Curried ducks' eggs

Serves 4

This is one of those dishes you might find in old cookbooks such as Mrs Beeton's and Dorothy Hartley. It's a London gentlemen's club classic and probably something you would have found on the menu at Simpsons in the Strand or The Savoy, and perhaps now due for a revival. Proper curry sauce is not the sort of thing you want to start making in the early morning, so I suggest making a batch of the sauce and freezing it in little pots so that you can take them out of the freezer when required. Those domestic vacuum-pack machines – that suck the air out of a storage bag and seal it so you can freeze it and then boil in the bag – are ideal.

100g basmati rice
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp onion seeds (nigela)
4 ducks' eggs

For the sauce

A good knob of butter
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small piece of root ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
1/4tsp ground turmeric
1/4tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp curry powder
1/2tsp fennel seeds
A few curry leaves
A pinch of saffron threads
2tsp flour
100ml fish stock (a qaurter of a good-quality cube will do, dissolved in that amount of hot water)
400ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, make the curry sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and gently cook the shallots, garlic and ginger in it without allowing them to colour. Add all the spices and cook for another minute to release their flavours. Add the flour and stir on a low heat for a minute, then gradually stir in the fish stock, bring to the boil and allow it to reduce by half. Pour in the cream and simmer until it has reduced by about two-thirds and thickened. Blend the sauce in a liquidiser or with a stick blender until smooth and strain it through a fine-meshed sieve. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Rinse the rice a couple of times in cold water to remove any starch and cook it in plenty of boiling salted water with the cumin and nigela seeds for about 12-15 minutes until just cooked. Briefly drain in a colander and return it to a pan off the heat with a lid on. This allows the rice to steam dry and gives it a nice light, fluffy texture.

To serve, soft boil the eggs for 5 minutes then run under the cold tap for a couple of minutes so you can peel them; you can hard boil them if you wish or cook them so that they are somewhere in between; it's up to you. Re-heat the sauce, spoon the rice into a warmed bowl, place the egg on top and spoon the sauce over.

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