#184 Kedgeree

The thrifty cooking is going well – Charlotte and I having been very shrewd. However, when it comes to Sunday dinnertime, I did want a nice big hearty (and pricey) roast. Instead I went for kedgeree. I don’t recall ever having eaten it before, even though I knew exactly what is required to make it. I had high hopes for it: curry, eggs and Finnan (smoked) haddock. What can’t be good about that!? It used to be a breakfast dish, but these days it’s eaten for dinner or tea.

I have been researching the origins of kedgeree, and there seems to be two differing stories: the Scots reckon that it hails from there, and when the lovely British Empire decided to pop over to Asia and add India to its collection, the Scots brought it over too and the curry element was added. The alternative story is that the dish started in India, but then when colonialists came over, they added the smoked fish. I’m going with the latter story – the best evidence is the etymology of the word: kedgeri is the name of a similar Indian dish containing rice, lentils and eggs.

To make kedgeree, start off by poaching a pound of Finnan haddock in barely simmering water for ten minutes. You can use any good-flavoured cured fish, of course, for example kippers, smoked salmon or bloaters. Meanwhile chop a large onion and fry it in olive oil until it browns. Add a teaspoon of curry paste (I used Madras) and fry for a minute. Remove the fish from the water, remove its skin and flake the flesh, removing any bones. To the pan, stir in six ounces of long grain rice and when translucent add a pint of the poaching water. Cover the pan and let it simmer gently until all the water has been absorbed. Gently stir in the flaked fish along with a large knob of butter. Plate out the kedgeree and decorate with quartered hard-boiled eggs, prawns and chopped parsley. Serve with a lemon wedge and mango chutney.

#184 Kedgeree. This did not disappoint – the food was substantial and well-flavoured, but light. The combination of curry and eggs, and of smoked fish and eggs is great. Plus the extra addition of the lemon, prawns and mango chutney; not something I would normally associate with this dish really makes it special. This is a high-scorer – the only gripe (and it is a minor one) is the use of long grain rice, I am a Basmati man myself; it has a nutty flavour and doesn’t go as stodgy. 8/10.

#165 Indian Soup

A soup “with a lively freshness and a spicy flavour” says Jane, just the ticket for a summer soup, it is also a thrifty soup as it requires left-over boiled rice and left over chicken bones and meat, of which I had both from the chicken curry I had made the previous night. It is basically an Indian-style version of chicken noodle soup and is, of course, about as Indian as Prince Phillip, but this is the 1970s so we shall allow it. Anyway, who cares as long as it tastes nice; and I had high hopes for it after the disappointing mulligatawny soup I had cooked previously.

To start, bring 3 pints of beef stock, 2 large sliced onions, a large Bramley apple, a tablespoon of desiccated coconut, 2 teaspoons of curry powder and the bones from a chicken or game carcass (minus meat scraps) to the boil and simmer for an hour. There is no need to peel or core the apple, because the stock is then strained through muslin into another pan. The resulting cloudy stock now needs to be made clear – this is a two-stage process. First, use kitchen paper to blot off any fat that may have risen to the top; secondly, put over a moderate heat and whisk in two egg whites. Keep whisking for a few minutes and then leave to simmer for five more without stirring. The idea here is that as the egg whites cook they mop up any solids that make the soup cloudy. When ready, strain again; the result should be a lovely golden-brown and clear broth. Season it well with salt and both black and Cayenne peppers, plus a squeeze of lemon juice. Finally, add a few tablespoons of boiled basmati rice and the shredded scraps of meat.

#165 Indian Soup. Well, Griggers was right – it is a delicious soup, clear, spicy and fruity with a lovely tart finish supplied by the lemon and Bramley apple. It would make a perfect starter to a meal – not too filling and interesting in its flavours. However, it is a bit of a faff – it’s not something that can be thrown together and liquidised at the end of cooking, and although tasty, I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort (making a clear consommé is a tricky business). After weighting up the pros and cons, I’ll give it 6.5/10.

FYI: a simpler way to clarify a stock is to freeze it and to let it strain through muslin slowly overnight in the fridge. Obviously you need to remember to make the stock a couple of days before you want to use it, but it’s very easy indeed! It also gives a more clear stock too in my experience.

#106 Mulligatawny Soup

Whilst perusing the little fishmongers in Stockport, me and Charlotte spotted boiling chickens for sale. This is quite weird as I always keep my eye out for them and never see them, but the day before Charlotte requested Mulligatawny soup, but I said that we couldn’t do that, as we need a boiling fowl for it. Perhaps Charlotte is a lucky charm for the English Food project and me. Like some sort of leprechaun or troll.* I’m glad I now have a supply of boiling fowls as quite a few recipes require them. Good oh.

FYI: the word Mulligatawny comes from the Tamil, an Indian language, and means pepper water, and it came here in the Eighteenth Century.

This makes a big old load of soup, enough for 5 or 6 people:

Begin by chopping the boiling chicken into pieces and brown it in 2 ounces of butter, along with a sliced onion. Now add 1 ½ tablespoons of curry powder – either mild, medium or hot (I went for medium, but added a pinch of chilli powder) – and 8 ounces of yoghurt, plus some salt. Fry all this until the yoghurt reduces and becomes a thick crust on the bottom the pan. Be careful not to let it burn though. Add 3 pints of water and let it all come to a simmer. Cook for around an hour and a half until the meat is falling off the bone. Pick the meat off the carcass and chop it up, if need be, retuning it to the pan and chucking out the bones. This is a good point to leave the soup overnight, so any chicken fat can be skimmed off easily. Melt another of butter in a separate small saucepan and add 4 cloves; apparently, the cloves soften after a few minutes if cooked gently and can be crushed with a spoon. This didn’t happen for me. Hey-ho. Add the juice of lemon and pour the butter mixture into the soup. Season with more salt if appropriate. Serve with some boiled rice and some chopped apple sprinkled on top.

#106 Mulligatawny Soup – 4.5/10. Not a bad soup, but decidedly average. When I first tried I thought it was surprisingly light and refreshing, but then as I tried it again, I decided I wasn’t sure. It sat in the fridge for a bit and I realised I wasn’t going to eat it, so it went off the bin. I think I was disappointed because it wasn’t what I expected. I’ve had Mulligatawny from a tin and was sure it contained some kind of red meat. Flicking through the book, I spotted another soup called Indian Soup, which looks a lot like what I thought Mulligatawny was.