Is it just me or have we become oddly unimaginative about breakfast, belying the British reputation for starting the day with the closest thing to a banquet? I wouldn’t dream of eating the same thing day in day out at other meals, so I can’t think why I’ve been so boring about breakfast. Well, not any more. Last weekend it was kedgeree on Saturday and bacon muffins, eggs and mushrooms on Sunday. We’ve had friands with our coffee and there’s a fridge-full of home-made lemon curd – too much, really, because lemon curd doesn’t keep indefinitely, but it does make a good present. Go on, ditch the muesli/toast/porridge and get cooking.
The introduction above and the kedgeree and other recipes were first published in The Sunday Times in May 2007. The introduction shows how things have changed since but, given the current passion for breakfast and brunch, the recipes are all the more relevant. The only thing I would add is that while smoked fish is undoubtedly one of the three essentials for kedgeree, you can make a very good dish without it by adding bacon: stir in crisp cooked lardons or strips of bacon and top with more crisp strips or whole rashers.
This is surely a candidate for the title of world’s most versatile dish. Served at breakfast or brunch it exudes Edwardian leisured luxury, yet it’s also a wonderful lunch and supper dish. Better still, it’s a breeze to make and infinitely expandable and adaptable in its ingredients. Rice, smoked fish and eggs are the essentials; everything else is optional. So, if the thought of spices at breakfast appals you, leave them out. Ditto the onion. If you don’t want saturated fats, use olive oil instead of butter and skip the cream. If you’re planning the breakfast of a lifetime, consider adding smoked salmon or crayfish tails as a final flourish. If you’re iffy about eggs staring at you first thing in the morning, reduce the numbers and chop them up. If you like the idea of something sweet, apart from mango chutney, add a few sultanas.
6 medium eggs
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric, or 1 tsp curry powder instead of the 3 spices
800g undyed smoked haddock
300g basmati rice
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
6 tbsp double cream
2-3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
To serve: mango chutney
If you’re happy to have four pans on the go at once, you can cook the eggs, onions, rice and fish all at the same time, but if you’d rather stick to managing three pans, cook the eggs first. Either way, the aim is yolks that are still just slighty soft. Lower the eggs into a pan of almost simmering water, bring to the boil and boil for five minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water, then take them out when they’re cool enough to handle and put to one side.
In a large heavy-based pan on a low heat, melt 60g of the butter and add the onion. Cook slowly, stirring from time to time, and adding the spices after 8-10 minutes. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes in total, until the onions are completely soft and, although coloured by the spices, not browned in the conventional cooking sense.
Meanwhile, put the haddock in a saucepan, cover with simmering water and simmer gently for about 8 minutes. At the same time, cook the rice according to the packet instructions (this will usually be in a large pan of boiling water for 10-12 minutes).
Peel the eggs while the fish and rice are cooking. Chop two of the eggs coarsely. Cut each of the others into six wedges or into thick slices.
When the haddock is ready, drain it and, when cool enough to handle, pull off the skin and break up the flesh, removing any bones. With the onion pan on a low heat, gently fold in the drained rice, then the fish and the chopped eggs. Season well with pepper and more cautiously with salt (remembering the fish may be salty). Gently stir in the cream, then the remaining butter and parsley. Scatter on the egg wedges or slices and serve with mango chutney on the side.