This dish could also be called a smoked eel risotto because it’s made by the risotto method, but it holds all the flavours of a good old-fashioned kedgeree. I serve it as a starter, but it can be a total meal in itself. Hard-boiled eggs are traditionally used, but having a warm poached egg sitting on top of the rice and just breaking the yolk over it is a dream. The recipe for the Curry Cream Sauce is, but you can buy a ready-made one just to make the dish a little easier. If you really cannot find smoked eel, you can make the dish with smoked haddock.

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Ingredients

  • 900 g (2 lb) smoked eel

For the Eel Stock

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 6 mushrooms or 50 g (2 oz) mushroom trimmings
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • A few black peppercorns
  • 50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) Fish Stock or water

For the Kedgeree

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 100 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 50 g (2 oz) bone marrow, chopped (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 225 g (8 oz) arborio or long-grain rice
  • ½ quantity Curry Cream Sauce

To serve

  • 4 eggs, poached (see p. 66)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

Method

Smoked eel is one of my favourite smoked fish. Firstly it has to be filleted and skinned. Hopefully your fishmonger will do this for you, but if not, simply cut off the head and position the knife against the top half of the central bone. Carefully cut along the bone, removing the fillet of fish. Turn the fish over and repeat the same process. Now the skin can be removed: slide your finger or thumb under the skin at the head end and it should tear off all the way along. The fillets may need a little trimming down the sides to remove any excess skin. Turn the fillets on to their back to show the centre. From the head end to half-way down there will be some bones. Simply position the knife under these bones, and cut away from the flesh. You now have two long, clean fillets of eel. Cut these into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces and put in the fridge.

To make the eel stock, chop all the bones, skin and trimmings. Place the chopped vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large, warmed pan with the butter and cook them gently for 10 minutes without letting them colour. Add the bones and trimmings and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the white wine and boil to reduce until almost dry. Add the fish stock or water. (Fish stock will give you a stronger and better taste. If you are using water, ask the fishmonger to give you some fish bones as well to cook with the eel.) Bring the stock to the simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and the stock is ready.

For the kedgeree, cook the chopped onions in the butter with the bone marrow, if using, and the garlic for 5–6 minutes until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then start to add the hot eel stock a few tablespoons at a time, stirring continuously. This will create a steam and help the cooking process. Wait for the stock to be absorbed before adding more, and keep adding the stock and stirring until the rice is just softening – this will take about 15–20 minutes. The rice should be tender and the mixture still moist.

When the rice is cooked, stir in half the curry sauce and taste. At this stage it becomes a matter of personal choice; some more or all of the curry sauce can be added if you want a stronger taste.

Add the pieces of chopped eel to the kedgeree and stir in to warm through. Warm the poached eggs for a few minutes in a bowl of boiling water, then drain well. Spoon the kedgeree into four bowls and sit a poached egg on top of each one. Spoon a little olive oil over the eggs and sprinkle with the snipped chives. The dish is now ready.

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