The day cannot go wrong if you have this for brunch – this is a real feel good dish. Mint and peas are one of the finest flavour combinations, and so is eggs and feta… And it feels like spring is right here.
Minted pea and feta scrambled eggs (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 30g frozen peas
- 40g feta cheese, drained
- ½ tablespoon of dried min
- 3 medium eggs
- Oil olive to coat the bottom of a frying pan
- Salt and black pepper
Cook the peas following the instructions in the package.
Mix the eggs with a whisker and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put enough olive oil to coat the bottom a medium size frying pan, and place it over medium heat until it is piping hot.
Lower the heat and pour the eggs in the frying pan. When they begin to set, use a wooden spoon to draw the cooked eggs to the center. Do this several times until all the uncooked egg is set.
Scatter the peas and feta over the set eggs and cook for another 3 minutes until the feta starts to melt.
Transfer the scrambled eggs to a plate.
Said it once: I don’t even like asparagus… But, it just seems right to test the The 10 best asparagus recipes from The Guardian one by one. This one is very easy, very tasty and very filling. Just the kind of stuff you want to eat over lunch with shredded chicken or a bit of rice, if you are feeling vegetarian. For the benefit of the bikini season, I have omitted the butter the original recipe called for. It is not as creamy, but still delicious.
Baked asparagus with a paprika and yogurt sauce (recipe adapted from the The 10 best asparagus recipes’ column from The Guardian)
- 900g asparagus, trimmed (and scraped if using white asparagus)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 300ml yoghurt
- 1 tsp plain flour
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp sugar
- 25g fresh breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 200 oC. Wash and drain the asparagus thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes in boiling water and drain. Pat dry with kitchen paper and arrange in a large, greased oven proof dish.
In a small bowl, mix together thoroughly the sour cream or yoghurt, flour, egg yolk, salt, paprika and sugar. Pour this evenly over the asparagus. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and then dot with small knobs of the butter. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the top is golden.
Summer is apparently today, with a whooping 23 oC expected… And, oh praise the Lord!, it is a not a weekday! Before rushing to the lake, my favourite recipe for this season… Have already done it several times this “spring”- not minor thing, considering I have a childhood trauma related to asparagus (swallowed hairpin, please ask my mother for details).
Roast new potatoes and asparagus with baked eggs (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in The Guardian)
- 600-700g new potatoes, cleaned and cut into small chunks
- 5-6 whole garlic cloves, bashed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 400g asparagus
- 4 eggs
Heat the oven to 190 oC. Put the potatoes into a roasting dish with the garlic. Sprinkle over the oil, add plenty of salt and pepper, toss and roast for 30 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears into 3-4cm lengths. When the potatoes are tender, add the spears, toss and roast for 15 minutes more, until the asparagus is tender.
Now create four little spaces among the veg for the eggs, arranging the potatoes and asparagus pieces into holes more or less stable. Working quickly, so everything stays hot, break an egg into each space, then return the dish to the oven for about four minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the eggs, serve.
Pain perdu literally means “lost bread” in French. As in the bread which you cannot eat while french and becomes stale. Probably during Roman times, a resourceful cook realized that if the bread was softened by dipping it in milk and/or eggs and then fried, it could be converted it into a delicious dish apt for all tastes. I grew up in Portugal eating it, as fatias douradas [golden slices] over Christmas, generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Spain, I learnt their name was in fact torrijas and it would make its appearance later down the year during Lent. I am pretty sure if I bring this topic up in the office, Swiss and the Germans would claim to have their own variety of the dish. But, that belongs to another post… To close the debate, it might be worthwhile mentioning there is a considerable difference between fatias douradas, torrijas and pain perdu. The iberian varieties are deep fried, while the French opt for browning them with butter.
