All About History

Sailor’s favourite substitute


Don’t worry, we’re not cooking the melancholi­c little creature from Rather Lewis Carroll’s creation was an elaborate pun on a common Victorian dish, one that actually had its roots in the 18th century.

British sailors brought green turtles back with them from the West Indies and they quickly became a taste sensation that was in demand. But catching and importing the animals from the Caribbean was expensive, so only the super-rich could afford it. Instead, mock turtle soup was created as an economical substitute.

The main ingredient was a calf’s head, which supposedly had a texture similar to turtle meat. However, part of the allure of exotic dish was that different cuts of the animal supposedly tasted like veal, beef, fish, ham and pork. So chefs would try a mix of ingredient­s to try and replicate the varied taste on a budget, throwing in oysters, ham and even fried brains. This recipe is based on one from the earliest recorded in Hannah Glasse’s 1758

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