The next point necessary is that this curry sauce should be made of the necessary thickness; and for the purpose, what I have alluded to before under the name of " brown thickening " is necessary.
Now, as brown thickening is almost an essential in every house where gravies and sauces are made properly, I will describe how this brown thickening ought to be made. As the process is somewhat troublesome, and a large quantity is as easy to make as a small, it will be found best to make sufficient to last some time, as brown thickening will keep good for months if made properly.
Take half a pound of flour, and, having thoroughly dried it on a large newspaper before the fire, sift it carefully. Next take half a pound of butter and melt it in an enamelled saucepan; a sort of white curdled substance will be generally found mixed with it, some of which can be skimmed off the top, and some will settle at the bottom. Skim the butter and pour off all that is as clear as good salad-oil, and only use this for the brown thickening.
Next mix thoroughly well together the sifted flour and the hot melted butter in an enamelled stew-pan, and stir it over a quick fire with a wooden spoon. If the flour has been properly dried, and the butter properly clarified, the whole mass will stick together, and shake about in the stew-pan. The stirring must be continued till the whole mass begins to turn colour. As soon as it is obtained a light fawn-colour, or looks like the outside of a nicely-baked French roll, remove the stew-pan from the fire, but still continue stirring. Throw in a large slice of onion ; this will help to check the heat, and at the same time assist in giving the thickening a nice flavour.
It is wonderful how long an enamelled stew-pan will retain the heat. It would be a good lesson to an inexperienced cook to watch for how long a period the butter and flour will go on bubbling after the stew-pan has been taken off the fire. It depends of course on the thickness of the stew-pan, but this frying process will go on sometimes for ten minutes, or even longer, after it has been moved on to a cold slab. This fact will explain why hashes and stews are so often tough. Most cooks know hash ought not to boil, but how many place a stew-pan on the fire, and remove it on to the hob directly it begins what they call to simmer! They forget that the boiling, for that is what it really is, goes on perhaps for ten minutes after they have moved the stewpan from the fire, when a tea-spoonful of cold gravy, or even cold water, would have stopped the boiling at once.
Keep stirring the brown thickening till it ceases to boil or bubble, and then remove as much as you can of the onion, and pour the whole into a stone jar—an empty white jam-pot is as good as anything—and allow it to get cold.
When it is cold it has the appearance somewhat of light-coloured chocolate, and a few spoonfuls of it will always give a nice rich brown look to gravies. It must be put in the gravy, and stirred over the fire in it; gradually, as the gravy boils, it becomes thicker. For ordinary gravy, when brown thickening is used, a tea-spoonful of sherry is a great improvement.
Cooks often thicken gravies, curries, etc, with butter and flour. The effect too often is that the gravy looks a light colour, and has a gruelly taste. A good cook should never be without some brown thickening in the house.
Sufficient of this brown thickening must be added to the curry sauce, which is supposed to have been rubbed through the wire-sieve, to make it as thick as gruel; and, as we have said, this thickening only takes place when it is boiled, and at the same time stirred, over the fire. The curry is now complete, and has only to be poured round, not over, the freshly-cooked sweetbreads.
Suppose, however, the dish required was curried mutton, which is, of course, a much more economical dish than curried sweetbreads, and it is undoubtedly one of the best methods of using up a cold joint. Cut some slices of meat off the cold joint; avoid skin and gristle, and choose those slices as much as possible containing most fat. Then boil up the curry sauce, ready thickened and finished, in a stew-pan, remove the stew-pan from the fire, and place the slices of meat in it, and cover them with the sauce ; replace the stew-pan on the hob, but not on the fire, leave it in a warm place for half an hour, and just before turning it out make it a little hotter, if you like, by carefully holding the stew-pan over the fire ; but recollect if it once boils or bubbles up the meat will get hard, and the curry will be spoilt.
The proper accompaniment to curry is boiled rice; this ought properly to be served in a separate dish. The rice must be boiled till quite tender, and then the grains should be separated from one another by being tossed lightly about on a cloth in front of the fire.
