Ingredients

8 or 10 slices of any good fleshy fish

2 teaspoons chillie powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Oil for frying

Wash the fish and marinate with the chillie powder, salt, and turmeric powder for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a flat pan and shallow fry the pieces about 4 at a time till nice and brown on both sides.  Serve with bread and chips.

This is also a good accompaniment to pepper water and rice.  It could also be served as a snack. (For a more crispy fish, coat the fish slices with a little semolina or rice flour)

RADISH AND DOL (RED LENTILS / DHAL) CURRY 

Serves 6      Time Required:1 hour

Ingredients

1 cup Red Lentils or Masoor Dhal

4 long white radish peeled and cut into 2 inch piece

2 teaspoons chillie powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

2 tomatoes chopped

1 teaspoon crushed garlic (optional)

Salt to taste

For the seasoning: 1 teaspoon mustard, 2 red chilies broken into bits and a few curry leaves and 1 tablespoon oil.

Wash the Red Lentils / masoor dhal and cook it along with the tomato, chillie powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, garlic and radish with sufficient water in a pressure cooker.  When done open the cooker, add salt and some more water and mix well.

To Temper the Dal Curry:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in another suitable pan and add the mustard, broken red chilies and crushed garlic and fry for some time. When the mustard starts spluttering, pour in the cooked dhal and mix   well. Serve with rice

PLAIN PEPPER WATER

A simple and easy recipe to prepare the classic Anglo-Indian  Pepper Water. Pepper Water is an important dish on the Anglo-Indian lunch table and is invariably prepared many times a week. Pepper water can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days without spoiling due to the tamarind used in its preparation.

Serves 6     Time required: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes chopped

1 teaspoon ground black pepper / pepper powder

1 teaspoon chillie powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

Salt to taste

½ cup tamarind juice extracted from a small ball of tamarind

or 1 teaspoon tamarind paste

Cook all the above ingredients with 3 or 4 cups of water in a suitable vessel on high heat till it boils. Reduce the heat and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Temper the Pepper Water, as follows

To temper the Pepper Water: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in another vessel, add a teaspoon of mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter add a sliced onion, a few curry leaves, two broken red chilies and a teaspoon of chopped crushed garlic and sauté for a few minutes, till the onions turn light brown. Pour the pepper water into the seasoning and mix well. Turn off the heat.  Serve hot with rice and any meat side dish.

Note: The pepper water can be prepared by using fresh red chilies cumin seeds coriander seeds, peppercorns ground in a mixer instead of the powders.

BEANS FOOGATH (STIR FRY BEANS)

Serves 6     Time required: 30 minutes

Ingredients

½ kg string beans chopped finely

3 tender carrots chopped into small pieces

½ cup grated coconut

3 red chilies broken into bits

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

A few curry leaves

Boil the chopped beans and carrots for about 5 minutes with some water.  Strain and keep aside.  Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the red chilies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Now toss in the boiled beans.  Add salt and coconut and mix well. Stir-fry for a few minutes and then take down.

TOMATO SAMBAL

Ingredients

2 big tomatoes chopped

3 green chilies chopped

½ teaspoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 medium size onion chopped

Salt to taste

A pinch of sugar

Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, cumin powder, salt, sugar and green chilies and fry till the tomatoes are reduced to a pulp. Grind in a blender. Season with mustard seeds, red chilies and curry leaves.

 

ANGLO-INDIAN CUISINE EVENT AT COCHRANE PLACE KURSEONG

I’ve just got back from the most amazing Food Event at the launch of the Gourmet Week at Cochrane Place Kurseong in the Darjeeling Hills. Conceived and curated by Dr Ashish Chopra who is India’s top Culinary Historian, Author, Gourmand, T V Host, Flavour Analyst and Travel Writer. The launch of the Cochrane Place Gourmet Club, was a Week long festival celebrating the love of food. (Feb 14th to 19th). Thank you Ashish for making this happen. You are Santa Claus
Cochrane Place Kurseong is the restored stately British Colonial home of late Percy Cochrane the District Magistrate of Kurseong. Perched on a ridge surrounded by lush tea gardens the building is set in stone, log and cast iron splendour offering panoramic views of the Himalayas, it was the perfect setting for a week of scrumptious Food.
I’m just repeating the words of Dr Ashish Chopra “Its all happening at COCHRANE PLACE,KURSEONG in the midst of Tea country this month .. Bridget White Kumar weaves her magic with Anglo Indian cuisine, Sohini Basu, Cordon Bleu Pastry chef does magic with her cup cakes, Susmit Bose, the legendary Urban folk musician enthralls us with his golden voice, Ramaa Shanker cooks up some soul food of tasty Vegetarian Dishes, Kaveri Ponnapa Kambiranda, the celebrity author, Anthropologist and Gourmand teaches us how to make a Coorg special and one of my favourites Pandi curry, Avijit Dutt, the grand theatre man and actor shares his travel and culinary experience, Yours truly Ashish Chopra musters up dishes from my forthcoming book Tribal cuisines of India and introduces the black bird kadaknath. GROVER ZAMPA joins in the fun and gets us to taste their wines and pair them with respective cuisines”
cochrane place bridget 1
“On day One, our lunch began beautifully with a group of British Heritage Railway enthusiasts dawning upon Cochrane Place to savour a specially created Anglo Indian Railway menu served during the days of the Raj… With Bridget White Kumar cooking and Dhiraj Arora in assistance taking over the kitchen and mustering up a splendid meal consisting of Railway Chicken Curry, Egg Vindaloo, Railway Vegetable Cutlets, Vegetable Jal Frezi,Country Captain Beans, Mulligatawny Soup with a twist and the most awesome Pineapple upside down cake baked by Sohini Basu along with a Beetroot Carrot Halwa”

