Ratatouille is an ideal make-ahead recipe. After all it tastes even better the day after it is cooked. Combined with eggs on toast, it makes for a hearty brunch that could easily work as a light supper. Or, a snack, if you must. If you don’t like the bread option, you can also heat it in a skillet until it is hot and then make wells in the vegetable mixture. Just break one egg into each and cover the pan with the lid until they are set (about 10 minutes). So many possibilities…
Ratatouille Toasts with Fried Eggs (adapted from a recipe by Zoe Nathan found in Food and Wine Magazine)
- 150mL cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (about 3/4 of a cup)
- 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into 2cm dice
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- One 350g eggplant, seeds cut out and flesh cut into 2 cm dice (about 2 cups
- 2 small zucchini, cut into 2cm dice (2 cups)
- 2 large red onions, cut into 2cm dice
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2cm dice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup chopped basil, plus more for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- eggs to taste
- Six 2cm-thick slices of rustic bread, toasted
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, 1 garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook the tomatoes over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just softened, (about 5 minutes). Scrape the tomatoes into a medium saucepan and discard the garlic clove. Wipe out the skillet. Repeat with the eggplant, zucchini, onions and red bell pepper, cooking each vegetable separately in 2 tablespoons of oil with 1 garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt until just tender and lightly browned, about 7 minutes per vegetable. Add the cooked vegetables to the tomatoes in the saucepan. Add the bay leaf, 1/3 cup of water to the saucepan with the vegetables. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Season the ratatouille with salt and pepper and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat. Crack how many eggs you want into the skillet and fry until the whites are firm and the yolks are runny, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a plate, season with salt and pepper and keep warm. To serve, spoon the ratatouille onto the toasts and top with the eggs. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and black pepper and serve.
By accident, I found out a close enough version of the zucchini soup I used to ate at the university’s research centre canteen. Many years and canteens after, I now realise how much love and care was put into it. It was probably the most homely food away from home I ever had…
Zucchini Garlic Soup (adapted from a recipe found in The Kitchn)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 8 to 9 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4 medium zucchini (about 750g), peeled
- 1L of chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 thumb of ginger, grated
- Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. When it foams, add the onions and cook on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Fry for a couple of minutes more, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
When the onions and garlic are done, add the zucchini and cook until soft. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer at a low heat for about 45 minutes.Taste and season with freshly ground salt and pepper.
Some dishes I chose because they read well and/or have a good combination of flavours. Others, because the story they have attached to it. This is one I picked after reading Yotam’s editorial. It just explained so well what brunch should be about: “It’s a long meal that takes up a large chunk of the middle of the day, a proper celebration of food, but without the fanfare and worries that come with a full-blown dinner party“. Never better said… Every now and again, we get together for brunch, who tends to end up into a several hours long marathons, usually ending when the host runs out of bubbly. Or coffee. Or both…. Happy memories – and hopefully many more to come.
As usual, it was a super dish. A bit laborious, but nevertheless worthwhile the effort. This was served with (fried/baked) eggs to order. Still feel a bit insecure to venture into poached eggs, as the original recipe called for.
Aubergine, potato, tomato (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian)
- 4 medium tomatoes cut into 1cm dices
- 1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
- 1½ tbsp hot savoury chilli sauce (Yotam recommends Sriracha, I used piri piri)
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 aubergines, cut into 3cm chunks
- 250ml olive oil
- About 300ml sunflower oil
- 600g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 3mm-thick slices
- 80g tahini paste
- 2½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 tbsp coriander, chopped
(1 onion was omitted for humanitarian reasons. A. is extremely allergic to them)
Put the peeled, diced tomatoes in a colander for half an hour to drain. Transfer to a medium bowl and add vinegar, parsley, hot sauce and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Mix gently and set aside.
Mix the aubergine with a teaspoon and a half of salt, place in a colander and set over a bowl for half an hour, to drain off any excess liquid. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and pat dry.
In a 26cm sauté pan, put 200mL of olive oil and as much sunflower oil as you need to bring it 1cm up the sides of the pan. Place on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the aubergine in batches and fry for three to four minutes, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and repeat with the rest of the aubergine. Remove the left over oil and wipe down the pan.
Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the potatoes and cook for three minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and set aside to dry. Add two tablespoons of fresh olive oil to the skillet and place on a medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and fry for 10 minutes with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a crack of black pepper, until cooked through and golden brown; turn them over from time to time. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Put the tahini, 60mL of water, a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice, the garlic and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to a thick, pourable consistency. Spoon half the sauce over the potatoes and spread the aubergine on top. Follow this with the remaining tahini, then the tomatoes. Poach the eggs just before you are ready to serve and lay them on top of the tomatoes, along with a drizzle of the remaining oil, a sprinkle with sumac and coriander, and the last of the lemon juice. Bring to the table in the pan.
