Kipper kedgeree

Whenever my family sat round the table for dinner when I was young, our parents would regale us with tales of people we knew who had almost choked on fish bones, or spinach and so on. God knows why – I think it’s to do with being Chinese; we talk about food all the time anyway, and Chinese parents love to scare their kids with stories that usually have a moralistic value (i.e. chew your food properly and don’t talk when you eat). Anyway, ever since those days I have been terrified of cooking or eating any fish with tiny bones in them. The thing is, fish with the really tiny bones are actually fine to eat – the bones are so small that they can be swallowed unnoticed.

I was delighted to find that Farmer’s Choice sells fish as well as the usual meat products. I asked for some Orkney smoked kippers (responsibly procured, natch), as I’ve never had them before, and I thought they would make for an alternative cooked breakfast. I decided to try kedgeree, an Indian recipe that was introduced into Victorian Britain as a fashionable breakfast dish. It turned out to be very economical as I used lots of fridge leftovers up, but as a result it also came out on the experimental – albeit delicious – side. The following recipe is pilfered from lots of different sources.

You will need:

  • 2 smoked kippers
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small cup of rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh parsley or coriander (the supermarket ran out of both :()
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (I improvised with some cupboard ingredients – turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • Dash of double cream – I used this because I just happened to have it, but you can substitute with yoghurt
  • A handful of frozen peas
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 eggs

First prepare your eggs and kippers. Bring the room temperature eggs to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, douse the kippers with boiling water in a shallow dish and cover, also for 10 minutes (you can also poach with milk). When the eggs are ready, run under a cold tap and peel. Meanwhile, the kippers should be ready to flake off into little pieces – just remove the fish spine and any other gumph. Reserve the poaching water.

Heat up a knob of butter in a large pan and soften the chopped onion. Add the cup of rice – one word of advice: do NOT use brown rice, as I did. It will turn out rather hard and chewy, no matter what liquid you add and encourage it to soak up! Basmati white rice is perfect. Add the grated ginger and garlic, bay leaves and all the spices and give it a good stir.

Then add the water reserved from poaching the fish, and cover the pan, allowing the rice to absorb the water – this can take 10-15 minutes depending. During the last few minutes, add the frozen peas. Finally, stir through the cream or yoghurt, lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley and gentle mix in the flaked kippers and chopped eggs.

I thought this was absolutely delicious, considering I made a few things up as I went along! The smoked kippers were silky soft and salty, much more delicate than a mackerel, say. Do lay off the salt when seasoning the rice, as the kippers hold their own. The little bones went unnoticed after all, so kippers are now on the safe list…

This recipe would serve 3 small people (or one hungry one) and came to a ridiculous £1.50 per serving.

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