Turkish Breakfast Eggs

eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce

Breakfast at Cumulus Inc

In Melbourne, food blogger Ess Jay took us to Cumulus Inc one morning for breakfast. It was all very swish and stylish. Excellent coffee, as we’d come to expect already, standard local breakfast dishes like Bircher Muesli, and some wonderful specialities. I had to try the 65/65 egg, which is an egg poached at 65 degrees for 65 minutes – the white sets beautifully while the yolk is still creamy. I opted for it atop some home-baked beans and ham hock. John is a big fan of eggs for breakfast, and chose the Turkish baked eggs. The menu description just says “Turkish baked eggs, spiced tomato, dukkah, labne” so we weren’t sure how it would be presented.

In the end (see photo) it was a version of Huevos Rancheros, or Eggs in Purgatory, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods. A skillet of thick highly-seasoned tomato sauce, stirred through with cooked greens, with eggs dropped into it and baked. Fresh labne (yoghourt cheese) dabbed on the top, along with dukkah. Two slices of what Melbournians call Turkish bread on the side, toasted.

Dukkah is strange stuff. It’s basically roast and coarsely ground seeds (sesame, coriander and cumin being the mainstays), mixed with coarse salt. You can put a little bowl of it out with bread and olive oil, for texturised dunking. Or you can use it as a crumb, a sprinkle, a rub … possibilities are endless. It’s Egyptian in origin, and can include dried mint, pepper, aniseedy flavourings, and things to bulk it out. Commercial ones include roast ground chickpeas, which are cheap, but you could use finely chopped nuts. I found an Australian recipe which features hazelnuts and looks very yummy.

We used to make labne years ago when I was a vegetarian hippy, although we didn’t know to call it that. We just took our homemade thick yoghourt, wrapped it in cheesecloth and hung it to drain overnight. You can form it into balls and preserve it in olive oil, and you can buy that sort of labne in a jar at speciality shops. I made a brief sortie in search of some the other day, but they were sold out. So I bought some mozzarella “pearls” instead, and they’ve been lurking in a jar with some thyme and lemon peel, covered in good dark green olive oil.

Currently on the stove I’ve got the tomato sauce simmering.

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • sweated in a reasonable amount of olive oil with 2 sprigs of thyme and 3 fresh bay leaves
  • mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp crushed garlic

heated until the flavours rise

  • plus a good splurge of tomato paste, and 2 tins of plum tomatoes, plus some water to stop it burning

It’s been simmering for about an hour. I’ll let it thicken up in a bit, and drop some eggs into it – not sure yet if I’ll bake them properly or just let them poach in it. John isn’t too keen on greens, so I’ve left that out, and I’m doing some lemon creamed chard anyway as another dish. I have a commercial dukkah from Sainsburys, just to see what it’s like. But I may abandon it and mix a home-grown one if it’s boring. And as we’re having a Middle-Eastern sort of supper, there may well be pitta bread.

(In the end I put 6 large eggs in the sauce, topped with random splurgings of cheese in oil, and cooked on the stovetop with a lid on. Served 3, sprinkled with the commercial dukkah and some extra roasted chopped hazelnuts, and a couple of pittas each.

The tomato sauce could be varied by popping some heat in it, paprika or chilli, but didn’t need it. I need to practice with timing, the eggs were cooked all the way through and would have been better soft.)

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Turning Japanese

We really liked the Japanese style food we had over the Christmas break, and we’ve been experimenting a bit here and there since.

I still haven’t tried rolling sushi, but it’s half-term next week and I might clear the decks and give it a go.

Mostly what we have been doing is having a bowl of plain boiled rice, topped with small portions of a variety of protein and vegetables, some hot, some cold, wet, dry, soft, crunchy. It’s been surprisingly filling, you can mix and match a whole range of tastes and textures so that each mouthful is a little surprise.

