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.
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.
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.
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.