MY FRIEND Sister Spaulding was saying the other day that she had a benign assignation on Sunday morning for the purpose of introducing a man of her acquaintance to the glories of kedgeree, a dish he had never eaten.
The man's wife, she explained, doesn't eat fish, won't cook it and refers to kedgeree contemptuously as "perjury" or "treasury." I know that Sister's friend had a great treat.
Kedgeree, which the English evolved from the Indian dish call Khichri, a simple mixture of lentils and rice cooked with spices, enjoyed a great vogue in Victorian England as a England as a breakfast dish. The lentils disappeared and what became kedgeree now calls for only a few basic ingredients: rice, hardcooked eggs, butter or cream (or both) and fish, fresh or smoked (or both). Due to the British devotion to smoked fish generally, smoked haddock (finnan haddie) is a traditional ingredient. Most kederees, although for some reason not all, also call for curry.
Considering the dish's Indian origins, the omission of curry strikes me as foolish. Whatever its ingredients, kedgeree is a comforting food that works whatever time of day it is served. It's delicious for breakfast, splendid for lunch and superb for Sunday night supper, when I, at least, tend to be cooked out but still want something that tastes. Because I normally have all the ingredients in the house for my version of kedgeree, there is the added advantage of not having to preplan.
Kedgeree also reheats well, so if there is any left over, last night's supper can become next morning's good breakfast. While it is unusually thought of as a homely food, kedgeree has been known to appear, in a highly refined version, as a first course at formal luncheons at the British Embassy.
When we have kedgeree in the evening I always think salad will go nicely along with it, except that we never seem to be able to work up any enthusiasm for salad once the kedgeree is placed on the table.
Jane Grigson in "English Food" (Macmillan, 1974) writes, "The sad thing is that [kedgeree] became institutionalized as a handy way of using up any left-over fish and rice: It came to table stodgy and tasteless. Left-overs can be used to make a good kedgeree, but the cook's hand should be generous with butter and cream; and the proportion of fish to rice should be more or less two parts to three, cooked weight." ELIZABETH DAVID'S KEDGEREE (2 or 3 servings)
Ingredients are 3 smoked haddock fillets, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 medium onion, 4 heaped tablespoons of uncooked rice, a scant teaspoon of curry powder, 2 tablespoons of sultanas (raisins) or dried currants, seasonings, 2 hard-boiled eggs,parsley, water, a lemon and chutney.
First pour boiling water over the haddock fillets. Leave them to soak 2 or 3 minutes, drain them, peel off the skin and divide the fish into manageable pieces.
Heat the oil in a heavy 10-inch frying or saute pan. In this fry the sliced onion until pale yellow. Stir in the curry powder. Add the rice (don't wash it). Stir all round together. Add the washed sultanas or currants. Pour in 1 pint of water. Cook steadily, not at a gallop, and uncovered, for 10 minutes. Put in the haddock. Continue cooking until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice tender -- approximately 10 minutes. But keep an eye on it to see it doesn't stick, and stir with a fork not a spoon which breaks the rice. Taste for seasoning. Salt may or may not be required. Turn into a hot serving dish. On the top strew the chopped eggs and parsley -- and, if you like, a nice big lump of butter. Surround with lemon quarters and serve with mango chutney. -- From "Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen" CAROLE HUXLEY'S KEDGEREE (4 to 6 servings) 1 package frozen haddock (or 1 pound fresh), cooked just until it flakes and separated into not too small pieces 2 can (3 1/2 ounces each) kipper snacks separated into small pieces 1 cup raw rice, cooked 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced 6 tablespoons butter, melted 1 to 2 tablespoons madras curry 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped 1/4 teaspoon cayenne Salt to taste
Heat butter in a heavy ovenproof 2-or-3-quart casserole until foaming subsides. Add curry and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add rice and mix with a fork. Add fish and toss together. Add eggs and parsley and toss. Add salt to taste. Warm in 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. JANE GRIGSON'S KEDGEREE (4 servings) 1 pound piece smoked haddock Olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 6 ounces uncooked long-grain rice 1 teaspoon curry paste
Butter 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced Chopped parsley
Pour boiling water over the haddock and set over a low heat for 10 minutes. It should not boil. Take the haddock from the water, discard the skin and bones, and flake the fish.
Meanwhile pour a thin layer of olive oil in a pan and brown the onion in it lightly. Stir in the rice, and as it becomes transparent mix in the curry paste. Pour 1 pint of the haddock water over the rice and cook steadily until the rice is tender and the liquid abosrbed. Watch the pan, and add more water if necessary.
Mix in the flaked haddock pieces and a large bit of butter, so that the kedgeree is moist and juicy. Turn into a hot serving dish. Arrange the egg sliced on top, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon quarters and mango chutney. -- From "English Food"
When we have kedgeree in the evening, I like baked apples for dessert. The fruit is a logical sequel to anything with curry and, since the oven has to be lighted for my version of kedgeree, it's satisfying to have it do double duty.
Core the apples, put a dollop of red currant jelly into the cavity (for a lovely tartness) and a little butter. Then pour some dry white wine into the baking dish with a little sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes. If you remember to baste them, all the better.