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!



2 Responses to “Calcutta Beef – Exotic for the 1950s”

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  1. Ruth Chier Rosen says:

    Dear Lisa, talk about over the moon, your response on my cookbook has given me a new lease on life. I am enjoying your blog so very much, and I am pleased that you want me in your circle.
    —Chiers, Ruth

  2. Nancy Allison says:

    Dear Lisa,

    So glad you discovered my mother-in-law, Ruth Rosen’s amazing cookbooks and her terrific blog. Many of her recipes are still family staples with us. So glad you’re spreading the word about this wonder woman to a whole new generation.

    All best,

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