Curry for breakfast? It may be an acquired taste, but it’s a taste worth acquiring if the dish is interesting and – most importantly – delicious. In my house this is an evening dish, but in truth you could have it at any time of the day.
It is widely believed that kedgeree was brought to the United Kingdom by returning British colonials in Victorian times, who had enjoyed it in India and brought it back as a breakfast dish. There is some evidence that the dish was actually in existence much earlier, as early as 1790 in fact, but that is the nature of cooking – one dish inspires another, recipes evolve and hybridise with others, there is very little that is really new in the world of food. What is certainly true is that Anglo-Indian cuisine first became fashionable under Queen Victoria, a taste that has persisted, strengthened and deepened over the last 150 years.
There are many, many recipes for kedgeree – sometimes I feel as if I have cooked them all. The recipe below may be simple, but it is acclaimed by my family as the best of them all. Everything complements everything else, there are no flashy ingredients, nothing complex to do, just cook and eat.
It looks like there is too much fish in this dish, but kedgeree is a dish that is at its best with a lot of fish – cracking that secret was like discovering the kedgeree holy grail…
RECIPE – feeds 4
approximately 600ml milk (any kind, for poaching)
2 bay leaves
the stalks from a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
500g undyed smoked haddock
25g unsalted butter
a large knob of fresh ginger
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
175g basmati rice
600ml cold water
a handful of sultanas
2 large eggs
freshly squeezed lemon juice
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped to garnish
lemon wedges to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4.
Put the fish in a large baking dish, skin side up (if it has any) in a single layer if possible. Add the bay leaves, parsley stalks and peppercorns, then add as much milk as necessary to just cover the fish. Cover the dish with baking foil, and ensure the edges of the foil are tucked in tight and sealed. Bake for 16-20 minutes until the fish is just done and starts to flake.
Meanwhile, boil a kettle, add the hot water to a pan and boil the eggs for 8 minutes (until just hard-boiled). Plunge them into cold water to cool, set aside for now. When you come to use them either half or quarter them, as you like.
While the eggs are boiling, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and add the ginger, chilli and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until aromatic, then add the onion and reduce the heat. Cook for a further 6-8 minutes on a medium heat until the onions are softened but not coloured, then add the cayenne pepper, turmeric and nutmeg, stir thoroughly while cooking for a minute, then add the rice and sultanas. Stir again, ensuring that everything is thoroughly coated in everything else, then add the water. Stir and bring to the boil, then simmer for approximately ten minutes until the rice is just al dente.
By this point the fish should be done. Remove from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and remove any of the peppercorns that are adhering to it. Remove the skin (if it is there) and flake the fish directly into the rice. Cook it on slightly, stir it in gently and if any more liquid is required then use the poaching liquid to loosen the rice. Check the seasoning and warm a serving platter.
Turn the fish and rice out onto the serving platter, topped with the eggs and roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves. Squeeze half a lemon over everything, and serve with lemon wedges.