It is the return of #beetrootgate…. It has been a while – maybe a bit too much. The recipe is from Mafalda Pinto Leite, who as of late has been working on a healthy recipes withe healthy ingredients and healthy cooking methods. Sometimes, like this barley salad, with delicious results. A very good salad for the Summer, refreshing and comforting at the same time.
Barley, beetroot and feta salad (adapted from Mafalda Pinto Leite’s blog Dias com Mafalda)
1 cup of barley
1/3 cups of toasted sun flower seeds
1 small beetroot
1 grated carrot
50g of grated feta cheese
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon
1/3 cup of lemon
¼ cup of torn basil leaves
Cook the barley according to the instructions on the packet, until it is tender. Cool down with cold water and drain. Reserve.
For the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk. Alternatively, just put them all in closed bottle and shake.
To serve, put the barley in a salad bowl and mix with all the vegetables and cheese. Add the dressing, salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Veni, vidi, vici: saw it on the Guardian on saturday, bought the ingredients on sunday and served it for Easter brunch on Monday. It was a spot on dish, very much in the spirit of the season. In case you wonder, it is an Yotam Ottolengi’s take on an Italian dish with lots of modifications to adapt it to what was left on the supermarket. I was getting a bit apprehensive as I kept replacing ingredients by similar thing, but, it all worked very well together… It was a process to do it, but it is a lovely dish, worthwhile the calories and the effort.
Torta pasqualina (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)
- olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 500g Swiss chard, stalks removed and roughly chopped, leaves cut into 1cm slices
- 600g spinach leaves
- 6 sticks celery, trimmed and finely sliced
- 20g Bärlauch (wild garlic)
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 250g ricotta
- 100g grated Emmentaler and Gruyère cheese mix
- 9 eggs
- Salt and black pepper
- 500g all-butter puff pastry
- Plain flour, for dustin
Heat the oven to 180C.
Put a large sauté pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the chard stalks and celery, cover and cook for five minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and spinach. Cook for five minutes more, until the leaves have wilted and the stalks and celery have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.
Line a colander with a clean tea towel or muslin and pour in the contents of the pan. Draw the sides of the towel around the filling and squeeze out the juice: you want the mixture to be as dry as possible. Transfer the contents of the towel to a bowl and add the herbs, spices, cheeses, three eggs, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well and set aside.
In case you don’t have a prepared pastry, roll half of it out pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a 30cm square that’s 2.5mm thick. Transfer to a 20cm-wide spring-form cake tin with 7cm high sides. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and trim off most of the overhang. Roll the remaining pastry into a 25cm square lid and set aside.
Tip the cheese and greens mixture into the cake tin and use a spoon to create five egg-sized holes. Break an egg into each hole, then lay the lid on top. Trim the edges, then pinch the lid and base together to make sure it’s secure.
Whisk the remaining egg, brush it over the lid, then prick a few times with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, until cooked and golden brown. Leave to cool for half an hour, and serve warm or at room temperature.
In North Africa, it is called shakshuka – which literally mean mixture in Arabic. Basically, it is eggs poached in a mildly spicy sauce made from slow-cooked leek, bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes, spiced up with saffron, cumin and cayenne. It is a bit laborious, but you can prepare it well in advance and keep it in the fridge until the mobile calorie intake unit friends show up for duty. In any case, it is the perfect dish for a brunch, packed with flavours, sweet and savoury at the same time… Just serve with bread.
Note: the onions were replaced for leeks, as one of the mobile calorie intake unit is allergic to onions.
Poached eggs with pepper, tomato and saffron (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Olive oil to taste
- 2 large leeks
- 2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into 2cm strips
- 20g of unrefined sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
- 30 mls chopped parsley
- 30 mls chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish
- 6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- a few thread of saffron
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
- up to 250ml water
- 8 free-range eggs
- salt and black pepper
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on a high heat for 5-10 minutes to get a nice colour.
Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Remember to taste and adjust the seasoning as you go.
Remove from the heat, remove the bay leafs and transfer to a a large bowl. Set aside. The vegetabe mix can be prepared well in advance, and kept in the fridge.
