One thing that’s often sadly neglected in modern studies of Colonialism is that it’s a two-way street. The influence of the colonizer is, of course, more visible: roads, architecture, clothing, and often even bureaucratic and governmental practices. Nevertheless, the colonized have their own effect on their foreign rulers and nowhere is this more evident than in food. Our own country is a textbook example of this (cornbread stuffing, clambake, or jambalaya, anyone?), as is the long British “relationship” with India.

Imagine a vegetarian shut-in and a carnivore with a gun sharing an apartment that the vegetarian owns, and you’ve got something of an idea of how the British and Indian food cultures intermingled during the Raj. Indian foodways adapted to embrace more meat and foreign ingredients (the chili and tea being the most important), and British foodways developed a certain respect for local spices. Consider the following, from Jennifer Brennan’s  excellent Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and  Cookbook of the British Raj:

Bacon and Coriander Pancakes (From Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and Cookbook of the British Raj)

  • 12 slices bacon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander
  • 4oz mango chutney

Dice bacon finely and set aside. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Stir in eggs and half the milk and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in remaining milk, and stir in chopped coriander.

Fry a heaped tablespoon of bacon in a small pan until crisp. Pour enough batter for one pancake over bacon and fry until underside is light brown. Turn and fry other side, then turn out onto a clean tea towel and fold towel over to keep warm. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked.

Spoon chutney into a small saucepan. Thin with 1 tbs water and heat. Use as sauce for the pancakes. Serve warm.

I wish I could include the vignette that goes with this recipe: it’s priceless. Suffice it to say that if you can find a copy of this book it’s worth picking up even if you never intend to cook anything from it.

To go with the pancakes, I made some straight-up English Oxford Sausages. The skinless, hand-rolled Oxford Sausage dates back to the 18th Century, and it’s unclear wether the name actually refers to Oxfordshire itself or the Tavern at Oxford Gates where the dish may have originated. Either way, it’s traveled around the world wherever British people have gone, including to our own shores: it’s Recipe #25 in Martha Washington’s cookbook (I own the Karen Hess version), and was almost certainly eaten by our first President at his own breakfast:

To Make Oxford Kates Sausages: Take ye leane of porke, or veale, and 4 pound of beef suet, or butter, and shred ym together very fine. Yn season ym with 3 quarter of an ounce of pepper & halfe as much cloves and mace, a good handfull of sage shred small, and what salt fits yr pallate. Mingle these together, yn take 10 eggs, all but 3 whites,  & temper all together with yr  hands.  And  when you use ym,  roule  ym out about ye length and bigness of yr finger. You may roule ym up in flour if you like, but it is better without. When you fry ym, ye butter must boyle in ye pan before you put ym in. When they are pritty brown, take ym up. Their sauce is mustard.

I’ve got several modern recipes for these, all of them good. For the casual enquirer, I’d suggest this one, from a Konemann Step-By-Step cookbook I picked up at Milwaukee’s beloved Half-Price Books in my college days. It has the advantage of not requiring suet, which isn’t always easy to come by in the urban US.

Oxford Sausages (from Step-By-Step English Cooking)

  • 8 slices white bread, in small crumbs
  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal (turkey works, if you have ethical or budgetary issues with veal)
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, kneading with your hands until throughly combined. Divide into 8 portions and roll into sausage shapes. Place sausages on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until browned.

If you’re unconcerned about cholesterol, you can also brown them in butter or some other fat, as per the 18th Century.


Today we’re going hardcore and and adapting a Ragoo of Veal straight out of Hannah Glasse’s 1745 classic The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. A ragoo is one of those two-step cooking processes beloved of kitchens with a lot of manpower. It’s the 18th Century precursor to the modern ragout, but with browning somewhere during the cooking process. Hannah Glasse says:

To Ragoo a Breast of Veal: Take your breast of veal, put it in a large stew-pan, put in a bundle of sweet herbs, an onion, some black and white pepper, a blade or two of mace, two or three cloves, a very little bit of lemon-peel, and just cover it with water; when it is tender take it up, bone it, put in the bones, and boil it up until the gravy is very good, then strain it off, and if you have a little rich beef-gravy, add a quarter of a pint, put in half an ounce of truffles and morels, a spoonful or two of catchup, two or three spoonfuls of white wine, and let them all boil together; in the mean time flour the veal, and fry it in butter until it is of a fine brown, then drain out the butter and pour the gravy you are boiling to the veal, with a few mushrooms; boil all together until the sauce is rich and thick, and cut the sweetbread into four. A few force-meat balls are proper in it. Lay the veal in a dish and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with lemon.

This is my bachelor, end-of-the-month budget approximation:

1. Take your breast of veal and put it in a pot big enough to hold it. Add:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each sage, parsley, thyme, and savory. If you have access to fresh herbs make a bouquet garni of 2 stalks parsley, 2 springs of thyme and savory, and 2 sage leaves.
  • 1/4 tsp Mace
  • 1/2 tsp each black and white pepper
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Lemon zest to taste

Boil a teakettle full of water and add enough to cover the veal. Boil for about 30-40 minutes or until tender.


2. When the veal is tender, take it out and bone it. This is much easier after boiling than before.

Step 2. Debone

Put the bones back in the pot with:

  • 2/3 cup beef broth.
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms. I’d have used truffles if I’d had the money, but button mushrooms work fine.
  • 3 tbs white wine
  • 1 tbs English-style catchup or, as a last resort, a dash of Asian fish sauce and a little vinegar.

Let all this stuff boil for another 20-30 minutes while you cover the veal and keep it warm.

3. Put a teaspoon or so of butter into a saute pan, dust the veal with flour, and brown it on both sides.


4. Take the veal out of the pan and discard the butter. Put it back in and pour on some of the gravy you have simmering after first discarding the bones. You can also pop in some sliced fresh mushrooms. Add a little arrowroot or other starch to encourage thickening. When the sauce has a nice glossy look to it, take the veal out, put it on a serving dish, and pour the sauce over.

So serve it forth...

I was pretty pleased with this attempt. The ragoo-ing process is pretty involved, so I don’t know if I’d do it again for myself, but it would make a great main dish for a dinner with friends. Another good side effect is that this recipe makes a good amount of flavorful gravy, which is reusable with other recipes. Sadly the pudding I was making to accompany my ragoo completely failed to turn out, so I had to go with some leftover rice pilaf instead.