Today’s recipe comes from Eliza Acton’s book “Modern Cookery for Private Families”, published in 1845 in England. The immensely popular book saw numerous editions, and I’m using a modern reprint of the 1855 edition. The book includes chapters on everything from soup and vegetables to preserves and pickles. “The King of Oude’s omlet” shows up in the last chapter of the book, a special section on “foreign and Jewish cooking”.
Acton wrote during a time when the British East India Company was expanding its rule over the Indian subcontinent, and Oude refers to the region of Awadh in Uttar Pradesh in northern India. By 1845 Awadh was under Company rule with “the king of Oude”, or nawab, being but a nominal figurehead – the nawab at the time, if you were curious like me, was Amjad Ali Shah.
So what sort of dish got passed from Oude across the oceans all the way to Britain? Here’s Acton’s recipe, with my additional notes in square brackets:
Whisk up very lightly, after having cleared them in the usual way, five fine fresh eggs; add to them two dessertspoonsful [20 ml] of milk or cream, a small teaspoonful of salt, one – or half that quantity for English eaters – of cayenne pepper, three of minced mint, and two dessertspoonsful of young leeks, or of mild onions chopped small. Dissolve an ounce and a half [40 g] of good butter in a frying-pan about the size of plate, or should a larger one of necessity be used, raise the handle so as to throw the omlet entirely to the opposite side; pour in the eggs, and when the omlet, which should be kept as thick as possible, is well risen and quite firm, and of a fine light brown underneath, slide it on to a very hot dish, and fold it together “like a turnover,” the brown side uppermost; six or seven minutes will fry it. This receipt is given to the reader in a very modified form, the fiery original which we transcribe being likely to find but few admirers here we apprehend: the proportion of leeks or onions might still be diminished with advantage: – “Five eggs, two tolahs [22 g] of milk, one masha [1 g] of salt, two mashas [2 g] of cayenne pepper, three [3 g] of mint, and two tolahs [22 g] of leeks.”
Here’s what you need. Salt and butter, too. And you don’t need the book, I just gave you the recipe.
Now, to start with, I was happy with the clarity of my eggs. I also couldn’t find an entry on clearing eggs in the cookbook, so I was left in the dark on the subject of egg clearing. I recommend doing a Google search for “clearing eggs”, you get a rather interesting selection of links ranging from egg warehouses to something called shamanic bodyworking. If at some future point I find out what Acton means, I’ll come back and explain it.
I’m not explaining shamanic bodyworking. You’re on your own with that.
Once you get past the eggs, though, it’s a very straightforward recipe. Whisk, chop mint and leek, toss it all in, fry it up. The amount of butter gave me pause, but I went for it. There was certainly no danger of the omelette sticking to the pan, but there was also more butter floating around than I would be comfortable with using on a daily basis. But hey, i only do this sort of cooking once a week, so lard it up. Being a wuss when it comes to hot food, I used half a teaspoon of pepper “for English eaters”.
The result was delicious. The mint added a lovely freshness to the food, and my palate was happy with the mild bite that half a teaspoon of cayenne gave it. The original Indian recipe has closer to two teaspoons of cayenne, so if you try it that way, let me know how it turns out!