The Goat Curry in William Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”

The Goat Curry in William Thackeray's “Vanity Fair”

“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.

From “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray

5 cloves of garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger
2 long green chillies
30 g ghee (or rapeseed oil)
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 brown onions
700 g goat meat (shoulder is good, and use
mutton or lamb if you can’t find goat)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
500 ml vegetable stock
400 g potatoes


[1] Bash (in a mortar and pestle), blitz (in a food processor) or chop (with a knife) the ginger, garlic and chillies to a paste. Warm the ghee in the pan over a low heat and add the paste. Fry for five minutes until almost overwhelmingly fragrant. Keep the paste moving so that it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.

[2] Bash the cumin seeds and coriander seeds and add them too, along with the stick of cinnamon. Fry on a low heat for a further five minutes. Dice the onions and stir them through, frying for ten minutes until soft and translucent.

[3] Dice the meat into 2cm pieces and tip these in too. Increase the heat to medium. Add the turmeric and cayenne pepper and coat the meat in the spices while browning it on all sides.

[4] Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover with a lid and cook for an hour until the meat is tender. Add some more stock if the goat is drying out at any point.

[5] Peel and chop the potatoes into 2cm dice and add this too. Stir, then cook, with the lid on, for a further twenty minutes. The potato should be tender and the meat meltingly soft.

[6] Serve the curry with chapatis, naan or rice and some chutney or hot lime pickle. It’s also (along with every other curry I’ve eaten) perfect for reheating the next day.

Serves 4 generously