Sunday, 12 June 2011

A fish deesh!

Windsor Castle Pub, Notting Hill - where I learnt to cook
some traditional English meals

Thanks to my Spanish classmate and old friend, Fernando, I got my first job in the kitchen of a pub called Windsor Castle, in Notting Hill Gate – 19 years ago. It used to be one of the best beer gardens in London. On my first day in the job, I got the task of peeling two sacks of potatoes... Woohoo, nice… I think my back and neck have never been the same since. At least Fernando was there helping me with the task and making me laugh while sharing stories of his “socializing” with Pedro Almodovar (I am still waiting to see the pictures of those parties). Fernando was older than me, had done lots of travelling and had a fascinating life experience. He was hilarious, very generous, a bon vivant, enthusiastic and mad - a real life Almodovar character. God knows where he might be now. We unfortunately lost contact.

I digress, sorry. Anyway, few weeks later I got promoted to be the cook/chef’s assistant and instead of peeling potatoes I got to fry them. Nice...Then, when they realized my full potential from peeling and frying potatoes, I got promoted again and this time I was much happier. I learnt to make various traditional English dishes, including the famous, and not so much loved, steak and kidney pie. The first dish I learnt to make, and loved straight away, was Kedgeree! It became one of my favourite dishes and still is.

Kedgeree is a British version of an Indian dish called khichari (rice cooked with lentils).It was adapted when the British colonized the Raj. Nowadays you can find it in many versions. The chefs go crazy, introducing different types of smoked fishes, adding creams, yoghurts, all sorts of spices etc. I like to keep it simple, only varying the use of herbs and cooking with wholegrain basmati instead of white rice.

This one is for you Fernando, wherever you may be!

some of the main ingredients for kedgeree
cover the smoked haddock with water
sautee onion with garlic, curry powder and mustard seeds
My kedgeree!

Kedgeree
Serves 4

If you don’t fancy a full English breakfast at the weekends (or during the week, if you like), this recipe is a great meal to start the day. It’s packed with flavours and a great source of protein and complex carbs.

Ingredients

200g naturally smoked haddock
Water
2 Bay leaves
4 eggs
170g Basmati rice
400ml water (add more if rice needs more cooking) 
1 tbsp olive oil
A knob of butter
1 Onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
A knob of ghee or clarified butter
Sea salt and pepper
Lemon

Method

Pour enough water to cover the fish into a shallow pan. Add the bay leaf, cover and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 min. Remove the fish and set aside. Remove the bay leaf.

When the fish is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and flake it.

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Add the onion and cook gently for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and mustard seeds, then add the fish and stir gently.

In a separate pan, add the rice in a salted water (about 2 fingers above rice), bring to the boil and cover. Turn the heat down very low and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff up the rice with a fork.

Fold the onion and fish flakes into the rice, along with half the coriander and ghee.

Serve the rice onto warm plates, top with one hard-boiled egg (cut into quarters) per person and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Squeeze some lemon on it. Enjoy!

Some of the main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Basmati rice: wholegrain basmati is an excellent complex-carbohydrate food. It is gluten free and low in fat and sodium. In India, rice symbolizes fertility, wealth and good health (that is why rice is still today thrown at newlyweds to bless them with healthy children and prosperity). Basmati rice is easy on the digestive system. According to Ayuverda Medicine (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm), rice balances Vata and Pitta doshas. Kapha types, however, should avoid eating rice too often. Basmati rice is a good source of the B vitamins, selenium and iron. White basmati rice contains the lowest glycemic index comparing with any other white rice types, but brown basmati has an even lower glycemic index.

Smoked haddock: smoking and salting is a traditional technique to preserve food naturally. Haddock is an excellent source of dietary protein, vitamin B12, selenium, sodium and potassium.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) has anti-inflammatory properties and it is often blended in herbal remedies to help fight cold and flu. It may also facilitate the digestion of carbohydrates, alleviate indigestion and colic, lower bad cholesterol and prevent halitosis

Ghee (or clarified butter) is a butter that has had its milk solids removed. According to the Ayurveda Medicine, ghee promotes the healing of injuries and reduces inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract, such as IBS, colitis and ulcers. It also helps food absorption and assimilation, enhancing the nutritional value of the foods we cook. It contains a fatty acid that has anti-viral and anti cancer properties. It has antioxidant properties that boost our immune system. Ghee is a great choice for cooking as it has a high smoke point. 

Egg is a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein. It contains Lecithin which helps the body to break down fat and cholesterol. Lecithin is also a source of the B vitamin-like, Choline which is necessary for the brain development, at pregnancy, and also a necessary nutrient in preventing fatty liver (Choline is an important neurotransmitter involved in many functions including memory and muscle control). It contains also Biotin, another B vitamin-like, which is very important for the digestion of fat and protein and essential for the health of hair, skin and nails.
Egg also contains an antioxidant called Glutathione which prevents the formation of free radicals. It is very rich in Omega-3 fats, which prevents diabetes, obesity and depression. Contains vitamin A and E, Folic acid and Lutein (an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that helps keep the eyes healthy and safe from oxidative stress).

Till next week!

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