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.
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.
I would have never thought raw broccoli could taste this good… Please don’t even mention it is often considered a super-food (whatever that means), that raw broccoli has more anti-oxidants than cooked one and how much finer it has. It supposed to be a side dish for a dinner party, not a statement piece or declaration of intentions, OK?
Broccoli slaw (adapted from MailOnline’s Food special part one: Gordon Ramsay’s ultimate home cooking)
- 1 head of broccoli
- 100g raisins
- 100g whole blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
For the dressing
- 200ml natural yoghurt
- 1–11⁄2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- pinch of sugar
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut off and discard the broccoli stalks. Chop the head into small pieces. Place in a salad bowl and add the almonds and currants. Set aside.
Put the yoghurt for the dressing into a bowl and stir in the vinegar, starting with 1 tablespoon, and adding more later if needed. Add the sugar, mix well and season. Taste and add the remaining vinegar or a little extra sugar if necessary.
Pour the dressing over the broccoli, toss well and serve. In case you want to prepare it advance, you can kept in the fridge overnight.
Smooth, creamy and with a warm spices note – Autumn doesn’t get any better than this. It was supposed to be eaten in small portions with savoury cookies, but soon spoons made an appearance. TEoU and I ended up having it as pumpkin purée for lunch…
Pumpkin and tahini spread (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)
- About 1kg pumpkin (or butternut squash)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- 70g tahini paste
- 120g Greek yoghurt
- 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- Olive oil to drizzle
Heat the oven to 180C. Spread the pumpkin out on a medium-sized baking tray, pour over the olive oil and sprinkle on the cinnamon and salt. Mix well, cover the tray tightly with tinfoil and roast for 70 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Transfer the cooled pumpkin of the bowl of a food processor, along with the tahini, yoghurt and garlic. Roughly pulse so that everything is combined into a coarse paste
To serve, spread the butternut in a wavy pattern over a flat plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds, and a drizzle of syrup.
Just what you need when you get back home on a Winter: a hot plate of hearty soup. But, please don’t say my Mother I this is I am having for dinner almost every other week… Officially, I am still allergic to soup.
Kale, chorizo and white beans soup (adapted from The Hairy Bikers website)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1,5cm chunks
- 150g green beans, cut in 3cm pieces
- 75g chorizo sausage, skinned and cut into 1cm slices
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt, plus extra to season
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 1.5 litres chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 400g can white beans, rinsed and drained
- 150g curly kale, thickly shredded
- freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring often.
Add the chorizo, paprika and carrots to the onion and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring until the chorizo begins to release its fat. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Tip the tomatoes into the same pan, add the stock and sugar, then turn the heat up to medium.
Bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and leave the soup to simmer for 12 minutes. Add the canned and fresh beans and the kale and bring it back to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until all the vegetables are just tender, adding a little extra water if the soup is looking too thick. Season the soup with salt and black pepper and serve in deep bowls
And another cook off: pork and prawns balls in aromatic broth. It is a bit of a foreign taste to my Mediterranean roots, but still delicious enough to me go back to it over and over again. Nothing that I would cook for myself, though. Never having cooked them before, the broths seem too complex and the flavours seem to be quite hard to get in the right proportions.
But, this Hairy Dieter’s version seemed achievable. A lot of work, but still, within my possibilities… Halfway through the process, there was a lot of huffing, puffing and fiddling around. Indeed it soon become a full blown mess, which included the mixer to go on strike to never work again. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as delicious as one would expect after all process. Well, maybe I haven’t “followed the recipe to the letter”, as The Hairy Dieter’s strong recommend, but after all this effort, I was somehow expecting something a bit more elevated… It is very unlikely I will try it again.
Pork and prawns balls in vegetables and noodles aromatic broth (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
For the broth
- 2 liters chicken stock
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 4 chillies (2 cut across, 2 deseed and thinly sliced)
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, dried or fresh
- 2 long shallots, thinly sliced
- 50g fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
- 4 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (1 1/2 limes)
- 3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
- 2 medium carrots peeled and cut to thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- 1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small yellow pepper, thinly sliced
- 150 chestnut mushrooms
- 150 mangetout
- 50g fine vermicelli rice noodles
- large handfull of fresh coriander
For the pork and shrimp balls
- 250g lean minced pork
- 100g cooked peeled prawns, thawed if frozen
- 1/2 long shallot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 chili, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoons of cornflour
- fine salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Start with the broth, pour the stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and add the lemongrass stalks. Split w of the chillies lengthways almost all the way through and pop them in the pan.
Add the lime leaves, half the sliced shallots and finally, all the ginger and garlic. Bring the broth to a low simmer and cook gently for 20min. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for about 30min.
While waiting for the broth to cool down, start the balls. Put the minced pork and prawns in a large bowl. Add the chopped shallots, garlic, deseeded chilli, cornflour, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper in food processor. Blend to make a tick, slightly textured purée. Add the coriander leaves and it another quick blitz until just combined. Take out the processor blade the roll the pork and prawn mixture into 20 small balls.
Strain the infused stock through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in the remaining sliced shallot, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in the remaining chillies, very finely chopped. Bring to a gentle simmer and add to the pork balls. Let it cook for 5 minutes, allowing the liquid to bubble gently. In the meanwhile, cut the carrots into large ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Deseed the peppers and slice them thinly; clean and slice the mushrooms. Trim the mangetout and cut them in half diagonally. Still the carrot strips, mushrooms, mange tout, peppers and noodles into the broth and let it simmer for 3-4min more, or until the pork balls are cooked through and the vegetables and noodles are just tender, stirring occasionally.
Ladle the broth into deep bowls and scatter the coriander on the top.
Probably the last asparagus of the season, as they are slowing disappearing from the supermarket shelves. So many recipes, so little time… Nevertheless, I wish I had tried this one dish before. As easy as it seems, it is a very sophisticated plate of salad. And, these days, nothing seems as satisfying as the flavour of grilled asparagus, with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled liberally with salt… Happy moments in an ever so stressing last stretch before the summer break.
Grilled lettuce and asparagus with feta cheese (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in The Guardian)
- About 500g asparagus
- 4 little gem lettuces
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Around 100g of feta cheese
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and drop the spears into the boiling water. Blanch for a minute or two, until al dente. Remove from the fire and then drain. Let cool aside and pat with a tea towel until dry.
Meanwhile, cut the lettuces in half down the middle, leaving them joined at the root end. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, season generously and toss to coat, working the oil and seasoning into the lettuces a little with your hands.
Heat a ridged griddle pan or heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Add the lettuce halves cut-side down, cook for two minutes until golden brown and wilted on the base, then turn over and cook for a minute or two more. Remove from the pan and put on a serving dish.
Now add the asparagus to the frying pan and cook for about four minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and patched with brown. Put together with the lettuce.
Crumble the goat cheese and arrange over the grilled grennies. Sprinkle with a little more oil and serve at once. Serve while warm.
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.