Next, the curry sauce in the little saucepan. This may have been, and should be, made long before; some curried mutton the day before for dinner will be found an advisable dish, as the sauce left will do for the shrimps, and a very little is necessary. Curry sauce is made by frying say six large onions in a stew-pan with butter till they are browned; three large apples added, and dissolved in it, some brown gravy, the whole thing rubbed through a tanning or sieve, taking care that all the onion is rubbed through ; then a table-spoonful of curry paste and a dessert-spoonful of curry-powder added, and the whole thickened with brown thickening to its proper consistency. Have ready, hot, about half a tea-cupful of this sauce, add to it about half a salt-spoonful of anchovy sauce, put the shrimps in it for one minute only, turn them out, and serve some plain boiled rice with them on a separate plate.
Next, the red mullet. First take a piece of white foolscap paper, and oil it all over, next chop up a tea-spoonful of capers fine, next cut up into slices about three ounces of butter, lay the slices on the paper, sprinkle half the chopped capers on it, pepper and salt it, and lay the mullet on the butter, on its side, put the rest of the butter on the top with the capers and a little more pepper and salt, fold the paper over, and fold the edges over and over, so as to make the foolscap sheet of paper into the shape of those old-fashioned apple turnovers—a fat semi-circle; put this into a tin greased at the bottom to prevent the paper sticking, and put it in the oven. A small mullet will bake in half an hour; a very large one, nearly an hour. Send the fish up to table in its paper. If the butter or some of it has run out into the tin, pour it into the dish on which you place the paper.
Next, the lobster cutlets. These have, of course, been prepared before, and only require making hot in the oven. A lobster has been bought containing coral, which coral has been pounded in a mortar with about the same quantity of butter, and a pinch of cayenne, and some of this has been added to the meat of the lobster, pounded in a mortar with some more butter and some very finely-chopped onion and parsley, a piece of the former about as big as the top of the thumb, and a tea-spoonful of the latter, being the proper quantities; a little ordinary pepper and a tea-spoonful of anchovy sauce have been added, and the mass shaped into little pats about as large as oval picnic biscuits; these have been egged over and covered with very fine bread-crumbs, then fried in hot fat for about a couple of minutes, and a little piece of red claw stuck into each at the finish by way of garnish.
Now these five nice dishes are all ready, and we presume the dishes have also been got ready to put them in. First of all we will take flounders souchet. Pick out the smallest flounders you can, boil them in some water with a little salt, when tender take them out with a slice, keeping the white side uppermost, and place them in a vegetable-dish of boiling wrater, drop into this water two or three . little sprigs of clean double parsley, and serve quickly, handing round the brown bread and butter. Eel souchet can be done in exactly a similar manner. The cook must now have ready two frying-pans, one filled with hot boiling fat, and the other with fresh lard for the whitebait, to which we shall come by and by. We shall now suppose the fish for frying ready on a dish on the dresser, and we will take eels, filleted sole, flounders, whitings, smelts, etc. ; now these must be all treated alike, first they must be dried, then floured, then dipped in well-beaten-up egg, then dipped in fine dry bread-crumbs, and then sprinkled over with fine bright golden breadraspings, in order to insure the colour being right. Suppose the cook has just sent up the flounders souchet; let the next course be fried eels, and salmon and pickle sauce. Take the eels ready prepared and throw them into the boiling fat; if the fat boil, four or five minutes is ample time, if the fat is deep enough to cover the fish. Take a hot vegetable-dish, turn out the salmon and sauce into it, and put on the cover; next take a clean napkin and warm it, and fold it up, and put it on a hot dish; hold a dish-cover to the fire for a minute, and cover over the napkin; take the eels out of the fat and put them for half a minute on to a hot coarse cloth to drain, put them on the clean napkin with a few pieces of green parsley round, and send them up with the salmon. Suppose the next course is turbot, smelts, and red mullet; the turbot, or rather a slice of one, is supposed to be boiling in a saucepan ; take it out and put it on a cloth to drain ; take first half a dozen smelts and pop them into the fat you have just taken the eels out of; a very short time will cook them. Place the turbot on a fish-napkin, put a piece of parsley on the top of it, and place the fried smelts round the edge. The red mullet simply wants slipping off the tin on to an ordinary dish just as it is, and the next course is done. The lobster cutlets might be sent up with some fried fish instead,'as we presume no one would think of having all this fish at one dinner.
We therefore now come to the whitebait, and will attempt to describe the secret of having this really delicious and delicate fish well cooked. Of course, in the first place, it is absolutely indispensable to have the fish perfectly fresh, and in an unbroken state, and it is on this account that whitebait is always had in the greatest perfection at the various hotels which overlook the river where the whitebait is caught. We will suppose, therefore, the whitebait is ready. Now everything depends upon expedition. The whitebait must be first dried and then plunged as speedily as possible into boiling fat. First we will suppose ready on the fire a deep frying-pan full of boiling lard; in order to insure the lard being sufficiently hot, let a drop of water fall into it and see if it hisses ; next have ready a wire whitebait-basket, then throw the whitebait into some fine dry flour on a cloth; don't be afraid of having too much flour, as in these water-side hotels the flour is an inch thick; next shake the whitebait free of the flour in a wide sieve, something like what is used for sifting oats ; this is for the purpose of getting rid as much as possible of the flour, to avoid the whitebait being pasty and clammy. Next, having put this floured whitebait into the wire basket, plunge it into the boiling fat—one minute will more than suffice to cook it—throw it on to a hot cloth for a few seconds to drain, and serve it very quickly. Whitebait sent to table properly should burn the mouth with fire-heat. Do not try and cook too many at a time, as they are liable to stick together. Also shake the wire basket a little in cooking them, for the purpose of avoiding this sticking-process ; and when they are thrown on to the cloth, if you see one or two sticking together, separate them. Properly cooked whitebait should be crisp, but at the same time slightly soft in the middle, when eaten. There are two kinds of devilled whitebait— black devil and red devil; the former consisting of adding black pepper in the middle of cooking; and the latter, black and cayenne mixed. Have the pepper, whichever is fancied, ready in a pepper-box, lift the whitebait-basket out of the boiling fat, shake it and pepper the whitebait at the same time, put the basket back into the fat for a few seconds, and then turn the whitebait out on to the cloth. It will be found best to send up the whitebait in two dishes, first the ordinary, second the devilled; thin brown bread and butter should be handed round with it, besides some lemon cut into quarters.
It will sometimes be found that with whitebait are mixed a few shrimps or very small eels; these should properly be removed before sending to table, as they have the effect of destroying the appearance.
It may perhaps seem superfluous to add, that whitebait requires no sauce, yet the following conversation actually occurred at North Woolwich, where whitebait are caught and cooked in the greatest perfection :—
Visitor.—" Waiter, these whitebait are not so nice as they were last time."
Waiter.—" Perhaps, ma'am, you would like them better if you did not take anchovy sauce."
On one occasion some persons demanded melted butter with their whitebait. Whitebait in perfection should be small, but near the end of the season are, of course, far larger and by no means so delicate as in early spring. Waiters are proverbial for presence of mind, and on one occasion, when the whitebait was brought up, about the size of sprats, quietly answered the intended complaint of " Waiter, these whitebait are very large," by saying—" Yes, sir—very fine, sir."
The curried shrimps are generally served last of all, and then some meat—generally a roast fowl or duck—but, as a rule, no one eats much of this after all this fish. In a private house it would be better to have a little cold roast beef and salad to finish up with, as in ordinary kitchens a roast duck or fowl would be terribly in the way during cooking the dinner.