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.
Your sunday brunch cannot get much better than this – this is a warm, comforting and tasty dish, which while please the toughest crowds. For extra points, the pepper and tomato sauce can be made in advance. Just a technical tip, though. Do not forget to cover the pan while the eggs are poaching. The steam will set the white on the top of egg leaving the yolk runny and golden, just like you want it.
Gordon Ramsay’s North African eggs (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course) .
- 2 shallots finely diced (replaced by 2 medium likes finely sliced as one of the guests is allergic)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon of flaked piri-piri (or red chilli finely sliced)
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 5 fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced spring onion
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan until is piping hot. Add the chopped shallots, season with salt and pepper and let them sweat for 5 minutes. When the onions are soft, add the sliced peppers and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes more
Add the cumin seeds, garlic and chilli, give it a good stir to coat them in oil. Let them cook for a couple of minutes, and the then add the tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture has the consistency of a thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make 4 wells in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each. Cover the pan and poach the eggs until set, about 10 minutes. Scatter the surface with the chopped coriander and a good grinding of black pepper. Serve immediately with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Tortilla or frittata? You can go on for hours debating over the correct name for this dish… still, my strong recommendation would be to eat it straight away from the over with a bit of toasted bread and a dollop of yogurt.
Pea Tortilla with Mint and Yogurt (adapted from a recipe by Francis Mallmann found in Food and Wine magazine)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 250g of frozen baby peas—thawed, drained and patted dry
- 1 1/2 cups (=350 mL) plain Greek-style yogurt
- 8 large eggs
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped mint
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat the griller.
In a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the peas and cook over moderate heat until warm, about 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the yogurt with the eggs, mint, salt and pepper until smooth.
Pour the eggs over the peas and cook over moderately high heat until set on the bottom and around the edges, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil 20cm from the heat for about 3 minutes, until the top of the tortilla is set and lightly golden in spots. Slide the tortilla onto a plate, cut into wedges and serve with the remaining yogurt.
Stop. Start. But, start with a tradition: a lentil dish on the menu for the first post of the year. Of course it had to be a Yotam Ottolengi’s . Quick, easy and totally delicious, this is a hearty dish that will warm you to the soul in a cold winter day.
Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian)
- 200g puy lentils
- 30g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
- 25g coriander leaves, chopped
- 4 tbsp tahini paste
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Cook the lentils according to the instructions on the packet,until completely cooked. Then drain and set aside.
Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes,
Add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, stirring, for a few minutes more, until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up and you get a thick, porridge consistency. Serve warm with the hard-boiled eggs alongside.
The last thing I was expecting was seeing bacon muffins offered as a “healthy option packed with protein”. Specially, when I classified them as totally unhealthy, but worthwhile the risk about 3 years ago. Well, it is gluten free, after all… In any case, an excellent make ahead dish for brunch, lunch or keep the
beasts lovely colleagues happy, motivated or blissfully unaware of the sky falling down their heads challenges.
Bacon eggs and cheese muffins (adapted from Our Nourishing Groots)
- 12 eggs
- 350g of bacon, chopped and cooked
- 180g of Gruyere (or other sharp) cheese, shredded
- A pinch of dried basil and oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 80g 0f Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC
2. Heat a large flat frying pan until is piping hot. Lay out the chopped bacon strips so that they are not overlapping but generally fill the pan. Cook the bacon on its own grease. When they are translucent, remove them from the heat and reserve.
3. In the meanwhile, stir together the 12 eggs whole eggs. Add the cooked bacon and the grated Gruyere cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oregano and shredded basil.
4. Line the muffin tray with paper liners. Ladle the muffin mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffy and slightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Loosen the paper cups with a butter knife and lift out of the muffin pan.
6.Serve immediately while still warm, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
This is supposed to be Northern China style scrambled eggs. Even though
mobile calorie intake units friends were happy to eat it away, I cannot help but feel I didn’t make justice to the original Bill Granger’s recipe. I still blame the wok (or lack of it thereof) for a somehow odd texture. Mind you, this is far to be a total cooking failure. As heard over and over again – it all comes down to flavour… And indeed it was delicious. It is the satisfying, filling and healthy breakfast everyone is sort of expecting in a festive days. Or any other day, for that matter…
- 6 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper ground with a mortar and pestle together with one teaspoon of salt
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons light flavoured oil
- 6 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 3 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Start to making the Szechuan salt, by crushing the the peppers with a mortar and pestle together with a teaspoon of salt.
Whisk the eggs with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper until smooth.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick wok over medium-high heat. Add the egg mixture and swirl the pan on the heat for 30 seconds, or until browned around the edges, but still liquid in the center. Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat the remaining oil in the wok. Add the spring onion and the garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds or until softened. Add the tomatoes and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, unit softened but still whole. Return the eggs to the wok and fold gently until set. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for a few seconds.
Sprinkle with the Szechuan salt. Serve with white boiled rice and green leafy vegetables.