collage dishes 1
cochrane place bridget 1
In like manner t he Menus were specially crafted each day to revisit the days of Colonial Raj Cuisine. A 2nd World War Army Camp Menu was specially created to honour 2 Army Generals of the Area who were the special guests at dinner such as the Army Camp Soup, Col Standhursts Lamb Curry, Bengal Lancers Mince Cutlets, etc. Other Colonial Anglo-Indian Dishes such as Pork Vindaloo. Dak Bungalow Mutton Curry, Grandma’s Country Captain, Inspection Bungalow Vegetable Stew, Chillie Pork Fry, Stuffed Aubergines, Brown Sahib Soup, Okra and Potato Pepper fry, Vegetable Jal Frazie Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetarian Cottage Pie, A variety of baked dishes, etc, etc, were on the menu and thoroughly enjoyed by the guests. The Chicken and Lamb Roasts were marinated in a Grover Red Wine Marinade and the Stews and soups were given a liberal dash of Grover White Wines. To round off all the Hot Food, we stuffed ourselves with decadent Desserts prepared by Sohini Basu and her two talented assistants from Mrs, Magpies Kolkotta Apart from the Gourmet Dinners, the Chefs and Kitchen staff of Cochrane Place dished up some delicious local dishes, Bengali Food and Chinese Dishes. They excelled in feeding us sumptuous Breakfasts, Snacks and Short Eats besides the endless cups of hot tea in different flavours to offset the cold weather. We were well and truly stuffed !!!!!collage dishes 3

Chicken Jalfrazie

1 kg Boneless Chicken cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 dry red chillies broken into bits
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
3 tomatoes chopped
2 onions sliced finely
1 teaspoon spice powder or garam masala powder
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a suitable pan and add the cumin seeds. When they begin to splutter add the dry red chillies, onions and pepper corns and fry till golden brown. Add the chicken and sauté for a few minutes till it changes colour. Now add all the other ingredients and stir well. Simmer on low heat till the chicken is tender and the gravy is quite thick. Serve with rice, chapattis or bread.

Coq au Vin or Rooster in Red Wine,

Coq Au Vin is a Burgundian dish, and is considered a French comfort food. The traditional recipe for Coq au Vin did not include chicken, but rather a “Coq,” which is a rooster.
The red wine in the recipe was used not to mask flavor, but to allow the acids to help break down the old meat of the rooster True coq Au Vin was actually finished with the blood of the rooster stabilized with brandy and vinegar, this would help the blood not clot. Initially blood of the rooster was used to thicken the dish.

This dish was originally introduced in India by the French. It has since undergone changes in the method of cooking and now has a distinct Anglo-Indian flavour to it. It was quite a popular dish in the places where the French ruled such as Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanum, etc
Coq au Vin or Rooster in Red Wine,
1 chicken preferably a rooster about 1 kg in weight cut into 6 large pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
3 cloves
1 piece cinamon
1 teaspoon black pepper powder
5 cups red wine
¼ cup Cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons cooking oil
salt to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chillie powder

Marinate the rooster or chicken with all the above ingredients and set aside for about one hour. Heat oil in a suitable pan and add the marinated rooster / chicken pieces. Cover and cook on low heat till the pieces are well cooked and the gravy is thick. Serve with bread or dinner rolls.

Hurry Burry Chicken Curry

Serves 6 

Preparation Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 kg chicken jointed and cut into medium size pieces

A small bunch of coriander leaves washed and chopped

2 large onions chopped

2 tomatoes chopped                              

½ teaspoon tumeric powder

2 or 3 teaspoons chilly powder                   

2 cloves, 2 pieces of cinnamon, 2 cardamoms, 1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste                 

3 tablespoons oil         

Salt to taste                                                  

1teaspoon cumin powder

Heat oil in a pan and add the onions, Fry till golden brown. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, tomato, ginger paste and garlic paste and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the chicken, salt, chilly powder, tumeric powder and cumin powder and fry for some time till the oil separates from the masala.  Add sufficient water and cook till the chicken is done and the gravy is thick

MINTY CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Serves: 6

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 chicken cut into 8 to 10 large pieces

1 cup finely chopped mint leaves

2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon all spice powder or garam masala powder

1 teaspoon chilly sauce

1 teaspoon chilly powder

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons oil

Method

1. Wash the chicken and prick all over with a fork.

2. Mix together the chopped mint, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin powder, salt, all spice powder, chilly sauce and chilly powder and apply this mixture to the chicken pieces.

3. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

4.Transfer to a buttered baking dish. Drizzle oil over the chicken. Cover with aluminum foil.

5. Bake in a moderate oven (355 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Serve with rice and salad

COOKING CLASSES IN BANGALORE BY BRIDGET WHITE-KUMAR

SIMPLE INDIAN DISHES AND ANGLO-INDIAN CUISINE

Bridget White Anglo-Indian Recipes

Bridget White Anglo-Indian Recipes

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