Kedgeree

This grand pilaf is one of the many good things that came out of Anglo-Indian cookery and is an example of one of the first “fusion” dishes. The word comes from the Hindi khichri, a breakfast rice that contains cooked lentils and a lot of butter with fried onions on top. If you were rich in the fifteenth century, you fed it to your elephants as well.

Kedgeree made my first reputation as a cook when I was twelve. I cooked it for the family Sunday breakfast, as a change from our usual, either haddock or huevos rancheros. All I remember is everyone asking me, “How did you do that?” “Easy,” I thought privately, “I’d do anything to avoid eating that smoked haddock in milk and onions again.” Years later, when I cooked the haddock for myself, it was fine, and I realized my mother had been cooking the fish too fast, letting the milk boil, and toughening the fish to dryness.

This is a modern version of the classic Anglo-Indian dish. It is an amazing leftover the next day, cold, with even colder beer.

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Ingredients

  • pounds undyed smoked haddock fillet (or very good quality kippers)
  • 1 white onion, peeled, cored, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh lime leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 6 ounces rice
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, quartered into wedges
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stemmed, leaves chopped
  • 1 ripe lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • pinch cayenne, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup clarified butter
  • 8 lime wedges, seeds removed

Method

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Put the haddock, onions, lime leaves, and garlic in a 4-inch-deep pan just large enough to hold the fish and add 3 cups water. Cover and simmer gently over very low heat for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender and flaky. Take the fish out and set it aside to cool. Discard the lime leaves, and strain the cooking liquid, saving it as well as the onions.

Melt the butter in the same pan, and add the reserved chopped onions, the cumin, turmeric, and cardamom. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until all the rice is coated with the butter. Add the reserved fish cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook the rice over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and tender. Uncover the pan and put it in the oven to keep warm and dry out a bit (but for no more than 10 minutes).

Flake the fish and remove any bones. Put the flaked fish in a bowl with the eggs, cilantro, lime juice and zest, ginger, and cayenne. Mix gently, and season. Take the rice out of the oven, and while hot add to the bowl with the fish and mix gently with the spices, eggs, and herbs. Put the kedgeree on a hot platter and serve with the melted butter and lime wedges on the side.

Three Walnuts

October 5, 1993. Oil, spackle, and tar on tile over masonite, 48" x 48". Private collection.

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