Like a collection of gaudy heirlooms and brik-a-brak from a by-gone era, I have a hidden stash of yellowed and food speckled scraps of paper with recipes scrawled on them. Many of the recipes are tied to specific memories from my formative years, and though the aromas and flavors have long faded from my leaky memory, I still can’t quite bring myself to toss them out.
This Kedgeree recipe is an exception in that I’m frantically rummaging through the bookshelf at least once a year to find it. I’ve memorized the recipe and all my alterations to it, but there’s something unique about this photo-copied Australian magazine clipping that gives it a special place in my heart.
Its warm yellow and brown patina, imbued by over a decade of ketchup, curry, and oil, is a reminder of the first time I laid a fork into this beautiful pile of smoked fish and pillowy spiced rice. My heart beats a little faster when I hear the name “Kedgeree”, and the recipe contained on this tattered piece of paper left an indelible mark on my taste memory. I guess you could say it was one of my first true loves.
Like its older sibling Chicken Tikka Masala and its Portuguese cousin, Lamb Vindaloo, Kedgeree is an Anglo-Indian love child, one of the few good things that came out of over two centuries of colonialism in India. Despite its common ancestry with the better known curry house staples, this one dish wonder seems to be largely unknown outside of the UK and Australia.
A hodgepodge of my favourite ingredients, Kedgeree is the zenith of what a good dish should be. It balances all five of the basic tastes, it’s light yet deeply satisfying, and it has enough personality to leave a lasting impression. It’s the kind of dish that has you going back for “one more bite” until suddenly you realize that you’re pregger’s with a food baby.
Perhaps its most beguiling quality is the leeway it gives you to improvise, using spices and smoked seafood that suits your palette and budget. Since I was making this batch for a Gujarati friend, I gave it the full spread of spices, but you would do just as well with curry powder, or perhaps an entirely different blend of spices from another region of the world.
What really set this particular Kedgeree apart though was an AMAZING side of smoked Bluefish from Acme Smoked Fish, one the last family run smoke houses in Brooklyn. The fish was melt-in your mouth tender, with just enough oil to keep things moist, but not enough to be greasy. The flavour tasted like they took a bowl of concentrated dashi, turned it back into a fish and then smoked it. One of these days, I’m going to have to grab my camera and take a field trip over the river to see just how they perform this small miracle.
1 1/2 C basmati rice
3 C water
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 cloves garlic minced
1″ knob of ginger grated
1 medium onion minced
1 serrano chili minced (leave the seeds in if you want it spicier)
1 Tbs garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
3 Tbs ketchup
1/2 C chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbs cream
14 oz hot-smoked fish (like salmon, trout or bluefish)
3 soft boiled eggs peeled and chopped
minced cilantro and pomegranate seeds for garnish
lemon wedges for serving
Put the rice in a seive and wash with cold water. Add the water and rice into a heavy bottomed pot, cover, then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until there is no water left (15-20 minutes). Turn the heat off and let the rice steam for an additional 10 minutes.
Heat a large chef’s pan, until very hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the mustard seed and cumin and fry until they start making a popping noise. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant. Add the onions, chili, garam masala and turmeric. Fry until the onions are soft and your kitchen is redolent with Indian spices.
Add the ketchup and stock and boil until the mixture is thick and gluggy. Turn down the heat, then add the cream and smoked fish, breaking up the fish as you add it. Add the cooked rice and most of the chopped egg and stir it all together. Taste and add salt if needed.
To serve, just spoon the kedgeree onto a plate and top with the remaining chopped egg as well as the minced cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Serve with a bowl of lemon wedges.