Calcutta Beef – Exotic for the 1950s

The 1950s was a time when some (and I do mean some) cooks began to experiment with “exotic” and foreign recipes. After WWII, many soldiers and nurses stationed throughout the world were exposed to new cooking styles for the first time. In my collection is a tiny spiral bound cookbook with the humorous name, Cyrano de Casserole. Subtitled “A nosegay of fragrant casserole recipes,” this cookbook was written by Ruth Chier Rosen and published in 1955.

According to the back cover, Ruth was born in Minneapolis, attended Smith College and had “attended many cooking schools and has sampled the wide variety of food that New York has to offer.” She lived in New York City with her publisher husband and young sons. The bio went on to say that she’d spent a summer in Europe studying cooking ,and that she was a leading authority on food preparation writing extensively for leading national magazines.

She had some equally fun sounding cookbooks to her name including The Big Spread, Wick & Lick (golly, what could be the subject of this?), and Tooth Sweet. So who was this Ruth? Well, I googled to learn more and bingo!

My word this woman has her own website and a blog with the most recent posting being 2015! Now, mind you Roth would be in her 80s during her last blog post, and she would now be 92ish. The blog which you should visit here is an absolute gold mine of information about how she learned to cook, and how she and her husband began their publishing business on a small scale and how it grew. An excellent writer, her posts are such fun to read. Can you tell I’m over the moon that I found this? I will be emailing her expressing my fan love and hoping that she will receive it.

But now on to the recipe. Calcutta Beef with a little symbol for India next to it. For those of us that know Indian food this recipe bares no resemblance. It has curry powder in it – that’s about it. But I loved it. Dan was more so so, but even after eating numerous leftovers I still liked it.

Calcutta Beef

  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef (pick the leanest you can)
  • 3 tbs. butter (I used 1 tbs. and if I cook this again I’d omit)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 t. garlic salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1/2 c. cooked peas (taken straight out of a can like my mom would have in the 50s)
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (so obviously I had no idea how much this was. They only sell very large cans of whole tomatoes anymore. I drained the tomatoes and eyeballed the amount to not overwhelm the dish. Maybe I used 5 tomatoes)
  • 1 tart apple, chopped
  • 1 tbs. green pepper, chopped (I was a bit more generous)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 3 tbs. curry power
  • 1 tbs. flour

Saute the onions, beef and garlic salt and pepper until browned 

Add tomatoes, apple, green pepper, stock and curry powder that has been mixed with the flour

Stir until smooth

Place everything in a casserole

Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 30 minutes

Add peas and bake another 5 minutes

Serve over rice

Super easy. My only slight complaint was I thought it was a bit too greasy, which is why I suggest you do the following. Don’t use any butter. Use the leanest ground beef and drain the beef of fat before you add the tomato mixture. This is a very fragrant dish and looked festive with the red and green of the apple, tomatoes and green pepper.

If you’re out there Ruth Rosen – a big thank you for Beef Calcutta!



Walnut Meringue Bars

This recipe is just plain yummy. Dan and I have torn through it and it’s all gone just a few days after baking. Something that rarely happens. When there’s just the two of us, sometimes my baked goods languish a bit. It’s hard when you love to bake with a very small family.

I’m trying hard to cook from my vintage cookbook stash. We had two snow days in a row, and I worked from home, so I whipped these up. Sadly, the little spiral bound cookbook this comes from with the very catchy title, Harried Housewives Appetite Aids is undated. It’s one of those community fundraising cookbooks that are found lost in the stacks of antique stores. I must have bought this one close to our home in New Hampshire. We worked in Wolfeboro and our doctors were all at Huggins Hospital so the fact that this was a fundraiser for our hospital is fun.

The book is according to the inside cover “A compilation of excellent and easy recipes from the members of Huggins Hospital Aid Association, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to benefit the Hospital.”  I don’t recognize the women’s names, but a little bit of googling showed that one died in 1972. My guess is that this is very late 1960s or very early 1970s era.

The Walnut Meringue Bars I made were from Hildur Johnson Knowlton who died in Wolfeboro in 1994. From a quick ancestry search I find that Hildur moved to Wolfeboro with her husband Frank probably like so many to retire.  They married in 1928 in Portland, Maine and had at least one child, Natalie.

Here’s her recipe:


  • 1/2 c. butter (1 stick softened)
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy

Add salt and vanilla and mix

Beat in two egg yolks

Sift together the flour and baking powder

Stir this into the creamed mixture

Spread this evenly in an 8″ x 12″ buttered shallow pan (this may be a typo as there was no way this amount of dough could be spread in this size pan. I then opted for a square 8 x 8 pan. As a result I had to cook this longer than she suggested)

Ummmm-I don't think so

Meringue topping:

Beat the two egg whites until stiff

Beat in 1 c. of light brown sugar

Fold in 1 c. chopped walnuts and 1 tsp. vanilla

Spread this over the base mixture

Bake in a 300 degree oven for 35 minutes (mine was in for about 55 minutes trying to get the base to cook through)

Cool before cutting into squares.

The flavors and textures of this bar are wonderful. The base is a gooey cookie dough while the meringue topping gives it a delightful crunch. It’s an excellent recipe. Thank you Hildur!

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