Apologies for the lack of pictures on this one…I’m new round here. (I also ate this before I decided I wanted to write about it. Oops.)
For my first post, I thought it would be best to start with something quick, easy and comforting. It’s hardly insider information, but I think most would agree that eggs are just the perfect comfort food. So versatile, so easy, and I think it’s largely to do with the fact that the humble egg is so inescapably everyday. But more importantly, their fat, sunny yolks speak of the hazy, lazy weekends of mornings past, of hot buttery toast and orange juice. And, of course, there is nothing better than breakfast for supper. While for my little sister, cereal topped with gold-top milk is still the occasional Sunday night treat (and for my step-father, muesli before bed always will be), I’m not sure I can justify a croissant for supper (that often).
When I get home after a long day, open the cupboard and am met by the bag of Unidentified Dried Pulses and that tin of tuna (you know the one), my stomach drops just a little. But, on spying that unassuming little carton, and its promise of pink-shelled treasures (even better with brown spots), I couldn’t be happier.
Actually, that’s a total lie. Of course I could be happier – if I was being taken out for sushi. Or if Ottolenghi were cooking for me. Then I would be happier. But the thing with comfort food is that it doesn’t make you ecstatic, and you don’t want it to. It just wraps you, comfortingly, in the warm fug of what you know – nothing new, nothing scary, and most importantly, nothing difficult. Because, let’s face it. The last thing you need when you’re tired and starving is a pair of bloody chopsticks.
I’ve lifted this recipe from the aforementioned genius, Ottolenghi. Shakshuka is a North African dish that consists of a hot and spicy tomato sauce, in which one of those white and golden beauties just bubbles away. Being English, my version has peas, and some chopped up Peppadew jarred peppers for a bit more sweet’n’spicy goodness. You could use some normal red peppers if could be bothered to roast them – but the intrinsic beauty of comfort food is that if you can’t, there’s no need. While the addition of parsley, coriander or feta cheese is optional, hunks of good bread or slices of buttered toast are not.
Serves one (as all good comfort food does)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, sliced into thin semi-circles
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely (don’t worry, as if you’re going to snog anyone if a TV dinner is on the cards)
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- 1 dried chilli (with seeds), chopped finely (more or less, or without seeds, depending on your taste)
- ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
- 3 Peppadew peppers (available in jar from Sainsbury’s), sliced finely, or ½ a roasted red pepper, sliced.
- a good handful of frozen petit pois
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional: chopped parsley or coriander, feta
- Heat the olive oil in the smallest non-stick pan you have on a med-low heat, then add the onion. When the slivers are translucent and soft, add the garlic.
- After a few minutes add the cumin and chopped chilli, and stir until the onion and garlic has taken on some of the spice’s golden colour.
- Follow with the tinned tomatoes, and stir.
- Once the sauce is bubbling, season, let it reduce for a few minutes, and add the peas and peppers.
- Try and arrange the sauce in the pan so that as much of it is as central as possible. When you think the peas are half-cooked, make a small dip in the middle of the sauce and crack the egg into it.
- Let the egg poach in the heat of the sauce until the white is cooked through. If adding extras, now is the time.