Kedgeree.

flag-mini-british Scottish flag Monarch of the Glen, a BBC series filmed in the dreamy Scottish Highlands, introduced me to a strange new word: “kedgeree.” It was a dish the show’s characters -- the once wealthy but nearly bankrupt MacDonald family -- occasionally enjoyed at their manorly breakfasts alongside tea, toast, jam and cream. But I couldn't figure out what they were spooning out of that silver chafing dish! Kedgeree was some weirdly named mystery.
Kedgeree 9
I finally took to the web and learned that kedgeree (kedge-er-ree), according to the British Food Trust (and many other sources), consists of poached fish -- traditionally, smoked Findon (a Scottish fishing village) haddock known as “Finnan haddie” -- mixed with rice, butter, chopped hardboiled eggs, curry powder and parsley. It is thought to have evolved from the Indian rice-and-lentil dish khichdi (pronounced kitch-ri), possibly during the period of British colonial rule in South Asia known as the British Raj. Its association with Scotland originates with the belief that a Scottish regiment brought a version of the dish with them to India, where it evolved under Asian influence and was returned to the U.K. with exotic additions such as curry, fresh ginger and hot green chile. I'll let those who know the truth duke it out over kedgeree's true origins, but its Anglo-Indian history cannot be disputed: curry is definitely not a native British flavoring.
Kedgeree 1
Until recently, you could not get me anywhere near smoked fish -- smoked anything -- let alone eating fish of any kind for breakfast. I’m a devoted high-fiber-breakfast-cereal-with-milk girl, willing to eat toast, eggs, fruit, french toast, pancakes or whathaveyou when mid-morning hunger sets in on the weekends.
Kedgeree 6
But episodes of Monarch -- featuring deep blue Scottish lochs, rolling green Highland hills, misty moors, rustic stone crofts, a few kilts, some Scottish burr, occasional bagpiping, and the opulent 19th-century Glen Bogle estate -- made me homesick for the motherland-I've-never-seen and sparked my willingness to try kedgeree. Plus, just looking at all that brisk Highland air makes me hungry! If my British ancestors ate haddock for breakfast, then so shall I.
Kedgeree 2
Alas, smoked haddock is not a standard grocery item in these parts, and mail ordering it is not for the thin of wallet -- a whopping $23 per pound, with shipping, for fillets imported from Scotland. Ach, cannae do it. So for my first kedgeree attempt I settled on a pound of more budget-friendly tilapia fillets, but for future versions I’ll try a combination of smoked ($$!) and fresh (not as $$) salmon, or whatever fresh fish looks good and is reasonably bone-free, until I can find those authentic Finnan haddies without having to peddle family heirlooms on eBay.
Kedgeree 3
Recipes for kedgeree range from mild to fancy (three kinds of salmon!) to fragrantly seasoned with cumin and heady garam masala. It calls for hardboiled eggs, but I cheated and whipped up two poached ones -- they're a bit faster.
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I started with Jamie Oliver’s recipe, because, well check out the photo at his site. It's so appetizing! He had me at those pretty slivers of spicy red pepper and flecks of mustard seed. But of course I had to make a few wee changes, so my modified recipe is below. For example, I halved the curry powder to keep it from overwhelming the dish, added green onions, used a spicy green Anaheim pepper (couldn't find a red one), and used butter in place of butterghee, which requires a trip across town (file under "laziness").
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And instead of including steps for cooking the eggs and rice, I’m including those as already prepared ingredients. Both can be easily boiled up while you are chopping, measuring and poaching, but the whole thing comes together pretty quickly if you’ve made them in advance. I also added a few tablespoons of the poaching milk at the very end, to moisten things up and give it just the slightest creaminess.
Kedgeree 8
If you’re hip to smoked salmon for brunch (with or without bagels, onions, cream cheese and capers) you’re already used to fish in the morning, and now I'm hooked, too. Kedgeree is lovely any time of day -- it's light enough for a summer morning yet satisfying on a cold, rainy afternoon. The recipe can be easily tinkered with so add more curry or garlic, less onions, a cup of peas, a dash of nutmeg, some garam masala, more eggs, no eggs, more heat, no heat -- whatever strikes your fancy.
Kedgeree 10
Isn't it pretty? I promise you it tastes as good as it looks. The final word(s) is that kedgeree is versatile, easy to make and delicious comfort food that is truly suitable for any meal of the day. I know this because we ate it for breakfast -- or, more accurately, “second breakfast” -- and dinner. On the same day. And would have had it for dessert if there had been any left.

