Curried rice with fish

A favourite old book – literally old as my edition was published in the 1850’s, is by Eliza Acton; most of the recipes which made Mrs Beeton famous come from Eliza! Here’s something I wrote a little while ago:

One of my favourite meals is kedgeree, curried rice with fish, a deceptively simple dish… I say deceptively because it looks so simple, and yet although the results always taste lovely, you can’t always guarantee that they will be the same every time… in fact they are hardly ever the same twice running. I’m sure everyone who cooks it has their own version, and there is always a dilemma… do you cook the rice first then make the dish, cook the curry spices in butter/ghee/oil with/without onion, do you add other vegetables such as peas to it, or raisins, or almonds, and should the fish be cooked and added, or cooked in the whole thing,and what sort of fish? Smoked haddock? Salmon? Prawns? Any old fish that comes to hand – actually not old fish but fresh fish, obviously…

Eliza Acton published her Modern Cookery book in the 1840’s from recipes she had acquired over some years; the last chapter is on ‘foreign cookery’ and she starts with Jewish recipes; she explains about Jewish dietary requirements and then gives a selection of recipes including smoked beef and almond pudding. She has a single recipe from Mauritius, recipes from Syria, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland and of course, France. She also has several from what was then part of the empire, India. Indian lobster-cutlets, Indian burdwan, the King of Oude’s omlet, a real Indian pilaw, curried fish, a No. 1 currie powder, and kedgeree, an Indian breakfast dish.

Boil four ounces of rice until tender and dry as for a currie, and when it is cooled down put it in a saucepan with nearly equal quantity of cold fish taken clear of skin and bone and divided into very small flakes or scallops. Cut up an ounce 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 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 maybe omitted, and in its place an extra egg or more.
Cold turbot, brill, salmon, soles, John Dory, and shrimps may all be served in this form.

Eliza’s recipe (I feel as if I should spell it ‘receipt’) for the chatney includes ‘young onions, chilies, (sometimes green ginger) … occasionally a little garlic or full grown onion… green peaches, mangoes and other unripe fruits… ripe bananas, tomatoes roasted or raw, potatoes cooked and mashed, the fruit of the egg-plant boiled and reduced to a paste; fish, fresh, salted or smoked and boiled or grilled taken in small fragments from the bones and skin and torn into minute shreds or pounded… add salt if needed and as much olive oil of pure quality with a third as much of vinegar….’ When I look at her ingredients it makes me so cross to think how British cookery was criticised in the past, and British cooks sneered at because they were so ignorant of ‘continental ‘ ingredients and look at Eliza’s stock cupboard – chillis, mangoes, aubergine, pure olive oil…

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