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Raj Dishes

A dry dish of boiled short-grain rice mixed with flaked fish, typically smoked haddock, and egg, usually as chopped hard-boiled eggs with butter. Coloured yellow with turmeric and spiced with cayenne or Madras curry powder. Often garnished with flat parsley or coriander leaves. Most usually a breakfast dish.

Kedgeree, as now served
Image: tesco.com

Kedgeree has been known in England at least since John Fryer's "A new account of East-India and Persia" of 1681 which describes "Their delightfullest Food being only Cutchery, a sort of Pulse and Rice mixed together, with which they grow fat." But that isn't today's fish Kedgeree. While the original Indian version may have been eaten as an accompaniment to fish, it was not made with fish. Pat Chapman ('Taste of the Raj', 1997) gives her grandmother's 1902 receipt for Kitchri Hindustan as containing basmati rice, red lentils, onion and ghee, spiced with ginger, black peppercorns, salt, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon.

The 1886 'Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases' gives;
KEDGEREE, KITCHERY , s. Hind. khichri, a mess of rice, cooked with butter and dal (see DHALL), and flavoured with a little spice, shred onion, and the like; a common dish all over India, and often served at Anglo-Indian breakfast tables, in which very old precedent is followed, as the first quotation shows. The word appears to have been applied metaphorically to mixtures of sundry kinds and also to mixt jargon or lingua franca. In England we find the word is often applied to a mess of re-cooked fish, served for breakfast; but this is inaccurate. Fish is frequently eaten with kedgeree, but is no part of it.

South Asian Khichuri platter with omelette, lady’s finger fried, sweet chatni (pickles) and papad.
Image: Rajeeb (Marajozkee)

Fish Kedgeree appears to be an entirely English invention, first recorded in Acton 1845.

Original Receipt from 'Modern Cookery for Private Families' by Eliza Acton (Acton 1845);

Boil four ounces of rice tender and dry as for currie, and when it is cooled down put it into a saucepan with nearly an equal quantity of cold fish taken clear of skin and bone and divided into very small flakes or scallops. Cut up an ounce or two of fresh butter and add it with a full seasoning of cayenne and as much salt as may be required. Stir the kedgeree constantly over a clear fire until it is very hot then mingle quickly with it two slightly beaten eggs. Do not let it boil after these are stirred in but serve the dish when they are just set. A Mauritian chatney may be sent to table with it. The butter may be omitted and its place supplied by an additional egg or more. Cold turbot, brill, salmon, soles, John Dory and shrimps may all be served in this form.

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