Kedgeree
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 (or in our case, 2, twice)

1 to 1-1/2 pounds smoked haddock (traditional)
OR your favorite fish (try salmon, trout, tilapia), smoked ... or not
2 bay leaves
Milk (skim or 2%)

3-4 tablespoons butter
1” knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (or more, if desired)
1/2 bunch of green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (add more or less, to taste)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 14-oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained
OR 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded
Juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or arugula
1 fresh red or green hot chile, half of it chopped and half slivered
(optional)
2-3 hard-boiled (or poached) eggs, cooled, peeled and chopped into
quarters or eighths
3 cups cooked long-grain, basmati or brown rice (from 1 cup uncooked rice)

Place fish into a saucepan or sautee pan with the bay leaves, and pour in just enough milk to cover the fish. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove fish from pan with spatula or slotted spoon and cool on a plate or pie pan. Once cool, remove skin (if necessary) and flake fish into chunks; set aside. Reserve poaching milk.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a sautee pan over low heat. Add ginger, white onion and garlic. Sautee until soft, about five minutes. Add green onions, curry powder and mustard seeds, and sautee a few minutes more. Add chopped tomatoes and lemon juice; stir until mixed. Add flaked fish and rice to the mixture and heat through, stirring gently but thoroughly. Mix in the eggs, parsley and the chopped hot chile to taste (omit if you don’t want a spicy dish). Add a few tablespoons of the reserved poaching milk to moisten the mixture and add some creaminess.

Serve on plates or in bowls; top with slivers of chile and sprinkles of parsley.


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Scotch eggs ... not for the faint of heart.

