Spiced Lentils and Tomatoes with Kale and Baked Eggs

I hate to begin writing anything with a bunch of excuses, but I’ve just been too busy to write lately. It’s always this time of year that my schedule becomes inexplicably hectic, my diary gets booked up, my inbox spirals out of control and I find myself eating chiller cabinet pizza for dinner twice in the same week. The shame, the shame.

I realise it’s been two weeks, but I have managed to do a little bit of cooking in amongst my frenzied attempts to grab food where I can. Although I am now on first name terms with the entire staff of the Great Portland Street branch of Pret, who may or may not have witnessed me having a complete meltdown over the phone, I have also got to spend time eating nice things: Like last week I finally got to go to Asma Khan’s wonderful Darjeeling Express residency at The Sun and 13 Cantons for a sublimely happy dinner with my best friend where no work was discussed at all. Also, Honey and Co. is within sneaking off-distance from my desk, so I’ve been hiding in there with coffee and cake. A lot.

I wish I could come back to you, lovely readers, all excited about a new recipe that I devised last week; but I really need to get started on the backlog. The recipes that I have been itching to share for a while now but haven’t managed to get down in type. The pieces of oil-splatted notepaper with odd scribbles on that are littered across my desk and threatening to overwhelm me.

This baked eggs and lentils dish was from a few weeks back, and I absolutely loved it. It was driven by my need to use up some old kale I had in the fridge after a Sunday lunch, and inspired by a recipe I found on the Serious Eats website. It is reminiscent of shakshuka, and its many variants, which I will often cook for breakfast at the weekend, but made more substantial with the addition of puy lentils. I have a bit of a thing for lentils and eggs, somehow the yolk just adds to the brilliance of lentil dishes. Especially if you have good bread handy.

Spiced Lentils and Tomatoes with Kale and Baked Eggs

Olive oil
½ onion, finely diced
1 mild red chilli
Sea salt and black pepper
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
350ml vegetable stock
200g dried puy lentils
150g kale, shredded
4 or 6 eggs
Finely chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan, or chef’s pan, over a medium heat and gently cook the onion and chilli, with a little salt, until soft, about five minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the lentils and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes until soft. Stir in the kale during the last couple of minutes of cooking and check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if required.

Remove from the heat and make wells in the mixture for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells and carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the eggs are cooked to your liking, checking them after five minutes and then every couple of minutes thereafter. Garnish with parsley to serve.

Serves 2-3. Adapted from a recipe from Serious Eats.

Scrambled Eggs with Sumac, Pine Nuts and Parsley

In our house, my husband makes the best scrambled eggs and I make the quick scrambled eggs. He makes his in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, which means they never catch on the pan and hence stay beautifully soft and slightly runny, much like the way you find scrambled eggs in France. The problem with this method is that it takes some time. I, on the other hand, can whip up scrambled eggs in a matter of minutes by cooking them in a little butter in a frying pan. The result is not quite so refined, and the risk of overcooking far greater, but I have the trick of turning the heat off whilst they are still undercooked and letting them finish cooking in the residual heat. It works most of the time.

I am told that Princess Margaret would stir a raw egg into her scrambled eggs at the last minute to achieve the perfect consistency, but I am yet to try this.

Perking up egg dishes has become something of an obsession of mine, and I have created some interesting concoctions with odds and ends lurking about the fridge, and acquired quite a hot sauce collection. A couple of weeks ago, I came across this recipe on Serious Eats and was intrigued: sumac, pine nuts and parsley was not a route I had trodden before. It actually works tremendously well, with a lemony spike from the sumac and the freshness of the parsley. Toasting the pine nuts first improves them enormously. The recipe suggests serving the eggs with flatbread but, for me, nothing beats a doorstep slice of buttered sourdough toast.

Scrambled Eggs with Sumac, Pine Nuts and Parsley

35g pine nuts
Knob of butter
6 eggs
Sea salt and black pepper
Splash of milk
1 tsp ground sumac
2 tbsp parsley

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden and set aside.

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan, or chef’s pan, and crack in the six eggs. Stir to break up the yolks then add a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper, and a splash of milk.  Turn the heat to low and keep stirring until the eggs are almost cooked. Remove from the heat and allow the eggs to finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan.

