THE MENU Kedgeree Rings with Mango Chutney Mixed Vegetable Bouquet Lemon Pickle Gingered Poached Pears with Hot Ginger Sauce
THIS MENU IS wonderful for a Sunday supper and nothing short of perfect for late Sunday breakfast, early lunch, or brunch. Because every dish can be made at least the day before and quickly finished before serving, it is particularly suitable for cooks who like to spend time reading the Sunday paper. Aside from setting the table and perhaps cutting some chrysanthemums for a centerpiece, there is little to do. Best of all, the food is satisfying, comforting and good to eat, separately and in combination.
This meal starts simply with only oil-cured olives in a simple marinade, which are good with preprandial drinks, especially bloody marys or mimosas. The real interest lies in the kedgeree, a curried pot of fresh and smoked fish, rice, eggs, parsley and lots of butter. The Victorian British viewed this Indian dish as the perfect waker-upper, and they were quite right. There are many versions of kedgeree, of which this, to me, is the best. The kedgeree is served with mango chutney, a homemade hot lemon pickle and a lovely bouquet of many-colored and textured vegetables lightly cooked and quickly heated in butter. Cold poached pears, stuffed with gingered whipped cream and served with hot ginger sauce, make a refreshing end to the meal.
Oil-cured olives, which can be found in Italian food stores, tend to be salty, so I rinse and dry them before applying the marinade of olive oil, garlic and oregano, with some orange juice for interest and a few flakes of crushed red pepper for suspense. The olives should sit at room temperature in the marinade overnight but can be kept for weeks under refrigeration.
The kedgeree is most elegant when packed into ring molds and turned onto large oval platters. The centers are then filled with chutney and the ends of the platters garnished with the vegetables. This presentation is a nicety, not a necessity, and works best with plain, long-grain (not converted) rice, which is a little sticky. The kedgeree and its accompaniments can also be served on separate platters or in bowls. Eight hungry people can easily polish off this recipe, but if the guests are strong-willed dieters, the hosts may be lucky enough to have some left over. The kedgeree heats and reheats without problems. While fresh fish is always preferable, frozen fish is acceptable for this dish. If frozen fish is used, it is possible to have all the ingredients in the house, ready for a Sunday supper when even the most serious preplanners tend to fall down.
I prefer my kedgeree with an assertive curry flavor so I use the maximum amount called for in the recipe, but this is a matter of preference. It is a good idea to taste at the end because some curries are weaker than others. Should the dish need more curry, be sure to cook it in extra butter for a full minute. Cooking curry in butter tempers the rawness of the spices while it enhances their flavor. Kipper snacks, with their excellent mild, smoky flavor, are sold in long, narrow cans and are preferable to the larger cans that contain kippered herring. Since the snacks are boned, only the skins need to be discarded.
Cooks who made mango chutney this summer, when mangoes were in such good supply, should, of course, use the homemade product. Major Grey's chutney, which is sold under several brand names, can be found in specialty aisles of supermarkets. The lemon pickle, which is delicious with all curried dishes, is abundantly spiced yet doesn't blast the mouth. It keeps for a very long time, if not forever, under refrigeration. We just ate some that I had made over a year ago and it was wonderful. This lemon pickle also makes a nice house present when cooks visit cooks or, even better, non-cooks.
The vegetable bouquet is a felicitous combination with the kedgeree, with its built-in eye appeal and the full flavors of the broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas, the gentleness of the zucchini and the light sweetness of the carrots. I like to use my lemon stripper to make white striations down the length of the unpeeled zucchini, a pretty effect when the zucchini is cut into slices or chunks.
The poaching syrup can be used to cook additional pears or other fruit, so it should be decanted into a jar and stored in the refrigerator for the next time. Stem ginger in heavy syrup can be found in specialty food sections of supermarkets and in Oriental food stores. The minced ginger with whipped cream is appealing when it fills the cavity of the pear and delicious as it surrounds the pears. The ginger sauce uses the heavy syrup in which the ginger is packed, so nothing is wasted here. Golden syrup, a critical ingredient of the sauce and a mainstay of English kitchens, is similar to corn syrup but lightly caramelized. My experiments with recipes that purported to be suitable homemade substitutes were disappointing. Happily, golden syrup, imported from England, is available in the specialty food section of my local Safeway.
MARINATED OIL-CURED OLIVES (8 servings) 6 1/4-ounce jar oil-cured olives 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon orange juice 1 large clove garlic, crushed 1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves Pinch crushed red pepper
Empty the olives into a colander, run warm water over them, drain well and pat dry in paper towels. Place the olives in a bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix. Rinse the olive jar, dry and return the olives to it. Shake and let stand overnight at room temperature, shaking the jar whenever you think of it. Turn into a bowl and serve with drinks.
KEDGEREE RINGS WITH MANGO CHUTNEY (8 to 10 servings) About 4 tablespoons softened butter to grease two 6-cup ring molds 2 pounds fresh cod, haddock or other white flaky fish fillets, or 2 1-pound packages frozen white flaky fish fillets of choice, defrosted 4 3 1/2-ounce cans kipper snacks 2 cups uncooked rice, preferably not converted 2 teaspoons salt 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter 5 to 8 tablespoons curry powder, preferably imported Madras 8 hard cooked eggs 1/2 cup minced parsley Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste 3 lemons, each cut into 6 wedges 2 12-ounce jars Major Grey's chutney Lemon pickle (recipe follows)
Grease two 6-cup ring molds with the softened butter. If desired, line the molds with waxed paper and grease the paper. Refrigerate the molds until needed.
