In The Raj at Table, David Burton quotes Emma Roberts writing during 1835 about shikarree sauce:
“Two sauces which go under the name of shikarree (hunters’) and camp-sauce are assuredly the most piquant adjuncts to flesh and fowl which the genius of a gastronome has ever compounded.”
She makes a fair point, and so all the more poignant that, like the Raj itself, shikarree sauce has disappeared. Its demise is all the more remarkable because shikarree is a snap to make.
- 4 oz red Bordeaux or other tannic wine
- 4 oz mushroom ketchup
- ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne depending on your tolerance
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Set everything together in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. It will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.
- Shikarree sauce gets hotter and improves with age.
-Burton does not tell us where he got his recipe, which is a little sweeter than the Editor’s. It did not come from Emma Roberts, because she included no recipes in Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan ; it was a travelogue, not a cookbook. The roudoubtale Mrs. Rundell published very nearly identical recipe in her New System of Domestic Cookery. The book appeared in 1806; its recipe for shikarree sauce was widely plagiarized even into the twentieth century.
-Her recipe anticipates the twenty-first century scarcity of mushroom ketchup in the United States but not the United Kingdom, where it remains widely available, even in supermarkets. Its loss is as sad as the loss of shikarree, but you can buy it at an exorbitant markup at Myers of Keswick in Manhattan and elsewhere or make your own. The britishfoodinamerica formula appears in our recipes.
-How does Mrs. Rundell anticipate the scarcity of mushroom ketchup? She allows for the substitution of “a dessertspoonful of anchovy essence. It is not as good.
- In a pinch you could substitute Worcestershire but it tends to overwhelm the other ingredients so your shikarree will taste more like an eccentric Worcestershire.
-Lizzie Collingham considers Worcestershire itself a species of shikarree, or ‘piquant shikari.’ It is no such thing. The inclusion of tamarind and all its aromatics, including Mrs. Rundell’s anchovy option, clove, garlic and onion, as well as the absence of wine or citrus, render it distinct and, we think, wonderful.
-Unlike shikarree, Anglo-Indian camp sauce does appear lost to the ages. Neither the Editor’s substantial library nor her dogged online search reveals any recipe.