Monday 28 June 2010

Creamy Snoek Kedgeree: A Taste of the Cape, with no fake hake

This famous English breakfast dish, a classic of Anglo-Indian cookery, is so easy to make, although it requires good ingredients and some attention to detail. A good kedgeree should, I think, be luxuriously buttery and creamy, and contain plenty of very fresh parsley, a touch of curry powder and a sparkle of lemon. Dry rice, over-boiled eggs or - shudder - gluey pre-frozen fish chunks will put your family off it forever.

I love kedgeree, but rarely make it, because the 'smoked haddock' that we get here in South Africa is awful. In fact, it's not haddock at all, but hake with a fake tan. Incredibly, it's perfectly legal for South African manufacturers to pass off dyed hake as smoked haddock.

'A retail scam' is what consumer journalist Wendy Knowler calls this: 'Both the Department of Health and the SA Bureau of Standards permit the industry to refer to the dolled-up hake as haddock in large print on the front of their packs, as long as the word hake appears in the small print list of ingredients,' writes Knowler in her exposé of this villainous practice.

An excellent alternative to haddock in a kedgeree is smoked snoek. Snoek, a time-honoured staple of Cape cuisine, is delicious when properly smoked; it's inexpensive, sustainable and has an agreeable flaky texture.  Curiously, despite its abundance, snoek isn't something you often see featured on Cape restaurant menus: in this interesting article about snoek, Hilary Prendini-Toffoli explains why.  (And at the end of that article, you'll find four excellent snoek recipes from two of South Africa's best-loved cookery writers, Carmen Niehaus and the late Lannice Snyman).

Living near to Hout Bay harbour as I do, all I need do is nip down to Mariner's Wharf for a pack of their famous oak-smoked snoek, but you might struggle to find it if you live upcountry. It's available in some of the bigger supermarkets, and you can also ask your local fishmonger to order it for you.

My kedgeree contains just a hint of curry powder (Rajah Medium Curry powder has the right, generic taste) . Don't be tempted to add more spice, or you'll overwhelm the delicious parsley-egg-rice flavours. I use plain old Tastic rice, for its bland, milky flavour. Don't skimp on the cream.

Creamy Snoek Kedgeree
300 g smoked snoek, bones removed, and flaked
2 cups (500 ml) uncooked rice
6 cups (1.5 litres) water, for cooking the rice
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
6 extra-large free-range eggs
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
a large onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tsp (10 ml) medium-strength curry powder
4 Tbsp (60 ml) water
1½ cartons (375 ml) cream
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
the juice of a large lemon
salt and milled black pepper
a pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder

Painstakingly sift through the snoek flakes with your fingertips to remove any small bones. Set aside.

Put the rice, water and salt in a pan and switch on the heat. Boil over a medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Drain and set aside.

Boil the eggs for 9 minutes, or until the yolks are just cooked.  Run cold water over the eggs, at a slow trickle from the tap, for a few minutes. When the shells are cool, peel the eggs. Chop four of them into small cubes, and cut the remaining two eggs into wedges, for a garnish. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook gently for four to five minutes, or until they are soft and translucent. Stir in the curry powder and cook for another minute. Now add 60 ml water, turn up the heat, and bubble for another two minutes. Turn down the heat.

Tip the cooked rice into the pan and add the cream, flaked snoek and lemon zest, stirring well to combine. When the mixture has gently heated through, add the parsley, chopped egg and lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper. Tip the kedgeree on to a warmed platter and top with the reserve egg wedges. Serve immediately, with a dusting of cayenne pepper.

Serves 6
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Anonymous said...

I have never thought to use smoked snoek - thank you so much for the tip!

Nina Timm said...

You are the first cook to make kedgeree that I would love to try....flakey, colorful and with my fav fish...smoked snoek!!! Well done!!

polkadotcupcake said...

mmmm.. Snoek! And in such a wonderfully cross-cultural dish. What a delight!

Marisa said...

Snoek is definitely underrated. I think you made a great choice on this one.

Koek! said...

Thanks for this fantastic recipe - all the ingredients are easy to source, which gets a BIG thumbs up from me.
I'm quite shocked about the hake/haddock con - surely Woolies haddock is real haddock? That's where I always buy mine - I'll be sure to check the label next time I buy it!
I seldom vary from having my haddock with butter, toast and a poached egg, but you can bet this dish is going to happen in my kitchen soon.

PS: We really must see to that 'Butter slut' badge!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you for these great comments, my friends and for your continued support of my blog. Robyn, unless Woolies are importing their 'haddock', it's hake. But I will check next time I go there. By the way, not a single person in my family would eat this - they don't do fish - so I ate the entire lot myself, over two days. Very good for the diet.

Barbara @ moderncomfortfood said...

What an interesting variation on kedgeree using your homegrown snoek, which I miss. Just as you've adapted this traditional dish to suit your own local ingredients, I in turn must adapt your recipe to suit smoked fish available to me here in Florida. Smoked mackerel would probably be the closest equivalent.

I'm so glad to discover your excellent, proudly SA food blog. I lived in SA for ten years until just recently and fondly remember the wonderful foods there. BTW sorry about Bafana-Bafana, but well done SA on the great World Cup!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you for visiting, Barbara. Great to hear from a fan of South Africa. As far as Bafana Bafana's concerned, we may be out, but we are not down!

Forage said...

When I lived in England I made this dish often. I loved it and have completely forgotten about it. So tasty. I buy my smoked snoek from a little place in Woodstock's Albert Road. Gigantic pieces of genuinely smoked tawny coloured goodness. Never realised th atour haddock is fake hake!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

I'm stunned and amazed that SA "haddock" is hake!! That's just wrong wrong wrong. But I do agree with using snoek in kedgeree - I think its firm flakes and strong flaavour work far better anyway. As for a "butterslut" badge - just tell me where to get mine!!

Karen Mara Moss said...

The only 'fake haddock' we can stomach is Woolies unfrozen and we've had successful kedgerees using it, but this is an inspired combination, to try - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I've just made this with the delicious new fresh whole snoek they sell in WW. Had the snoek grilled last night - it is delicious and really cheap! it comed from chile, which is a bit odd.
BTW the smoked haddock from WW is very clearly marked as hake (my son adores it).
Well done on a fabulous blog - your recipes are great.