From Chapter 10, “Meat”, in Cooking for Pleasure by Rupert Croft-Cooke (London and Glasgow, 1963), pp. 92-93:
Steak and Kidney Pudding. After these foreign collations, here is one English dish which can rival any of them, one of our few contributions to the haute cuisine of the world. Pudding—how gross, how vulgar, how unepicurean it sounds. Food for Dr. Johnson, perhaps, or any of the great guzzlers of the eighteenth century, food for Falstaff, “that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly,” but food with which to challenge the strongholds of Escoffier, the truffles and soufflés of Brillat Savarin? It certainly does not sound like it. I am glad the name is untranslatable and only Isabella Beeton who was determined to find French names for her English dishes talked of Puding de Bœuf et de Rognon.
In it the flavour is imprisoned by the suet pastry for the four or five hours during which it is steamed, giving to the resulting gravy and meat a richness of taste and consistency obtainable in no other way known to me. It is not to be confused with the steak and kidney pie, that more pretentious but infinitely less flavoursome cousin of the pudding. How can a pie achieve distinction except as a stew which is being covered with crisp or flaky pastry? The whole point of the pudding is the long hours in which the meat slowly softens and blends with the herbs and spices, which must be used lightly, so strongly does everything sealed inside the thick blanket of what suet pastry keep its flavour.
A good-sized pudding basin is greased then lined with a suet paste made by mixing flour and chopped suet in the proportion of two to one, with salt and enough water (not milk) to make it a workable dough. Baking-powder may be added but will not help it much, for its leavening effect will have greatly diminished before the pudding is ready. There is a trick procedure here which I learned to follow many years ago, and which has stood me in good stead. Mix into the paste a very little black treacle (an invaluable thing to keep in stock in any case). This will give it when cooked that slightly golden colour and the suggestion of a taste of rum for which the steak-and-kidney puddings of a Fleet Street Pub were once famous. Keep enough of the paste to seal up the top when the other ingredients are in. What exactly these will be depends on your taste and pocket. Two thirds steak to one third kidney, both cut into pieces of about a cubic inch in size, are essentials. Oysters are a traditional addition but not quite a necessity. Mushrooms certainly. Onion of course, which should be browned in the frying pan, as the meat should not be, before going in. Herbs and garlic very sparingly; remembering that every suggestion of flavour will be miraculously preserved if not increased in that confinement. Bacon can be tried, so can chestnuts. A little red wine improves but is not essential to the result. When all is in and the space fairly tightly filled, pour in stock or water nearly to cover it, seal it with your piece of suet paste after dampening the rim of the suet paste already in place, to form a good joint. Tie a pudding-cloth over it and steam it for four or five hours—not more.
From Chapter 15, “Curry”, in Cooking for Pleasure, pp. 135-37:
It took four thousand years to evolve the Indian system of cookery, one of the most intricate and nutritious in existence, full of subtlety and bound by the memorial conventions which give it a balance and delicacy achieved in no other, except the French under Chinese. In a couple centuries the English have convinced the rest of the world that it is a way of using up cooked meat. It is tragic to find a Frenchman like X. M. Boulestin, whom I regard as one of the wisest of modern writers on European cookery, giving a recipe in which he tells us to use only bacon fat (the worst possible for curry apart from the absolute taboo on it among all religions in the Indian subcontinent except the Christians, who like the rest of the population use ghee), to cook the sauce for one hour and a half before putting in the meat, to add “any fruit you have,” to add “if too dry” a little cream or milk, to thicken the sauce with two eggs, and to add to it pieces of fish or mutton “according to what you have to use up”.
We have misunderstood Indian cooking from the first, and as usual got all the terminology wrong and the emphasis misplaced so that it would be as well before approaching the subject to forget that thing called ‘curry’ by the English and by Anglo-Indians who have eaten a special version of it prepared for them but Indian cooks.
Karri or kurri (the vowel is indeterminate) is a Tamil word meaning meat; ‘curry’ as used here indicates the Indian way of preparing nearly all food with certain spices and herbs which accentuate rather than smother the flavour of whatever is being cooked. The result may be peppery or not, according to the occasion. It may have a rich sauce or it may be dry, just like food in Europe. It may be eaten with rice or with unleavened bread (chapati or parata). It may be intricate and luscious made with all the resources of the rich man’s kitchen, or it may be austere in poor homes. The only thing certain about it is that the flavour of the thing cooked whether fish, flesh, foul or vegetable, will be enhanced by this daring and delicate treatment.
This disposes of the first fallacy about curry, that the use of ‘curry powder’ (a commodity as we shall see, unknown to Indian cooking) to make a highly seasoned sauce is designed to make palatable food already cooked or of inferior quality. An English restaurateur, who serves a dish which he calls curry surrounded by curious miscellanea of chutneys and vegetable oddments, told me earnestly that it was not what went into the curry but the sauce which mattered—a case of putting, half at least literally, the cart before the horse. But he is not alone in this fallacy, indeed, he has most of Europe behind him.
