All through this Scottish Year of Food and Drink I find myself reflecting on the Scottish cuisine and how it has become the food that we now know. As a land that is steeped in myth and legend, and a cuisine that has many influences from those whose hands have touched the country, kedgeree is a dish that reflects all those aspects succinctly. Therefore as Scotland looks to celebrate her food I am revisiting a story and recipe of this age-old dish with a cosmopolitan take.
Smoked haddock has long been a staple of the Scottish diet, certainly when I was growing up we’d frequently see the shiny yellow-brown hue of cold smoked haddock disappearing into a sea of milk to poach, served simply with potatoes and a green vegetable. Another incarnation of the smoked haddock hails most famously from the town of Arbroath, where haddock is hot smoked in open barrels to produce Arbroath smokies. These can then be kept and eaten cold but there’s nothing quite like the oily sweet smokiness of a hot freshly produced smoky. But typically, as with a lot of Scottish cuisine, smoking does not appear to hail from the indigenous people of the land, with much evidence suggesting it was introduced by the conquering Vikings during the 400 years when large swathes of Scotland was ruled by the Norsemen.
Similarly spice isn’t indigenous to Scotland but the Scots have welcomed it with open arms. Legend has it that a Scottish regiment brought back curry spices from the Indian sub-continent in the time of the British Raj and that kedgeree was the result of tinkering with a dish they’d seen there at the time. There is probably an element of truth in this, how much truth probably depends on your desire for casting a wistfully romantic eye to the past.
What is true is that all over the sub-continent you will find a dish with many regional variations of rice, daals and spice, but never fish, called khitchri. With this in mind I decided that I wanted to make a spice blend that would perfectly marry the sweet smokiness of the haddock in kedgeree with an authentic south Asian flavour far removed from the generic curry powder of many a kedgeree recipe. Sumayya Usmani of mytamarindkitchen.com gave great assistance guiding me towards cumin, coriander and chilli as a simple spice blend that the haddock would accentuate but not drown in. I also added a little turmeric as I like the colour it gives the dish and opted for Kashmiri chilli, again because of the wonderful colour it gives when cooking and the aroma that it fills the kitchen with.
Note: Traditionally hard boiled eggs are added but I prefer to see the yolk of the poached egg run into the smoky goodness below.