Friday, September 26, 2008

Kedgeree for the British Food Fortnight Challenge

Since I decided to host the
British Food Fortnight Challenge a few weeks ago, I've been trying hard to decide what I should cook for the challenge. At first, I thought I'd go for a traditional British pud - treacle tart, perhaps? As the days passed, I decided that I'd focus on some of the best produce our nation produces and thought I'd plunk for something meat-based. Beef Wellington is a favourite, but is hardly credit crunch-friendly (...and as I had no plans to entertain this week, I thought it a little decadent to make for one).

I then decided that I'd like to challenge myself a little and attempt something I haven't made before. I have a bit of an issue with rice. I virtually never cook it. I'm hopeless when it comes to cooking the stuff. Actually, the truth be told, I'm not really hopeless at it. I just have a fear of cooking rice. I'm convinced I'll get it wrong. Either it'll be one big sticky, lumpy mess or it'll stick to the pan and have to be chiseled off, or it'll be more al dente than an uncooked potato.

However, a dish that I've loved since childhood is kedgeree and I have always wanted to re-create it. Kedgeree became popular in the UK during the reign of Queen Victoria and was served at breakfast in the homes of the wealthy. The name of the dish may be Indian in origin, but it came initially from Scotland. The dish was taken to India by troops serving the British Raj and it is no doubt in India where the kedgeree gained its curry spices. The combination of smoked fish, rice, eggs and spices became popular amongst British colonials in India and made its way back to Britain. Since then, it has become a British classic. Whilst still served in the finest hotels as a breakfast dish (it is particularly good 'the morning after the night before'), it actually makes a delicious lunch or supper dish.

There are many variations of kedgeree. The basics are fish (traditionally smoked haddock), rice, eggs and butter. The quality of these are all key to the success of this dish. I made mine with smoked haddock but you may prefer to plunk for a more sustainable species. I think that smoked mackerel would work quite well. Salmon is a good choice too, though quite different.

This recipe worked out just as I hoped. It is a combination of around 6 different recipes as I couldn't find one that sounded just right. Cooking the rice in the poaching liquid is key - adds so much flavour. I've kept my version fairly basic, just enriching it with a touch of cream. But peas, spinach or tomatoes would be valid (if nontraditional) additions.

Serves 2


2 fillets Scottish smoked haddock (traditionally smoked and undyed*)
1 mug long-grained rice
bay leaf
2 free-range organic eggs
a good few knobs of butter
1tsp medium curry powder
1/2 an onion (or 1 very small one), chopped
a very generous handful of parsley
a small handful coriander (optional)
1 tbsp double cream (optional)
cayenne pepper
a lemon

1. Place the haddock in a pan and just cover with water. Add a bay leaf and bring to simmer. Poach for around 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and easily flakeable. Remove with slotted spoon and place in a dish, covered with foil in a very low oven to keep warm. Do not throw away the poaching liquid. Pour it into a measuring jug.

2. In another pan, melt a knob of butter and gently sweat the chopped onion. Meanwhile, give the rice a good rinse and add to the buttery onion. Stir to coat the rice and add the curry powder and mix gently. Pour poaching liquid into same mug that you used to measure the rice - you need two mugfuls in total (i.e. double the volume of rice). If you don't have enough, top up with water. Pour over rice, stir once and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

3. Meanwhile, hard-boil the eggs in a pan of simmering water.

4. Whilst you are waiting for this to do, utilise your brand-new mezzaluna to chop copious amounts of parsley. Try not to get too excited or carried away event though mezzaluna chopping is so satisfying...

5. Peel the eggs and chop into quarters (or smaller, if you prefer). Flake the fish into the rice and stir to combine. Add the herbs, another decent knob of butter, the cream (if using) and the eggs. Heat through gently and stir to combine all the flavours. Squeeze over the juice from half a lemon (or to taste). Add pepper and salt but go easily on the salt as the fish may be quite salty (taste to be sure).

6. Serve, garnished with more parsley and a little cayenne pepper.

*Traditionally-smoked haddock should have a natural yellowy colour - if it is very white, it has not seen enough smoke. If it is bright yellow, it has been dyed to make up for the lack of natural colouring that should arise from proper smoking.

N.B. The herbs came from my garden. The haddock from Scotland. The eggs from Monmouthshire, butter and cream are British. The rice, spices and lemon are sadly not!


Elra said...

What a nice history. I never made kedgeree before. Now I am tempted to make it. It looks really good.

By the way, I always cheated when it times to cook rice. I use rice cooker, well almost every household in Asia own one. It is useful if you cooking a lot of rice.

Good luck with the British Food Fortnight Challenge!

Sam said...

Good entry! I love Kedgeree but have never made it.

I've got three packs of smoked haddock in my freezer waiting to be used so I think Kedgeree's on the menu!

Maria said...

Great entry Antonia! I've never made Kedgeree but it looks wonderful.


Joy said...

Yum! I am reading this at work and I am now really wishing there was somewhere selling this close by. I am still deciding what to cook as there are just too many delicious British recipes.

Jennywenny said...

Ooooh! I had a lovely kedgeree in Boulder, CO and it got me all homesick! I'll have to try this one now I know how to smoke fish, so easy! I'll see if I have time to make something traditional too for your event!

Rosie said...

Wonderful entry Antonia!! As yet I haven't made kedgeree but viewing yours it looks like I am missing out on a great dish - a must make!!

I have submitted my entry via email to you for this event today :)

Rosie x