Oeufs en Cocotte

A few weeks ago I was looking for good breakfast dishes on Café Cat to recommend to 2CC radio listeners who wanted to spoil their Mum on Mothers’ Day. As I looked through the Index I realised that, despite being into its seventh year, Café Cat had not yet published my absolute favourite egg dish, Oeufs en Cocotte, which is just a fancy French way of saying Baked Eggs.

Serve this for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper to put a smile on everyone’s face. If you’re a fan of eggs I guarantee you’ll like this one. Once you’ve made them a couple of times you will know exactly how long they take in your oven.

Other delicious egg recipes you might like to try are Salad Lyonnaise à la Madeleine and Spanish Eggs with Jamon.

30g butter
Stale breadcrumbs (about 4 heaped Tbs or so)
4 large eggs
4 heaped tsp sour cream or crème fraîche
1 Tbs snipped chives
To serve:
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot buttered toast

Preheat oven to 180°C. Make the breadcrumbs by whizzing a slice or two of stale bread in the food processor. Don’t make them too fine. Butter two half cup ramekins and put a small piece of butter in each. Heat the rest of the butter in a non-stick frying pan and cook the breadcrumbs, stirring, until golden brown. Place half the breadcrumbs in the bottom of the ramekins, then two eggs in each dish, then top with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Place ramekins in a baking dish and pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 15 mins, or until whites are set, but yolks are still soft in the middle. Press the tops with your finger to check.

Mix sour cream with chives and dollop on top of the dishes, then sprinkle a few more chives on top. Serve with buttered toast and pass round a salt and pepper mill.

Serves 2

Variations: if you don’t have chives use finely chopped spring onion tops.

Kedgeree with Curry Sauce, Hot Smoked Salmon & Poached Eggs

I grew up on a fairly basic British diet of meat and three veg. However, my mother was a British Army kid and while living in Hong Kong and Malta she was exposed to some “foreign dishes”. She had two in her repertoire – Spaghetti Bolognese and Kedgeree. Nowadays these dishes are familiar to most people, but when I was a child they were pretty unusual to find in a British household – unless of course you were “foreign”, which we weren’t.

When one of my school friends came round for dinner and Mum served one of these my guest would push the food around the plate and eat very little. No doubt about it, back then this was weird food.

You can find my mother’s recipe for Kedgeree along with an Asian variation here. I found today’s version in an airline magazine some years ago and have been meaning to make it ever since. I have a huge folder and an email box dedicated to recipes I plan to make one day, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of inspiration for this blog!

1 cup basmati or other long grain rice
300g hot smoked salmon (or substitute ordinary smoked salmon)
1 Tbs butter or Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs snipped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Curry Sauce:
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
2 shallots or spring onions, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs vinegar
½ cup white wine
1 cup fish or vegetabe stock
1 cup cream or coconut cream
pinch of saffron or turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To finish:
4 poached eggs (or soft boiled)
Chopped fresh coriander
Crispy shallots (a dried product from Asian supermarkets)
Lemon or lime wedges

Place rice in a saucepan with a little more than one and a half cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down heat as low as possible. Cook for 10-15 mins, or until water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave it to continue cooking in the steam.

Meanwhile for the Curry Sauce, melt butter in a frying pan and cook shallots for 2-3 mins until soft. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring for a minute. Add vinegar and cook until it has evaporated. Add wine and do the same. Add stock and cook until reduced by half. Add cream or coconut cream and saffron and cook until the sauce has a nice coating consistency.. Season to taste. (If liked pass through a sieve – see Note below)

Poach the eggs. Break the hot smoked salmon into large chunks and mix into the hot rice with the butter or olive oil and chives. Season to taste.

To serve, divide rice between four bowls. Top each serving with a poached egg and some Curry Sauce. Garnish with coriander, crispy shallots and a lemon or lime wedge.

