At breakfast with Brokenclaw in the eponymous 1990 novel by John Gardner, James Bond has a choice of bacon, sausage, eggs and kedgeree – everything, Brokenclaw reminds Bond, that you’d expect in an old English country house. Bond eschews the sausage and kedgeree and, true to form, opts for the eggs and bacon.
Kedgeree is an old-fashioned, quintessentially English dish (like so many typically English things, its origins lie elsewhere, in this case India), and it’s a wonder that it hadn’t appeared in the Bond books before John Gardner’s novel. (Then again, perhaps not. After all, in the context that Ian Fleming was writing, James Bond is a very modern hero with some quite modern tastes.) Bond could have gone for kedgeree at the Dorchester in 1969, the year in which William Boyd’s novel Solo (2013) is set. A reproduction menu given to lucky diners who enjoyed a promotional James Bond breakfast at the hotel to celebrate the book’s publication includes kedgeree, which in 1969 cost three shillings.
In Solo, Bond naturally has scrambled eggs and bacon, but if he had chosen kedgeree, the dish may have looked something like the version I present here, which is inspired by a 1964 recipe by Marguerite Patten.
Serves two or three
- 200g Basmati rice
- 500ml water
- 1 fillet (c 250g) smoked haddock
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
- 1 tsp curry powder
- Black pepper
- 2 tsp finely chopped parsley or coriander
- Lemon wedges
The fish, eggs and rice are best prepared in advance. Poach the fish in water or stock for about 10 minutes until cooked. Allow the fish to cool then flake the fish with a fork or by hand. Put the fish to one side. As the fish is cooking, hard-boil the eggs. Peel the eggs, cut them in half, remove the yolks, then coarsely chop the egg whites. Put the rice and water into a saucepan, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring the water to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow the rice to stand for about 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Wash the rice through with cold water, drain and put to one side.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the rice and begin stir-frying. Add the fish, chopped egg whites, curry powder and a generous pinch of black pepper. Stir the ingredients until everything is well combined and heated through. Remove from the heat and over the top of the dish sprinkle parsley or coriander, and for that classic 1960s’ colour palette, grated egg yolks. Transfer the rice to serving dishes and place lemon wedges on the side.