So here we are in February and it’s good to see the days lengthening. In previous years our chickens, or the what-whats, would start laying regularly again at this time. They certainly have eaten well this winter, hanging around the bird feeder hoovering up the rejected seed from our increasingly fussy wild bird population. At least odd-looking plants won’t start erupting through the grass later on.
In fact, the what-whats (we only have two at present) have not stopped laying all through the darker months which has been rather decent of them. We always seem to have a good few eggs come Saturday when they are used in a ‘left-overs’ omelette for lunch, before we go to market. This is a thick omelette, like a Spanish Tortilla, often containing cooked potato, bacon pieces, random bits of charcuterie which have started to curl up a bit and a pepper from a jar. I always start this on the hob and then finish it off under the grill after scattering over it whatever bits of cheese that are not quite up to standard. So it could be Yarg, the garlic-leafed one, or some Ashmore Farmhouse from near Canterbury or maybe some slices of Chaucers, a Camembert-ish cheese, again from Kent. I don’t like blue cheese used this way, but there are plenty of other things for that.
One of things I do like to do with eggs, especially if the weather is murky, is to make a Tagine Bel Bed Be Salsa Harra from Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen’s ‘A Mediterranean Harvest’, a real ray of sunshine. My original copy is falling apart so much that it is now in several food-splattered sections, a recently found back-up copy awaits on the shelf. The book contains recipes based on Fish and Vegetables and has some real gems inside as well as this egg dish (translated roughly as Eggs Poached in Pungent Sauce). The sauce, which has a lovely back-note from the caraway seeds (carvi in French, karwij in Dutch), can be made in advance and is ideal for informal lunches. Fresh crusty bread is an ideal partner, as would a rustling bowl of frites. Real frites-fusion, in fact. I give the recipe ingredients in their original quantities, but I use only half the quantity of oil recommended. You may wish to reduce the garlic too, but it is supposed to be a Pungent sauce!
Tagine Bel Bed Be Salsa Harra
You will need a wide frying pan, or two smaller ones. If you are cooking for two, you can halve the quantities or make the whole lot and freeze half or just have lots of sauce.
6 tablespoons of olive oil or a mix of olive and peanut oil.
6 chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
30g in total of chopped parsely and coriander
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 340g canned (usually better, I buy the ready chopped ones or the tins of cherry tomatoes)
Fry the garlic gently in the oil until softened but not coloured, and then add everything else, except the eggs. Simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to add a bit or water or simmer a bit longer to get the right consistency which I would describe as ‘a bit thickish, definitely not watery’.
The dish can be prepared up to this point.
When ready to serve, make sure the sauce is heated through and make eight little nests in the sauce with the back of a spoon. Break an egg into each one as you go along and cover. When the whites are firm you are ready. Don’t overcook so do this when people are already at the table. Of course if you happen to have a table in the kitchen then so much the better. Serve directly from the pan.
© Bob Cavanagh, 2013, http://www.deliciouslydifferent.be