If you have an egg, you have a meal. Eggs are wonderfully flexible and will happily lend themselves to an otherwise boring dish to make it a tasty feed. A scrapped together mess of lentils and leftover veggies becomes a treat with a fried egg on top. And yesterday’s rice gets a second life when fried with onion, sloshed with soy sauce and served with a well-seasoned, chopped omelette stirred through.
My fondness for eggs has grown in direct correlation to my increased access to fresh eggs. Living in a country town means I now have friends with chooks and I am gifted a dozen eggs relatively regularly. The difference in colour and flavour of these eggs to the ones sitting on supermarket shelves is vast. Cracking an egg and seeing a bright buttercup yolk is enough to make me very happy. Turning those eggs into simple but beautiful meals is even better.
This meal is one that can be eaten at any time of the day, though it originated as an Isreali breakfast dish called Shakshuka. This is not a traditional Shakshuka recipe, but one shared in the broadest of strokes by a friend while we talked over another breakfast. It’s a recipe you can make with pantry ingredients which makes it both cheap and good for those occasions when you find yourself staring into the cupboard wondering “What can I make?”.
It is not that much more bother than cooking eggs by themselves. A simple tomato sauce lightly spiced with cumin gently poaches the eggs until the whites are firm and the yolks are still a bit runny. The pan comes to life with a sprinkling of green onion, white feta and red paprika to complement the yellow of the eggs and the pink of the sauce that’s had the whites tenderly mixed into it. Placing a pan of this colourful combo on a table with a stack of lightly toasted sourdough will be welcomed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Be sure to have extra bread on hand, as it would take a stronger person than I to resist the temptation to mop up the last of the sauce in the pan.
Anytime Eggs (Shakshuka)
Serves 4, takes about 30 minutes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 400g (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 spring onion
2 heaped tablespoons crumbled feta
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Toast cumin seeds in a frying pan (cast iron works best) till fragrant, place in a mortar and pestle and pound. Set aside.
Add oil and onions to pan and fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and fry for another minute. Pour in tomatoes, add toasted cumin and a pinch of salt. Stir then simmer for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.
Make 4 little wells in the sauce with a spoon and crack your eggs into the wells. Gently stir the whites of the eggs into the sauce, being careful not to disturb the yolks. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until the whites are firm and the yolks are to your liking. Cover the pan with a lid if you want to speed things up.
Remove from the heat and scatter chopped spring onions, crumbled feta and paprika over the top. Serve with toast.