Serves 4

Note: I used spring onions rather than shallots and decided to pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the bits. I mixed these bits into the rice, so they weren’t wasted. I just thought the sauce looked nicer without them. After sieving the sauce I reheated it to serve.

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that we like to give meat and fish a rest about once a week and go vegetarian.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish, similar to an omelette. A vegetable frittata makes a tasty light supper and any leftovers are nice cold the next day. Choose a medium sized non-stick frying pan (mine is 25 cm or 10 inches) with a metal handle, so it can go in the oven.

When the frittata comes out of the oven the metal handle will be very hot. I forgot and have the blisters to show for it.

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

1 Tbs olive oil
60g butter
200g mushrooms, cut into quarters or sliced if large
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About half a bunch of spinach
6 eggs
½ cup sour cream or fresh cream
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour Cream Sauce (optional):
½ cup sour cream
2-3 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat half the butter and oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring, then transfer to a bowl. Strip the spinach from the stalks and discard the stalks. Tear the spinach into smaller pieces. Add to the frying pan with the remaining oil and butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until wilted. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

In another bowl using a balloon whisk beat the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and rind, grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Pour into the frying pan, Scatter the spinach and mushrooms and any juices over the top. Place small pieces of goat’s cheese or feta all over the top. Place back on the stove until the frittata starts to set, then bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with a mixed salad and the sour cream sauce.

Sour Cream Sauce: mix sour cream with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-3

Variations: use small broccoli florets instead of spinach; use Pecorino instead of Parmesan cheese; use a mixture of fancy mushrooms instead of the usual ones

Anchovy Butter

This Anchovy Butter is amazing.

Serve it on steaks or fish, on steamed vegetables, on toast under scrambled, soft boiled or poached eggs or mixed into pasta. It keeps for up to a month in the fridge.

125g butter at room temperature and cut into pieces
About 6 tinned anchovies, drained from the oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
Shake of paprika

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix until smooth. Place in a small bowl and dust with paprika. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 cup

Curried Eggs

I like eggs cooked any way at all – boiled, scrambled, poached, coddled or in an omelette or frittata.

Many years ago when we were living in Malaysia we were served some delicious curried eggs. The memory has stuck in my mind, so I decided to recreate this quick, easy and delicious dish. If there are just two of you the quantities are easy to halve.

Curried Eggs

8 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
3 Tbs oil
2 onions,finely sliced or chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs of your favourite curry paste (more if you like things spicy)
2-3 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1 can coconut milk
1 can water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Steamed rice
Fruit chutney
Indian bread such as chapatis, roti or papadums

You want the eggs to be hardboiled, but don’t overcook them or they won’t be nice and creamy. About 12 minutes should be perfect.

In a large frying pan cook onion and garlic in the oil until soft, without browning. Add curry paste, sugar and turmeric and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add coconut milk and water and simmer until liquid has reduced and sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the hardboiled egg halves, cut side up and let them warm through. Garnish with coriander or parsley and serve with rice, Indian bread and chutney.

Serves 4

Fried Egg in a Bagel

This recipe from a website called Food52 is so simple you hardly need a recipe. But it’s such a novel idea and so delicious I had to tell you about it.

You simply fry an egg in the hole in half a bagel.  Serve for breakfast or lunch, accompanied by bacon, ham, smoked salmon or on its own. The recipe makes two servings, but you may decide to eat them both! They go very well with leftover ham from Christmas.

Fried Egg in a Bagel

1 bagel split in two horizontally
1 Tbs butter
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the holes in the two halves a bit bigger using a serrated knife or a small scone cutter. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan and swirl around. Place bagel  halves in the pan, cut side down, break an egg into each and season with salt and pepper. It doesn’t matter if it spills out a bit.

Cover and cook until the eggs are just set. Serve alone or with crispy bacon, ham or smoked salmon. If serving with bacon cook it in the pan first, then remove and cook the bagel so it gets a nice bacon flavour.

