Now we have heard how Mrs. Sedley had prepared a fine curry for her son, just as he liked it, and in the course of dinner a portion of this dish was offered to Rebecca. “What is it?” said she, turning an appealing look to Mr. Joseph.
“Capital,” said he. His mouth was full of it; his face quite red with the delightful exercise of gobbling. “Mother, it’s as good as my own curries in India.”
“Oh, I must try some, if it is an Indian dish,” said Miss Rebecca. “I am sure everything must be good that comes from there.”
“Give Miss Sharp some curry, my dear,” said Mr. Sedley, laughing.
Rebecca had never tasted the dish before.
“Do you find it as good as everything else from India?” said Mr. Sedley.
“Oh, excellent!” said Rebecca, who was suffering tortures with the cayenne pepper.
“Try a chili with it, Miss Sharp,” said Joseph, really interested.
“A chili,” said Rebecca, gasping. “Oh, yes!” She thought a chili was something cool, as its name imported, and was served with some. “How fresh and green they look,” she said, and put one into her mouth. It was hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no longer. She laid down her fork. “Water, for Heaven’s sake, water!” she cried. Mr. Sedley burst out laughing (he was a coarse man, from the Stock Exchange, where they love all sorts of practical jokes). “They are real Indian, I assure you,” said he. “Sambo, give Miss Sharp some water.”
The paternal laugh was echoed by Joseph, who thought the joke capital. The ladies only smiled a little. They thought poor Rebecca suffered too much. She would have liked to choke old Sedley, but she swallowed her mortification as well as she had the abominable curry before it, and as soon as she could speak, said, with a comical, good-humoured air—
“I ought to have remembered the pepper which the Princess of Persia puts in the cream-tarts in the Arabian Nights. Do you put cayenne into your cream-tarts in India, sir?”
” Vanity Fair – William Makepiece Thackeray

We’re having a heat-wave in South Africa and the weather forecasters are madly issuing warnings for people to stay adequately hydrated and stay out of the sun. ‘There’s a saying that ‘when even salamanders are fainting from the heat, there’s nothing like a good, hot Madras curry’, (sourced from and that is just what I did yesterday as the temperatures reached over thirty degrees in Johannesburg.

chicken madras

Much hotter than Ms Sharp could ever have handled, it made for surprising relief from the heat.
I used Gordon Ramsay’s recipe. (But added mushrooms, peas and potatoes.)


70 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the hottest food is served in the hottest climates – I wonder if it’s related to a time when refrigeration wasn’t available, and therefore the chilli was used to kill anything nasty in food which might not be lasting quite as well in the hot conditions?

    Either way, when it the mercury rises, I find myself craving curry as well.. 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes Celia, I am certain the chilli was used to mask the nasties 🙂

  2. Tandy says:

    I had a meal too hot for my poor taste buds on Sunday night! Stay cool and drink lots – the dry air up there makes the heat feel even worse 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Am seriously considering a swim 🙂

  3. SidevieW says:

    I resorted to cold chicken and salad 😉

    1. theonlycin says:

      My curry would have had you in tears, far too hot for you 🙂

  4. earlybird says:

    Becky Sharp is one of my favourite heroines but I’d forgotten this scene!

    Reading the recipe – more than 40mns seems an awfully long time for some ‘diced chicken breast’ – didn’t it dry out?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Nope, it was wonderfully tender and there was quite a lot of sauce 🙂

  5. Sadly we are STILL having cool weather down here – got quite irritable having to put on tracksuit pants and a long top again this morning – okay, now I feel better.
    Have a super day and enjoy the beautiful hot weather.
    🙂 Mandy

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’d welcome a bit of a breeze, Mandy, all my doors and windows are open, but I think it may be cooler if I shut them!

  6. leigh says:

    Reminds me of being belittled by “pudge” and dinah’s dinner torture…love it 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      *goes off to Google Pudge and Dinah … *

      1. leigh says:

        No,no,no, Pudge brought back his thursday night culinary torture from being stationed in India during the war. Source: memory 🙂

  7. dinahmow says:

    (‘nother Dinah) Eating a hot seasoned dish in hot climates promotes sweating, which is good. Provided you keep up the water intake. Sadly, the English only took water in their scotch or gin! 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Hahaha … I thought they took tonic water in the tropics to fight Malaria?

  8. MissChris says:

    Mmmmmm – not sure I would have managed a curry last night – it was so damn hot!!!

    1. theonlycin says:

      It gets you hotter and then you cool down, which is a relief 🙂

  9. inzwakazi says:

    I only had breakfast yesterday. All I did was drink water the whole day and my stomach felt like it would pop.

    1. theonlycin says:

      You didn’t have toast from the trolley in the studio???

      1. inzwakazi says:

        That was the last thing I had.

