When you’re looking for an easy way to embellish a simple dish, an egg is always the answer. I often find myself searching in the fridge for something quick to make: a soup, something on toast or a chance to use up some fresh herbs or the avocado that’s getting too ripe in the fruit bowl.. Adding an egg provides the substance, protein and colour that turns these ingredients into a tempting dish. Whats more, the cooking just takes minutes.
Masses of fresh chopped herbs (here I used mint, parsley and dill, but it’s a chance to use up anything left in the fridge), mixed with half an avocado, some lime juice and chilli paste, spread on toast and topped with a fried egg. This couldn’t be simpler or quicker to make. It’s healthy, nutritious and good for breakfast, lunch or supper. See recipe below..
Bottarga is magical ingredient which I always keep in my fridge (see my recipe for Bottarga Pasta for more information https://blanchevaughan.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/bottarga-pasta-with-tomatoes-and-chilli/ ) It is the cured roe of grey mullet and because it is cured, it keeps for ages and can be grated over a dish to provide an instant flavour hit when needed. The flavour is deeply savoury (umami) with a creamy, rich fishiness that perfectly compliments scrambled eggs. Served on a piece of buttered sourdough toast, this is decadent, luxurious and most importantly, incredibly simple. See below for the best way to scramble eggs..
Whenever I cook a soup, I always try to make enough that there will be leftovers. You get twice the reward for your effort and the flavours improve on reheating. But sometimes a soup just doesn’t feel like enough – so I add a poached egg, some grated parmesan and good olive oil and it’s given a new lease of life.
Poaching eggs can be tricky, especially if they aren’t that fresh. As well as the usual method, I sometime use a metal egg poaching strainer – like an egg shaped cup with holes that you lower into simmering, salted water. Another trick is to lay a round biscuit cutting mould in a shallow pan of simmering, salted water (I use a frying pan with a water at a depth of about 6cm) then cracking an egg into in. The egg poaches in a perfect circle, contained by the mould.
How to improve a dish? An egg is all you need…
See below for the recipes:
Fried egg on avocado with herbs and chilli
A large bunch of mixed herbs (coriander, basil, parsley, mint, dill or fennel all work well)
Half a ripe avocado
Juice of half a lime
1 tbsp chipotle chilli paste (or alternatively use half a deseeded, finely chopped red chilli)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Half a clove of garlic
Finely chop the herbs and put them in a bowl with the avocado, lime juice, chilli and salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of olive oil and lightly mash together using fork.
Heat a little oil in a small frying pan and crack in the egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn down the heat to allow the egg to fry gently for a couple of minutes until the white is set and the yolk still runny.
Rub the toast with a little garlic and sprinkle with salt. Spread the avocado over the toast and top with the fried egg.
All the flavour of this soup comes from the slow cooking of the softie (the Italian name for fried chopped onion, carrot and celery). The longer you cook it, the more sweetness and flavour it will yield, hence the recipe only calling for water, and not stock. This soup reheats well and is delicious served as leftovers too.
2 tbsp olive oil
200g (2 large) carrots, peeled and diced
1 red onion, finely diced
3 stalks of celery, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
20g parsley, roughly chopped
A couple of sprigs of marjoram, roughly chopped
1 tin tomatoes
300g cavolo nero, or kale, washed with stalks removed and roughly chopped
1 tin cooked borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil and grated parmesan to serve
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped carrots, onion, celery and a good pinch of salt and cook gently for about 20-30 minutes or until they are soft and just beginning to colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. By now, the vegetables should be lightly coloured and very soft and sweet.
Turn up the heat a little and add the chopped herbs and fry briefly. Pour in the tomatoes and stir well. Turn down the heat and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until the tomato is well reduced and you have a thick base of sweet, browned vegetables and tomato.
Add the cavolo nero or kale and the beans and cover with 1.5 litres of cold water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave for about 10 minutes for the flavours to develop.
Finally check the seasoning and reheat slightly before serving.
(Serve topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of grated parmesan and some good olive oil)
Perfect scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs should be cooked over a medium to low heat, stirring continuously so as to create soft curds throughout, rather than creamy on top and overcooked underneath.
I find that adding liquid such as cream or milk to the eggs before cooking can make the finished texture a bit watery. Adding a knob of butter just before they finish cooking not only enriches them but also helps prevent the eggs from overcooking. Once they’ve stopped cooking, they can be kept warm happily in a low oven or in a dish set over some hot water. (A bain-marie)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
30g unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lightly beat the eggs and season with a little salt and pepper.
Melt half of the butter in a pan over a medium-high heat and let it start to foam before pouring in the beaten eggs. Don’t worry if the butter browns a little as it will make the eggs taste even better.
Stir the eggs with a spatula or wooden spoon, moving it continuously across the bottom of the pan until the eggs have formed soft curds. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter – this will help stop the eggs from overcooking.
Serve immediately, piled on to hot buttered toast.