Rice, lentils and history

Anglo-Indian cuisine  

Railway mutton curry. Coconut rice and ball curry. Pepper water and beef. These dishes could be some of the earliest examples of ‘fusion cuisine’ in the world: Anglo-Indian cuisine. It has evolved as the result of the marriage of two cultures — European and Indian. Although Anglo-Indian cuisine as we know it today was influenced by various European settlers like the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish, it was the British, who have left an indelible mark on this cuisine. Roasts, stews and white bread, a legacy of the British, were made a part of their daily cuisine.

Food tends to reflect the history and culture of the land where it was created and kedgeree is a prime example of this. It’s origin can be traced back to the Indian khichdi or khichri, a comfort food prevalent all over India in various avatars. Essentially, khichri consists of rice and lentils cooked with ghee and spices. In comparison to many other Indian curries and preparations prevalent at that time, khichri was a mellow dish and it is no surprise that chilli-shy Britons warmed up to this dish more readily. But, being used to a predominantly meat-based diet, they couldn’t accept khichri in its vegetarian form and so added fish and boiled eggs to make it more palatable and nutritious. The returning British took this fused recipe back to England, and by the 19th century, khichri had become a sophisticated breakfast dish called kedgeree. There is a counter argument that kedgeree is based on a traditional Scottish recipe, which assimilated the Indian flavours when Scottish troops came to India in the 1800s. The earliest documented recipes of kedgeree include rice, leftover boiled fish, cayenne pepper and boiled eggs as key ingredients. Later, with the availability of Scottish smoked haddock in England, it became a part of many kedgeree recipes. There are numerous versions of kedgeree that include ingredients ranging from onions, ginger, green chillies to curry powder and even spices like turmeric, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Regardless of how it’s made, kedgeree is a well-balanced, nutritious dish with a great combination of smoky and spicy flavours. There is no recipe which can claim to be ‘the’ kedgeree recipe. My version of kedgeree works well as a great brunch dish or as any meal.

The writer is the Area Director, Food Production of The Park, Chennai.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:34:16 AM |

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