By Kim Cody
Hands up if you love the Mediterranean?
Sun. Food. Beach. Olive oooiiil.
Oh God, the olive oil.
Allow me to rein this in before I lose you. My comfort zone in cooking, or so I believe, is in the Mediterranean. Food from countries like Spain, Italy, and Morocco. There is variety and abundance in this region of the world. Its soils give birth to some of the most beautiful ingredients available: ripe, red tomatoes, unctuous olive oils, fresh zucchini, and a plethora of wonderful seafood dishes. And its fertile soils grow some of the most famous wines in the world.
This, for me, is the natural place to begin when it comes to cooking simple, delicious meals. Therefore, my first cooking piece for you is also from the foremost region in my heart. Furthermore, it is an appropriate beginning as a perfect dish for the first meal of the day.
Now, anyone who knows me will know that I am not a big one for breakfast; I rarely want food in the mornings before work. Most default breakfast foods are sugary, carby, sluggish-making nonsense to me. Come the weekends, however, everything changes. When you have a leisurely morning, and time to put your Moka on the stove, there can be no bliss greater than a delicious, fulfilling fling with umami to set you up for the day. Umami; my favourite of all the taste sensations.
Today, I want to share with you one of my all-time favourite savoury breakfasts. It is quick to make, uses fresh ingredients (rather than a product with a shelf life of 1020 years), and will satisfy your palate, belly, and pocket.
Eggs in Purgatory, or Shakshouka:
Let’s start with shakshouka. In its simplest terms, shakshouka is a dish of eggs in a tomato sauce. Popular in North African, where it originated, and Middle Eastern cuisine, it is simple, delicious, and full of flavour.
So popular is this dish that it even migrated from North Africa all around the Mediterranean.
In Italy, the equivalent dish is called ‘Eggs in Purgatory’, or ‘Uova in Purgatoria’. In my heart of hearts, I (not so) secretly wish to be Italian, so anything from this beautiful country will instantly win my heart over.
As with Shakshouka, Uova in Purgatoria is a dish or eggs poached in a rich, spicy tomato sauce. There are may variants in traditional Shakshouka, spices such as cumin or paprika flavour the base. For our Italian beauty, chili and garlic onions give the dish its kick.
The sauce base of tomatoes is best fresh, when tomatoes are in season and ripe, and white onions. In Italian cooking, onion and garlic are rarely used together. Both are strong flavours, and one contends with the other.
In my version, below, I focus on the reality of Irish accessibility and speed- I use tomatoes, garlic, and chili to flavour the sauce.
You can see my version of this wonderful food by clicking here. Tell me what you think if you tried it yourself. What would you add to it?
- 2 cloves of minced, fresh garlic
- 1 tsp of dried chili flakes
- 1 tin of good quality tomatoes*
- 4 fresh free-range eggs
- 3 tbsp of extra virgin oil
- Handful of fresh herbs (basil or parsley, coarsely chopped)
- A pinch of sea salt
*n.b. in any tomato-based dish, the quality of the tomatoes you use controls the flavour. For real. Save your Tesco multipacks for chucking into chorizo soups. Sauces demand good tomatoes. I suggest Mutti or, my all-time favourite, Fratelli Longobardi. You either want ‘polpa’ or ‘pelati’ (pulped or peeled whole tomatoes).
- Warm some olive oil in a wide pan with the chili flakes and garlic. It’s important not to let the garlic burn; you want the olive oil to be scented with the garlic, but nothing can save your dish from the taste of burnt nonsense. Low and slow heat is key.
- When you start to see a little sizzle, get your tomatoes in right away. If using polpa, stir right through. Using pelati, smash it with a fork in the pan.
- Let the tomatoes come to a simmer, sprinkle with salt to taste. Use good quality salt. If you even think about touching the Saxa, then just leave. Now.
- Once the tomatoes have been simmering for a good 20-30 minutes (judge the timing on how liquid/condensed the sauce has become- the more reduced, the better the flavour).
- Crack each egg into a small bowl and make little well in the sauce. Drop the eggs into each well, even spaced through the pan. You can sprinkle with another pinch of salt if it suits your taste, or a little crushed black pepper.
- Cover with a lid and cook until the egg whites are opaque-about 5 mins, but it varies. The yolk should still be runny.
- Sprinkle the top with fresh basil or parsley, serve up.
Literally anything. Have it with salad. Have it on toasted, crusty bread. Grate some cheese over it, like pecorino romano or parmesan. If you love cheese, slice some soft, melting cheese and pop it under the grill for a couple of minutes- provolone or fontina.
There are no bad options.
Now that you have an ideal brunch food to enjoy tomorrow, why not choose some other great articles to read over your food like Emma’s five lesser-known Netflix picks and Colette’s ode to Dad trainers.