Place the fish fillets in a large frying pan, add enough water to cover the fish barely, bring to the simmer and, basting the fillets as they cook, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the fillets with a slotted spoon, let cool and flake. Drain the kipper snacks, skin them, flake and add to the fresh fish. Refrigerate.
Cook the rice with salt according to package directions in a 6-quart or larger heavy pot. (Enameled iron is ideal.) When the rice is almost done, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the butter-curry mixture to the cooked hot rice and toss with a fork, mixing well. Add the fish and toss. Cut the eggs into wedges, using an egg wedger if desired; add them along with the parsley to the mixture and toss again with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.
Pack the warm mixture tightly into the prepared ring molds and cover the molds tightly with foil. They can be refrigerated at this point overnight.
To heat, bring the molds to room temperature and place them in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the kedgeree is heated through. To serve, run a knife around the edges of the molds. Then place a large oval platter on each mold and, holding the mold against the platter and using hot pads, flip both mold and platter over together. Center the mold on the platter and unmold the kedgeree. If any of the mixture sticks to the molds, spoon it out and pat it into the ring. Wipe the platters, if necessary, with a damp paper towel and fill the centers of the rings with the Major Grey's chutney. Arrange the mixed vegetables at the ends of the platters and decorate with lemon wedges. Pass the lemon pickle separately.
Note: The kedgeree need not be turned into molds. It can be refrigerated in the pot, reheated for 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven and served in a large bowl. The chutney and mixed vegetables are then served in their own bowls.
MIXED VEGETABLE BOUQUET (8 servings) 1/2 pound snow peas 4 thin zucchini 4 stalks broccoli (1 large bunch) 3/4 head cauliflower 12-ounce bag tiny carrots or 3/4 pound long, thin carrots 4 tablespoons butter Salt and pepper to taste
First, prepare the vegetables. Wash the snow peas, trim the blossom ends and remove strings from both sides of the pods. Soak the zucchini in cold water for 15 minutes, scrub gently, trim the ends and run a lemon stripper, if desired, down the length of each zucchini 4 times at even intervals so that the zucchini will appear to be striped. Cut each zucchini into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Wash the broccoli, remove the stems, reserving them for soup or any other use, separate the heads into small florets and rinse. Core the cauliflower, divide the blossoms into small florets and rinse. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. If long carrots are used, cut each into 2 1/2-inch pieces and trim the ends with a paring knife so that each piece resembles a whole small carrot.
Next, precook the vegetables one after the other in the same pot of boiling water. Remove each vegetable after its allotted cooking time to the same colander, using a slotted spoon. Cook the snow peas for 2 minutes, the zucchini for 2 minutes, the broccoli for 3 minutes, the cauliflower for 4 minutes and the carrots for 5 minutes. Drain the cooked vegetables well and if they are not to be eaten immediately, wrap them in paper towels, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for as long as overnight.
To serve, heat the butter in a large saute' pan, add the cooked vegetables plus salt and pepper to taste and cook quickly over a medium-high flame, shaking the pan or stirring the vegetables until they are heated through.
LEMON PICKLE (Makes about 2 cups) 2 large or 3 small lemons (about 1/2 pound) 1 tablespoon coarse salt 2 large garlic cloves, crushed 1/2 cup raisins 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a quarter, minced 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seed 1 cup distilled white vinegar 1 cup sugar
Cut the lemons lengthwise into quarters but do not sever them at the base. Seed the lemons and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit in a bowl in the refrigerator for 3 days, turning them as often as you remember. At the end of the third day, add the garlic, raisins, cumin, cayenne, ginger, mustard seed and vinegar and return to the refrigerator for another 24 hours, turning the mixture occasionally. Mince the lemons and the raisins and place in a heavy saucepan with the liquid from the bowl. Add the sugar, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Cool and refrigerate.
This recipe can be doubled and the pickle decanted into jars. It keeps under refrigeration indefinitely.
GINGERED POACHED PEARS (8 servings) 8 firm but ripe pears with a good perfume 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a large bowl of cold water 2 cups water 1 cup sugar 3-inch piece of vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 3 tablespoons minced stem ginger in syrup, drained
Core the pears from the blossom (bottom) end using a melon baller, peel them but leave the stems intact. Place the fruit in a bowl of lemon juice and water. Set aside.
Combine the 2 cups of water with the sugar and vanilla bean or extract, bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pears to the syrup and simmer for 5 minutes, basting constantly. Remove the pears to a bowl, pour the syrup over them, cool and refrigerate until needed. The pears can be prepared to this point at least a day in advance.
An hour before serving, remove the pears from the syrup and place them on a large plate lined with paper towels. Let them drain well. Decant the poaching syrup (including vanilla bean if it was used) to a jar, label and refrigerate. It can be used over and over again for poaching pears or any other fruit.
Whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until it is stiff, but be careful not to let it turn to butter. Stir in the minced ginger. Fit a pastry bag with a number 3-star tube, twist the bag at the bottom and tuck it into the tube so the filling won't leak out. Place the bag in a bowl, open it at the top and spoon the whipped cream-ginger mixture into it. Pipe cream into the cavities of each pear, filling them well, and set the pears on a serving platter. The bit of excess cream at the base helps to keep the pears upright. With the remaining cream, pipe a border around the pears. Refrigerate and serve very cold with hot ginger sauce.
HOT GINGER SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups) 1/4 cup ginger syrup, drained from a 10-ounce jar of stem ginger in syrup 3/4 cup "golden syrup" (available in specialty food sections of many supermarkets) 3/4 cup dark rum, preferably Myers' 1/3 cup minced stem ginger in syrup, drained
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, mix well, heat and serve.