Having some plain boiled rice left over from last night’s meal of lamb and eggplant curry, I recalled I had some tinned kippers – I have a weakness for such fish as sardines, mackerel, herrings and the like, smoked or not (catlike, I know) – and so decided to boil some eggs and put the whole lot together to make kedgeree.
Kedgeree, as all men know, is a wonderful example of how the English find a foreign dish and utterly change it to produce their own tame version of the same. The Indian rice-and-lentil peasant stable on which it is based was first drest up with fish and eggs by men of the Raj, and then, brought back to Blighty, and disseminated throughout the Empire, including this Dominion, turned into a lightly curried mixture of smoked haddock, rice and hardboiled eggs. (Some argue, apparently, that this dish also has remote origins in Scotland – as do I for that matter. No wonder I like it.)
First I boiled two eggs and shelled them, and left them to cool before chopping them up. Having no haddock to hand, I used kippers, being smoked at least, which I flaked into some melted butter mixed with turmeric and cayenne pepper (here I followed some old recipes, including Mrs Beeton’s and one in my grandmother’s nineteen-thirties cookbook, the one with chapters on such topics as “How to make do with only one servant” and “Colonial Cookery”: I didn’t add cream or milk as some suggested). Once all was ready, I added the leftover rice, mixed it through, added the chopped up eggs, and heated it before serving into a nice large bowl and seasoning. It was quite tasty, though I would next time spice it more highly, and leave it on the stove a little longer.
Grandma, God rest her, would, I’m sure, have used Keen’s curry powder, and added sultanas, just as she always did when making her “curries”, in the Australian country cook style of yesteryear – lightly spiced, sweet, soupy casseroles including meat, carrots and, of all things, pasta, cooked till all almost disintegrates, utterly foreign to any Indian palate, but very much in the old British tradition of transmogrifying foods taken from abroad into comforting, domesticated versions. I now find, having searched a little more, that some recipes also include garlic, ginger and onion as a base (which was of course traditional to the Indian original), plus all manner of curry ingredients, including mustard seeds, coriander, chillies and the like. More European flavourings suggested include bay leaves and parsley.
Since last night I served at the evening Vigil Mass, I had plenty of time for a sleep-in this morning and to prepare this culinary delight in honour of the Birth of St John the Baptist. I don’t know if I quite approve of evening Vigil Masses, as it means that I attend daily Mass every day except Sunday…
In other liturgical news, a strange dream I had on Friday night compelled me to read the day Hours of the Vigil of the Baptist from my Monastic Breviary, and I have continued this Benedictine observance overnight, having now made my leisurely way through the Nocturns and Lauds of his feast, and, after a walk in the afternoon and preparing an early dinner (I didn't need lunch), I'm now finishing off the Day Hours a little late. Doubtless the fact that the hymns of his feast are by St Peter Damian, that famous monastic, must have been at the back of my mind to persuade me in this direction.