The Omelette

I had earlier posted an excerpt from Wyvern's Indian Cookery Book, being a new and revised edition of Culinary Jottings for Madras, published in 1878, and revised in 1904. Now, in the spirit of breakfast, I present Wyvern's comments on the omelette. The notes in brackets are mine:
With a little skill by no means difficult to acquire, and moderate forethought in the matter of materials, the Anglo-Indian [i.e., Englishman in India] should always be able to rely on giving himself a good omelette, for the operation is as practicable in camp, at the traveller's bungalow, or by the road side, as in the back verandah in Cantonment. Eggs, concerning which there is no difficulty, charcoal and a broken chatty to hold it, a properly shaped omelette pan, a tin of good preserved butter, salt, pepper, and a bottle of dried parsley represent the requirements of the case, and thus provided everyone should be in a position to turn out a capital dish, very rapidly, at any time, and anywhere. An omelette for two can be made over a good spirit lamp in a little eight-inch pan.

Fettered by tradition, Ramasamy [the author’s generic term for an Indian cook], as a rule, is somewhat mistaken with regard to this branch of his art. He sends you up a very nice pudding, symmetrical in design, of a good consistency, and of a rich brown colour. You almost require a dessert-knife to help it. In addition to the eggs (the whites of which he whips separately), he puts in a little flour, some milk or a little water, and, in point of fact, makes a lightish sort of batter. This he mixes, vigorously whips, and fries in a fair amount of ghee, folding it into shape, and keeping it on the fire till it is nice and firm, and coloured as I before described. The fact is that he has never seen the real thing, and does his best to produce a substantial dish. In respect of one kind of omelette he is not far wrong, as will presently be shown, and he is easily taught how to make the one I am about to describe.

Now I have never come across a book in which the making of an omelette was thoroughly explained. Many writers indeed seem unable to grasp the fact that their readers may possibly know nothing at all about it. I picked up the little I know on the subject when on the line of march from Bangalore to Secunderabad at Pennaconda in the Bellary District, where I was entertained by a member of the Madras Civil Service at a memorable breakfast which was finished by an omelette made by my host himself: Calling for a slop-basin, he broke into it four ordinary country fowl's eggs, whole, and added the yolks only of two more. He thus had six yolks, and four whites. These he thoroughly mixed by using two forks: he did not beat them at all. When thoroughly satisfied that incorporation had been effected, he flavoured the mixture with a saltspoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of very finely minced shallot, a heaped up tablespoonful of minced curly parsley grown in his garden. He stirred this for a minute, and, as far as its first stage was concerned, the omelette was ready. We now left the dining-room for the verandah where there was a good charcoal fire in an iron brasier, (a half chatty would have sufficed of course) and upon it a pan about ten inches in diameter, very shallow, with a narrow rim well sloped outwards. A pat of butter was melted in the pan, sufficient in quantity to thoroughly lubricate the whole of its surface, and leave a coating of moisture about an eighth of an inch deep over all. As soon as ready, quite burning hot, the butter having ceased to splutter, and beginning to brown, with one good stir round, the mixture was poured into the pan. At the moment of contact, the underpart of omelette formed, this was instantly lifted by the spoon, and more of the unformed portion allowed to run beneath it; that was similarly quickly lifted, and the same process encouraged, the left hand, holding the pan, and playing it, as it were, from side to side: With one good shake, the pan (in less than a minute from the time of commencing operations) was now lifted from the fire, and its contents rolled off into the hot silver dish at hand to receive it, in which a little melted butter, with some minced parsley and shallot, had been prepared. The omelette, as it rolled, slightly assisted by the spoon, almost of its own accord from the pan, caught up, and buried within it, the slightly unformed juicy part of the mixture which still remained on the surface; and, as it lay in the dish, took an irregular oval form, of a golden yellow colour, flecked with green, with the juicy part escaping from beneath its folds.

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