In any case, when I found an ancient panettone in the back of the cupboard, I remembered this recipe I had seen ages ago in a Gordon Ramsay’s book. It also had been a while ever since I used this book, and in fact, I even had a perfect group of [s]suffering guests[/s] testers coming home for brunch. Perfect occasion, perfect ingredients, perfect guests… As every Gordon’s recipe, if you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get exactly what you are supposed to get. Probably due to the differences in the ingredients, the raspberry mix got a bit messy, but nothing a pair of experienced hands couldn’t fix to the right consistency and taste. All in all, in almost less time than it took to cook it, not only I managed to get rid of old panettone but also had a very happy and satisfied crowd. Definitely calories worthwhile taking.
Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from The F Word)
- 125g ricotta cheese drained
- 125g mascarpone
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 200g raspberries
- 25g butter
- 4 slices of panettone
- 3 large eggs beaten
1. Put the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until it is smooth. Fold half the raspberries and mix softly.
2. Put 1 slice of panettone in the egg mix and let it soak for a couple of minutes.
3. Fry the slice on both sides until golden brown (about a couple of minutes). Take it out of the pan and put it in a serving plate.
4. Repeat (2-4).
5. Put a generous spoon of the raspberry mix on top of the warm slices of fried panettone, and finish with the remaining raspberries.
2. Melt the butter in a non stick pan until it begins to foam.
In a literal manner, tapa means a cover or lid in Spanish. But, if you are talking about food, a tapa refers to a range of fine appetizers and nibbles that are served in bars and pubs to accompany a glass of wine or beer. Over the years, tapas have evolved into a completely new concept, being now a synonym of miniature dishes – sometimes very sophisticated – which are put together to form a meal. In any case, tapas, or its closely related pintxos and raciones, are the center of informal meals and allow you to focus on chatting and socializing rather than scoffing a full blown dinner.
Even risking sounding a bit pedantic, the dish I am doing today is a pintxo. Traditionally, this combination with anchovies is ubiquitous in the Basque Country. And, you simply are not not served tapas in the Basque Country. Up the there, the pieces of bread with something on top are called pintxos. Incidentally, unlike other parts of the country, you also have to pay for them. In case you wonder, about.com does a excellent job on explaining with great detail and accuracy what is one or the other, and the difference between them.
As of late, I have been kind of missing this sort of flavors from home… A poker night presented itself like the perfect opportunity to give it a go. After googling a bit, I ended up finding this Spanish blogger from Bilbao, whom had a recipe that looked very much like the pintxos de anchoa you can find all over the Basque Country.
Anchovy, hard boiled egg and caper on toast (pintxo de anchoas)
- 150 grs. of cream cheese, like Philadelphia
- 2 tins of salted anchovies
- Sliced bread (I use the equivalent of a French bagette, cut diagonally).
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped very finely.
- Capers or sliced gurken
- Olive oil
Put the cheesed and the anchovies (plus its olive oil). Mix well with a blender until you obtain a homogenous mix. Reserve.
Cut the bread crust out, and cut each slice in half so you can obtain 2 rectangles. Fry in a generous quantity of olive oil. Be careful to not let the olive oil overheat to avoid the bread to burn. I was on a hurry this day, and simply toasted the bread until it was crunchy. This version is also less caloric.
Spread a generous quantity of anchovy mix so you obtain a thick layer on top of the bread. Cover with the egg and put a couple of cappers on top of it.
An Israeli chef gives his interpretation of an Iraqi dish, topped with an Yemenite green chilli sauce. And, a pretty damn good it was, just ideal for this sort of weather…. The recipe was brought to the Guardian (here), by the hand of Yotam Ottonleghi. You know the drill: kilometric list of ingredients and several elements to put together at the end. But, it is worthwhile the effort – the combination of flavors and textures is delicate and at the same time exciting. Each one has its place and none is over-powering. It can be cooked in large batches and stored in the fridge to be eaten ad hoc.