The toppings so far have been:

  • cold smoked fish – salmon, eel, trout, mackerel (Waitrose do one with honey and soy), and lumpfish roe
  • cold veg – avocado, cucumber, mooli / daikon radish, alfalfa or radish sprouts, shredded carrot, shredded nori
  • pickles – Chinese mustard pickles, seaweed, gherkins, sushi ginger
  • hot meat – variations on marinated grilled or stewed chicken, casseroled pork belly, steamed Chinese sausages
  • hot veg – stir-fried pak choi, steamed edamame beans, miso-stewed white baby aubergines
  • omelettes – made with mirin and egg, rolled, sliced, and served hot or cold – also cold quail eggs
  • also some sprinkle mix of chilli, sesame seeds, garlic and powdered orange peel, the odd dabs of wasabi

I have some crabsticks, smoked and marinated tofu, and kombu seaweed ready to try next. At a northern Chinese restaurant last week I had a starter of sliced cold pork belly, which had been plainly cooked in a clear broth and then dressed with chilli and garlic. I’ve been doing ours in mirin and soy with ginger and star anise, so it’s very dark and rich. This was a lighter and cleaner flavour, so I shall try that next time.

Also on the list for future experiments are:

  • hot fish – stewed squid, grilled salmon, mussels, tuna
  • more hot veg – green beans, aubergines with peanut sauce, something with candied sweet potato
  • hard boiled eggs – soaked in tea, or soy
  • lean red meat – venison liver, buffalo steak

And I want to try some of the mini-burger-type-things, meat and veggie, that are featured on the bento recipe sites.

Bento in a Big Way is beyond my energies at the minute. I could happily make a lunchbox along similar lines to the dinners, but the decorative stuff is so not happening. No colouring eggs, carving hot dogs, ¬†or making little stars out of carrots and cucumbers. I’m up for arranging a box so that it looks appetising, but I’m not making a diorama out of it.

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Best kedgeree ever

I never thought of kedgeree as a budget supper dish before, but the astonishing cheapness of smoked hoki the other day persuaded me otherwise.

  • Cooked white rice
  • Smoked fish (boneless skinless smoked hoki fillet)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Leftover peas from a roast dinner
  • Leftover kashmiri veggie curry (sweet and creamy with bananas – about half a takeaway portion)

I used a wok. Cut the fish into bite size pieces, and stir fried. Add the rice and peas, stir fry again until hot through. Add curry (or mild curry paste and sour cream if no spare leftover curry), some pepper, no salt as the fish and curry are salty enough. Stir in chopped hard boiled eggs. I would have put in a load of fresh chopped parsley, but John doesn't like it.

It was gorgeous. One fillet and three eggs made about four servings, and it was creamy, rich and very moreish. Didn't need any side dishes or extras, and you could stretch it easily with more rice and green veg.

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Crabstick and Cucumber Rolls

Another recipe from Sainsbury's magazine, June 1999. For 6 portions.

  • 18 crab sticks
  • 3" piece cucumber
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsps vegetable oil
  • 1 level teaspoon finely grated ginger (or some wasabi paste)

Dipping sauce:

  • 120 mls sake
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 small red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • salt

Mix the eggs and soy sauce, heat the oil in a 7" pan and make 6 thin omelette wrappers, cooked on both sides. Cool.

Quarter the crabsticks lengthways, cut the cucumber into pieces the same size and shape as the crabsticks, discarding the seeds but leaving the skin on. There should be some spare cucumber.

Trim the top and bottom edges of the omelettes, to about 5" across. Make rolls with the crabsticks and cucumber pieces (crabsticks to the outside, 2 pieces of cucumber in the middle) and a dab of ginger or wasabi. Keep them firmly rolled, but don't tear the omelettes. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for about an hour.

Make the dipping sauce, incorporating any spare cucumber, finely diced.

Let the rolls come to room temperature for about half an hour, and just before serving, trim the ends with a sharp knife to tidy them up and cut each one into 6 pieces. Serve with the dipping sauce.

