Kedgeree is a Raj specialty, served for breakfast. It is a spicy and buttery preparation of rice, fish and egg. A strongly-flavoured way to start the day.
Kedgeree is descended from a rice and lentil preparation, called kitchri, kichdi, or kichari. Kitchri went well with fish, which at that time was considered a breakfast item. The contemporary author, Colonel Kenney-Herbert, wrote in his 1885 “Culinary Jottings for Madras” that “in the hot season, fish caught early in the morning would be much deteriorated before the dinner hour”.
My grandmother agreed with the Colonel. Fish was rarely served in the evening. Fish meant breakfast.
The common kitchri was changed to suit the Raj tastes. The dish lost the lentils, the fish was cooked into it and eggs were added at the end. Butter, instead of ghee or oil was used to cook the spices and coat the cooked rice.
The choice of fish in this dish is important. You need fish with a strong flavour for this dish to work, which is why, aside from those food hygiene issues, smoked or salted fish was used. Interestingly, from my grandmother’s notes, smoked or salted fish was used in the hot months, and fresh fish was used in the colder months.
If you intend to serve this as a breakfast dish, you could prepare the rice, fish and eggs the night before, then just do the last cooking stage in the morning. Again, be aware of food hygiene with pre-cooked rice, which we discuss in storing rice.
Smoked haddock, the now common way to prepare this dish may not be readily available. Smoked cod works well as a substitute. You should be careful to buy fish that is actually smoked, not painted with smoke flavouring and colour.
In this recipe, the spices are simply mustard seeds, cumin seeds and turmeric. To make a truly English version you should use curry powder. We don’t.
- 1 cup coriander leaves – chopped
for the rice
- Rinse the rice thoroughly with several changes of water to remove any excess starch. Cover the rice with plenty of water and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
- Drain the water and put the soaked rice into a heavy pot. Add 750ml water and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered. When it starts boiling, cover and reduce the heat to very low. Cook for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn the heat off, fluff the rice with a fork and cover the pan with a tea-towel. Set aside and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
for the fish
- Put the fish in a small pan. Add the bay leaves then pour over the milk. Heat to simmering point, then reduce the heat and poach for about seven minutes, or until the flesh flakes easily.
- Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the fish from the milk, place on absorbent paper and set aside.
for the eggs
- Prick the large end of the eggs with a pin. Place in a small pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil.
- When water starts to boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook the eggs for six minutes, then immediately remove from the heat, drain, then cover eggs with cold water. You may need several changes of cold water to cool the eggs.
- Once cooled, carefully peel the eggs and set aside.
- Finely slice the white part of the spring onions and set aside. Coarsely slice the green part of the onions on the diagonal until you have a cupful, then set aside for a garnish.
- Melt the butter in a pan over low heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds.
- Once the seeds start to pop, add the ginger, the white parts of the onions and the garlic. Increase the heat to medium and cook for about five minutes to soften the onions.
- When onions have softened, but not coloured, add the turmeric, salt and chilli. Cook for a further two minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir well and cook for another two minutes to allow the tomato to soften.
- Stir in the cooked rice and heat through. Add the flaked fish and continue to stir, but gently enough to avoid breaking up the fish. When the rice and fish are hot, remove from the heat and add the fresh coriander. Mix well, but gently.
- Slice the eggs into quarters and place on top of the rice. Garnish with the sliced green onion and serve.
- 300g of uncooked rice is approximately 1½ metric cups.
- Smoked haddock may be hard to obtain. Smoked cod is a good substitute. You may also try cold-smoked salmon – but that will not need to be poached.
- The recipe specifies some whole spices. They may be ignored, and curry powder used instead, which is the way many English homes make this dish. Add it instead of the turmeric as described above.