Shell Shock – 1920s Prawn Curry

Curry has become such a comforting and familiar style of food that it’s quite hard to imagine a time when it was an exotic novelty. And indeed, with this sort of recipe as a starting point it’s surprising that anyone persevered enough to help it become such a favourite.

I suppose this must have been a pretty expensive dish in 1929; perhaps something to impress guests with, what with ingredients like curry powder, lemon and rice, which I imagine can’t have been very commonplace.

So here we go – and I should mention that I’m going to fiddle around with these old recipes if necessary to make them more palatable, exciting or healthy, because after all, I’m the one who’s got to eat the stuff!



I hope you’ve got your hot fire ready. Recipe makes enough for two.

First for the sauce (detailed elsewhere in the book so I’ll just copy it out here).


knob of butter

1 sour apple [I used a normal eating apple and it was a bit sweet; I’d go with a small Bramley next time]

1 small onion or a couple of shallots

1/2 oz [1 tbsp] plain flour

1/2 oz [1 tbsp] curry powder

1/2 pint stock

1 dessertspoon chutney

lemon juice

pinch of sugar and salt



Chop the apple and shallot finely, melt the butter and fry them a pale brown, add the flour and curry powder and cook well, stirring occasionally; stir in the stock smoothly and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, skimming off the fat as it rises; strain and add the chutney, lemon juice and seasonings.


Here’s where I went off-piste. In the interest of not contracting scurvy (although I suppose the lemon juice has that in hand) and making this a little more tasty, I lightly fried a diced red pepper with the prawns and steamed some green beans while cooking the rice. The sauce isn’t very hot so if you like a bit of a kick (and this tasted quite odd without it) I’d whack a large pinch of chilli flakes in with the pepper.

Strain the sauce into the frying pan, add the beans, serve over rice and Bob’s your uncle.


VERDICT: After the lemon’s added this is actually not that bad. Lemon juice is very much the magic ingredient here.

… Just don’t go calling it a curry and it’s quite tasty.


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