Scottish

Kedgeree is the Fish-and-Rice Dish Your Repertoire Needs

October  2, 2017

Kedgeree is a dish of rice, smoked haddock, spice, and eggs, and it is one of those dishes whose etymology is surrounded by uncertainty, myth, and legend. Is it Scottish? Is it English? Indian, even? Did it come from British India, or does it predate even that period of history? One thing for sure is that it’s impossible to be certain. I have heard many differing accounts, the most popular being that it is a westernized variation of khitchiri, a dish of rice and lentils from the Indian subcontinent, which is widely regarded as a cure for all ills. There is a romanticized notion that “kedgeree” was brought back to Scotland by a regiment serving in the Raj.

Today, Scotland harbors a love of spice, largely due to the migration of Indians and Pakistanis in the postwar years. I've heard many anecdotes about the seven-nights-a-week queues outside Indian restaurants during the 1950s, and Asif Ali of Glasgow’s Shish Mahal is credited with the "invention" of chicken tikka masala in the 1970s; rumor is that he added a tin of tomato soup to a dish that had been sent back for being "too dry." These days, while Glasgow has largely been usurped in recent years in the battle for UK curry capital by Bradford, South Asian food is still the most ordered takeaway in Scotland’s largest city, and the Scottish affiliation with spice is as strong as ever. It’s possible that it all started with kedgeree.

Try it with fried eggs if you don't like poached, or crack the egg on the hot dish. Photo by Bobbi Lin

The first documented recipe for kedgeree comes from 1790, when Stephana Malcolm from Dumfriesshire, near the Scottish border with England, wrote of a dish featuring minced haddock and minced boiled eggs added to cooked rice. However, cayenne pepper was the only spice, and it's not one usually associated with the Indian subcontinent. There is some evidence, though, that curry powder was finding its way into the kitchens of Edinburgh's wealthiest at that time. By the time kedgeree found its fame as a Victorian breakfast, Scottish smoked haddock had largely taken the place of unsmoked fish, curry powder had become the spice of choice, and hard boiled eggs were augmented with parsley, lemon, crispy onions, and a few South Asian garnishes. And while Scotland still lays some claim to ownership, kedgeree appears to be truly a fusion of different cultures and cuisines.

Growing up, kedgeree was a fairly staple dish for me, with smoked haddock in plentiful supply and curry powder always in the cupboard. It was essentially my introduction to South Asian flavors. As my understanding of spice has improved, I’ve moved away from generic curry powder to develop a blend that enhances the flavor of the fish while maintaining the essential pungency of fenugreek and chile. While it could be enjoyed as a very hearty breakfast alongside a mug of coffee, there are no rules against eating it for lunch or dinner, in any season. The beauty of kedgeree is in its simplicity, as while it is a multi-stage cooking process, it is more or less a one-pot dish which can be put together very quickly at the end of the working day, especially if you make enough of the spice blend keep it in your pantry.

Have you eaten or cooked kedgeree before? Tell us about it in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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6 Comments

Joanne P. October 7, 2017
We always make Delia Smith's Kedgeree, although I pretty much 1/2 the amount of butter. We also use the boxed smoked salmon from Alaska, you know, the chunky stuff & fluffy fork it into rice AFTER cooked. Our condiments are...chutney, chopped boiled eggs, salted peanuts, coconut, raisins & raita. Then tear off bits of warmed naan. Hmm, hungry now!
 
judy October 3, 2017
Grew up on my Mums version of kedgeree. She could only cook about 3 things, and this was one. Hers used canned tuna and evaporated milk as the binder. Yes, we had peas in ours as well. No eggs. Lots of curry powder. This was a dinner meal in our house. Lots of rice-cheap for our low-income family. Anyway. I have elevated it over the years, finding Indian recipes, adding the eggs. I poach the fish in curried milk, then cook the rice in that milk with additional curry and water as required. Toss the fish eggs rice and peas together. Sprinlke with parmesan chess and bake for about 20 mins. Wonderful. But my Indian friends say it is still not really kedgeree....
 
Safstar October 3, 2017
My Mother-In-Law puts cheese on hers too, but I can't get used to that! Battle of the Kedgerees!
 
Nikkitha B. October 3, 2017
I'm not a fan of Indian khichdi, but LOVE kedgeree. Maybe because I associate khichdi with being sick? Can't go wrong with smoked fish, though.
 
Author Comment
Graeme T. October 4, 2017
Loving all the variations on a theme, one of the things that makes food so wonderful.
 
Safstar October 3, 2017
My Mum's Kedgeree is made with sliced boiled eggs, and frozen peas!