Tonight I needed some comfort food, and, as I’m in on my own for dinner I made one of my favourites….kedgeree
Years and years ago, mum made the family kedgeree for a Sunday breakfast once and I distinctly remember detesting it (along with elix and jack) and quickly making us some backup bacon sandwiches. I can’t even recall exactly why we didn’t like it – I assume it was a “fish for breakfast” issue (this is before my palate appreciated smoked salmon for breakfast too!).
After braving it again in India a couple of years ago when i tried kedgeree for breakfast, sitting on the roof terrace of our Udaipur hotel overlooking the Pichola Lake I was converted and hooked. Now it is one of my favourite dinners-for-one!
The dish I devoured in India was packed with smoky, spicy flavours, flaked with silky white fish and topped with a hard boiled egg. After doing some research, it appears to me as though each cook makes kedgeree in their own individual way depending on the time of day you eat it, where you eat it and penchant for spice.
At the risk of boring you all to tears I thought I would include some food history in this blog – dont worry, I’ll keep it brief!
General consensus is that kedgeree originated in India as a dish of onion and lentils, the Brits brought it back to the UK as a breakfast dish with smoked haddock (or other fish) as a way to use up yesterday’s leftovers – a similar idea to bubble and squeak. Other research I have found points to Scotland as the originator of kedgeree as Scottish troops took the dish to India during the Raj times.
I guess in a way, it could easily be either as every country or region has their own individual rice, vegetable and meat/fish dish whether its paella from Spain, pilaf from the Middle East, risotto from Italy, Jambalaya from the Southern States, biryani from South Asia and nasi goreng from Indonesia – all very different dishes but essentially a very tasty, unique one-pot dish of rice, veg and protein.
I’ve tried a few kedgeree recipes at home and my favourite is James Ramsden’s (from his book Small Adventures in Cooking). This involves poaching some smoked haddock in milk with a bay leaf, turmeric, ground coriander seed and chilli powder (i sometimes also add a sprinkle of ground cumin because like the nutty element it compliments the coriander with). I am usually rather frivolous with the spices because i like my kedgeree to have a bit of a kick to it. I leave the fish in the spiced milk for 5 minutes and then remove and leave to one side. Meanwhile i fry some onions (and celery if you follow the recipe properly!) until soft then add the basmati rice to the frying pan. Once transulcent I add the spicy milk and leave to simmer until the rice is 5 minutes from cooked. Then, i add some peas, once the rice and peas are cooked I quickly stir in butter (for a glossy finish) and some creme freche to make the kedgeree lovely and creamy (James Ramsden advises to use double cream but I find this makes the kedgeree a bit sweet). I top with a soft poached egg.
Despite the yummy boiled egg in India, i prefer the softer poached egg – the gooey centre mixed with spicy rice and smoky fish adds a smooth, velvety texture to the dish and the creaminess of the soft yolk compliments the spicy flavours of the kedgeree as it is balanced by the sweet, freshness of the popping peas. (Apologies for the extensive use of cooking-adjectives and buzz words there – sorry!)
I sit at my kitchen table in Toots eating my kedgeree remembering fondly my first (sorry, second) kedgeree experience in Udaipur – if i carry on eating it as much as i do now maybe one day il be able to make it as good as it was then!