flag-mini-Scotland flag-mini-british Scotch eggs, the sausage-wrapped-breaded-fried-hardboiled-eggs that are a staple on English (and Scottish, if my casual online research serves me) pub menus, have nothing to do with Scotch and apparently do not hail from Scotland. Their invention is commonly attributed to Fortnum & Mason, the stalwart 300-year-old English grocer-to-the-royal-family famous for their wicker hampers filled with wines, teas, scones, olives, crackers, cookies, fruitcakes, teacups and chocolates. (I want one of those hampers! I'll take this one. Or this one. Or this ... EGADS. I just checked the pounds-to-dollars exchange rate! Fine, I'll settle for this one.)
Scotch eggs 10
Anyway, Scotch eggs ... the story goes that back in 1738 (or by some accounts 1851), a clever foodie at F&M wrapped small hard-boiled pullet eggs with ground meat or sausage -- possibly Scotch beef (that would be beef from those big, furry, redhaired Scottish highland cows) -- fried it up, and declared it fit for a picnic in the country. Indeed, Scotch eggs would be ideal for picnicking -- they are good* warm, cold or room temperature, pack easily and travel well. *Understatement of the year.
Scotch eggs 1
Scotch eggs may have been inspired by a North Indian dish called Nargisi Kofta, a similar meat-wrapped-egg (with meatless variations) floating in a sauce spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and garlic, although I'm sure the recipe varies widely from one Indian kitchen to the next. Considering how long England has been associated with India, some recipe borrowing was inevitable but Scotch eggs are simple, hearty fare and not exotic -- all the recipes I've seen call for the same combination of eggs, sausage, herbs and breadcrumbs, with no aromatic vestiges of their supposed Indian ancestry.
Scotch eggs 2
This recipe comes from my other favorite Bon Appetit -- the May 2004 "A Taste of Scotland" issue. I think they grossly erred when placing it under the section called "Too Busy to Cook? Quick and easy favorites from Scottish readers." Quick? I don't think so! Easy? Well sure, but this is not a dish one throws together on a whim, unless you've already boiled/cooled/peeled the eggs, blitzed the breadcrumbs in a blender, chopped the herbs, squished them into the sausage, and set up your fryer.
Scotch eggs 4
Yes, those are sausage links in that bowl because our favorite brand -- Johnsonville -- didn't come in one of those handy tubes, and yes I pulled each one out of its filmy little casing so it looked like I had a pile of miniature condoms on the counter. And I didn't bother taking a picture because no one wants to see that.
Scotch eggs 6
Assembly is easy, but not exactly zippy: roll an egg lightly in flour, work a blob of herbed sausage around it to coat completely, brush with an egg/mustard mixture, roll in fresh breadcrumbs, and lower into hot oil.
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Tip: wrangling a camera with flour, sausage and breadcrumbs on your hands in order to get good pictures for your blog is tricky at best, so not photographing the process will save you lots of time and multiple handwashings.
Scotch eggs 8
I rarely fry foods, but found it was quite painless and not even that messy, especially with the hood fan sucking up those hot oil vapors (although, oddly, the house still managed to smell like fried fish throughout the day). With a thermometer in the pan, I was able to keep the oil temperature just about right so each egg took the allotted 5-6 minutes to fizz to a nice deep brown. After a brief rest on some paper towels, they were sliced in half and served with mustard, ketchup and cold beer, alongside apple slices and carrot sticks to give the delusion illusion of a healthy, well-rounded pub snack.
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Oh my stars and garters, they were really REALLY good!** And hard to resist. Munching on them fresh(ish) out of the fryer, with a cold Smithwick's close by, I had to restrain myself after two. I'm pretty sure it was only two. **Extreme understatement of the year.
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I could have kept eating them with no regard for my waistline or the state of my arteries. I hope we had the good sense to have a big salad for dinner, but all I can remember about that entire day, foodwise, was these eggs.
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Look at that. Two left! I confess it took my entire supply of willpower to save them for others in the house.
Scotch eggs final
I don't give a hoot about the nutritional shortcomings of deep-fried-sausage-eggs. If I have anything to say about it, those things won't last past the weekend.

Their English pedigree notwithstanding, Scotch eggs are, I am confident, enjoyed by the Scottish, too. And possibly the Irish. Maybe even the Welsh! I found the "receipt" in several of my own cookbooks including Favourite Scottish Recipes and Celtic Folklore Cooking, as well as in the The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook. But to get your tastebuds together with a Scotch egg sooner than later, I've included the Bon Appetit recipe below. You can thank me later -- when your personal trainer gets through with you.

Scotch Eggs with Fresh Herbs
From Bon Appetit -- May 2004 "A Taste of Scotland" issue
Makes 6 (note that doesn't say
serves 6)

1 pound bulk sausage meat
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or your favorite mustard)
5 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
(this is way too much -- 2-1/2 cups is more than plenty)
1 cup all-purpose flour
(this is also more than necessary -- 1/2 cup is quite enough)
6 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

Mix sausage, chives, and parsley in medium bowl to blend. Whisk egg and mustard in bowl to blend. Place breadcrumbs in large bowl (or pie plate). Place flour in another bowl. Roll 1 hard-boiled egg in flour. Using wet hands, press 1/3 cup sausage mixture around egg to coat. Brush egg with mustard mixture, then roll in breadcrumbs, covering completely and pressing to adhere. (Repeat egg/mustard mixture and breadcrumbs for extra breading.) Place coated eggs on plate. Repeat with remaining eggs.
(Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerated.)

Add enough oil to heavy large saucepan to reach depth of 1-1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 3 prepared eggs to oil; fry, turning occasionally, until sausage is cooked through and coating is deep brown, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs. Serve warm with mustard, ketchup, or other favorite condiments.