Sabih, tahini sauce, zhoug and salad
For the sabih
- 2 large aubergines
- About 300ml sunflower oil
- 4 slices rustic white bread, toasted
- 4 free-range eggs, hard-boiled and cut into 1cm-thick slices
- Salt and black pepper
For the tahini sauce
- 100g tahini paste
- 80ml water
- 20ml lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
For the salad
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
- 2 mini cucumbers, cut into 1cm dice
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1½ tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
For the zhoug
- For the zhoug
- 35g coriander
- 20g parsley
- 2 green chillies
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ⅛ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of aubergine skin from top to bottom, so they end up like a zebra, with alternating black-and-white stripes. Cut both aubergines widthways into 2.5cm-thick slices.
Heat the sunflower oil in a wide pan. Carefully – the oil spits – fry the aubergine in batches until nice and dark, turning once, for six to eight minutes; add oil if needed as you cook the batches. When done, the aubergine should be completely tender in the centre. Remove from the pan, leave to drain on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with salt.
To make the zhoug, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. For the tahini sauce, put the tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix well, and add a little more water, if needed, so its consistency is slightly runnier than honey. Make the salad by mixing the tomato, cucumber, spring onion, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place a slice of bread on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon of tahini sauce over each, then arrange overlapping slices of aubergine on top. Drizzle over some more tahini, without completely covering the aubergines. Season each egg slice, and lay on top of the aubergine. Drizzle more tahini on top and spoon over as much zhoug as you like – be careful, it’s hot! Serve the salad on the side; spoon a little on top of each sabih, too, if you like. Store any leftover zhoug in a sealed container in the fridge – it will keep for a week at least.
I saw it on Orangette, who warned in no equivocal terms: this is not a beautiful egg salad. She was right. Indeed, this is not a good-looking salad. In fact, it is as ugly as dark stormy night. But, the flavors! Oh, the flavors! It is just something that you cook, and have to it eat. And eat it again. And again. And again… I now do it in relatively large batches, and try to make it last through the week by carefully rationing the portions. The flavors deepen over time, and can be eaten warm or cold. In the original recipe, the salad is served over toasted bread.
As I still cannot see mayonnaise in front of me without feeling nauseous, I replaced it with home-made mustard vinaigrette. I used the recipe of The Reluctant Gourmet. Actually, his post on home-made vinaigrette is worthwhile reading if you have a vinaigrette fetich – it is one of the most comprehensive and detailed explanations I have seen. Not that I have seen many, but after reading his, I don’t feel the need to look at something else.
Russian egg and mushroom salad with mustard vinaigrette
- 5 tablespoons of canola oil (I replaced it with olive oil, as usual)
- 500g mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch of finely chopped fresh dill (about 1/3 of a cup)
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 glove of garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I also use old style mustard with all its grains)
- 5-6 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of dried parsley
- pinch of dried thyme
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and add the mushrooms. (If they don’t all fit in the pan at once, let the first panful wilt down a bit, and then add the rest. It’ll work out fine.) Cook, stirring often, until lighly browned, 14-16 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Wipe out the frying pan.
Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften; then reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until lightly caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms. Add the dill and eggs, and stir to mix.
For the vinaigrette, in a clean jar or small bowl, add the vinegar, garlic, mustard and mix well. Slowly add the olive oil while either whisking or stirring rapidly with your fork (I use a small stirrer, and add 1 spoon of olive oil at a time). Add the parsley and thyme, salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings.
If you really must use mayonnaise, the in a small bowl, whisk together a 3/4 cup of mayonnaise, with 2 tablespoons of mustard, and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Pile the salad on lightly toasted bread – preferably sourdough rye, if you’ve got some – and serve open-faced.
No matter how much effort, love and care you put into it, someone mother’s tortilla will be always better than yours. And don’t even mention the supreme interpretation of this Spanish classic done by all Mothers-in-Law – specially yours. To stay away from trouble, I use the recipe I found in the book: Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations by Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas, and call it potato and caramelized onion omelette.
