I like the word ‘kedgeree’. It reminds me of the words ‘menagerie’ and ‘melange’, fitting for this dish of odd things. A real kedgeree contains smoked haddock or trout, something this faux version doesn’t. But what a real kedgeree wouldn’t contain is organic kale straight from the strangest, loveliest little place I’ve ventured to of late. CERES, an organic market in the heart of inner north Melbourne, is a hippy haven full of organic foods and hand-woven clothes for babes and big people alike. The market is nestled among the trees in a hidden oasis of veggie gardens, excitable chickens and excellent Melbourne coffee. Not a sound can be heard of the urban traffic outside its bounds … only the sweet falsetto of the resident folk singer washing over the crowd of shoppers and soy chai latte sippers.
On this crisp yet sunny Saturday morning, my favourite kind of morning, I met up with my new bestie – a 5 year old named Alana from Germany, and her gorgeous mum, Stef. I had previously been told of this special place by Jenny, but it took an invitation from my German friends to lure me over. After a perfect, strong flat white, I picked a wicker basket and headed to the fruit and veg stand to pick some of the best looking vegetables I’d seen in a while. Purple carrots, kale, wild mushrooms and rustic potatoes were just some of the goods I selected.
I met Alana, Stef and her parents in Düsseldorf last December, as we all boarded a monorail for the airport terminal. Admittedly, I was feeling a range of emotions at the time, knowing I was heading home after some time away and after having dragged my luggage from Cologne to Düsseldorf, taking more than a few people out and whacking myself in the legs a few times (I still have the scars), wishing for an extra pair of hands and someone to send me off with a big hug. Someone must have heard my secret wish, because Alana, or Lani as I now call her, materialised and became my travel angel. She shyly smiled at me on the monorail, while her mum and I quickly worked out that we were both flying with the same airline, at the very same time, to Dubai and then to Melbourne. After the plane took off and the heaviness I felt eased, I went to visit Stef and Lani a few rows away and we made plans to catch up at our stopover. Once in Dubai, Lani’s shyness dissipated and she chatted away to me in Deutsch about her favourite game, Uno. My plans to chill in the Emirates lounge with the jet-setting folk were soon forgotten and I found myself fighting for a table outside a bustling McDonalds with Lani, Stef and a unicorn backpack containing the Uno cards, in tow. Once seated, Lani whipped out her cards and ordered me about in German. After beating me five times I realised the little trickster was cheating, which I yelled out to her, in English. ‘Nein, nein’, she exclaimed, giggling away. We continued in this way for a couple of hours, chattering away in a mixture of German and English and forming an unlikely friendship. I pretended to be a unicorn with her, making strange noises and scaring some of the jetlagged folk around us. We were a classy duo, and she firmly won my heart.
On arrival in Melbourne, Lani was reunited with her ‘papa’ whom she hadn’t seen for some time, and I was reunited with mine, as well as my mama. It was pretty special. I have since had the pleasure of meeting up with my special ladies several times. I even found myself wandering the Fitzroy Gardens one night behind some dude dressed up as St Martin with a bunch of German kids and their parents carrying lanterns behind him. They joyously and confidently belted out tunes about the real St Martin while the fake one hummed along in his barely-there Deutsch, leading the pack and his bewildered trumpet-playing sidekick in circles around the park. The German fare afterwards was impressive – glühwein as good as what I had in Deutschland and some hearty schmalzbrot and pretzels. But I have big plans to introduce Stef to the wide range of ‘exotic’ Melbourne foods has to offer, particularly after watching her screw up her face at a menu containing Dukkah and goats’ cheese at the CERES cafe. I look forward to this project! And Lani is over unicorns for now and has instead adopted cat, dog and lizard alter egos. But she is still beating me at Uno.
1 cup rice (preferably basmati)
1 tablespoon butter
extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 pieces shortcut bacon, trimmed of fat and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup pine nuts
1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Boil the rice in a pot or rice cooker. I like to add a little veggie stock powder to mine and cook it well, for at least 20 minutes, to ensure the rice is nice and fluffy. Boil the eggs for about five minutes, so the yolks remain slightly soft. Allow to cool and then peel and cut into quarters, lengthways. Prepare the kale by roughly chopping sideways into 1 cm wide pieces, then rinse these well. When the rice is cooked, allow to stand while you prepare the lovely fun bits.
Add 1 tablespoon each of oil and butter to a pan, then gently sauté the chopped onion for about 10 minutes. Stir continuously so as not to burn the onion – you want it golden, soft and sweet, not chargrilled and crunchy! Add the bacon and garlic and turn the heat up a little. Cook for another minute and then add the kale. At this point you may need to add a little more oil. Stir for about another minute and then add the pine nuts. Toss until the kale has wilted (but not into yellow oblivion) and the pine nuts have a little colour. Season well.
Add the cooked rice to the kale mixture and stir through, adding the parsley and extra seasoning to taste. Serve your steaming kedgeree with the egg pieces arranged on top, a good sprinkling of smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. This should serve about 2-3 people, and yes purists, would be also good with some flaked salmon or trout mixed through. Guten appetit!