Breakfast Fetishism pt. 3: Kedgeree

Kedgeree is a slightly odd Anglo-Indian dish stemming from the Colonial era, encapsulating smoked haddock, curry powder, rice and milk. I know those taste combinations sound odd, but it is actually really nice: imagine a lemony and fresh biryani with smoked fish. The oddness of the dish, married with the fact that it is a breakfast classic (indeed so much of a classic people don’t make it much anymore), meant that it was predestined to end up as a Breakfast Fetishism item on the blog. I made my first attempt at making it this morning. This was brought on by Mr Meatball’s grandmother’s reminiscing about the dish the other day: born in Shanghai in 1928, she recalls this dish being served on silver plates in houses that had butlers!

The end result was very tasty: savoury and mellow through the smokiness of the fish but refreshing with the spices and the lemons. Admittedly it would perhaps not be the first thing I’d think to eat in the morning, but rice and fish are good ingredients to last you through the day so I may have to reconsider that. You need:

  • 400g smoked haddock (I bought frozen dyed haddock from Waitrose – theirs is sustainable and good quality but much cheaper than the stuff you get in the fresh section)
  • 450 g basmati rice (preferably good quality as rice is central to the dish)
  • 2 green chillies, chopped into rings with their seeds
  • 1 large onion (a sweet Spanish variety would work nicely)
  • 1 large tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 2 crushed cardamom pods
  • A handful of chopped coriander and chives
  • 3 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 lemon, cut into slices
  • 140 g butter (this is important, I did perhaps not use quite enough in my first attempt)
  • Nutmeg (optional, to sprinkle on top in the end)

Start by putting the rice in cold water and let it stand for up to half an hour. There’s a whole school on being able to cook basmati rice properly and I’m still a novice, which explains why I use Mr Meatball’s coffee brewer to rinse the rice (some people have an angel’s patience with my kitchen experiments…). While the rice soaks, poach the defrosted fish gently by putting it in a pan on low heat, and cover it with 50/50 cold milk and water. After ten minutes (or until the fish is done, you want to be careful not to over-cook it), take it off the heat. Preserve the liquid milk/water is was cooking in.

Now, depending on if you want your kedgeree to be dry and fluffy, or wet and buttery you proceed through the next two steps differently. I made mine dry and fluffy, but Delia’s wetter version sounds quite nice and I think I might go along that next time.

For a wet kedgeree, you fry the butter in the pan, add your onions to soften for a few minutes and then add the curry powder, green chili and cardamom pods to fry for a few seconds. Then add your rinsed rice, and pour in 450 ml of the milk/water liquid. Bring to boil, and give a brisk stir before putting on a tight-fitting lid and cooking on low heat for 20 minutes.

If you want a fluffier kedgeree, you fry the onion and spices in the butter separately to the rice, and cook the rice with a tight-fitting lid on according to your harshest basmati-instructions (these are usually on the packet: for me it included not opening the lid of the pan for 25 minutes and then letting it rest on a wet towel, still with the lid on, for five minutes).

Once the rice cooking is done, for both methods, you add the flaked fish (which you remove the skin from whilst the rice is cooking), boiled eggs and lemon juice. Serve with mango chutney and scatter coriander across the top.

(If possible, find some silver in the house, stream Downton Abbey from itv player and pretend your name is Phyllis or Marguerite, and the butler just brought this to your table.)

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Review – Indian YMCA

Indian YMCA is a new meatball and salted cod favourite find. Situated in the slightly unlikely neighbourhood of Fitzrovia, it is super-cheap, friendly and very unpretentious. The atmosphere is nice, especially if you like talkative neighbours. It’s a bit like a school canteen – if only canteen food had ever been delicious and the food ladies were nice old Indian chefs instead of intimidating force feeders.

On the day we went, we had a good meaty mutton curry (long cooking made it taste very rich and full of lamb, but given the price one shouldn’t expect too much from the meat), a tarka dhal which was smoky and delicious, and a tangy and spicy Goan fish masala, which made the Salted Cod recollect Portuguese fish stew (stemming from historical links between Goa and Portugal). To this we had rice, chapatis and popadoms, which were fine, really tangy mango pickle, cooling yoghurt (needed for the fish!), wonderful herby raita, and onion bhajis which were nice but not freshly made (the only thing that suffered for not coming straight from the fry).

We had lots to eat, beside which there is also a chicken curry, vegetable lentils, chickpea curry, mango chutney, mixed salad and mango lassi to choose from.

If you go two of you, pick random curries and condiments and make your own little thali at the table. But if you are on your own you are still in good company: there are lots of lone-eaters here  and going on your own would not feel awkward. There is probably higher likelihood someone tries to start conversation with you, though. The chefs behind the food counter are helpful, and you just pick and mix whatever dishes you like (they are already dished up in small bowls, but it’s all newly made and given the lively queue it is doubtful much of it stands for long). Water is free and already placed at the table. We paid 11.50 for both of us, were very satisfied and absolutely stuffed leaving the place. In fact, we couldn’t finish it all.

Given the home-cooked flavours and the friendly atmosphere coupled with the incredibly good-values price, we award it 8 meatballs out of 10. As usual, you can find this place through the Meatball and Salted cod map of London here.

(photo borrowed from Indian YMCA’s Website)