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.)

Chutney Weather

This week is damp and chill, especially after the last month of sun. Time to huddle in the kitchen with some overblown opera and make chutneys.

Peach Chutney

I made a lovely one earlier in the year and lost the notes, boo. Peach chutney for me should be like the Sharwoods one used to be, thick and dark and ultra-sweet. But with a bit of a kick. Which means a standard chutney, made with dark sugar and a heavier vinegar, and cooked that little bit longer. So in today’s pot there are:

  • 8 medium size peaches, slightly past their eating best, cut in half and stones removed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 huge teaspoons garlic puree
  • 2 huge teaspoons ginger puree
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 200 mls cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Cooked down to a thick consistency, peaches cut up a bit with a spoon, with a few spoonfuls of liquid left to stop it drying out in the pot. Yeech, that’s hot. Put up in a sealed jar and leave for a few weeks to really settle in. Chutneys like this are good in cheddar cheese sandwiches, with cold ham salad, or as part of an Indian pickle tray.

Rhubarb / Apple Chutney

I have 2 sticks of rhubarb left to play with, and a couple of baking apples left over from a dinner last week. I’m aiming for a light wet chutney, where the bulk of the fruit has turned to a puree with some tiny onion pieces for texture.

  • 2 sticks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways then into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Bramley cooking apples, cored and cut into pieces a similar size to the rhubarb, not peeled
  • 1 small white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp each pureed garlic / ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 oz white sugar
  • 200 mls white wine vinegar, split into 150/50 ml portions

Put the bigger amount of vinegar in the pot, add rhubarb, sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, salt. Stir about a bit. and bring to simmer. Add apple pieces, sprinkle with the remaining vinegar (so raw apple doesn’t brown). Put the lid on the pot and leave it for about half an hour. Stir it up briskly, raise the heat, and cook it until it is a thick sauce, and all the big pieces of fruit have turned to mush. It’s like a super-tart apple sauce with threads of greeny-pink rhubarb running through it.

Again, I’m going to pot up in a sealed jar, but I’m tempted to keep it in the fridge in case it doesn’t have enough preservative in it. It’ll be brill cold with roast pork, blue cheese, even a good old fried breakfast with black pudding and thick bacon.

The Bitter Herbs of Spring

We’ve been getting the Seasons Veg Box from Riverford all winter. It’s been full of good things – parsnips, carrots, swede, cabbage, leeks. I’ve done loads of fun meals and it’s certainly kept us warm and comfy. But with the changing weather, I’ve really started to appreciate the old accounts you read, of people combing the countryside for dandelions and other new leaves, just to taste something fresh and tart.

In this morning’s box there was a bag full of dark green wild garlic leaves. They’re textured a bit like basil, and you get one long thin leaf on a stalk. The smell wasn’t too strong, but eating them raw gives you a wonderful garlic burn. Literally, my mouth is still stinging a bit. Mind you, I have been pigging out.

Lunch was a roast beef and garlic sandwich, on some seeded bread with a few dabs of mayo. Dinner was pasta with wild garlic pesto.

  • 2 oz about of pine nuts
  • an ounce or so of Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced or grated
  • 2 anchovies (the proper dark grey fillets in oil)
  • 100 ml thick green 0live oil
  • 2 handfuls wild garlic leaves (I suppose you could mix with basil if you want it milder)

I toasted the pine nuts and put half of them in a blender with half the cheese and the anchovies. Whizz whizz with a dribble of the oil to get it going, feed in the leaves. Add more oil to get the texture you want – thick paste or flecked sauce.

Cooked some pasta (just plain spaghetti worked well), and toss with the pesto, adding the rest of the pine nuts and cheese. Stunningly pepper hot, salty and the brightest bottle green in the world.

And there’s some pesto left, too. I foresee a poached egg on toast with green drizzle for breakfast.

Gujerati Snacks

From Prashad's in Bradford, we had samosas, some kind of battered fried sandwich with a garlicky pureed veg filling, round dumplings filled with spiced mashed potato. Dhokla, patra, snacks. I made a lassi with fresh coriander, garlic, fresh green chilli and a pinch of salt. Fresh baby tomato, and a little raita sauce.

I also made a quick trashy hot chaat:

Fry:
1 tin new potatoes, drained and cut into small lumps
1 tin pinto beans, or chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sprinkle with powdered hing and fenugreek.
After about 5 minutes add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, cook til thickened.
Stir well and add 2 handfuls Bombay Mix or your favourite Indian crispy snack.
Heat through, take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons natural yoghourt.
Put in serving dish and top with dollop of tamarind sauce.

Served with warm rotis.

With a selection of sweets to finish, I am absolutely podged.

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Restaurant Review – Sakushi

Yesterday four of us went for a late lunch to Sakushi, Sheffield's first sushi bar. Yum.

It is a very elegant space, almost opposite the Wig and Pen on Campo Lane. The conveyor belt travels in a loop from the kitchen, past the edges of a handful of white leather booths, around a stone water feature, and back along a bar where you can sit on a stool. Away from the belt is a normal seating area, where you can do pukka restaurant stuff if you don't fancy the belt.

We didn't get there till just after 2, and they close at 3. So there was a limited selection on the belt, but they were happy to make anything to order. The belt concentrates on sushi and side dishes such as gyoza, pickles, deep-fried bits of meat, salads. There were also a few desserts randomly scattered – chocolate fondant and a mousse thing. You can have sashimi, which is always cut fresh to order, and a selection of soup or fried ramen dishes. There's not a wide range of drinks, but there is Asahi beer, a large wine list, sake, juice and fizzy water. He's quite proud of having Asahi Black, which is apparently a bit rare round here.

We had two beginners with us, including a fisheating vegetarian, so we decided to go with what was on the belt and not get into the really exciting stuff on the menu. Although we did get four orders of sashimi – two salmon and two hamachi (yellow tail). The belt moved slowly enough to get stuff off it easily, but fast enough to provide an interesting show. The table was stocked with soy sauce and some excellent pickled ginger slices, and freshly-prepared wasabi arrived with the drinks.

I can't remember everything we had, but it included: California, Philadelphia and Ebi Ten Uramaki, Edamame Beans, Japanese Pickled Vegetables, Chicken Gyosa, Kushi-Age, Vegetable Croquettes, Spring Roll, Tonkatsu, random nigiri and maki, and some little fried nibbles that we couldn't identify. With a beer for John and soft drinks for the rest of us, it came to £20 per head.

Sushi is one of those things, especially with the belts, where you could go on grazing for ages nages, and we did rather overdo it on quantity. But it was great fun, if you took something and didn't like it there were three other people to take it off your hands. And we tried all sorts of new stuff.

I'd definitely go again – you could do it a lot cheaper if you were careful what you had, or you could really splash out for a special occasion. There were a few things I spotted on the menu that I'd really like to try, as well …

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Orange Rice

Went really well with spiced lamb, better with a plainer meat than a rich sauce or casserole.

In a heavy pan (preferably one that has a lid for later), fry in a little oil:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cut mixed peel (or diced citron, or shredded tangerine peel)
  • 2 handfuls carrot batons

When it's all soft and smelling spicy, stir in a cup or so of preferred rice (tonight was easy cook brown Italian), and cover with boiling water, some chicken stock concentrate or salt to taste.

Cook slowly-ish, for about half an hour, with a lid on. In the last few minutes, nibble a grain or two of rice to check it's cooked, add a little fat (butter, or fat off the meat if you're having it with a roast), and raise the heat to boil off the liquid.

Take the cinnamon stick out, and warn people about the cloves and peppercorns.

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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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