The first dish we see Mrs. Patmore prepare for the Granthams in Downton Abbey is Kedgeree( khishri), a traditional English breakfast dish brought back to England by the British Colonials. It was probably the first dish I ever cooked.Some might say this Anglo Indian classic has not always been an indulgence for toffs. It was originally made with rice and lentils and its old Bengali name is kichiri.But for some mysterious and unexplained reason it was the Brits who first added smoked fish and eggs to the equation.It may not be the most obvious candidate for a breakfast dish,but historically it was served in the wee small hours after long,decadent parties in officers´messes or colonial clubs.Quite why also remains a mystery,but it must have been a tonic for exhausted guests,much in the same way that a stop off at the all night kebab shop might revive a jaded clubber.( now why do I know that).
So when Mrs. Patmore places that first wonderful silver dish into the hands of the footmen to take upstairs, I had to be sure about what was in that dish and where it came from.Was it the much loved country house recipe that my mother followed?-I am pretty certain it would have beeen.
The Brits do love their Indian cuisine, as we all know. It is a practical dish which, before refrigeration, allowed cooks to use leftovers (like it already)from the night before to make into a hearty and appealing breakfast dish. Essentially the ingredients are boiled rice, chopped hard-boiled egg, flaked fish,and flavoured with curry spices.Nowadays it is more often served as a fashionable brunch dish. It is simple to make (maybe its appeal) and more importantly tastes amazing.
Like many dishes in my repertoire, this is one I constantly play around with, each time thinking I have cracked the code and come up with the definitive version.But then I think of yet another twist.Whatever twist you put on it aficianados of the quintessential kedgeree like myself will always insist that it should be made with natural smoked haddock.Having said that my mother used to make a delicious version with salmon, not haddock and certainly not smoked-I feel I owe my affiliation to kedgeree to my mother bringing us up on this much loved dish from her repertoire.
My latest interpretation of the dish could not be further removed from that comforting homely dish prepared by my mother.I have replaced its Indian rooted flavours with some sharper flavours from South East Asia. My brief was to come up with a lunch menu for a party of expats here in Portugal.The order of the day was finger food and fork buffet so here was the perfect chance for me to introduce my new twist on Kedgeree.There were to be Portuguese guests at the party so I put my thinking cap on and I don´t know why but Kedgeree came up. Portugal has so many variations on rice dishes with fish, but somehow despite Vasco De Gamas endeavours bringing spices back from the east to Portugal nothing bearing a resemblance to kedgeree has yet found a place on the Portuguese culinary map.Here was My chance.
As this is essentially a very simple dish with tons of variations, I have chosen the classic country house recipe that my mother used ( I am more than sure that this is the recipe that Mrs Patmore would have served) and brought it into modern day Portugal with the addition of Thai flavours.The key to a successful Kedgeree is the balance between eggs and rice.The texture whether you choose a creamy rather than a dry dish is up to the individual.
Thai flavoured Kedgeree
500ml milk for poaching the fish
750g/7oz natural smoked haddock
1 large onion chopped finely
50g unsalted butter
250g Basmati rice
2 Kaffir lime leaves
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
4 eggs,boiled for 6 minutes then chopped
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
fish sauce(Nam pla) to taste
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or 1/4 pint whipping cream
generous pinch each of nutmeg and cayenne
Heat the milk.Place the smoked haddock in a shallow pan and pour the hot milk over it.Cover with a lid. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.Strain the liquid into a jug and reserve for later. Flake the fish.
meanwhile boil the eggs for exactly 6 minutes.Melt the butter in a wide heavy saucepan.Add some oil to prevent the butter from burning.Soften the onion in the pan, add the kaffir lime leaves and spices.Continue cooking until the onion is translucent but not coloured but giving off a delicate perfume from the spices.Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until it is well coated.Pour in the reserved liquid from the jug and stir in well before covering with a lid and cooling gently over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.When the rice is tender turn off the heat and remove the lid.Stir in the flaked fish,chopped eggs,coriander,lime juice and a drop or two of fish sauce.When amalgamated stir in the creme fraiche or cream until you achieve a creamy texture.Decant into a large serving dish and serve immediately garnished with another handful of fresh coriander.
Thai flavoured Kedgeree wraps
Makes 12 bite size pieces per wrap when cut
Use the same method as above but halve the quantities and increase the quantities of cream and lime juice as you will want a more moist consistency.
Cut one 12 inch tortilla wrap in half.Warm it on a hotplate or in the oven for 2 minutes.Using your hands carefully make a mound of the kedgeree one inch in from the straight edge of the wrap.With both hands firmly holding the wrap, carefully roll the straight edge over the mixture and continue rolling until a fat cigar shape is achieved.Moisten the exposed edge with a little warm water to bind the wrap:press the edges together to secure.tuck in the ends with your fingers to seal.Roll the wrap over so the sealed side rests down ward on a dish or in a tupperware container.This will help hold the wrap together until you are ready to cut it into pieces.Set aside and cover with a damp tea towel so you´re wraps do not dry out..When you are ready to serve,with a very sharp knife cut each wrap on the diagonal into six pieces.the wraps wil be better if made the day before and left over night in the fridge.
Keep a finger bowl of warm water on your work surface throughout the whole process.