Explore the fascinating world of the Victorian judges at this award-winning historic house.

Dinner with the Raj  - Cooks, Books & Ingredients

The recipes chosen, we hope, represent a broad spectrum of Anglo-Indian cooking from the reign of Victoria and a little before and after. Some show a fight to retain British traditions, such as in the mashed potato pickle and soup; others, the submission to local cuisine, such as kedgeree and dhall. There are also recipes taken from British cookery books which show the influence of new ingredients and flavours back at home.  The British in Indian seemed to submit to local dishes early in Victoria’s reign.  However, with the invention of canned foods, they were able to recreate a bit of ‘Englishness’ away from home, trying to emulate old favourites with what was available.  As the 19th century progressed, the new trend in ‘French style cuisine’ which spread through England  reached into India (though reading the recipes, one cannot fathom how they were to procure some of the ingredients!).  Wyvern’s  ‘Culinary Jottings for Madras’, a book written for those going out to  India, surprisingly has but 30 pages dedicated to curries, the fashion for such foods being, he says all gone. 

Back at home, recipes emerged with Indian spices (there are numerous recipes for curry powder) and a rise in interest in native fruits, with pineapples, ginger and limes featuring prominently in pudding recipes.  Back in India, residents struggled to work around their servants’ beliefs – beef and pork were procured, if possible, but in the more remote regions were considered a great luxury, with mutton, goat, poultry and game taking prominence. For vegetables: aubergines, peppers, chilies, cucumbers, cauliflowers, cabbages, potatoes, squashes and onions took prominence, with  tomatoes being introduced from South America and celery being grown in the cold periods.

For beverages during a meal, the residents of India had to make some concessions to their usual practices. Although sherry was still popular, especially as an accompaniment to soup, port was considered a bit too heavy for the climate. White wine to accompany fish, was often hock, which although not popular in modern terms, was greatly appreciated by the Victorians.  Not many wines could stand up to the Indian heat and hock probably did fare badly there.  Madeira was also popular along with claret, which had to be tainted with brandy to make it drinkable in the heat. 

The British in India developed a taste for spirits with brandy, gin and whisky all holding court at various times.  By the mid 1840s, soda water was common in British households, swiftly making its way to India, where it was commonly known as ‘billayati-pani’ (English water).  By the 1860s, Schweppe was selling the anti-malarial remedy, tonic water, throughout Indian and Africa, where it was quickly found that the addition of gin made it more palatable! India pale ale was developed as early as the 1820s  as a cheaper and more ‘climate friendly’ alternative to the imported British beer and could often be drunk instead of red wine during meals.


Books used for preparing the recipes:

Eliza Acton Modern Cookery for Private Families  1845

Mrs Beeton  The Book of Household Management 1859-61

Mrs A B Marshall The Book of Ices 1885

Mistress Margaret Dods  Cook and Housewife’s Manual 1829

Augusta Farwell  Handwritten recipe notebook 1852

Anon  Handwritten recipe notebook from Radnorshire (probably Rhayader), early Victorian, held in the County Archives

Rhona Aitken  The Memsahib’s Cookbook – Recipes from the days of the Raj 1989

David Burton  The Raj at Table – A Culinary History of the British in India 1993

Henrietta A Hervey Anglo Indian Cookery at Home: A Short Treatise for Returned Exiles by the wife of a retired Indian Officer 1895

C C Kohloff  Indian Cookery and Domestic Recipes, 1906

Colonel Kenney-Herbert, also known as Wyvern  Culinary Jottings for Madras 1881

Charles Elmé  Francatelli  The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant   1884

Georgina Hill  How to Cook Eggs in 100 Different Ways  1866

Mary Jewry (editor)  Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book for the People c. 1890 edition




Forthcoming Events

Strange But True

  • list arrowLazy Keufs

    These were special dog tongs used for removing badly behaved dogs from church during services.  There is still a pair in St Beuno's Church, Clynnog Fawr, North Wales


Historical Handy Hints