As always, feel free to leave a comment -- but preferably not a note from your physician advising you to stay away from this blog -- below.
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Leek and Potato Soup.

flag-mini-Ireland Our springtime weather has been a bit erratic -- spells of rainy, shivery days broken by a day or two so unseasonably hot it feels like July, then back to March-like cold and wet. It's probably not unusual for the midwest, but it gets a mite tiresome.
Potato leek 9
Cooking is a cozy antidote for crummy weather, and potato leek soup makes sense in spring when it's chilly enough for warm comfort food that is satisfying but not heavy. This soup recipe comes from my well-thumbed May 1996 "The Romance of Ireland" edition of Bon Appetit magazine. It doesn't appear at Bon Appetit's site so I'm including it at the bottom of this post.
Potato leek 1
I'm usually hesitant to buy leeks -- they are fairly expensive when you do the math. Not too bad at $2.49 a pound, but considering you chuck exactly half of what you've purchased into the trash (or compost heap), to my penny-pinching mind that doubles the cost. Leeks must have been cheap and plentiful at some point in history, and they seem to be universally paired with potatoes. The Scottish put them into Cock-a-Leekie (chicken and leek) or Tattie-and-Leekie (potato and leek) soup, and the Irish in Leek-and-Potato. The Welsh regard leeks so highly that they have become a national symbol of Wales. On the feast day of Wales' patron saint, St. David (who was poor and pious and thought to eat not much more than leeks and water), leeks (very small ones!) or daffodils are worn in the lapel to demonstrate national pride, and leek soup, called "Cawl Cymreig" (Welsh Cawl) is traditionally served.
Potato leek 2
It sure sounds like they consume a lot of leeks across the Atlantic, so I couldn't help but wonder what they're paying for them. A
quick online check of Superquinn, an Irish grocery store chain, shows they’re in no better shape (by my budgetary sensibilities) over there -- $2.70 per pound, if I’m converting my Euros to Dollars and kilograms to pounds correctly.
Potato leek 3
Unlike leeks, potatoes as a pantry staple make good food sense -- abundant (except for that tragic time in Ireland in the mid-1800s), filling and inexpensive, it's small wonder they are added to so many dishes around the world. Their cost notwithstanding, leeks -- and the humble potato -- live strong in the native cuisine of my overseas brethren, and I stand with them. So on with the soup!
Potato leek 4
Like many creamed soups, this one is easy but a bit labor intensive. First, there's cleaning the ubiquitous grit and dirt out of the leeks. Then there's peeling, chopping, more chopping (and a little weeping, if you’re sensitive to onions -- I am) ...
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... sauteeing, boiling, blending, scraping, pouring, more blending ...
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... and wrangling batches of blended soup with bowls, rubber spatulas and such. Creamed soups sound so easy, but in my kitchen they generate a bit more mess.
Potato leek 8
However, may I say the result is silky smooth and delicious, with no cream -- high-fat or otherwise -- to give it creaminess. Seasoned only with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of chopped chives fresh from our spring garden, it tastes both simple and indulgent. I imagine pre-blender versions were chunkier and more rustic, but no less delectable. The recipe calls for butter and chicken stock, but canola oil and vegetable stock can be substituted for a completely meat-free version.

Luckily we had leftover
Irish brown bread (so cinchy to make, from the same issue of Bon Appetit) in the freezer, which I toasted and served with a simple green salad and Smithwick's. Beer might be too sturdy a libation alongside this light creamy soup, but is that reason enough forego? If you have no Smithwick's, white wine will complement the meal nicely.
Potato leek 10
Leek and Potato soup is also good chilled, so don't let rising temperatures keep you from enjoying this lush and lovely soup. It's nice to have options when the darned weather can't make up it's mind. Slainte!*


Leek and Potato Soup
From Bon Appetit, May 1996 "The Romance of Ireland" issue

4 servings

3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thingly sliced (about 4-1/2 cups)
2 large russet (baking) potatoes (about 18 ounces total), peeled, diced
4-1/2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth

Melt butter in large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; stir to coat with butter. Cover saucepan; cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 4-1/2 cups stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan. Thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, garnish with chives and serve.

