Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Skye Gyngell’s fried egg with burnt sage butter, chilli and garlicky yoghurt

This is a recipe I’ve wanted to try for ages because I found the flavour combination so intriguing, but never got round to because it seemed more complicated than it actually is — and I’m rarely in the mood for anything complicated in the morning. I made it for breakfast yesterday, though (and again today), and kicked myself for not trying it sooner.

I admit I was also wary of yogurt and a fried egg sharing the same plate — but let me assure you, it tastes like never wanting to eat eggs any other way, ever again. Just read the last sentence of the recipe and tell me it doesn’t get your juices going: ‘Spoon the warm sage butter over the eggs and serve at once.’

Spoon the warm sage butter over the eggs... I just want to say it over and over again.

Granted, this recipe is a little more effort than straight-up fried eggs, but your reward is a distinctive breakfast that will leave you with a glow of happiness (and a dopey grin). In fact, it was a real struggle not to make this again for dinner as well... I just can’t stop daydreaming about it: at 9am with some fresh ciabatta; at 1pm with toasted tortillas and a salad, perhaps; or at 7pm with fried polenta and roasted tomatoes. [Insert Homer Simpson drooling noises here.]

The key is to use really thick, creamy, good quality Greek-style yoghurt — nothing too thin or sour (please don’t even bother if you are going ‘low-fat’) — and very fresh eggs. Gyngell gives this rather useless (and weirdly pornographic) advice about how to tell whether your eggs are fresh: ‘Very fresh eggs have bright, shiny yolks that sit proudly on top of bouncy, thick whites as you crack them into the pan. Thin, runny whites are an indication that the eggs are less than fresh.’ I mean, by the time you’ve cracked them into the pan and discover they might be ‘less than fresh’, what are you going to do? Bin them? I dunno, Skye — I don’t think you thought that one through.

But back to the good stuff.

Say it with me now: ‘Spoon the warm ... sage ... butter...’

Fried egg with burnt sage butter, chilli and garlicky yoghurt
(From Skye Gyngell’s My Favourite Ingredients)
Serves 4

240ml good quality Greek-style yoghurt (thick and only mildly sharp)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Sea salt
50ml extra virgin olive oil
80g unsalted butter
8 sage leaves
4 very fresh organic free-range eggs
1 red chilli, very finely sliced into rings (seeds left in)

1. Pour the yoghurt into a bowl with the garlic, a good pinch of salt and the olive oil. Stir well to combine and add a little more salt if necessary. Set aside to allow the flavours to adjust to each other while you brown the butter.
2. Place the putter in a non-stick pan along with the sage leaves over a medium heat. Cook, stirring gently, until the butter begins to separate firstly, and then brown. The sediment at the bottom will taste nutty and delicious. You can strain it to remove the sediment if you like, but I prefer to leave it in. Set aside in a warm place while you cook the eggs.
3. Place one large (or two) non-stick frying pan(s) over a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of the browned butter, without the nutty sediment, to each pan. When hot, crack the eggs into the pans and add the sliced chilli. Cook until the whites are firm and the yolks are soft. I like to spoon the hot butter over the whites to encourage the eggs to cook more quickly and to flavour them.
4. To serve, divide the garlicky yoghurt among four plates, carefully lay the eggs on top and scatter over the chilli. Spoon the warm sage butter over the eggs and serve at once.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Surprise rice

When pomegranates burst onto the foodie scene a few years ago in South Africa, I’m sure most food stylists peed in their pants, because the seeds are just so gosh-darned purdy. I remember one particularly beautiful autumn spread in Taste magazine that had me longing for the fruit, but I held off buying it because I was indignant about the price.

Also, I just wasn’t entirely sure what the seeds were for.

I mean, you can sprinkle them over stuff for decorative purposes, but I couldn’t really perceive what was so special about them besides their looks. Until now, that is.

I can’t remember where I originally found this dish, as it was floating around in my recipe graveyard, which I excavate every so often. I was immediately intrigued, and couldn’t believe I’d just printed it out, filed it (i.e. stashed it between 101 other recipe printouts in no particular order) and forgotten about it.

But such is life.

The combination of textures is really quite unbelievable. You’ve got the lovely sweet burst of the pomegranate seeds, of course; then the soft, chewy rice; but you’ve also got the crunch of the raw fried rice — when you put a forkful in your mouth, the sensation is quite a (pleasant) surprise. And, unlike a lot of other dishes where pomegranates are included, their flavour and texture here are essential. The tart seeds are a perfect complement to the starchy, savoury flavour of the rice.

This is all quite apart from the fact that all the ingredients are basics you’re likely to already have in your kitchen cupboard (barring the pomegranate), and so it’s a pretty easy one to fall back on in a pinch, if pomegranates happen to be in season, which they are now.

I served this rice with a roast chicken, which it complemented beautifully, but it’ll work with just about anything savoury: red meats, curries, fish. It has the added bonus of looking way posh, but what I love  most about it is that its appearance is not its strongest point.

The original recipe called for white jasmine rice, but I used brown jasmine rice, and also substituted shallots with a bog-standard onion, with good results. Also, I'm sure you could use veg stock instead of chicken. Have a bash and let me know what you think.