The second fallacy is that curry is a specific dish, usually of onions and meat stewed with curry powder and eaten with rice. It is nothing of the sort—it is a way of cooking universal among at least six hundred million highly civilised people. Curry powder (or ready-made curry paste for that matter) is a European substitute for the materials used by them, an inevitable substitute, perhaps, or at least one accepted by most western cooks, but never more than a makeshift.
This system of cookery has certain disadvantages for those unaccustomed to it. In the first place many Europeans frankly do not like it. This may be because they have never had dishes prepared by it at their best, or because it is unlike our own, but it means that it cannot be offered to guests without prior inquiry. Secondly, it kills the best in any wine served with it or immediately after it. Its proper accompaniment is cold water; it is ruinous to fine liquor and is not itself improved by draughts of beer, cider or mineral water. Thirdly, and most severely, Indian food cannot be mixed with any other. A meal must be either Indian or European and to serve, say, uncurried vegetables or ordinary bread, when the basis of the meal is a curry, is to produce something hybrid, and indigestible and uncouth.
Nor is curry, let me stress, ever a means of finishing up cooked food. The first condition for a good curry is that there should be something fresh of which to make it, and that this something should be worth the trouble and time necessary. An Indian would rather make a curry of new vegetables with no meat at all than used the cooked scraps left on a bone or the pickings from an unfinished chicken. Almost anything fresh can be curried; every edible fish or fowl, meat of all kinds, vegetables, even eggs. In India I have eaten curried lobster, and curried quail. But not old boots or once-cooked meat. If anyone wish to take a few of yesterday’s leavings and cook them with sultanas or other dried fruit and pieces of apple, then pour over them a thick sauce made with curry-powder and serve them with boiled rice, I can see no valid reason why he or she should not do so, provided the result is not mistaken for curry.
From the sixteenth chapter, “Food”, in The Life for Me by Rupert Croft-Cooke (London, 1953), pp. 192-93:
As the house is something of a repository for things collected in travel, so I wanted its cooking to reflect the art of many nations, to recall gastronomical adventures in far places ant to take advantage of what I have learned from from foreign cooks. But because I have an Indian secretary who, among other talents, is adept in his country’s highly nutritious and incalculably ancient cuisine, is to India the most often turn in the matter of exotic foods.
There are certain vetos and provisos about it, however, which make it rather troublesome to prepare and serve, which preclude it from the menu of ordinary occasions. Apart from the difficulty of procuring everything necessary to its preparation, it cannot be offered without warning to guests who may be unable to enjoy or even stomach it. No wine, indeed no alcoholic drink, can well be served with it. Its proper accompaniment is iced water; it kills any fine liquor, and is not improved by draughts of cider, beer or mineral water. And although it may perfectly well be eaten with knife and fork, it is at its best eaten with a hand. Thus in my home, though on most occasions we eat curry as we might eat stew—at the dining-table with forks—for some ceremonial Indian meal to which Ram Gopal or some other appreciative Indian has been invited, we squats a low stools or sit cross-legged on the floor and eat with our fingers. This gives us relaxation, and a happy sense of fitness, but to an unprepared guest would seem affected to a degree, comic, barbaric, uncomfortable, unnecessary.
But the most severe limitation of Indian food is it cannot be mixed with any other. A meal must be either Indian or European and to serve, say, uncurried vegetables or ordinary bread, when the basis of the meal is a curry, is to produce something hybrid, indigestible and uncouth.
Nor is curry, let me stress, ever a means of finishing up cooked food. Little wonder that it is unpopular or misunderstood in England, when it has been so abused. The first condition for a good curry is that there should be something fresh of which to make it, and that this something should be worth the trouble and time necessary. An Indian would rather make a curry of new vegetables with no meat at all than used the cooked scraps left on a bone or the pickings from an unfinished chicken. Almost anything fresh can be curried; every edible fish or fowl, meat of all kinds, vegetables, even eggs. In India I have eaten curried lobster, and curried quail. But not old boots or once-cooked meat. If anyone wish to take a few of yesterday’s leavings and cook them with sultanas or other dried fruit and pieces of apple, then pour over them a thick sauce made with curry powder and serve them with boiled rice, I can see no valid reason why he or she should not do so, provided the result is not mistaken for curry.
[Textual alterations: “the vowel” was expanded to “the first vowel”; “unleaven bread” was changed to “unleavened bread”; a comma was inserted after “restaurateur”; the comma was removed from after “(or ready-made curry paste for that matter)”; one unhyphenated “once cooked” was hyphenated; and “wishes” was (twice) amended to “wish”; the hyphen was removed from one instance of “curry-powder”.]