(Not too unhealthy, it works out at half an egg per portion – although it's only really a starter. You could use Splenda instead of the sugar, and rice vinegar instead of most of the sake in the sauce. Could be a nice little lunch with some salad?)

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Bog-standard Trifle

I've got a wonderful trifle dish, which is actually the glass bowl bit out of a dead washing machine. I'm making a standard trifle in it today, which is:

 

  • 1 bought Madeira cake
  • Raspberry jam / conserve
  • Madeira or cream sherry
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 2 pints double cream
  • Fresh raspberries

Slice the madeira cake and sandwich the slices back together with raspberry jam, in whatever shape is convenient for your bowl. Sprinkle with plenty of booze to soak well in. Today we're using ordinary raspberry jam, but soaking in Blandy's Avada 5 year old sweet Madeira.

Make a custard – in a bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Heat one of the pints of cream to nearly boiling, pour over the egg mixture in a stream, whisking as you go. Put back in the pan, and heat gently until well thick. Pour it over the sponges, banging it up and down a couple of times to make sure it settles well around the sponges. Leave to cool and set.

When it's cool, whip the second pint of cream, with booze and flavourings if you like, and spread over the top. If you're using a bowl shaped like mine, that's wider at the top than the bottom, you may need more cream to get a decent layer.

Decorate the top with fresh raspberries.

This is actually better the next day, but if you're leaving it for a while you might want to wait on the raspberries.

Variants – blueberries (jam and fresh for the top), cranberries ditto – but sweetened dried for the top, fresh is too tart, chopped nuts on top, some people put fruit in amongst the sponge, but I'm a bit of a purist about that, you can put vanilla in the custard if you must.

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Blue Cheese and Parsnip Puffs (Souffles)

I have to admit I still have never cooked a souffle. It always seemed too much faff, there's that whole "last moment" thing, and nowadays they're not on the approved list. But these looked very yummy, and, dammit, it's about time. From Good Housekeeping December 1999, serves 8 at 189 cals per serving.

 

  • 225 gms parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 50 gms butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50 gms flour
  • 284 ml carton milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 50 gms Gruyere, grated
  • 75 gms blue cheese, crumbled – suggests Stilton or Dolcelatte

Boil parsnips til tender. Drain, dry well over low heat, and mash.

Lightly butter 8 150 ml ramekins and put on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter, stir in flour and mix til smooth. Take off heat and blend in milk, reheat to boil, stirring continuously. Cool a little, beat in the egg yolks, Gruyere and parsnip puree, season.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peak, fold into parsnip mixture with the blue cheese. Don't overdo it.

Fill the ramekins almost to the top, cook at Gas Mark 6 for 15 – 20 minutes until puffed up and brown. Serve immediately.

I'd pop them on a bigger plate with some bitter salad – chicory, rocket, watercress, or they'd be a bit rich by themselves. While they'd make a great starter, you couldn't have a cheeseboard really after, and they might be better as a main course for a smaller meal – lunch or supper, maybe with some crusty bread. Be careful with the salt because of the cheese.

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Baileys Custard Brioche

This is back to the severe naughtiness with Drambuie Eggy Croissants, just a different twist. Again from a Baileys ad, in Good Food December 2005. Serves 4.

 

  • 100 ml Baileys
  • 2 medium eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 25 gms light brown sugar
  • 50 ml milk
  • 4 brioche finger rolls, sliced in half lengthways
  • 25 gms unsalted butter
  • Clotted cream and Chinese 5-spice powder to serve

Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, Baileys and milk together until smooth.

Soak brioche for 20 mins, starting with the cut side down and turning over once.

Heat the butter and fry, 10 mins, starting cut side down and turning over once, til golden on both sides.

Top with cream and dust with spices.

This could be really gross. It doesn't have the orange tartness in the Drambuie version, which has orange zest in it as well. And it could be really sickly. But on the other hand …

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