There’s a lot of banter in our house, particularly around the dinner table. It’s rarely heavy stuff – shallow is the new deep, after all – and often a ‘theme’, if you like, hangs around for a while. So, picture the scene … #1 teenage son points out that his younger brother’s hair (which used to be just slightly wavy) is getting so curly that he’s beginning to rival a young Michael Jackson. Without a moment’s hesitation, he’s back, reminding his older sibling that although HIS hair is now full-on curly at least it doesn’t have the texture of a carpet, as his does (it’s the chlorine, you know). OUCH. I’ll interject here and point out that I think he’s wrong with the carpet analogy. For me, it’s much more ‘fake fur’ … you know, that synthetic squeak.
Soon the banter has moved off hair and onto, ‘Who is the least scary person that you know?‘ Anyone who looks like an emoticon, we concluded.
Banter between siblings (particularly teenage boys) often gets competitive, and never as much as when we’re talking swimming. Post training there’s always a ‘How was your session?’ analysis … and so the competitive banter commences.
#2 teenage son – We did 18 100s off 6 x 1.45, 6 x 1.40, 6 x 1.35.
#1 teenage son – We started with 8 200s odds IM, evens freestyle, descending 1-4 off 3 minutes.
They might as well be talking in Swahili. Last weekend, one of the swim coaches declared #2 teenage son as ‘The King of Banter’. I reckon that would’ve made his day. Possibly his week.
Occasionally, the competitive sibling banter touches on school work. Who can recite the quadratic formula the fastest? What appears next to Magnesium on the periodic table? The other evening, I caught them having a race to see who could correctly spell dyslexic. Not sure they realised the true irony of what they were trying to do.
I’m definitely not The Queen of Banter and I certainly could never compete with either teenage sons (or my 8 year old daughter, come to think of it), in the pool. I’m confident around the quadratic formula (maybe influenced by #1 teenage son’s old Maths teacher who declared that knowing the quadratic formula is the key to securing a lifetime of party invitations. I’m still waiting, by the way). And as for the periodic table – it’s just a distant memory.
But challenge me to create family dinners (day in, day out) that will fuel the competitive swimmers, feed their brains and keep the family banter flowing and I’m there. No hesitation. And this Easy Mackerel Kedgeree ticks all the boxes. It’s a twist on that most colonial of (breakfast) dishes, Kedgeree – a comforting combination of rice, fish, peas and hard boiled eggs with a subtle curry flavour running through it.
Influenced by a Nigel Slater piece in the Guardian, I’ve used brown rice (to keep you fuller for longer) and peppered smoked mackerel fillets (to save you having to cook the fish first). Brown rice takes much longer to cook than white rice, so I tend to cook up the rice either the night before (while I’m in the kitchen doing other things) or earlier in the day when it’s not such a race against the clock. That’s just to warn you, so that you can get ahead if you want to.
So why do I think that this Easy Mackerel Kedgeree will get you (and your family) doing high fives over the dinner table?
- This is an easy dinner to throw together. No fancy culinary skills required.
- It’s also a quick dinner – essential for mid-week sanity. BUT be sure to cook your brown rice ahead of time to really make the most of the speediness. It won’t be a disaster if you don’t, but you’ll thank me if you do.
- In fact, come to think of it, there are other things that you could be doing at the same time as cooking your rice beforehand. If I had the time, I’d get the hard boiled eggs cooked too. Again – not a disaster if you don’t, but in that post 6pm ‘witching hour’ there will always be 10 million other things you’d rather be doing than boiling eggs. And here’s a tip if you are in a hurry and need to get your freshly boiled eggs chilled quickly – tip out the boiling water from the pan, fill it with cold water from the tap and then stick a couple of chiller packs from the freezer in there. You could use ice of course, but if your house is anything like ours, ice is a rare commodity.
- This is dinner with quite a splendid list of healthy ingredients – mackerel (all those essential oils), brown rice (plenty of fibre), eggs (a good dose of protein), spinach (Popeye was definitely on to something). Blimey – there’ll be no stopping you.
- And do you know what? It tastes delicious too. This is not a dish of subtle flavours (as the original is) but it is warming comfort food. The peas balance the mild spiciness, the fresh spinach is a good foil for the oily mackerel (and that’s ‘oily’ in a good way, of course) and anything topped with hard boiled eggs gets an enormous thumbs up from me.
- And this was a hit with the whole family – even our ‘I’d eat Spaghetti Bolognese every
nightmeal, given the opportunity’ 8 year old daughter. Mackerel wouldn’t be the most obvious choice for a ‘let’s feed the whole family’ dinner, but really, this is a winner of a combination.
- Leftovers warmed up beautifully for lunch the next day too.
I’m certain that you’re going to love this and hopefully it will do a stirling job of fuelling your next round of dinner time banter … it’s what keeps the dining table alive after all …
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 1½ tablespoons curry paste (I used Patak's Tikka Paste)
- 400g (1lb) cooked brown rice - I used 300g (12oz) weight of uncooked rice and boiled it in vegetable stock for extra flavour
- 200g (7oz) frozen peas, covered in boiling water from the kettle to defrost and then drained.
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
- 4 x peppered, smoked mackerel fillets (approx 350g in total), skins removed
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 4 hard boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan - I used a Le Creuset casserole. Add the onion and stir well. Now put a lid on the pan and turn the heat right down, allowing the onions to gently cook for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the curry paste and cook gently for 1 minute.
- Get a small jug of tap water to hand - you will need this in a minute.
- Tip the cooked brown rice into the pan and stir well. At this stage you are heating the rice through and you don't want it to stick so use the water to add a splash every now and then.
- Gently stir through the peas followed by the spinach, allowing the spinach to wilt in the heat.
- Now break up the mackerel fillets into large-ish pieces.
- When the rice mixture is fully heated through, turn off the heat and gently toss the mackerel through the rice. At this stage, give it a good squeeze of lemon juice and check for seasoning. Now lay the eggs on top of the rice mixture and return the lid to the pan. Leave for 5 minutes or so while you gather the diners to the table .....