it is a well-known fact that kashmiri’s love rice. my maternal family has kashmiri heritage and it is here that i first witnessed rice being scooped up with naan. babcia often found this trait peculiar given that it involved eating two forms of carbohydrates together. years later when i married o i discovered that he has similar loves. in fact i sometimes wonder whether he is secretly a kashmiri given his love for rice, eating two or more carbohydrates together and even kashmiri tea whose dusty rose colour i love but whose thick milk skin crusted with pistachios i cannot abide. when it comes to pakistani food he loves the labour intensive biryani with a heady masala base, a simpler and judiciously spiced chicken pulao or even the gentle and nursery like kichari intended to soothe poorly constitutions. he is partial to italian risotto, spanish paella, korean bibimbap and chinese egg fried rice. it should therefore come as no surprise that he took instantly to kedgeree.
the term 'kedgeree' may sound oddly familiar to those of south asian origin. this is because it is etymologically connected to ‘kichari’; a restorative rice and lentil dish with aromatics that have healing and ayurvedic properties. its soothing personality is called upon when one is feeling poorly. i remember eating many a bowlful with a slim mint yoghurt when either my sibling or i had an upset stomach. despite the shared nomenclature there is little affinity between the two. kedgeree is associated with breakfast and features rice that has been seasoned with curry powder and has peas and thick flakes of smoked haddock forked through it. it is finished with hard-boiled eggs and chopped parsley. some versions include cream to provide a richer more risotto like finish. my first taste of kedgeree was at e’s when her mama served it to us for lunch at her house in southampton in early 2000.
the origin of kedgeree is disputed with one line of thought saying that it is a scottish dish that absorbed sub-continental flavour through the scottish army when it was stationed there in the 1800s. the alternative suggests that it is an anglicized version of kichari that came into being during the raj when the british tweaked its nursery like cousin.
|kedgeree is served|
i have been making it since i have been married and given its regular appearance on our dinner table it seems natural that there should be a recipe. i have always cooked it from the memory of my first taste and from my understanding of sub-continental cooking processes. hence i start by softening onions with some cardamom and then making a spiced broth with the curry powder that is briefly cooked with the onions. it was not until recently when i read felicity cloake’s ‘how to cook the perfect kedgeree’ that i discovered a variety of techniques. although known as breakfast, o much prefers it for dinner. as far as i am concerned its balance of protein and carbohydrate makes it well suited to most mealtimes, save afternoon tea.
two hundred grams basmati rice
three hundred and seventy-five grams undyed smoked haddock fillets
two bay leaves
four whole peppercorns
five hundred ml water
a knob of butter
one tablespoon sunflower oil
a small onion
two cardamom pods
two hundred grams frozen peas
one very heaped tablespoon curry powder
one and a half teaspoons salt
the juice of half a lemon
a small handful of flat leaf parsley
a fresh green chili
two hard-boiled free-range eggs
start by rinsing the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. then soak it for at least an hour in tepid water. drain it thoroughly before you start frying the onion.
place the smoked haddock fillets skin side up in a shallow pan large enough to accommodate them in single layer. tuck the bay leaves and whole peppercorns on the side and pour over the five hundred ml of water. bring the contents of the pan to a simmer and poach the fish for around eight to ten minutes. it is ready when it flakes easily. drain the fillets reserving the poaching liquid. i strain it to remove the foam that often appears after poaching. peel the skin from the fish and roughly flake it. then set it aside.
cut the onion into half moons. bruise the cardamom so that the pods slit open. warm the butter and oil in a heavy bottomed pan with a well-fitted lid and then add the onions and cardamom pods to it. sweat the onions on low heat until they become translucent. add the curry powder and fry for half a minute. then add the peas and the drained rice stirring gently so that the fat in the pan coats them. now add the reserved poaching liquor. add the salt. it will be quite salty but remember that the rice will absorb the liquid and balance it.
bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil. line the lid of the pan with a tea towel and place it securely over the pan making sure that there is no escape for the steam. dial the heat down to the low (number two on an electric stove) and set the timer for twenty minutes.
in the meantime chop the parsley, peel and quarter the eggs and cut the green chili into thin rounds. you can deseed it if you want a more restrained heat. when your timer goes off take the lid off, fluff the rice with a fork and gently stir through the lemon juice, the flakes of haddock, parsley and green chili. decorate the top with the quartered eggs. replace the lid and allow it to steam for a further five minutes.
serve in shallow bowls with crème fraiche and mango chutney.