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.)