A Lesson in the History of a Great British Dish
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Diary and Notes
Some time ago (see 15/11/2005) I had a moan about websites claiming things to be as they weren't. I had found numerous websites with really awful recipes for macaroni and cheese, some of which were so disgusting as to be banned under European Union regulations (or they would have been if the French and Dutch hadn't scuppered the constitution). Since then I have generally avoided looking up recipes on the web as most of them tend to be really, really, crap - a plan I should have stuck by.
Today I was making that famous British dish, Kedgeree, for dinner. I know kedgeree is traditionally served for breakfast, but I can see no reason why you can't have it for dinner as well, and so I did. In my research to make the finest kdgeree I could I did a bit of reading on the web and to my horror found not a single website that even knew the recipe. To begin my rant I'll link a few that I found on the first page of a Google search for kedgeree, these being the ones people are most likely to read:
The Foody, number one on the list has the ingredients as smoked haddock, eggs, rice, butter and parsley, and nothing else, not even the essential curry powder.
Recipe Box has a better, microwave based recipe (the apple sounds a bit odd though).
i.village.co.uk (Which claims to be a website for women - sexist cows, aren't men allowed to cook?) has a fairly good recipe.
There are also some really bad ones (sorry my American friends, most of them are from your part of the globe) but every single recipe misses the entire point of kedgeree and what the dish is about. "Please explain Jon, enlighten us with your culinary wisdom."
Kedgeree is an anglicised version of the hindi word kichri, which, if you type this into Google, comes up with 3,730 recipes for rice cooked with some form of pulse - channa, daal, peas etc. Khichri is rice and peas, and a kedgeree with no peas is no kedgeree at all. Not a single recipe from the twenty or so I read had peas. Where are the peas I ask you? And if you don't believe me check out the Indian Cookbook from c1900. This has seven different kitcheeree recipes (all traditional and from over 200 years ago) and every single one of them has some form of pulse.
It is a sad and sorry state of affairs that one of Britains greatest culinary inventions (for kedgeree is a British dish) has been so demeaned by the hacks and vagabonds who maintain these websites. There should be some regulation about this. It seems that anyobdy can just write any old gumph about anything they like and post it on the web as fact (just like me), but messing with a great classic and misleading people in this way is culinary heresy and must be stopped. Bring back the peas I tells ya. I'm going to send every website I found that has a recipe for kedgeree without peas a very rude email - that'll teach 'em to mess with me.
So I decided to make a really old style British Raj kedgeree. Not some bland 'boil some smoked haddock and mix with rice' type dross - a real spicy, fishy, peas laden treat.
One of these (see picture): I went to the cake counter in Sainsbury's in Withington and asked for three Manchester tarts - these being a sort of tart with a cherry on the top. Unfortunately the woman serving behind the counter didn't speak English and instead of giving me three tarts (after she had walked around from behind the glass and I had pointed them out to her - twice) gave me a bag with only a single cake in it. I was going to try to explain some more but decided to give up - mainly as she had only charged me 12p and the cheapest thing there was 45p. It was a sort of long doughnut with icing. I will have a Manchester tart the next time I see one. Sadly though, my chums had no dessert today.
Selection of Cheeses (and some TUC biscuits which will no doubt be the subject of another blog some day - "Up the workers")
200g Smoked Haddock
200g Fresh Haddock
1 Large Onion
500g Basmati Rice
150g Frozen Peas
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Spring Onions
Bunch Flat Leafed Parsley
Few Coriander Leaves
3 Bay Leaves
6 Green Cardamon Pods
1 tsp Coriander Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Chilli Powder
1/8 tsp Cinammon
Firstly, I should point out that this version of kedgeree is a very 'posh' version. I have tried to recreate a real British Raj flavour. Also, people normally use a pre made curry powder, as our Raj friends would have done, I didn't have any, so had to mix my own spices. Because I was using indiviudual spices I was able to use the armoatics to flavour the milk & fish and the other spices for frying. As kedgeree goes it was pretty damned good and I doubt you'll find one better.
Put the milk in a pan with the bay leaves, cloves and cardamon. Grind on some black pepper and bring the milk to the boil then turn down low and place the fish in. Poach the fish very gently for 20 minutes.
While the fish is cooking put some basmati rice on to cook (about 1 1/2 water to rice) When the rice is nearly cooked, but still a bit hard, drain, rinse and set aside.
Slice the onion and fry until brown in a little olive oil. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, cinammon and some more pepper. Fry gently for a minute or two more then add the rice. Stir. Pour over the strained milk from the poached fish and stir. Add the frozen peas, put the lid on and allow the rice to absorb the milk (turn the heat down really low). When the milk is absorbed and rice soft, finely chop the spring onions, parsley and coriander and stir in about 3/4.
Simmer the eggs in water for 10 minutes (until hard boiled), shell and keep for a garnish.
Transfer the rice to a serving dish. Flake the fish and mix in with the rice. Garnish with the boiled eggs, the spring onions/parsley/coriander and the lemon and limes.
*All quantities are very approximate and for four people