Tortilla de patata [Spanish omelette]
- 1.5 Kg Desiree red potatoes (I use 1Kg of parboiled roesti potatoes. Most Spanish Mothers and Mothers-in-Law would be horrified if they knew).
- Olive oil
- 1 large Spanish onion (always a controversial topic. For some, a proper tortilla de patata has nothing but eggs and potatoes; others would call the thought an heresy).
- knob of butter
- 10 eggs (no typo: it is indeed ten eggs you are going to need).
- Salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes, cut them in half, and then cut each half into slices 1.5cm thick. Place in a pan of cold, salter water ad bring the to the boil. Parboil, or until just tender enough to pierce with a knife. Drain and leave to one side.
In a large, non-stick frying pan, around 30cm in diameter (preferably with slopping side because it will make turning the tortilla easier later on), place 12 dashes of olive oil and put on a low to medium heat (this is liberal quantity of olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thick film). Toss in the sliced onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and start to fry them. Once the onions start to sizzle, turn the heat down to low and add the knob of butter. Cook the onions until they are soft and golden, and then remove them with a slotted spoon and place to one side.
Return the pan to medium heat, and add the par-boiled potatoes, a generous pinch of salt and a small pinch of pepper. Fry gently for 2 minutes, turning frequently or until the potatoes are lightly crisp and and golden on the outside while soft on the inside. Just before they are done, return the onions to the pan, stir them well and cook them together for about a minute. When done, remove everything with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to one side. You will need the oil that was left at the pan for later.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl, add 2 generous pinch of salt, a small pinch of pepper and beat lightly together. Add the cooked potato and onion mixture and still well. Leave to stand for a few minutes, to allow the ingredients to marry.
Return the pan to medium to high head, add 6 more dashes of olive oil (again, until you have a thick oil film that covers the surface of the pan. Tilt the pan until the bottom is well coated. Do not forget to do is, or else you have parts of the tortilla firmly sticked to the bottom of the pan. Not a nice tortilla technique…). Heat the oil until smoking hot, then poor in the egg mixture, moving the pan in a gentle, circular motion to distribute the ingredients evenly and prevent the eggs to stick and burn. Cook for about 30 seconds, then turn down the heat to medium low, and cook for further 4 minutes, shacking the pan gently every so often. Do not stir! (Seriously, do not! If you stir, it will be a completely different dish). When the tortilla start to bubble on the side, it is time to turn over. If this the first time at doing this, prepare for a mess (let’s face the facts – it will get messy. It took a few times before Mr Burntsugar got the hang of it, but now he is an expert. I am more on the supervision and management side of things).
Find a suitable plate, large enough to cover the face of the pan with space to spare, and sit it face down on top. Hold firmly onto the handle of the pan with one hand and use the other hand to press down firmly the plate. Now, in one fast move, lift the pan of the stove and flip it over onto the plate. Remove the pan (hopefully, there’ll be little, if anything, left stuck to the base, and not a horrible mess to clean in the kitchen). Clean thoroughly the pan with kitchen paper roll. It is very important the bottom of the pan has no egg leftovers and burnt egg stick to it. Set down the pan while you add 12 more dashed of olive oil and tilt the pan to make sure the bottom is coated with a thick film of olive oil. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully slide the half cooked tortilla into the pan to cook on the other side. You might need to shake the pan gently and tuck in the sides of the tortilla with a wooden spatula because they will probably look a bit jagged. Allow the tortilla to cook in hight heat for about 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to medium low heat and cook for further 4 minutes. This should leave you with a tortilla moist in the middle (when the tortilla is this cooked to its point is another heated controversy). If you are the ones who prefer it firmer, cook it for a few minutes more, preferably before carbonization. When the tortilla is cooked to your taste, slide it onto a clean plate to cool down slightly. Serve it warm, at room temperature, cut in slice, in little cubes…