Sausages in a Curry Sauce is a simple and inexpensive comfort food suitable for all seasons. While its perhaps a close cousin to a traditional currywurst, Sausages in a Curry Sauce eschews the traditional tomato-based sauce for a sweet-tart curry gravy. This recipe comes adapted from The Mystery Chef’s Never Fail Cookbook (1949), an odd novelty in my collection. The Mystery Chef was one John MacPherson, a 1930s/40s radio personality who authored a handful of cookbooks. The “Never Fail” in the title is meant as both a confidence booster to the home cook as well as a humble boast about the perfection of the ingredient list and instructions. The introduction claims that one’s talent in the kitchen is less important than simply following his instructions with exactness. I have not cooked enough of his recipes to confirm whether he is right or not, but he hasn’t led me wrong so far.
Sausages in a Curry Sauce is found in a chapter entitled “Famous Foreign Dishes”. This chapter covers recipes from a dozen different countries, viewed through the lens of 1940s America. The only non-European recipe is a Curry Sauce, nominally from India, of which Sausages in a Curry Sauce is one of the recommended variants/serving suggestions. To readers in the twenty-first century, where Indian food is widespread and plentiful, this seems an odd choice for the single traditional recipe. Sausages then and now contain beef and pork, which are rarely consumed by wide swaths of the Indian population. Modern readers have more experience with Indian cuisine. I’ve eaten what I’d describe as ‘traditional’ Indian food in at least three different countries. The growth and establishment of large Indian communities outside of India has improved the availability of traditional spices and ingredients worldwide. Indian restaurants may still account for local tastes – in America Indian food often uses luxurious amounts of butter and cream, and in Mexico the samosas suspiciously resembled empanadas – but Americans in particular have much more exposure to “real” Indian food than they might have had even thirty years ago.
The 1940s would have been a different story, with Indian food still viewed largely through the lens of British colonialism. For better or for worse the two countries’ culinary histories are intertwined. As a consequence, Madras curry powder was a popular seasoning for all sorts of different foods in the West. I’m not especially interested in litigating what is and isn’t authentic, but I’m pretty sure curried chipped beef on toast didn’t originate on the Indian subcontinent. When westerners wanted to make more traditional Indian food they were often hampered by ingredient availability. Sausages in a Curry Sauce, for example, uses tart apples as a base for the curry sauce, probably to approximate the sweet-sour flavor of tamarind paste. I’ve seen similar substitutions in Westernized Indian recipes, such as Mulligatawny Soup. These days I can find tamarind paste in any Asian market, most Mexican shops, and some (but not all) supermarkets. In 1940s America Granny Smiths were about the closest you could expect to get. And, to be honest, it kind of works. The apples lend a unique base and consistency to the curry sauce which makes it vaguely exotic. And even though we’re using McCormick Curry Powder and pouring the sauce over beef sausages, this still would have been a novel change of pace for your average mid-century home cook.
Preparation is straightforward. The curry sauce is made from pan fried apples and onions, which are mashed and seasoned. The sauce is then mixed in to a standard fat-and-flour gravy and cooked until thick and, well, gravy-like. Store-bought sausages – nothing fancy – are pan fried and smothered in the sauce. There’s a little bit of chopping and prep, but most of the cook time is spent simmering. Start-to-finish dinner can be on the table in under an hour. The original recipe lives up to the “never fail” promise in the book’s title. The as-written recipe calls for hand mashing the apples with a potato masher. I considered using a blender to give the sauce a more uniform consistency, but am glad I stuck with the Mystery Chef’s recommendations. The coarseness of the hand-mashed apples makes the gravy a little less gluey and adds some much-needed texture. The only change I made to the original recipe was to add a little more curry powder and lime juice. It just needed more oomph than what it’s got.
Is this recipe the pinnacle of haute cuisine? Not by a long shot. Will I add this to my regular rotation? Probably not. Was it better than it ought to be? Absolutely. This dish does not look promising when you drop it on the table. My son wouldn’t stop calling it “curried hot dogs”, and unless you’re using fancy handmade sausages it’s not too far off base. But it’s not meant to be anything more than curried hot dogs, and as long as you’re not using ten cent turkey franks it’s a pretty decent meal. I served Sausages in a Curry Sauce with a side of steamed basmati rice, cucumbers, and a butter lettuce salad. It may also work well with french fries, currywurst style. The kids made fun of it the whole meal but the leftovers were all gobbled up within a couple of days. Enjoy!
For the curry paste
- 2 tart apples
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped onion
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp Madras-style curry powder
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 tsp lemon juice
For the gravy
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (or reserved fat from the fried sausages)
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups boiling water
For the protein
Make the Curry Paste
- Peel and core apple. Coarsely chop and toss with onion.
- if the butter or fruit mixture are getting too brown reduce heat accordingly.
- Remove from heat. Mash softened apple and onion into a paste, using a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in curry powder, cloves, and of lemon juice. Return to heat, and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is soft.
- Your curry paste is finished and can be enjoyed on its own, or as part of a gravy. To use as a condiment, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over poultry or lean pork roast. The next section will show you how to incorporate it into a gravy.
Make the gravy and add the protein
- Panfry the sausages in a hot, cast iron skillet for 2-3 minutes per side until nicely browned. If desired, reserve fat for making the gravy.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan with tall walls, like a chicken fryer or saucier. (Use sausage fat instead, if desired) Stir in flour and cook until mixture starts to dry out. Add boiling water a little at a time, whisking vigorously to incorporate. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until mixture starts to thicken.
- Stir in curry paste until well-incorporated, then add sausages. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until sausages are cooked through. Serve immediately with basmati rice.