*A common toast in Ireland and Scotland meaning "Health!" Pronounced SLAWN-cha.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment below. I love hearing from everyone!
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Chocolate Victoria Sponge. Or What To Make When Your Cooker Blows.

flag-mini-british After making Treacle and Spice Victoria Sponge, I vowed to make the chocolate version next. And I did. And it’s delicious! And easy to make so don’t pass this one up.
Chocolate Victoria sponge closeup
Important reminder: "sponge" = cake.

According to Wikipedia, and a number of Victoria Sponge cake bakers I’ve visited around the internet, Victoria sponges -- because of their sensitivity to cooking times and temperatures -- are baked by oven manufacturers to test their ovens. Maria at Squirrelslarder, from whom I took this chocolate sponge recipe, relates that the British gas board took this culinary measure after her family’s cooker breathed fire upon her mum, vaporizing a bit of her hair. To make sure repair to the gas lines and oven was satisfactory, the gas board ladies baked sponges. I can’t think of a more civilized way to salve the trauma of a malfunctioning oven than to serve up jam-filled cake and tea. It would not surprise me at all to learn that stress levels in the English are far lower than ours.
Chocolate Victoria sponge ingredients
Anyway, don’t be put off by all the apparent sensitivities of Victoria sponge -- I’ve made two of them and although they were not taste-tested by authentically British folk, I can assure you they cooked up a treat and my family had no complaints. I am my worst kitchen critic and even I was most happy with the results.
Chocolate Victoria sponge flour
One thing I love about these British recipes is weighing out the ingredients on my spiffy Escali digital scale. Maria's recipe does include ounce equivalents, which I think you could measure out with a measuring cup, to make your life a little easier. The only problem is my pans are too large -- 9+ inches instead of the required 8” so my two sponge layers are thinner than they should be. But no less tasty!
Chocolate Victoria sponge batter in pans
Chocolate Victoria sponge drop seat jammies
Also, I highly recommend taking the extra time to cut a circle of parchment paper (or waxed, if you don’t have parchment) to make removing the cooked cakes easier. My layers suffered some cracking as I shimmied them from the pan bottom with a thin flexible plastic spatula. I’m beginning to think every cake pan should have a removable bottom. Wouldn’t life be easier if everything had a removable bottom? Like those old fashioned one-piece jammies with the back flap.

Although Maria includes a buttercream filling recipe, I happened to have leftover buttercream frosting, inspired by I Am Baker’s frosting rosettes, which I actually made from the frosting but have yet to blog about. The pretty rosettes actually are quite easy! Oh okay, here's a quick look at them. The cupcakes were strawberry (from the Cake Doctor cookbook) spread with a thin layer of chocolate ganache and topped with the rosettes. For Valentine's Day.
Strawberry chocolate buttercream rosettes
Where was I. Oh yes, I had leftover frosting -- from those very rosettes -- in the freezer. Freezers are fantastic, aren't they? Besides the obvious (ice, ice cream, ice packs) I use mine to preserve tortillas and sliced homemade bread, freeze bananas for smoothies, and save buttercream frosting for sponge cakes. I thawed the frosting and mixed in something like 3-4 tablespoons of Ghirardelli cocoa powder, which resulted in a chocolatey buttercream lightened and fluffed up from all the stirring.
Chocolate Victoria sponge filling
I smoothed a thin layer of buttercream onto the first layer of sponge (the uglier layer) and spread that with homemade (not by me) cherry preserves. Then the second sponge layer, a light dusting of powdered sugar, and ....
Chocolate Victoria sponge ready
Isn’t it pretty? And so simple! This just proves that really good cake does not have to be encased in a cloying armor of frosting. If you don’t want to buy or make buttercream, whipped cream will do and try a layer of your favorite jam or preserves.

The flavor of this sponge is somehow both light and rich (must be all that lovely butter) -- it’s not in-your-face chocolate like Devil’s Food, and almost reminds me of chocolate pudding.
Chocolate Victoria sponge sliced for tea
Served with tea, of course. Or coffee and an episode of Doc Martin or Jewel in the Crown, both of which we happen to be watching at the moment.

Find the Chocolate Sponge recipe (and many other scrumptious treats) at Squirrel's Larder. Cheers!

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