19th Century Curry Sandwiches

18th Century Indian Sandwich Recipe

It’s hard to resist making a recipe that looks really weird on paper. This is from ‘The Road to Vindaloo, Curry Cooks and Curry Books‘ by David Burnett and Helen Saberi, which is a charming little book crammed with recipes collected from various sources, spanning several centuries. There are two sandwich recipes in it, both equally as baffling. I hope you will understand that I simply had to know what the combination of hard-boiled egg yolk, butter, curry powder, anchovy and tarragon vinegar tasted like as a sandwich spread. You don’t? Weird. I’ll tell you anyway. I just need to think about how to say it. Um. Okay so I can see what they were trying to do here, which was make something with a hella shitload of umami. It is definitely not lacking in that respect. I’d even go so far as to say that it was rather nice, once I got over the whole bright orange mush thing. I was going to bust out that almost-cliché about not being able to taste the anchovies and them just being a seasoning but to be honest they’re fairly obvious. The egg and curry powder works as you’d expect and so does the tarragon; just think of fennel seeds in a curry and you’ll get the idea. It’s remarkably balanced, actually. Crikey, I’m talking myself round. The cucumber slices are my addition; the crisp freshness is very welcome. I also decided to cut them into dainty fingers due to the erm, intensity of the paste.

I want you to make these sandwiches, and it annoys me that you probably won’t. No-one has the cahoonas to make a sandwich spread like this any more. It deserves to be served.

Curry Sandwiches Recipe

(by someone called Theodore Francis Garrett (from The Road to Vindaloo, by David Burnett and Helen Saberi, Prospect Books, 2008)

3 hard boiled eggs
1 oz butter, plus extra for spreading if desired
1 teaspoon curry powder
Anchovy (no quantity specified so I used 2 fillets)
Tarragon vinegar (again no quantity specified so use those buds)
Salt to taste
White bread, thinly sliced
Cucumber slices (my addition)

In a pestle and mortar, mush up the egg yolks only with the butter, curry powder, anchovy and salt if desired. Gradually work in a little tarragon vinegar. Butter some bread (I think this was perhaps overkill considering the butter in the paste but knock yourself out) and spread this delightful concoction over it. Layer with cucumber slices. Sandwich with the other slice of bread, remove the crusts, cut into fingers and serve.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Ana June 18, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I can see how this can/would work. Would even try it, but have no tarragon vinegar.

    And how’s the book? Would you recommend it? Ta.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 18, 2014 at 11:14 am

      The book is fabulous! I would highly recommend it. Also, just mush a few leaves of tarragon in and add a splash of vinegar…crude but you’ll get the idea.

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    Reply Nicola Miller Editor of Mumsnet Suffolk & Norfolk June 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Heck this looks like something from my student days when poverty was the culinary mother of invention.

    But I’ll try it- can’t be as horrific as the curried hard boiled egg we once shared, boyfriend and I. AKA curry powder sprinkled onto said egg.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Ha! Go on, I dare you.

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    Reply Joyce June 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I’ll try it! It doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the curried egg sandwiches I grew up on and still eat – hard-boiled eggs, mayo and fluorescent curry powder mashed together into a lumpy paste, then stuck between two slices of white bread.

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      Reply Helen June 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Very similar! Do let me know what you think. That anchovy-tarragon combo may take it to the next level…

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    Reply Sue June 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Sounds like a jolly nice sandwich to be eaten by a gentleman whilst playing cards and drinking port…….

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 18, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Or…me with a fat tankard of beer. What? I didn’t (I did).

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    Reply Alicia (foodycat) June 19, 2014 at 9:40 am

    This seems like the sort of thing that would be served as a savoury at the end of the meal, or with an aperitif, rather than a tea sandwich. And I am OK with that. I like anchoiade and gentlemen’s relish, so I reckon I would like this.

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      Reply Helen June 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

      I think it would be plain weird at the END of a meal to be honest. They’re so strongly flavoured, I think they are the meal, start, middle and end.

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    Reply Steve June 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Wow, I’ve just made myself one, I didn’t have any Tarragon vinegar but did have some bearnaise left over from earlier in the week so used this instead of the butter and vinegar. There’s no chance of me falling asleep this afternoon, my mouth is dancing a fandango! The cucumber is certainly needed.
    Thanks for the challenge, I loved it.

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      Reply Helen June 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Blimey, what a sub! Yeah, it’s intense, huh? A wake up for the mouth. I kind of crave one, actually.

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    Reply Sandwich Catering Hertfordshire June 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Simple classic and very English! This would not be out of place in a high tea finger sandwich selection. Thanks for keeping us on our toes!

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    Reply Niamh June 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    OOOOH! I adore egg yolks. Sounds super bolshy but I could see how it works. Will try!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 24, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Oh it’s definitely bolshy! A fun little recipe.

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    Reply Mr. Kim Klickna March 18, 2015 at 1:19 am

    I make refreshments for my local historical society meetings. I try to relate them to the topic each month. This month’s topic is the raid at Harper’s Ferry just before the start of the civil war.. So I’m looking for things that might have been served in Virginia in 1859. I think that these will be perfect. I also love to challenge people with unusual foods. So don’t bemoan your thought that noone will make these. I’m happy that I found the recipe and I will definitely make them. Thank you, Kim Klickna

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    Reply Katie Vandyck August 10, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Will give it a try, they sounded absolutely delicious. Just got to get the tarragon vinegar. Do you know of any other sandwiches that would have been eaten for a late 19th century tea party?

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