Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Poached Eggs and Shakshuka

Have I ever mentioned how much I love eggs? I love eggs—poached, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, fried, in omelettes, egg salad, as accents in other salads, not to mention their essential use in baking.

I think my favourite egg dish is eggs benedict, but I always have trouble with the poaching. The egg white just drifts off and I can't get it to go around the yolk in that lovely oval nestling way that proper poached eggs should have. I have tried all kinds of techniques: creating a gentle vortex, adding vinegar in the water, precooking the egg in the shell fo 30 seconds first.

I think the biggest problem is that supermarket eggs are just not fresh enough. In Europe they believe that eggs should not be chilled, so that they are sold at room temperature, which does not help in keeping them fresh. They should read Harold McGee.

In my recent visit back home I picked up some silicon egg poachers that I hope will help me in my quest for better poached eggs. I have tried them once and they were OK, but I needed to peel the eggs out of them. Next time, I'll try a bit of oil spray.

But another variation on a poached egg is to simmer it in a sauce. So today I tried that Middle-eastern favourite, shakshuka, which are eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

This is a basic recipe, but I suspect it is infinitely variable depending on what you have on hand. Potatoes or aubergine can be substituted for the sweet red pepper, or you could add some spinach. One thing that I think is missing is an onion. Some feta sprinkled over it would also be yummy.


Adapted from Jerusalem,
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
(Halved the recipe, used different hot paste, omitted extra egg yolks and salt, omitted laban or yoghurt)
Serves 1-2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet red pepper, diced in .5 cm pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili paste, such as harissa or sambal (I used sambal badjak)
.5 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 can (400 gram) skinned tomatoes
2 eggs
pita bread

  1. In a medium skillet, sauté the diced red pepper, minced garlic, chili paste, tomato paste, and ground cumin for about 8 minutes, until the red pepper is softened.
  2. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is fairly thick. Before adding the eggs, taste it and adjust the seasoning. I omitted the salt because I find canned tomatoes, tomato paste and chili paste generally have more than enough salt, and this proved to be the case.
  3. Break the eggs into the sauce and gently simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. (The author says to create a well for each egg in the sauce, but this means the egg makes contact with the frying pan and the yolk will cook from the bottom and be harder than I like.) I like the whites solid and the yolks runny, which poses a bit of a challenge, so I mixed the egg whites into the tomato sauce a bit and after 5 minutes partially covered the skillet to get the top whites to cook, while stilling keeping the egg yolks sunny yellow. 
  4. Serve with some pita bread or turkish bread to sop up the sauce.

I ate this all on my own for supper, but it could easily serve 2 for lunch (especially if you add an extra egg and serve with a side salad).

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