Fish and Quips - Kedgeree

Cooking on a shoestring budget is actually not so bad. It forces you to assess the ingredients of your freezers and cupboards and to utilise them in the tastiest possible way.
I am lucky. I have a drawer full (literally) of spices, which I have named my Spice Drawer. Ok, so no points for originality. I won’t tell you what Paul calls it, but it usually involves a four letter expletive every time he tries to open it and finds that it has gotten jammed up, once again “and this time it’s the Taco Seasoning AND the dried Chipotles in the way!”
He might well complain when the drawer won’t open but he complains a lot more when we’ve run out of Cumin or peppercorns, hence it is my duty to provide a well stocked spice drawer.
Actually, with just a few choice spices and some dried produce stored in dusty old jars, you can make a really a substantial meal that doesn’t taste meagre.
Kedgeree is one of my favourite rice dishes that uses very few ingredients. The name is derived from an Indian dish called Khichri which is thought to be over 1000 years old. Khichri was traditionally served with rice and lentils, sometimes sultanas, chopped mint and minced lamb, but, cooked for the British Colonials in India during the late 19th Century, it evolved into something quite different. Kedgeree later become a breakfast staple for the wealthy British household for whom the first meal of the day was the most important.
At first glance, if you take a look at some of the ingredients, hard boiled eggs and smoked fish, it does seem like a traditional breakfast. Then look again: Curry powder? Basmati Rice? When was the last time I had curry and rice for breakfast (oh, now I remember...our last Indian takeaway leftovers slapped between two slices of bread)?
Those hardy Edwardians could also eat devilled kidneys for breakfast. Today’s palate is a little more (or is that less?) refined. Cereal and toast keep the vast majority of us satisfied until lunch, and so Kedgeree was relegated to a supper dish instead.
This is no bad thing. A well made, well flavoured Kedgeree made with undyed smoked haddock, heavily scented with a hot curry powder, enveloped with cream and parsley is a wonderful thing.
I have long tinkered with this dish, using various different recipes. The first one I tried was from Nigella Bites. She substituted the smoked fish for a more delicate salmon (and Eliza Acton suggested plain boiled fish herself in Modern Cookery for Private Families), exchanged risotto rice instead for Basmati and toned down the spices, spritzing the finished dish liberally with lime juice. I found myself adding more and more salt to try and extract some flavour from her recipe but it wasn’t giving it up without a fight. A good tablespoon of curry powder later and I was satisfied although I knew there was more to Kedgeree than this bland rendition.
Another, more traditional version was Tamasin Day—Lewis’ although I still found myself adding more seasoning. I loved the addition of hard-boiled quail eggs though and the chopped parsley is essential. Some cream adds a luxurious touch.
I was beginning to think it was me. Perhaps I was demanding more flavour than this dish was capable of. But, logically thinking, this was a dish coming from the days of Raj, when formerly lily-livered Brits were experimenting with hot curries and unusual spices. Surely the bland rice, the hardboiled eggs and the cream sauce could more than adequately cope with more curry? My culinary prayers were answered by Lindsay Bareham and her wonderful book, the Food Store (Kathryn, please insert sarcastic retort here).
Lindsay Barehams' version is, in my opinion, the definitive recipe. It does involve utilising at least three of your hotplates at any one time (one to boil eggs, one to boil rice and one to simmer the fish, and that’s before you need a final hotplate to make the sauce) but, if you break down all the elements of the dish one by one, it is quite simple but very, very special.
What makes Barehams’ recipe so different is that it uses a tablespoon of curry powder which is stirred into butter and onions with some flour to form a roux. This is then turned into a rich, creamy sauce with the addition of the poaching liquor, thus infusing the whole dish with its bold flavours.
I had a slight case of the heretics myself and added a handful of frozen peas to the sauce, primarily for the reason that I was out of Parsley. Not the same taste I realise, but it did give a much needed ‘green’ element to the dish.
It seems a shame that Kedgeree is not as well loved as it was in the early 20th Century. It is a nutritious dish, filling and tasty. It is also, despite its Indian roots, a delightfully British dish that deserves to be rediscovered.
N.B. Sam at Becks and Posh has organised an event to celebrate the wonder that is British Cuisine, the round-up to be posted on St Georges Day (23rd April). I would urge any other British food bloggers (or lovers of British food - I know you're out there!) to blog about your favourite British dish, whether it's fish and chips, toad in the hole or Murrey Mints!

