8 December 2004
There are five days to go before the first ghost-story gig at the Lit & Phil, and I have things to do on three of those days. I have written perhaps half a story so far, and Iím going to have to cut the majority of that if Iím to have any hope of coming close to the twenty-minute time allowance. I am, you will gather, starting to feel a little pressured. So I wasnít best pleased by a sudden summons into the university, to sort out an unpaid pay claim; but I went in like a good boy, waited twenty minutes to see my summoner - only to find that all she actually needed to tell me was that it will be paid this month. Which she could have said in the e-mail that called me in. Instead of which, thatís the whole damní afternoon gone, and my temper with it.
When the going gets tough, the tough get cooking. This week, I have been playing with kedgeree. My current favourite is not the traditional Indian rice-and-lentils khichri, nor really the breakfast dish of the British Raj. A variant on the latter, certainly, but a supper-dish, I think. I make it this way; and if it sounds complicated - four pans on the stove at once - rest easy, itís really very simple.
Skin a fillet of naturally smoked haddock, tweeze out the pin-bones and cut it into chunks. Put in a pan, cover with milk and bring it to the lightest conceivable simmer. After a couple of minutes, once the fish has lost its translucency but before it starts to flake, fish it out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Into the fishy milk put half a finely sliced onion, a crushed clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a quarter-teaspoon (or to taste) of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Bring back to a simmer and leave simmering, stirring occasionally as you pass by.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, and cook long-grain rice for two; you know how much you like, and how you like it.
Heat some clean oil in a frying-pan and add the other half of the finely-sliced onion, an inch of slivered fresh ginger and a sliced green chilli (if liked). Turn the heat very low, and sizzle gently until the onion has entirely softened without colouring. Depending on the fineness of your slicing, this might be ten minutes, or it might be twenty. It helps at this stage to keep it all in a heap in the centre of the pan. When itís done, knock the heat up a tad, spread the onion etc around and watch it colour. Once itís golden and crisp, lift it out onto a plate (if itís golden but not very crisp, donít worry; it will crispen up off the heat. Thereís probably a scientific reason for this).
Meanwhile, be heating another small pan full of water. When itís not quite boiling, break a couple of eggs into it and poach them lightly. Itís not actually a disaster if the yolks set, so do them as you like.
When the rice is a couple of minutes short of cooked, add the fish and a quarter-pint of single cream to the milk & onion pan, to warm through.
Drain the rice, and heap it onto a serving-dish. Pour on the fishy creamy milky stuff, and mix in. Add handfuls of finely chopped parsley or coriander (or both), and mix again. Top with the poached eggs, scatter with the crispy onion etc and sprinkly with a little more smoked paprika. Go eat.
© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.