Sprinkle over the sumac and parsley and scatter over the pine nuts. Serve with toast and hot sauce.

Serves two. Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats.

Turkish Eggs

I’ve been meaning to make Turkish eggs at home ever since having them at Kopapa in Covent Garden; that Friday morning when I was hungover and in my eagerness to eat, ruined a great scarf by dribbling chilli butter. ‘Turkish eggs’ is a cover-all term for a number of egg dishes from the region, but most commonly refers to a dish of salted yoghurt with poached eggs and chilli butter.

I cannot stress enough that you should not eat this dish if you are already dressed for the day; this is definitely a dish to be eaten whilst you are still in your pyjamas. Better still, pyjamas that are promptly destined for the wash. It contains so many mess-making components that it is foolish to risk it: egg yolk, yoghurt, smoked-paprika infused butter that never comes out. It’s a hazardous breakfast.

Despite this, it is one of my new favourite egg dishes. I admit I had a yoghurt and eggs… really? moment, but was immediately convinced when the yoghurt, egg yolk and chilli butter fused together to form possibly the perfect topping for a slice of sourdough. Making this at home is simple. If you have the time, strain your yoghurt through a muslin for even better results.

Turkish Eggs

200ml thick Greek yoghurt
Sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
60g unsalted butter
A few sage leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 eggs
Sourdough bread, to serve

Combine the yoghurt, a pinch of salt and the garlic in a bowl and split between two plates. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add the sage, smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Cook until the butter sizzles then set aside.

Poach the eggs, then drain and set on top of the yoghurt.

Discard the sage from the butter, season with a pinch of salt and then drizzle over the eggs. Serve with a little cracked black pepper.

Serves two. Adapted from a recipe by Orangette.

Kale, Spinach and Spring Onion Potato Cakes

One of the aspects of modern life I find the most tedious is the occupation of ‘hipster-bashing’. It seems to be a bit of a lazy stick used by white, middle class people to beat other white, middle class people with; and sadly few really ever consider the term. The list of criteria that categorises a hipster varies from person to person, rendering it a fairly useless moniker. One of my friends called one of her friends a hipster because he had a beard and enjoyed craft beer. The mind reels at this outpouring of judgement based on such inconsequential details of a person’s life.

And it has gotten a little out of control. Take the recent anti-austerity protests, for example, where an angry mob targeted not Starbucks, McDonalds or, even, a Versace shop that had just opened around the corner as the object of their anti-capitalist rage; but an independent cafe selling cereal. Yes, everybody has a view on Cereal Killer. It is, perhaps to some, faintly ridiculous that there is a cafe selling bowls of cereal at £3.50 a pop when you can buy a whole box for half that price but, and I hate to be the one to break this, but that’s how restaurants work. Hence why a £6 bottle of wine from Sainsbury’s will set you back twenty quid in a restaurant. Regardless of this, it seems somewhat idiotic to target such a place when there are far worse offenders out there: ironic beards or no ironic beards. I’ve been there a couple of times and don’t remember feeling particularly offended by anything I found there.

Certain foods have also got caught up in this mania. Kale, much like avocado, has been tarnished with the hipster tag for some time; inspiring several memes where eaters are encouraged to ‘get over themselves’ in favour of something less fashionable; a bag of chips, for example. Whilst it is funny to watch foodies fall over themselves to praise the latest trend in gastronomy, it doesn’t need to necessarily be derided by the masses. Kale has been around for ages. Hailing from an Anglo-Irish background, I was energetically lectured about ‘how good it is for you,’ and have subsequently eaten a lot as an adult as a way to try and fend off colds, not die etc. This resurgence in its popularity means that there are new and inventive ways of enjoying it, and new recipes to try out, which my Irish grandmother, boiling it for half an hour in water, did not have access to. That can only be a good thing.

Ironically, she probably would have made potato cakes similar to these, but in the form of bubble and squeak.  Again, I’ve enjoyed bubble and squeak all my life, but it was only when I moved to London ten years ago that I ever had it for breakfast. The crispy edges are the perfect contrast to soft egg yolk, and the creamy innards work so well smeared across a bit of sausage or crispy bacon.