KEDGEREE from The Fish Store by Lindsay Bareham
Serves 2-3
300g Basmati Rice, rinsed in a sieve and drained
2 Hard Boiled Eggs (or more depending on your tastes)
300g Smoked Haddock, preferably undyed if you can get it
1 Bay Leaf
4 or 5 Peppercorns
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
300ml Milk
50g Butter
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
Handful of Frozen Peas (optional)
Chopped Parsley
100ml Double Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hard boil you eggs to the level of doneness that you like. I prefer my yolks to be barely set. These can be boiled in advance and kept unpeeled in the fridge until you are ready for them (remove them from the fridge as you start preparing the rest of the dish though, so they come up to room temperature – it never did Columbo any harm).
Place the rinsed rice into a large pan and cover with 450ml of cold water. Bring up to the boil then turn down to the lowest setting and cover.
Leave for ten minutes then remove from the heat but leave covered for another 10 minutes. I forgot about removing the lid and the rice was still fine though.
In a large frying pan, place the haddock and cover with the milk. Throw in the Bay Leaf and Peppercorns and simmer for five minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
Once the fish is cooked, reserve the cooking liquor. Flake the fish into a separate bowl, discarding any bone and the skin (my dogs ate the skin).
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium low heat and sweat down the onions until they are completely soft and golden.
Throw in the curry powder and flour and cook for a minute or two to get rid of the powdery taste.
Pour in the milk and bring to the boil.
Add the frozen peas if using.
Turn down to a gentle simmer, stirring until it thickens, then leave to cook gently for five minutes.
Meanwhile, tip the rice into a large warm serving dish.
After five minutes, add the cream and flaked haddock to the sauce. Combine gently and taste for seasoning. You may find you need some salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the rice and mix carefully to avoid breaking up the flakes of fish.
Sprinkle over the parsley and decorate with the hard boiled egg which you will have cut into quarters.
Serve and enjoy!


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

One of my favorite breakfasts is using left over fried rice with my scrambled eggs. This looks good for anytime of day if you ask me.

wheresmymind said...

Maybe one day you can upgrade to a spice rack!

Freya said...

There isn't a spice rack long enough (or a kitchen wide enough)!

Mia said...

I have a fancy drawer with a built-in spice rack. Which houses maybe half of my spices - that's all that'll fit. The rest are tucked away in another drawer, ensuring that I never find what I'm looking for.

I've made and enjoyed Nigella's kedgeree as well as a similar one that also used salmon but added poached eggs instead of boiled ones, and, if I remember correctly, spinach. I don't think haddock is very readily available here, more's the pity.

Veron said...

I like my egg yolks barely set too. Your entire dish looks cooked to perfection!

Anonymous said...

Can you use leftover cold rice?

Kelly-Jane said...

Oh kedgeree, it looks really good, sort of pure and comforting :)

I've tried Nigella's salmon too and also Claire MacDonald's one (which is my staple recipe).

Fish Store is coming off the shelf tonight, must cook something else from it soon.

Kathryn said...

What sarcastic retort?! I love how this dish looks - it just looks fantastically good - and now you're seriously tempting me towards this book. Is this the time to admit I've never eaten kedgeree??

Kathryn x

Joyce said...

Wow, doesn't that look super?
What a lovely combination and I think you were very clever to add the frozen peas - not only for color but texture. Nice dish.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Never had kedgeree, but it seems to dispute the notion that all British food is bland. What's a devilled kidney?

Freya said...

Kathryn, the retort being me ribbing you about cooking a lot from Jo Pratt and me cooking a lot from the Food Store...
Lisa, Devilled Kidneys or Devilling anything means to fry them after coating them in a paste of mustard, paprika, anything spicy, hence the devil term. Harks from the days of those spicy Edwardians.!

Shaun said...

Freya, love - Yup, I'm back in the blogosphere; well, I have one foot in the door. Your kedgeree looks incredibly tasty. Who'd know you're dining on a budget? I haven't heard of Bareham before, so that is another cookery book author to research as is Kathryn's beloved Jo Pratt. I agree wholeheartedly about the utility and necessity of a spice drawer/cabinet/rack. Like Paul, I could never go without cumin, my favorite spice, especially when making vegetarian patties.

Morven said...

I've always wanted to make kedgeree but have just nver gotten around to doing it. You've inspired me to push this to the top of my must try list.

Katie said...

Thank the gods I have a handy husband - he built my spice rack to fit, but nothing fancy. That way I can trash it when I outgrow it and demand a new one.
The kedgeree looks lovely. We can't get the smoked Haddock but I have made it with salmon. Yours looks and sounds better though...not for breakfast!

Saffron said...

Freya! I love kedgeree! so delicious!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

What a great post! I love learning about food history!

Sam said...

I absolutely love Kedgeree- I made one and blogged about it when my blog was very young about 2.5 years ago. You can't get smoked haddock in CA so I had to get it in especially.

thank you very musch for entering Fish & Quips and helping to get out the word that English Food is not a joke.

Culinary Cowgirl said...

I hadn't experienced kedgeree before moving to the UK, but I am hooked now. How the British have incorporated Indian flavors reminds me of how us Americans have incorporated Mexican flavors.

(And thanks for visiting my site earlier!)

Deborah Dowd said...

I have never had kedgeree and probably would have not been attracted but hearing your description and seeing your picture made me want to give it a try. For the record... I never thought British food was a joke!

dbzc said...

I've had this dish in a couple of pubs but with bits of ham instead of the fish. It's really tasty!