Monday 4 March 2013

Baked Eggs - No Ham!

Another food scare which once again confirms that we just do not know what is in our food unless we prepare it all ourselves.  Hugh, the other half, has taken this one to heart. Even though we never eat ready prepared meals he has decided to not only give up nasty supermarket ham (as I have been telling him to do forever) but to go from one extreme to the other (as always) and give up meat all together (apart from free-range chicken!) 

This is an admirable principle but since it is me that does all the cooking, one that I am obviously going to have to endeavor to cook on my own. Not that it is really such an undertaking.  We don't eat that much meat anyway, preferring to let the vegetables be most prominent and predominant

Plus, my current series of cookery lessons  with Riverford, are all vegetarian, so I am always looking for new and exciting ways with vegetables. The challenge will do me good. Hugh expressed an interest in some baked eggs but there are so many variations, it was hard to know where to start. So many countries have there own take. In France alone, they not only have Oeufs en Cocotte but I distinctly remember having to learn endless page after page of variations in Escoffier for my catering exams, from Meurette to Florentine to a la Truffe

Then there is the Basque Piperade - Tomato, Red and Green Pepper Stew with Eggs, or the spicy North African variation of Shakshuka.  Mexico has Huevos Ranchos which is a similar concoction but with the addition of a Tortilla, more of a tomato salsa than a sauce and re-fried beans. But there is no need to stick to a particular recipe - you can add all sorts of herbs or vegetables - Tarragon, broad beans, courgettes, potatoes or kales work particularly well.

If you don't fancy a tomato based sauce then they are equally delicious with Spinach and Parmesan or even some smoked fish.  And of course you could add meat - crispy Parma ham, bacon or Chorizo all work super well with eggs but obviously not if you are a vegetarian who only eats free-range chicken!

Seves 2
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion (thinly sliced)
3 cloves garlic (very finely chopped)
1 (28 ounce) can good quality plum tomatoes
1  red pepper (cut into thin slices)
1 fresh red chilli (very finely chopped)
2 teaspoons cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 handful fresh coriander (chopped)
4 eggs

Heat the oil in a all metal frying-pan. Add the onions and saute gently until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add the red pepper, some salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic, red chilli and the cumin and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to add  a cup or so of water to stop the sauce over-reducing. Stir in the coriander. Check the seasoning and adjust. Preheat your oven at 180 C. Make a little well in the sauce, where you want to eggs to go and add them carefully. Put in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

Huevos Ranchos
I like to make a huge batch of beans because I love them.  I use them up in Tortillas or Soup but you can half the recipe if you like.
For the Spicy Black Beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped 
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons) 
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt 

1 tablespoon Chipotle Chilli Paste ( try Trees can Dance)
2 teaspoons ground cumin 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
500g dried black beans, soaked overnight
Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped

Tomato, Chilli and Coriander Salsa (Pico de Gallo)
Flour Tortillas

Nice ripe avocados

Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomato puree and the Chipotle paste, the salt, the herbs and spices. Stir and cook 1 minute. Give everything a good mix and add the drained black beans. Cover with cold water and simmer, uncovered for about 30 - 45 minutes until the beans are cooked. You even want to slightly over-cook the beans for this dish. Remember, they are meant to be re-fried, which is not necessary but they do need to be creamy in texture to bring the whole dish together. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add more chilli, salt, pepper or cumin if necessary. Finally add the coriander.

Place your tortilla in an all metal frying-pan. Pile some beans on top.  Make a well in a couple of places and crack in your eggs.  Bake in a medium oven until the eggs are just set (or how you like them.)  Serve with plenty of salsa and slices of avocado.


  1. that's gorgeoussssss! I love all those colours together, esp that vibrant red. just makes me want to dig in. my idea of a perfect sunday brunch really! and not missing the ham at all. x


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