This recipe uses a mixture of kale and spinach, but you can use any leafy greens you have. This is a perfect time of year to make them, as there are so many robust varieties available in the farmers markets. Serve them up with anything you like. At the risk of being labelled hipsters, we had ours with a couple of poached eggs and a hefty slick of Sriracha. Then posted them on Instagram.

Kale, Spinach and Spring Onion Potato Cakes

6 spring onions
A large handful of a mixture of kale and spinach, or whatever leafy greens you have
2 eggs
Sea salt and black pepper
30g breadcrumbs
375g leftover mashed potato
Olive oil

Cook the spring onions in boiling water until soft, about five minutes, then chop finely.  In a medium bowl, combine the spring onions, leafy greens, eggs, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs and mashed potato and mix until fully combined.

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Scoop balls of the potato mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula (I use the equivalent of about two tablespoons.)  Cook for a couple of minutes until browned, then flip over to the other side.

Serve on a plate with poached eggs and hot sauce.

Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen

Avocado, Bacon and Poached Egg on Toast at St David’s Coffee House, Forest Hill

When I left London it was raining and when I returned, a little under a week later, it was raining still. In between I went to Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff and the Gower peninsula: all sunny.  Come on dear, you’re letting the side down. A beacon of light in the gloom of the dismal weather was that my friends Sam and Craig were unexpectedly in town and free for Sunday Brunch. They were staying in Honor Oak, so I thought it a good opportunity to finally get myself down to St David’s Coffee House, a local place I had heard so much about but had yet to visit.  Being so late for brunch that it had officially rolled into lunch territory (none of us are early risers), a few of the breakfast options had already sold out; but thankfully not the avocado on toast with bacon and poached egg. The avocado was ripe, the bacon crisp, the egg had a perfect runny yolk and the coffee (Square Mile) was strong. I silently cursed myself for having moved out of Forest Hill before St David’s arrived and made a note to come back again. A little earlier next time so I can try the peas and feta on toast.
Avocado, bacon and poached egg on toast is £6.50.
St David’s Coffee House, 5 David’s Road, London SE23 3EP.

Egg Salad with Capers and Dill

Has anybody else noticed that it’s starting to get dark much earlier and the evenings are getting chillier? It seems summer is definitely having its swansong, which makes it all the more sweet that I am off on holiday soon. Sadly, for me, impending holiday also means killing myself in the gym for a couple of weeks beforehand. Wish me luck with that.

This morning’s gruelling session left me ravenous, so I turned to eggs for a bit of recovery fuel. I have been considering Sweet Amandine‘s egg salad with dill and capers for breakfast for some time. I deliberately waited for a day when I could have a mid-morning brunch, rather than an early breakfast, to cook it as I wasn’t sure how well I could tolerate mustard and capers first thing. It’s basically an egg mayo, but not as we know it. Best served on a piece of wholemeal or granary toast, but would also make a splendid sandwich.

Egg Salad with Capers and Dill

4 eggs
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp chopped dill
2 tsp capers, drained
Black pepper

Hard boil the eggs. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Once the eggs are cooked and cooled a little, peel and roughly chop them. Using a silicon spatula, fold them into the mayonnaise and mustard mixture along with the dill,  capers and a good grind of black pepper. Taste and add salt if you wish, but there will probably be enough salt from the capers.

Serves two. Adapted from a recipe by Sweet Amandine.

Scrambled Eggs with Green Peppers, Mushrooms and Rocket

I won’t bore you with the details, but the second half of this working week has been crazy. So much so that I have barely had time to eat breakfast, let alone find it or make it.  Today I have been working from home, which gave me a bit more time to pull something together. This is the result of a bit of a fridge forage and a trip to the corner shop. Hoping for more morning time next week.

Scrambled Eggs with Green Peppers, Mushrooms and Rocket

Olive oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
½ a green pepper, finely chopped
7 diced button mushrooms
Handful rocket leaves
4 eggs
Handful grated cheddar
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, or chef’s pan, over a medium heat. Add the onion,  green pepper and mushrooms. Cook for about five minutes until they are soft.  Add thef rocket and cook for a couple of minutes until it begins to wilt, and then crack in the eggs.  Stir to scramble the yolks and whites.  Add the cheddar, season with salt and pepper and keep stirring until the eggs are set. Serve with toast and hot sauce.

Adapted from a recipe by The Kitchn. Serves two.