“In England, you’re allowed to have an opinion – as long as it comes out of your mouth” – Jamie Oliver
I hadn’t intended to put a Jamie Oliver quote on this post but there really haven’t been many great witticisms uttered about smoked fish. Odd, huh? It did make me remember though how much I bloody love Jamie Oliver. He’s not everybody’s cup of tea I know, and he does have an oddly large tongue, but he has always struck me as A Decent Bloke and I think the work he does (and let’s remember that when you are worth £150m you don’t have to do anything) to try and get our nation’s kids eating better is brilliant and inspiring, particularly considering the stick he gets for it. Yes, he’s over-exposed and you can’t turn round without falling over one of his restaurants, or books, or tv shows or pasta sauces but for some reason, for me at least, he never became annoying in the way that Gordon Ramsay did at that time when you couldn’t switch on the TV without him and his highlights yelling at you.
Now I have got that out of the way, I can confess that this post isn’t really a deep and meaningful dissection of Jamie’s kedgeree, but rather a few suggestions (and recipe links) as to what you might eat on Good Friday if, like me, you adhere to the tradition of eating fish. Yes, I know that putting this up late on Mediocre Thursday isn’t that helpful to you but I have been out of London this week doing some sole parenting, which has precluded most activities save for building Brio, regulating access to Duck Duck Moose apps and drinking wine once the child is in bed. But my husband is back now so HERE I AM! So, on the off-chance you are one of those people who enjoy fighting your way round the supermarket on Good Friday, this one is for you.
While I recently discovered that this is apparently a predominantly (solely?) Catholic tradition – observed throughout Lent if you do these things properly – I had always just thought it was something that English people did on Good Friday. I have done it for as long as I can remember and so it has just become a thing in our house and not one that I am particularly minded to change. I think that maybe (being descended from an Irish Catholic family) I secretly live in fear of being struck down if I eat meat, but by whom or what I have absolutely no idea. But being struck down by anything doesn’t sound like an ideal way to start a bank holiday weekend so fish it is.
Anyway, fish is good for you and different ways of eating it are part of this blog’s mission. Or if none of that matters to you, it may be something you want to stick into your bank holiday menu if only to repent (religion again!) for all the Dairy Milk you’ll be scoffing when your children aren’t looking.
Kedgeree is a brilliant way of doing fish when you are feeding lots of people. I think something that puts a lot of people off making fish when they have people over (including me) is that it often requires quite a lot of last minute cooking and has to be eaten pretty much straightaway and then you have three pans on the go frying all your fillets and then you turn to talk to one of the people you invited to your house for three seconds and THE WHOLE THING IS RUINED. Kedgeree on the other hand is very forgiving if you leave it sitting for a bit, or even if you want to make it a bit in advance and reheat it (gently) just before serving. It is really easy to make, can be doubled or trebled for lots of mouths and, while traditionally a breakfast or brunch thing, it is something you can offer up at any time of day, particularly as you can alter the sides you serve with it. And I have never met anybody who doesn’t like it.
I can’t tell you that this won’t make your kitchen smell of fish. Because it will. I can’t lie to you, can I? But if that really puts you off you can definitely limit it by cooking the cod or haddock in foil in the oven rather than on the hob. Yes, you won’t have the fish infused milk to cook the rice in but I don’t think that matters that much.
There are approximately 8.7 million recipes for kedgeree on the internet and it’s one of those dishes that people get very argumentative about – should it have peas? prawns? curry powder or fresh spices? For an excellent dissection of the great kedgeree debate and the different variables, have a look at Felicity Cloake’s Perfect column in the Guardian. For my part, all I can tell you is about the kedgerees that I have cooked and loved and introduce you to those in case you weren’t already mates.
These all use smoked haddock or cod as that is how I like kedgeree but both are seriously overfished so make sure you look for sustainable options (Icelandic, Baltic or NE Arctic cod and North Sea/NE Arctic Haddock for those of you in the UK). If you’d prefer to avoid these altogether, Nigella makes a good one with salmon, which has less of that smoked fish overtone. Or you could substitute the smoked haddock for ready to eat smoked mackerel or trout instead, which also avoids the kitchen smelling of fish thing.
The benchmark for the simple “classic” version of this dish must be Delia Smith’s buttery kedgeree and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. It comes from her Complete Cookery Course book so ENOUGH SAID. It does exactly what it says on the tin, uses straightforward ingredients (she uses curry powder rather than lots of different spices) and is comfort food on a plate. I have made this a hundred times and it is foolproof and delicious. Great with spinach with (more) butter if you want a warm side, otherwise a green bean salad works really well, particularly for lunch. It is also very good served with a poached egg on top (as they do at The Wolseley in London) but that is best limited, logistically, to days when there are one or two of you eating it.
Gordon Ramsay does a couple of versions (I guess that is what happens when you write 675 cookbooks), including his “posh kedgeree” with prawns and quails eggs, but I prefer his take on the classic haddock version from his Ultimate Cookery Course book, which is pretty similar to Delia’s, but with some added fresh spices and ginger thrown into the mix along with the traditional curry powder. He maintains that his is a “lighter” option as he finishes it with yoghurt rather than butter, but on close inspection he uses the same amount of butter as Delia and then plonks 100g of yoghurt in on top. BUSTED GORDON! It is very nice though and is, despite the extra yoghurt, a bit fresher than Delia’s glorious butter and rice comfort blanket.
If you want to do something a bit more “posh” Nigella has taken the kedgeree flavours and created this Kedgeree risotto, something that will utterly horrify the Italian readers but which oddly works. When does a Nigella recipe not work?
But last but really really by no means least is Jamie Oliver’s Rescue Me Kedgeree. I think this is my favourite and definitely the one I would recommend if you’re having it for dinner, or for a very hungover brunch. It is what I will be making for dinner tomorrow, with some steamed spinach and purple sprouting broccoli. It is much lower fat than the other versions – the onions are fried in a little butter and olive oil – and it relies on lots of curry flavours, chilli, lemon and coriander to give it amazing flavour. If you imagine the difference between Jamie and Delia in their people form, you can imagine the difference in their kedgerees. He uses curry paste rather than powder and fries the onion with it (I use Patak’s Madras paste or Mr Singh’s Punjabi Pesto) and it lends it a really deep flavour without having to faff around with lots of different spices. I also make it with brown rather than white basmati and you really don’t notice as the other flavours really outshine the rice anyway.
Of course, if kedgeree isn’t your thing or you are cooking for fewer people, may I suggest some bream fillets with some simple sides? I recently made this blood orange salad from Jose Pizarro to accompany some bream fillets as a change from our standard peppers or tomatoes and can’t recommend it highly enough. So much so that there’s a picture below.
Do you have a favourite kedgeree recipe? Or a Nigella recipe that has gone utterly hideously horribly wrong? Let me know via the comments below or here.
Kitchen song of the day: Fake Empire – The National (Boxer)