When you are ready to serve, put the pepper mix in a a frying pan large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place it on a medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with a lids. Cook on a very gentle heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with coriander and serve
“Oh” said the mobile calorie intake unit my friend. “You made tortilla for brunch?”. “No, I haven’t”, I answered. “This is a frittata”. “Like an omelette?” asked a confused mobile calorie intake unit friend. “No, no….” was the only possible answer “It is a frittata… just eat it, will you?”. Thankfully, he did. Otherwise I would have to start a lenghty on the specifics of omelettes, tortillas and frittatas. A tortilla can never be baked and it is always done in a two step process (indeed a process, until you learn how to turn it around without a mess of epic proportions). An omelette is normally made with 2 or 3 eggs and folded. A frittata is baked – or fried and baked… And, let’s not forget tortillas are Spanish, omelettes are French and frittatas are Italian. But, all of them, a perfect dish for a festive brunch.
Pea, goat cheese and bacon frittata ( adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
- Olive oil to fry
- 8 slices of smoked bacon, chopped
- 2 medium leeks
- 150g peas, thawed
- a few basil leaves, roughly sliced
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese grated and enough to sprinkle all over the frittata
- 150g soft goat’s cheese, thickly sliced
- sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oC oven and the grill on its highest setting.
Heat oil in a non stick ovenproof large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bacon for 2-3min.
Add the red pepper. Continue to cook for another few minutes until the bacon is golden brown and crisp. Add the leeks, and let it sweat until everything is tender.
Toss in the peas and cook for another minute or two, then add the basil roughly missing.
Cut the goat’s cheese in chunks and scatter half of it over the top.
Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat them. Add the parmesan cheese. Season with lots of black pepper.
Poor the beaten eggs over the vegetables and gently shake over medium heat. As the omelette begins to set at the bottom, grate the remaining goat’s cheese on top and season with pepper.
Place the plan under the hot grill in the oven for a few minutes until cooked through and golden on top.
Slide the frittata out of the pan and cut into wedges to serve.
Perfect brunch dish… can be made in advance, is delicious and has the exact amount of richness for a semi-festive meal. It has nothing but very simple and humble ingredients, which work well together, for a very versatile dish. Leeks are in season, even…
Leek, gruyère and thyme pie (as seen in The Guardian)
- 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
- 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
- A knob of butter
- Salt and black pepper
- 20ml cream
- 150g grated gruyère cheese
- 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
- 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
- 1 egg, for washing
Heat an oven to 180C. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.
Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, gruyère and thyme leaves and season well.
Place one circle of puff pastry on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.
Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven.
Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.
It is cold in Zurich, and this is all I want to eat. It is warming, filling and packed with different flavours – what is not to like about this soup?
Sweet potato, carrot and chickpea soup (recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
- 600g orange sweet potato, peeled, diced
- 500g carrots, peeled, sliced
- 1.5L chicken stock
- 300g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
- 1/2 small lemon, juiced
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add sweet potato and carrot. let them sweat stirring often, for 5 minutes until they are all covered with the spices and onion.
Add stock. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Add chickpeas to soup and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until chickpeas are tender.
Remove from the heat and blend the soup with an hand held mixer, until smooth.
Return to saucepan over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Heat, stirring until it gets to a soft boil. Serve.
I love to bits my nephews and nieces, but sadly, I don’t know very well. I don’t go to Lisbon that often, maybe once or twice a year and only for a few days. It is a real shame that I missing out the kiddies growing up. I try to keep up with their everyday life, and always find amusing when I found in these kiddies my own quirks. F, the oldest one is fearless in the water. I, the youngest one and my goddaughter, always wakes up in a bed mood and take her time to engage with the rest of the world. And, this Christmas I found out that V, the middle one refuses to eat his soup. “Oh, my dear boy, how can I understand you!”, I thought.
At the table the drama start to unfold, while I was having a déjà moment. “Eat you soup, V. Now.” said his mother. “You won’t eat anything else”. “No”, he answered and smiled defiantly. “V, try the soup”, replied the mother. V is a sweet kid and forced himself to have a spoon of the greenish liquid. “I don’t like soup”, he told his mother. “You don’t like soup???”, I asked him. “No, I don’t like soup” he retorted “I only like pumpkin soup. Or carrot”. Qed– not liking soup and taste preferences seems to have a strong genetic correlation. What else could I do but support V not to have his soup? He eventually moved to the main dish and dessert, soup uneaten… That is my boy!
This one is not a pumping soup, now out of season, but I guess carrots would have been enough for V to take at least 5 spoons. Or maybe even six.
Carrot and potato soup with cumin and ginger (adapted from a recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 floury potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 750ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until it is pipping hot. Then, add the onion, garlic and ginger and let them fry for 3 mins or until just soft.
Add carrots, potatoes and half the cumin seeds. Cover, reduce heat to low and let them sweat for 7 mins or until just golden.
Add stock, cover and simmer for 15 mins or until vegetables are just tender. Cool slightly then blend until smooth.
Season to taste, and sprinkle with some cumins if you like.