Kedgeree is an “Anglo-Indian culinary mash up” of a dish, combining curried rice with smoked fish and hard boiled eggs, popularised in Victorian times by returning colonials who melded Indian spices with British haddock. Kedgeree doesn’t appear to be well known outside of the UK, which is a shame because it makes for a supremely comforting and restorative meal. I’m always struck by how kedgeree sticks to your ribs while remaining light, warming the stomach and reviving a sluggish morning brain. It’s a classic and favourite dish, which made it an obvious choice for our annual Christmas breakfast.
Since moving to Australia and spending most Christmases away from our families, I have imposed a tradition of making a big deal about Christmas breakfast. Breakfast is usually the most unloved meal of Christmas Day, which makes it the perfect blank slate for a new event (the rest is down to pure laziness on my part – breakfast will always be easier to pull off than Christmas lunch or dinner). I have tended to make use of this opportunity to try a new recipe, but we all know that it’s a bad idea to make recipes for the first time when entertaining. Unsurprisingly, this practice has resulted in sub-par results, including the bland 2014 Corn & Feta Fritters and the weirdly textural 2015 Summer Celebration Breakfast Tart. I also tend to take too long photographing the freshly plated food, turning a good dish into a barely edible one (see the 2013 Poached Eggs in White Wine, which reached the table stone cold and slightly congealed). After five Christmas breakfasts of mixed success (clearly, I’m a slow learner), I have accepted the following truths:
- Only tried and true recipes are likely to deliver a perfect result under pressure; and,
- Christmas Day is not the time for a photoshoot (neither is any day really, if it means getting between hungry people and their food).
Christmas 2016 went off without a hitch partly because it starred this kedgeree, a recipe that I’ve been cooking and adapting for years. I know the recipe intimately and it does what I expect it to do. The flavours were balanced, the rice was fluffy, I didn’t take a single photo and the kedgeree was served warm(!!!).
While not traditional and therefore not acceptable to some, Nigella Lawson’s Kedgeree replaces the smoked fish with poached fresh salmon and takes the spice profile towards Thailand and Vietnam rather than India. Turmeric, cumin and ground coriander provide earthiness, kaffir lime leaves, lime zest and fresh coriander provide headiness, and salty, umami fish sauce brings the whole together. Kedgeree is best served warm and freshly cooked but leftovers are almost as good (which makes for sublime snacking on Christmas afternoon).
Christmas 2016 was a small group of friends who gathered at our place for a three course breakfast. Over the course of three hours we ate our way through an abundant fruit platter, before moving to the kedgeree, then finishing with light and crispy Belgian waffles topped with fresh berry sauce and whipped cream. It was easily my most successful Christmas breakfast to date, and even if you did have to wait over two months for me to make it again, photograph it and post the recipe, at least it means that my guests might decide to show up again next year. I think I’ve just nailed my own tradition (at last!).
South-East Asian Kedgeree
500ml cold water
2 kaffir limes leaves, torn
3-4 salmon fillets, skin off (approximately 750g)
45g salted butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
225g basmati rice
1-2 tsp fish sauce (to taste)
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 more lime, cut into segments
Preheat the oven to 220°C / 430°F. Select an oven-proof dish or roasting pan into which the salmon fillets are able to fit comfortably, laid side by side. Pour over the water, add the lime leaves, and then cover the dish tightly with foil and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Check that the salmon is cooked (barely cooked and still tender on the inside), and use a large spatula or fish slice to remove the salmon to a large plate. Cover the fish with the foil to keep warm. Reserve the poaching liquid but discard the lime leaves.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onion gently until it has become translucent, and then add the spice and cook for a few more minutes. Add the rice and stir together with the butter, spices and onion. Add 1 tsp of fish sauce to the reserved poaching liquid and taste to assess the flavour (we are after a subtle broth – not too fishy or salty) and add a little more fish sauce if it still tastes too bland. Pour the broth over the rice, stir through, cover and gently bring to a simmer over a medium-low heat. Cook for approximately 15 minutes.
While the rice cooks, wash and chop the coriander, peel and quarter the eggs and you can even zest the lime if you wish.
When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel and then replace the lid (this will help to absorb any excess moisture – a good tip for when cooking any sort of grain on the stovetop).
When ready to serve, pour off snd discard any further liquid that has collected around the salmon, then flake the fish into large chunks. Place the fish into the saucepan with the rice, most of the coriander, lime zest and juice, and eggs. If your rice still seems a little bland at this point, sprinkle over a bit more fish sauce, and then gently toss everything together using a couple of large spatulas. Transfer the mixture to a serving platter, sprinkle with the rest of the coriander, squeeze over a bit more lime and add lime wedges on the side.