This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
By Curry we understand a condimentary compound made of such spices (powdered) as Capsicum, Coriander, Ginger, Caraway, Cardamom seeds, Cassia, Chillies, Cloves, Cubebs, Cumin-fruit lobes, Fennel, Garlic, Mace, Mustard, Pepper, Nutmeg, Allspice, Fenugreek, and Turmeric resin in powder. Curry as a dish is of immemorial use in India. The word is derived from a native term "Kari," used by the natives to denote the leaf of a plant belonging to the Orange tribe, Murraya exotica. This leaf always forms an integral part of the Tamil Curries. Other authorities declare that the word Kari signifies a relish, or sauce, or even the "bazaar "where spices are bought. In India there are at least three separate classes of Curry - the Bengal, the Madras, and the Bombay. Of these the first is the purest, and best, the high old superlative Curry. The Bengal chef excels most in fish and vegetable Curries. Bombay boasts of its special gifts in bombelon fish, and its popedones. Sir George Birdwood insists on always including in a Curry the leaf, or its essence, of the Murraya kcenigii. Others advocate the grated pulp of a cocoanut, with a little of its milk. The Curry powder must be thoroughly cooked with the dish, and not merely added thereto at the last moment.
Bice forms the invariable adjunct to every dish of Curry, this being first washed in several waters before it is cooked. Curried rice is very useful for serving with eggs, or for adding to mulligatawny. It is prepared by putting half a pint of rice in a saucepan with a dessertspoonful of good Curry powder, and one of finely-chopped onion; season with salt, and pour over it one pint of boiling water. Let it cook about ten minutes, or till nearly done (it should soak up all the water); stir it up well. Lay a clean cloth over the saucepan, and put it to stand in a warm place until required. It is always better for standing an hour to dry, and finish cooking. Some rice will require a little more water. The several condiments which are employed in mixing Curry powder, as already signified, exercise each some special virtue as a medicament, which reference thereto under its particular heading here will explain, and will indicate its special use.
In the early English Forms of Cury (1390), two "Cury,"or Curry powders are supplied, "forte," and "douce," which gave a designation accordingly to certain highly-spiced indigenous dishes of that date. Curries are therefore (as Dr. Thudicum alleges) native also to England, and by no means an exclusive importation from Hindustan. Sir J. C. Tennent, of Ceylon, has, however, praised the unrivalled excellence of the Singhalese in the preparation of their innumerable Curries, each of which is tempered by the delicate creamy juice expressed from the flesh of the cocoanut. For domestic Curry, butter, if it can be afforded, should be used instead of dripping; and half a teacupful of shredded cocoanut, with a sour apple, chopped fine, should be added before stewing. A plain Curry is made in India even of toasted bread, cut in dice, and fried brown. For a vegetable Curry, chop four onions, and four apples; put them in a pan with a quarter of a pound of butter, and let them fry a light brown; add a tablespoonful of Curry powder, a little stock or milk, and some salt.
This is a digestible, warming dish.
Those of the ingredients contained in Curry powder which do not find detailed notice in these pages, may be shortly summarized as to any remarkable properties. Cardamom seeds are from a plant allied to ginger, being brought from Bombay, and Madras; they are aromatic by reason of a volatile oil, which is fragrant, and is found to contain manganese. Cassia is a cheaper and coarser kind of Cinnamon, for which it makes a fairly excellent substitute. Coriander, an umbelliferous herb, furnishes aromatic seeds, being now grown for the purpose in Essex; these seeds are cordial, but narcotic if used too freely; the green herb (seeds and all) stinks intolerably of bugs; nevertheless the fruits are generally blended with Curry powder. By the Chinese the Coriander seeds are believed able to confer immortality. The Manna of the Israelites is likened (in the Book of Numbers) to Coriander seed; and nowadays this seed is often mixed with bread in the north of Europe. Cumin is common in Egypt as a fruit of which the seeds, in odour and properties, closely resemble caraways, but are stronger.
These seeds are put into bread in Germany, and into cheese in Holland. The volatile oil of the fruit contains cymol, and cuminol, which are redolent of lemon, and caraway odours; it signally diminishes nervous reflex excitability when given from two to six drops on a small lump of sugar. Fenugreek (or Fcenum graecum) is an Indian fodder plant, its seeds having a strong smell, and a bitter oily taste, these being mucilaginous and emollient, like linseed, or the marsh mallow. Turmeric, which gives the yellow gamboge colour to Curry when served at table, possesses tubers which yield a deep yellow powder of a resinous character. The Cubeb is a pepper from Java, possessing an odorous volatile oil, and a resin, contained in the dried berries of a climbing shrub; these principles will stimulate the intestines against constipation, and diffuse warmth; furthermore, they will serve to soothe irritable urinary passages. All such Spices, and tropical condiments prove of valuable antiseptic use against Cholera, Fever, and Dysentery, by destroying the microbes of these diseases.
Curry powder, therefore, as a whole, if genuine, is undoubtedly a combination which exercises divers medicinal effects of a salutary sort when taken at table.
Chutney, again, or Chutnee, is in the East Indies well known and esteemed as a condiment, composed of sweet and acid spices, the usual ingredients being ripe fruit (mangoes, tamarinds, cocoanut, and raisins), with sour herbs, also Cayenne, and lime-juice. These are powdered, and boiled together, being either used straightway, as in making stews, and Curries, or bottled for future occasions. Likewise Mulligatawny is a spiced, or curried soup, of hashed chicken and rice. It has derived its Indian name from the Tamil words "mollegoo,"pepper, and "tumnee," water. This said "pepperwater" is useful as a sauce to accompany rice. English cooks employ broth as a foundation.