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.)

There IS life after Easter

After an incredibly busy Easter, and the almost inevitable lurgy aftermath, the kitchen is getting back on track.

Celebrating tonight with venison sausages in onion and cherry gravy and steamed cauliflower. Although I could cheerfully have just had the other vegetable dish – celery braised with shallots and garlic in chicken stock, finished with fino sherry and creme fraiche, thickened with ground almonds.

Like a Georgian celery and almond soup, before you puree it.

Sardine Stuffed Peppers

Waitrose do little red cherry peppers stuffed with a sardine mush as part of the Delicatezze range, and they're gorgeous but very expensive. So when I saw packs of baby orange bell peppers in LIDL the other day, I took them home and did things.

  • 6 baby bell peppers
  • 2 tins sardines (boneless, skinless, in oil)
  • Big handful organic stoned dates
  • Balsamic glaze (the vinegar reduced until it's a thick syrup)
  • Lemon juice
  • Teaspoon chopped roast garlic
  • Pine nuts

Steam the peppers whole for 20 minutes (which made them very soft, a shorter time would have worked). Cool.

Pour off some of the oil from the sardines, not too much because you need the moistness. Mash the sardines. Process the dates with the garlic, some balsamic and lemon until it's a thick slurry. Mix into the sardines, add the pine nuts and set aside to mature for a couple of hours.

Cut the stem ends off the peppers, clean inside if necessary, and stuff with the sardine mixture.

There was enough filling to do at least another 6 peppers, it was great as a spread on bread and just wet enough to be a dip for tortilla chips.

Next time: could do with a bit of salt. Additions could include chopped herbs, anchovies for the salt, shredded lemon peel. We ate them straight away, you could put them in a shallow bowl and dress with an oil and lemon dressing and leave for a bit. Room temperature is probably better than fridge cold. Raisins would do instead of dates, and might be a bit sweeter – they are what is in the Waitrose ones.

EDITED: whoops, forgot the garlic.

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Fartes de Batata

In a Sainsbury's magazine from October 1997, nicked from a Portuguese cookbook. Gluten-free, but loaded with sugar.

  • 12 oz mashed sweet potato (3 – 4 potatoes should do it), cooled
  • 3 oz good quality candied fruit or peel, chopped as finely as possible
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 oz caster sugar
  • 1 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

To coat:

  • A large egg white, lightly beaten
  • Caster sugar

Beat the eggs, sugar and butter well for 2-3 minutes. Put in a large, heavy saucepan with the almonds, fruit, lemon juice and potato. Beat thoroughy and then heat, gently, gently, stirring constantly so it doesn't catch, for about 10 minutes or until it feels like fairly stiff dry mash. Spread out onto a floured board (rice flour if you want to stay gf) and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, grease 2 baking trays.

Take walnut sized lumps and make into little cakes about 2" in diameter. Place on the greased trays brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden and cool before eating.

Definitely sweeties more than cakes.

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Wicked Chicken Korma

I made this on the fly for dinner the other night, and didn't write it down at the time, but it went something like this:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Butter and oil, or ghee
  • 4 small boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 2 handfuls raw shelled pistachios
  • 1 handful vanilla-soaked dried apricots (or organic apricots and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or half a bean)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 small tin coconut milk
  • Chicken stock
  • Small tub creme fraiche
  • Ground almonds
  • 2 hard bananas
  • More butter
  • A tub of dry crispy fried onions

In a big heavy pan, melt the garlic, ginger and onion in the fat, slowly. Soften but not colour. Add the chicken, nuts, apricots, and spices. Stew gently and stir until the chicken is coated in the spices and cooked on the outside. Add the coconut milk and enough chicken stock to cover. Cover and simmer gently for up to a couple of hours, if you can, but at least half an hour. Take the lid off and mash the apricots into the sauce. Simmer again for at least another half an hour, longer if possible. Top up with water if necessary. When you're getting close to serving time, add the creme fraiche and stir in. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ground almonds on the top and stir in well. This will thicken the sauce, let the first lot swell and do its work before adding more if you want thicker sauce. Watch it as the thicker it gets, the quicker it's likely to catch and scorch. While that's happening, chop the bananas into chunks and fry quickly in butter until golden.

Serve the chicken with the bananas on top, a sprinkling of fried onions, and some plain rice or naan bread to soak up the sauce. We had it with lamb stewed for hours in a low oven with tomatoes and hotter spices, and an aubergine and red pepper madras.

If you can't find the onions in your regular ethnic stores, try the IKEA food shop, or make your own by finely shredding shallots, frying in light hot oil until crisp, and draining well. Dry on paper towels. Or don't bother – a bit of crunch adds a nice texture but it isn't necessary.

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Red Couscous

Following the M&S couscous salad the other week, I decided to make something similar for a party tomorrow. I got down a big mixing bowl, and:

Filled it about a third full with dry couscous and added a little salt and enough boiling water to cover it plus about half an inch, and left it for 5 minutes.

Got out the food processor and roughly chopped:

  • a large red onion
  • a seedless clementine
  • half a packet of frozen raw cranberries
  • a handful of organic dried apricots

When the couscous had absorbed all the water, I fluffed it up and added the veggie mix, along with a drained tin of chickpeas. I would have put in two tins if I'd had them, it would have improved the texture.

Then I put the processor back together again (unrinsed) and blended:

  • a huge bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and all
  • orange juice (about a mugful)
  • lemon juice (about a half a cup)
  • 2 teaspoons rose water
  • enough olive oil to make it look like a salad dressing
  • lots of spices, biggest amount first - mixed spice, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, oregano, thyme, cardamom, nutmeg
  • three heaped teaspoons chopped garlic from the jar

until the coriander was quite finely chopped, then I poured it over the couscous.

Before I mixed it in I also added:

  • a handful of very good dried sweetened cranberries, that were almost like glace cherries
  • a mugful of raisins
  • a mugful of flaked almonds
  • half a mug of dried barberries
  • half a mug of dried pomegranate seeds
  • half a mug of raw pumpkin seeds

I stirred it all well, and topped it up by sprinkling some of the still hot water over it – when the dressing starts to get absorbed it will dry out. It felt like making a really good Christmas pudding.

Tomorrow I will taste it again, and see if it needs more salt, I don't use a lot of salt automatically anymore and tend not to add enough. Also for sweetness – it's going to be one of those things that initially tastes very sharp but has a lot of lasting sweetness in it, so the first taste might need mellowing and the longer tones sharpening – honey and onion will do that nicely. And for heat – it will need just a little kick and some more paprika or even cayenne might be in order.

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Speculaas Spiced Nuts

Building on the Wasabi Cashew recipe we've tried before, I've gone with a Christmas version.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 teaspoons Speculaas spice (Dutch Christmas mixed spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • and mixed nuts, pecans, walnut pieces, and cashews – about 400 grams

Coated, baked at Gas Mark 6 for 7 minutes, turn, and 8 more minutes. Smells gorgeous. Increased the sugar from the original, less salt.

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