      2. theonlycin says:

        I miss the trolley, funny how that is the only place I ever ate cheese spread 😉

  10. Sue Green says:

    Much cooler & drizzling here in the hollow, what a pretty fork! 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      It is, hey, got it from a special friend 😉

  11. Tilly Bud says:

    Does that really work?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yep, ask any Colonialist 🙂

      1. colonialist says:

        Except this one. 🙂

  12. adeeyoyo says:

    Way to go, Cin – fight fire with fire with a glass of fresh fruit juice on the side!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I had an icy glass of Sauvignon Blanc, adee 😀

  13. suzicate says:

    As it’s cooling down here, that would be a perfect dish…I don’t do so much hot in the heat of the summer. I love Fall and Winter just to make soup…made the most incredible crab chowder this past weekend and cornbread biscotti…love meals like that, real comfort food!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Oh I am so jealous that you can get hold of crab, SuziCate 🙂

  14. Ruth says:

    Fight hot with hotter. 🙂 Fortunately for me (I’m a bit of a Rebecca where heavily spiced food is concerned), we seldom experience heat waves here where I live…

    1. theonlycin says:

      My stepdaughter used to live in Kelowna in BC and she really missed South African summers, Ruth!

      1. Ruth says:

        Kelowna is beautiful, hot in summer – but I guess not as hot as SA 🙂

      2. theonlycin says:

        She’s much happier living in Cape Town now 🙂

  15. colonialist says:

    I am still a Philistine who believes that curries, like soups, are best in cold weather. Also, I like my curries mild. I suppose it is like mustard, where once the tastebuds are rendered insensible one develops a taste for the English variety and scorns the mild French alternative.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I left the French and German varieties a long time ago 🙂

  16. slpmartin says:

    I suspect there are a few people in North America who would just love to have your weather right now…some I hear are expecting their first snow.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’d far rather have the heat, Charlie 🙂

  17. nrhatch says:

    I adore hot fiery cuisine. Curries with a bit of chili oil on the side. Yummy!

    Surprised at how warm the weather got so fast. 30 degrees C in October seems surprising.

    1. theonlycin says:

      It’s sweltering today, nancy, but it looks like we may get a welcome afternoon shower 🙂

  18. Linda says:

    I have no idea how hot food in a hot climate can be soothing but if you say so.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Try it, Linda, it really does work 🙂

  19. Chilli in Cape Town! 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Lucky you, Pinky 🙂

  20. I’ve heard this actually does work, yet to try it. It always seems crazy to add heat to the mix. It works though you say?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Sure does, Cheffie 🙂

  21. Ah, I arrive home to a treat: one of the drollest scenes from Vanity Fair. Just adore this scene, and to see it translated into a madras curry: just wonderful. Thanks Cindy 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      You’re welcome, Kate, knew you’d enjoy it 🙂

  22. Sana Quijada says:

    Somehow I could feel the heat.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Put the fan on, Doc 😉

  23. Delightful story 😀 and I like the crockery… Not much one for spicy food though.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Never mind, Lee, I’ll make yours a mild one 🙂

      1. I can do mild, as long as you don’t define it the way they do in Durban 😉 Made me smile…. I remember the short time we lived in Margate many years ago… Indian ‘country’… My dad loved their bunny chow. The Indian definition of ‘mild’ was very scary… set me on fire, then made my eyes water to extinguish it 😀 I loved milk for a w-h-o-l-e different reason back then! 🙂

      2. theonlycin says:

        Yes, Durban has its own version of what one waiter called ‘hottie-hottie-burnie-burnie’ LOL!

  24. Tammy says:

    I loved reading that! And I love a very hot curry!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’ll remember that when you visit, Tammy 🙂

  25. klrs09 says:

    I envy you your 30+ temps. We only reached that high once or twice this summer. Now we’re heading into winter. Snow in Lethbridge today. Huge sigh. The curry sounds great. Followed the link to GR’s recipes. Will definitely bookmark.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Good luck and stay warm, Kathy 🙂

  26. souldipper says:

    Canada had a heat wave in 1935. Temperatures soared to 44 degrees C in Manitoba. 400 people drowned while attempting to find relief in various bodies of waters. There is no mention of Curry Aid arriving from India or South Africa. 😀

    1. theonlycin says:

      400 people? What a sad disaster, Amy!

      1. souldipper says:

        One wonders what wine they had consumed!

  27. bluebee says:

    We’ve also had the odd really hot night here in the past week, but it’s cold here today and curry will go down a treat. Hope it’s cooled down there a bit too, Cin and that you have your mojo back

    1. theonlycin says:

      The mojo is slowly returning, bluebee, thanks 🙂

  28. dearrosie says:

    Oh like this post Cindy. I grew up eating curries because my Mum was born in India. We were so mean to all our boyfriends/girlfriends when they first came round to dinner and would eat my Mum’s curry for the first time. I remember one particular boyfriend of my sister. His ear’s turned bright red and even though he seemed to be drinking more water than eating curry he insisted that he loved the dinner…
    I’m going to go straight to the bookshop to find a copy of William Makepiece Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.

    1. theonlycin says:

      LOL at the red ears! Enjoy the book, I am sure you will 🙂

  29. The Hook says:

    I can’t process spicy foods, but you’ve piqued my interest. Good work!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Mister H 🙂

  30. Sparkle says:

    I always had my elders asking for afternoon tea in hot weather saying it fights off the heat.

    1. theonlycin says:

      It does indeed, Sparky, especially with a bit of mint in it 🙂

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