Pomegranate rice
Serves 4

1. Measure 2 cups of jasmine rice. Add a quarter of this (1/2 cup), to a nonstick pan with 2 tbsp unsalted butter. Cook this rice for 30 minutes over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns a nice, nutty brown color.
2. While that rice is toasting, heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 chopped shallots, a 2-inch piece of ginger (peeled and grated), a cinnamon stick and the rest of the rice, and sautée for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. To this add 3 cups chicken stock and 1 bay leaf, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit (covered) for about 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
3. Combine the toasty rice and the simmered rice in a bowl with the seeds of 2 pomegranates. You could add 1/2 cup shelled pistachios if you like. Serve and be amazed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baked garlic and herbed white cheese

I am actually not much of an entertainer. And by that I don’t mean I’m bad at flame-throwing or playing the accordion, but rather that I don’t do my best work in the kitchen when I have to feed more than two people. Maybe it’s to do with volume, maybe it’s because I try too hard to come up with a dish I hope will impress guests (but which I inevitably can’t work up much enthusiasm for).

I’m not sure. After reading this post on The Wednesday Chef blog, I have vowed only to make food for guests that I, myself, feel like eating — the most practical advice ever (and somewhat obvious, I’m prepared to admit).

And if you need advice on entertaining (even if you think you don’t), I urge you to grab a copy of How to Feed Your Friends with Relish by Brit food writer Joanna Weinberg (recently given to me by my dear friend Steph as a wedding present). It’s not about how cutlery should be set out, or full of fancy-shmancy dishes and 10-course menus — ‘it is not a rulebook for the socially anxious; in fact, it dispenses with etiquette altogether.’ Marvellous!

So what is it about? ‘All the different elements that contribute to a great evening at home with friends.’ I particularly like these two intro paragraphs, which I think sum up the book beautifully, and put my own feelings into words (as the best books do): ‘[When I was younger] I read cookbooks with an eye to what was realistic in terms of my own life — as soon as they as they used the words “whiz in the food processor” or “fresh truffles”, I turned the page. I developed a loathing for intricate cooking that couldn’t be prepared in advance, or that could go wrong — curdle, burn, etc. — at the last minute. I wanted to know which recipes used the least kit and caused the least mess.

‘Having people over was my way of saying, hi, I like you, please will you be in my life. Gradually, I became aware that cooking was about people even more than it was about food. I became frustrated if recipes didn’t take into account the context in which I was cooking; many of them spoke to me as if money was no object and inviting people round was about impressing them, not spending time with them. In their enticing descriptions of asparagus glossy with Hollandaise, or pan-fried scallops with balsamic mash, they failed to point out that I needed to be standing over the stove for the final 45 minutes, stirring a boiling pot that would melt any make-up I’d attempted, or need to be dished up individually, so that I never got to sit down until the first person’s food was cold.’

The baked garlic recipe below is from Relish ­— simple, delicious and easy to prepare ahead. I ate it for lunch with a salad, but it would be ideal as a relaxed starter for a crowd.

I was also given a copy of Cookbook for Brides by Dorothy Malone (first published in 1947!). This was another wedding gift from friends, Tracy & Chenel, who know I have a fetish for archaic recipe books. 


The chapter titles are hilarious (‘From wedding gown to kitchen apron’; ‘The bride considers vegetables’; ‘The bride meets meats’; ‘Fishing for compliments’), as is the (kind of) laughable sexism: ‘Moonlight and roses can make you a bride,’ says Malone, ‘with the help, of course, of that man among men who recognised a paragon when he saw one. But you can’t become a cook without a cookbook. This book is written, therefore, for the day when, in the natural sequence of events, you put away your white satin and orange blossoms and turn to ruffled plastic aprons and parsley.’ Indeed.

Jokes aside, there are actually a few interesting recipes I may have a bash at: Sherried sweet potato bake; Sole poached in Champagne; Brussels sprouts with green grapes...

I leave you now with this little titbit of advice from Mrs Malone, which I think applies to brides of all ages: ‘“Happy is the bride the sun shines on” and clever is the bride who is attractively dressed and nicely complexioned when the sun shines on her at breakfast time.

‘An intelligent and beautiful bride I once knew had an excellent plan of procedure. Setting her mind to it, she rose 15 minutes before her husband and slipped noiselessly into her dressing room. There she tinted her complexion and put on a beguiling breakfast coat. When her husband’s eyes rested on her, she looked as though she had just stepped from a freshly washed and rosy cloud. Breakfast proceeded happily, and at last check the marriage was proceeding securely.’

So there you have it. Clearly divorce rates are so high these days because women don't take care to be ‘attractively dressed and nicely complexioned’ in the morning.

Baked garlic with herbed white cheese
Feeds 4

4 whole garlic bulbs
2 sprigs thyme
25g butter
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
For the cheese:
150g creamy goats’ cheese
100g Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped mixed herbs such as thyme, parsley and chives
To serve:
Sourdough bread

1. Preheat the oven to 140C. Cut around the head of the garlic and remove the outer skin from the top, exposing the cloves underneath. Place the bulbs in a baking dish just large enough to fit them in, and tuck in the sprigs of thyme. Dot with butter and pour over the olive oil. Season well, cover and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the cover and continue baking for a further hour, basting every 15 minutes, until the cloves are soft, golden and sweet.
2. Meanwhile, remove the rind of the goats’ cheese, if it has any, and mash together (or blend) with the yoghurt and herbs. If you are doing it by hand it will remain quite lumpy, but it doesn’t matter.
3. To eat, squeeze out the garlic cloves and spread, along with the herb cheese, onto fresh sourdough or other peasanty bread.

PS: Please vote for my recipe in the latest issue of Crush, featured on the 'Rate your recipe' page. I could win a natty camera!