Curry is, as we have said, the most suitable dish for hot weather, as is abundantly proved by its being the most popular in India. In India fresh tamarinds and mangoes are, I believe, used instead of apples; various herbs and spices are also used, which differ in different parts of the country.
Many persons, especially old Indians, have recipes for curry. We have given what must necessarily form the basis of curry, where the curry-powder or paste is not home-made. By many, the addition of a little grated cocoa-nut to the curry is considered a great improvement; or where cocoa-nut cannot be obtained, a few grated Brazil nuts may be used instead. Others, too, strongly recommend the addition of powdered coriander-seeds. Coriander-seeds are, however, used in making curry-powder, and good curry-powder ought to contain sufficient. When, therefore, the powder is old, and has lost that aromatic smell which it ought to have, a little powdered coriander-seed may be added with advantage; but it has a very decided flavour, and must be used with caution.
One of the most common faults in inexperienced cooks is to have certain fancies for certain flavours, and then to let that flavour predominate.
I have tasted mock-turtle soup which might have been called marjoram soup. Herbs and spices must always be used carefully, and it is generally best to err on the side of too little than too much. To illustrate this point, I would mention what is generally known as veal stuffing. Who has not, at one time or other, tasted a turkey in which it was so highly flavoured that you tasted it all through dinner ? Indeed, at times you may consider yourself fortunate if you don't taste it all through the next day.
How few cooks, too, understand how to use garlic or aromatic flavouring herbs! It is in the proper blending of these strong flavours that one can detect the hand of the artiste.
There are many worse things to eat in hot weather than cold roast beef and salad. Now, it will often be said that if you want a good salad you must go to Paris. Certainly you do get a good salad there invariably ; but it is equally easy to have one at home by simply doing what they do. One principal reason why English people so often have bad salads is that they have an absurd prejudice against oil. Very often, too, when they use oil, the oil is bad. Of course, it is as impossible to make a good salad with bad oil as it is to cook a good dinner with high meat. The oil must be clear, bright, and of a pale-yellow colour; if it looks at all green, it is probably bad. Bearing, therefore, this in mind, I will now tell you how to mix a salad, simply repeating the recipe or custom used in ninety-nine out of a hundred French restaurants. First get two or three small French cabbage-lettuces. Wash them, if necessary, in a little cold water, but do not dry them on a cloth, as you will thereby probably bruise them and spoil them. Shake them dry in a little wire basket; or put them in a cloth, and take the cloth by the four corners, and make the lettuce-leaves jump inside ; then put them lightly into a salad-bowl. Next chop up enough parsley to cover a threepenny-piece, and also chop three fresh mint-leaves, and sprinkle this over the lettuce. Next take a table-spoon, and place in it about half a salt-spoonful of salt, and quarter of pepper; fill the table-spoon with oil. Mix up the pepper and salt with the oil, and pour it over the lettuce—I am supposing enough for about four persons—add half a table-spoonful more oil, and toss the lettuce lightly together for two or three minutes. Next add not quite half a table-spoonful of French wThite vinegar; mix it for a minute or two more, and it is finished.
Now the difficulty in many households is to overcome the prejudice against the oil. Perhaps some one, when they have read this, will do as follows : First take care to have a fresh bottle of good oil; then mix a salad as I have directed, without telling anybody how it is done. Let it be handed round at dinnertime, and wait and see what people say. If you tell them beforehand that there is nearly two table-spoonfuls of oil, they probably will make up their minds beforehand that it is nasty ; but say nothing, and give the recipe a fair chance.
There are two additions to a salad which many think an advantage : one is to chop up with the parsley and mint one fresh tarragon-leaf; another is to rub a crust of bread with a piece of garlic, and then put the crust into the salad-bowl, and toss it about with the salad. This is quite sufficient to give it a decided flavour of garlic, and, where garlic is not disliked, will be found to be a decided improvement.