Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eggs of GOD

I had grand plans for this week's recipe. A request had been put in for soup, and soup it was going to be. I was all set to do a piece on my long and loving history with the butternut pumpkin (culminating in a certain topless dancing incident), but then Mummy dearest completely failed to pick me up from uni on Friday, leaving me abandoned and facing a fancy dinner at Manuka with Tom's family (down from Israel, no less) wearing a man's cardigan.

I just wanna let that resonate for a moment...a man's cardigan.

Fortunately, Erin saved the day with a sassy sparkling grey number (thanks again, doll) and I avoided giving the entire nation of Israel grave misconceptions about the quality and class of Australian women. The butternut pumpkin situation, however, went unsalvaged.

Luckily, this story (if you could call it that) has a happy ending. I rediscovered THE MOST FABULOUS EGGS RECIPE EVER to share on this lazy Sunday. In a true moment of culinary genius, I reconstructed this a few months ago from a picture I saw in an Israeli cookbook of Tom's. Now, I don't like to toot my own horn, but let me tell you, readers, I should have been Israeli. All it took was a quick google search for Israel's favourite spices, and a bit of experimentation, and voila! This recipe is spectacular. And the whole garnish with fetta and mint thing? Completely my own invention (and probably likely to enduce head shakes of dismay from actual Israelis). Part of the super-awesomeness of this recipe lies in the fact that it is perfectly appropriate for any meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner, or 4 in the afternoon as I proved today. The eggs kind of half fry, half poach, half steam (in my world you can have 3 halves) in the tomato mixture, giving them an especially creamy, divine texture. Turns out being vegetarian (slash vegequarian-who-eats-chicken-on-occasion) isn't so bad after all.

Loosely Israeli Tomato-Egg Pan (Shakshouka)

One of the few advantages of still living at home is that I have all kinds of exotic spices at hand, but I recognise that you may have to make some small trips to get the ingredients for this recipe. Seriously, though, it's still totally worth it. Trust me.

Oh, and while I've only used 2 eggs here, there is no good reason why you couldn't try cooking 4, keeping the other measurements the same. People would just end up with slightly less sauce each.

Serves one very greedy person, or two of only moderate greed.

2 happy free range eggs
400gm tin of crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
the seeds from 4 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons harissa*
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 bay leaves
a squeeze of lemon
crumbled fetta, for garnish
torn mint leaves, for garnish
chunky toast or toasted pita, to serve

1. Using a mortar and pestle, grind all the spices till finer, but certainly not a powder.
2. Mix this spice mixture with the harissa, garlic and a touch of salt and pepper to create a deliciously fragrant paste. It should look a little like this:

3. Coat a medium sized pan (don't go too large or the sauce won't be thick enough to cook the eggs in later) with olive oil, and over medium heat fry the paste for a minute or so until slightly golden and overpoweringly fragrant.
4. Add the tin of tomatoes, bay leaves and a squeeze of lemon. At this stage you may like to taste the mixture, and if you decide you want it a touch more piquant add a little more harissa (I know I did). Cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until it is slightly thickened and the canned tomatoey taste is gone.
5. Make a hole in the sauce on one side of the pan, and crack an egg into it. Repeat on the other side.
6. Cover the pan with a lid (or foil if you don't have one), and, keeping the tomatoes going at a moderate simmer, allow the eggs to cook. If you'd like to have the eggs with toast (and why wouldn't you?) then this is a good time to start toastin'. The eggs should take about 3 minutes, but best to check a little earlier. They're cooked when there is no longer transparent white stuff on the top (der).
7. Serve your eggs on chunky toast which you have drizzled with olive oil (toasted pita, I'd imagine, would also be delicious), and scatter over the fetta and mint. If you're lucky enough to have a mother who buys fancy marinated fetta with sumac and pinenuts, use that (in case you haven't noticed, I'm a little bit bitter about still living at home):

A wedge of lemon goes nicely on the side, too.
8. Eat immediately. Do not waste time trying to take the perfect photograph, failing miserably and letting it all get cold as your commited blogger did.

* Harissa is a middle eastern chilli paste type thing. You can buy it from most fancy supermarkets or delis. If you really, really can't find it substitute with some other variety of chilli - dried, fresh, in paste form, whatever, but it won't be the same.

And just cause it seemed kinda appropriate (plus the bit where he says: "Okay Rob, play guitar now, brother" is pure genius):

The Eggs - Government Administrator


Anonymous said...

Hey JubJub, I made this for dinner tonight and it was delish! I'm keen to try more Middle Eastern cookery thank you for the inspiration! Love, D

Anonymous said...

I wish to hear more about the topless dancing

Julia said...

thanks D, it always makes me happy when people actually MAKE my recipes (and do not poison themselves/burn the house down/throw up).

and the topless dancing is a story for another day, a day when I actually make it to the market and purchase said butternut pumpkin.