In Search of Kedgeree

Recipes kindly sponsored by Flahavan’s

I had a deprived childhood in that I was never given kedgeree. It was unknown in our house, along with other traditional staples of the breakfast table like kippers and sweetened porridge. I was quite grown up when I first encountered a form of it; I think it was made with smoked salmon by my late mother-in-law, and very good it was too.

It’s not a breakfast dish for me (although what is left over from supper time is very good heated through next morning) and I bow to the superior experience and knowledge of those who say that it’s the ultimate hangover food. But surely that’s huevos rancheros? Or fried bread with streaky bacon and a runny egg? But I digress.

I recently found myself in possession of a big fillet of smoked haddock. Properly smoked with, you know, actual smoke. Not injected with smoke flavour. And it wasn’t luminous orange, either. What the hell is that all about?

And so I went looking for recipes. There was one from the 1930s that called for fresh salmon and eschewed spice completely. Simon Hopkinson’s (from the splendid Prawn Cocktail Years) was a bit too rich, involving a white sauce. Nigella’s starts with lime leaves and ends with nam pla (at least the online version does) and that’s simply not kedgeree to me.

Jamie’s is quite kosher, so to speak, until he ruins it all by requiring us to use “fat-free yoghurt”, forsooth. And my copy of The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook gives a recipe for “kidgeree” under “Native Dishes” but there’s no fish involved.

This, curiously enough, makes sense as kedgeree is thought to have developed from quite an ancient Indian dish that combined lentils, rice and spices, know as khichari. It was the British who eventually introduced fish.

I was unable to find a recipe that delivered what I consider to the be core values of kedgeree so I had no option but to invent one. With relatively little trial and error, I came up with what I consider to be a more than satisfactory formula.

Using commercial curry powder, although something that great French chefs still do to this day, is considered anathema by many of the Food Conscious. I employed it here because nothing other than Sharwood’s delivers quite that degree of spiced nostalgia, the vestige of Vesta curry memories that kedgeree, I believe, demands.  By all means roast and grind your fresh spices and use fresh chillis. Be my guest. But it won’t taste right.

Anyway, here we go…

Smoked Haddock Kedgeree

(serves 4 as main, 6 as starter)
200g brown long grain rice
4 – 5 free range eggs
300 – 400g fillet of undyed smoked haddock
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp Sharwood’s medium curry powder
a big knob of butter
3 tbsp chives finely chopped
handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
sea salt
black pepper
200ml cream
2 tbsp crème fraîche
another big knob of butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.

Cook the rice in the usual way until a little underdone, drain and flush with cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave it in a colander to drain completely. You will be quite busy for a while with the other stuff.

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then leave to cool in a bowl of cold water, refreshing the water after 5 minutes and again after 10 minutes. Then peel and set aside. If you like underdone hardboiled eggs (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) this is neither the time nor the place. They are going to get cooked again, anyway.

Rinse the smoked haddock under the cold tap and lay it in a shallow, oval dish. Pour boiling water over it and set aside.

Meanwhile, toast the cumin, fennel and curry powder in a small, dry pan for 1 minute, then grind together and return to the pan with a large knob of butter. Cook together for 2 minutes on a low heat to release the aromas.

Put the fully drained cold rice into a bowl and add the butter/spice mixture, followed by the finely chopped chives and the finely chopped parsley. Mix together and season with plenty of sea salt and oodles of black pepper.

Drain the haddock, remove the skin and any remaining bones (there will always be one that gets away, so take care) and flake the flesh.

Slice or chop the hard-boiled eggs. I chopped but, on reflection, now favour sliced. Better texture, I reckon.

Put a layer of the rice mixture in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, followed by a layer of smoked haddock, a layer of egg and finish with a layer of rice mixture.

Melt another large knob of butter in a small saucepan and add the cream and the crème fraîche and heat through. Drizzle this over the contents of the dish, cover with greaseproof paper or butter wrappers and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with plentiful fat wedges of lemon.

An Alsace Gewurztraminer is astonishingly good with this.