We’re all cooking so much more these days and while for some of us that’s a busman’s holiday for others it’s a tedious treadmill of getting meals on the table with all the associated planning, prep and cleaning up that entails.

We’re all looking for inspiration and hungrily devouring recipe collections and suggestions, and enviously eyeing up instagram feeds from foodies who make everything look so delicious – we do, after all, eat with our eyes.

Here at Daffodil Soup HQ we’ve been making lots of comfort food, baking bread and delving in to kitchen classics, which led to one of the most comforting meals of Lockdown so far – the most serendipitously delicious example of kedgeree that it just had to be shared.

Originally a Bengal staple dish of spiced rice and lentils served with fried fish (Khicharhi), smoked fish and boiled eggs were added by Colonial cooks in the kitchens of the British empire to make it a favourite at the breakfast table. It has over the years become a mild and uninteresting blend of soggy rice, fish and egg, served on brunch menus everywhere.

I was determined to spice it up and make it pop, and I looked at quite a few recipes before assembling my ingredients, happy that the lockdown larder had pretty much everything required including beautiful smoked haddock from Bournes Fish at Highbury Barn.

Mild curry powder is supposedly a prerequisite for kedgeree, but is where I think I triumphed, because we only had Madras curry powder on hand, and this extra heat really ramped up the flavours from good to great. I usually make up my own pastes as needed, so don’t keep premade curry powders but this had somehow got through the net.

On the advice of Felicity Cloake in The Guardian, who also investigated many kedgeree recipes to arrive at her favourite, I chopped an onion and green chilli, and softened them in LOTS of butter, before adding turmeric and curry powder. She adds cardamom pods, which I didn’t have, but I did consider mustard seeds.

Some recipes suggest that you poach the fish in water and cook off the long-grain rice separately to keep it fluffy and light. My memory of childhood kedgerees was of cooking the fish in milk and using the strained milk to cook the rice.

I went back to the venerable Readers’ Digest Cookery Year book from 1977, inherited from my great uncle Bill and still my most treasured anthology, which has the original recipe containing lentils, onion, boiled rice, fresh limes, butter and fish but adds nutmeg and cayenne pepper as well as single cream and butter, and combines everything in an oven-proof dish to bake for 30 minutes.

So all in all, my recipe is a hybrid of a hybrid and damn tasty it is too! I hope you enjoy it.

Kedgeree

Serves 2 generously

  • 400g undyed smoked haddock
  • 350ml whole milk
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded if you’re worried about the heat, and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder (or mild if you’re a sissy)
  • 2tbsp (30g) butter
  • 100g long-grain rice, eg Basmati
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • Lemon wedges and fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish
  • Salt and Pepper

Method 

Place the fish in a saucepan with the bay leaves and peppercorns and cover with milk.

Place on a medium heat, and as soon as the liquid comes up to the boil, turn it down to low and give it 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Strain the liquid into a jug and carefully flake the fish making sure you remove any skin or bones. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, preferably one with a lid, melt the butter and fry the onion over medium heat, stirring, until soft and starting to colour. This will take 8-10 minutes.
Add the chopped chilli, turmeric and curry powder and stir. Then add the rice and stir to coat. Add the reserved milk, and half a cup of water if necessary to make sure the rice is covered in liquid.

Turn the heat right down, cover and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the mix doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the rice is cooking, boil the eggs – drop them into boiling water and simmer for 6 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Peel and set aside, ready to cut in half just before serving.

Check the rice, and see if all the liquid has been absorbed. If the rice is dry but still al dente, add a splash more water, turn off the heat and leave it to steam gently for 5-6 minutes and check again. There should still be plenty of residual heat in the pan– check the seasoning, add the flaked fish on top, replace the lid and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, give the fish and rice mix a good stir to combine, spoon on to plates and top each serving with the boiled eggs, chopped coriander and a lemon wedge.

Addendum

I had, while quick-pickling some shaved fennel and onion (delicious on cheese sarnies), come across a recipe from Grace Berrow on Instagram

for confit lemons. As there were two staring out from the fruit bowl, I quickly sliced them and, as instructed, submerged them in olive oil in a saucepan over low heat with a pinch of chilli flakes, some fennel seeds, a sprig of fresh thyme and some sage leaves, and a sprinkle of sea salt. I left them to bubble very gently until the lemons were soft and melting, and popped them in a jar in the fridge. This oil is insanely good for dressings and drizzling over fish or chicken, and the chopped lemon adds a zingy citrus note to soups, stews and casseroles, salads (for example chickpea or couscous), and chopped some finely to put on the table as a condiment. It was a great addition to the kedgeree and many other meals since.