For me, Christmas treats mean black caviar and smoked salmon. A rare treat is when we find hot smoked salmon. It always reminds me of my childhood. When I was a kid, the waters around the US Pacific Northwest heaved and rolled with salmon, steelhead and trout. Around Puget Sound the local salmon was smoked over alder wood, giving it a unique aroma and flavour that you only find in that area. But West Sussex is a long way from America. At best we can occasionally find oak hot smoked salmon, but it’s not quite the same – it’s sweeter and earthier than alder smoke. I’ve yet to find alder smoked salmon in the UK, which is okay with me because that way it remains the carrot at the end of an endlessly brutal long stick, meaning a flight, to visit family. My knee and hip joints find these long-haul flights increasingly painful, so the thought of alder smoked salmon waiting for me is a mighty tasty carrot.
This Christmas we found the cured salmon. Then we set off for another shop to join fellow salmon lovers for the last few remaining packets of oak hot-smoked salmon. It was a ginormous, geared-up for gluttony size packet, and my husband looked doubtful that I could, when I unhesitantly said “Not a problem. I can polish off this whole thing.” We both knew that I couldn’t and moreover wouldn’t because he loves it as much as I do, and Christmas is a time for sharing things we love.
But week after week the caviar eluded us. One shop after another – nothing, sorry, nope, darlin’ don’t have any, cavie-what?, nope, don’t have none a’dat … And so it went week after week, until the Friday before Christmas Eve when I stopped by my local supermarket for some milk. There was a man stocking the shelf, standing tall above me on the fifth step of a ladder.
“Excuse me,” I started, and he looked down at me, “if you were stocking a shelf with caviar which shelf would you put it on?”
“Good question,” he said, and I waited while he thought out the answer. “Come with me,” he said. So we walked to the opposite end of the store near the cheese counter, where he grabbed a small jar from the shelf. “It’s not the expensive stuff, but it should be okay,” he smiled.
“Thank you!” I restrained myself from hugging him, “Merry Christmas!” I said instead of wrapping my arms around him. He laughed.
And so on Christmas morning I made a very simple breakfast that included some leftover bits begging to be used up. I saw this recipe in “The Telegraph” newspaper, but adapted it to suit what I had on hand. The original recipe includes rice, eggs, butter and curry powder. All the rest came straight out of my imagination and fridge.
Christmas Morning Kedgeree (serves 2)
70 grams basmati rice
4 medium eggs, boiled, peeled and sliced in half
6 blanched asparagus spears, sliced lengthwise
½ tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon medium curry powder
½ onion, diced
handful of sliced closed cap mushrooms
A few slices of smoked salmon, a handful of cooked small prawns
Boil the eggs, peel, and then slice in half. Set aside, cut side down on a plate so the yolks don’t dry out. Slice the asparagus spears in half lengthwise, and then blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Cook the rice, drain and then set aside, keeping warm in a covered bowl.
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the curry powder to the foaming butter and cook for a minute to release the flavours. Add the diced onion, stir to coat with curry powder and cook until starting to soften. Add mushrooms and stir. Cook for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the cooked rice and toss well to coat thoroughly with the buttery curry spice. Add the shrimp and stir. Warm through. Plate up, scatter the salmon and asparagus. Place 2 halved boiled eggs to the side of each plate and add a small portion of caviar on top of the egg. Serve hot.