Serves 2

Salade Lyonnaise à la Madeleine

When we lived in Pretoria in the late 1980s we found a fabulous French restaurant called La Madeleine. There was no written menu so Belgian chef-owner Daniel Leusch would come to each table and explain what was available that day. His Lyonnaise Salad was introduced in the following way.

“And today, for starters, we ‘ave a leetle salade, wif a warm poshed egg, garneeshed wif some leetle crispy lardons, some freshly made croutons and ‘ollandaise sauce. Or, we ‘ave…..”

And so he would go on until he had described everything and we were left, drooling, to make decisions.

It’s twenty-five years since we left Pretoria but La Madeleine is still going strong, with Daniel and his wife Karine’s daughter Anne in charge of the kitchen. Since then my version of Daniel’s Salade Lyonnaise has become one of my favourite lunches. But you do have to be in the kitchen at the last minute, so I usually only make it for two, maximum four people. If you don’t have time to make Hollandaise Sauce substitute mayonnaise, preferably home-made. For hungry people serve two eggs instead of one.

As it’s one of the signature dishes of the French city of Lyon I ordered this salad in three different bistros while we were staying there a couple of years ago. What a disappointment! Soggy bacon or croutons, over-cooked eggs and indifferent salad greens meant that none of them lived up to their reputation. Take me back to Pretoria any time!

Salade Lyonnaise à la Madeleine4-6 cups mixed small salad leaves
2 slices bread (preferably something rustic like sourdough)
Olive oil
100g smoked bacon in one piece (called speck in Australia)
2 eggs
Salad dressing:
1 cup mild vegetable oil (e.g. Canola)
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs honey (optional, or use less)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
50g butter
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs cream
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Hollandaise sauce place butter in a small bowl and microwave for 30 secs. With a small hand whisk, beat in yolks, then cream and lemon juice. Microwave for 45 secs, stopping to beat every 10-15 secs. This is important to avoid scrambling the eggs! Season then cover and keep warm by standing the bowl in a larger bowl containing hot water.

Brush both sides of bread with olive oil, cut into croutons then either bake in a hot oven on a tray lined with baking paper for 5-10 mins or fry in a non-stick frying pan until golden and crunchy.

Meanwhile poach eggs until done – whites firm, yolks still soft. While they are cooking, prepare the lardons – cut bacon into thick slices, then into little chunks. Fry in a non-stick frying pan with a tiny bit of oil and drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for the salad dressing in a screw top jar and shake vigorously. Mix salad greens with some dressing (see note below) and divide between 2 plates. Place a poached egg in the centre and spoon some Hollandaise sauce over. Sprinkle the croutons and lardons around the egg.

Serves 4 as a starter or light lunch

Note: Any unused French dressing will keep for up to a month in the fridge so I often make double or triple the recipe. Don’t crush the garlic, just cut it in half, so the flavour isn’t overpowering. The French wouldn’t put honey in their dressing (I love it especially as I keep my own bees!) so if you want to be authentic leave it out.

Spanish Eggs with Jamon

The Parlour Wine Room in New Acton Canberra has a great lunch menu at the moment where you can choose a main course from a selection of about half a dozen options for just $16, including a glass of wine or beer. I chose Spanish Eggs and it really hit the spot. The servings were quite large – I think there were 3 or 4 eggs per serve – so I have cut back a bit in my version. If you’re hungry this recipe will serve two rather than four.

Jamon is the Spanish word for ham and usually refers to dry-cured hams. Substitute Italian prosciutto or German black forest ham. I used the latter from Aldi.

Spanish Eggs with Jamon1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced
4 red capsicums, seeds removed and sliced into strips
¼ cup olive oil
Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar
8 eggs
8 slices Spanish jamon (prosciutto or black forest ham)
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted and buttered
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Fry gently until softened then add the capsicum strips. Continue to fry gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Add half a cup of water and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is soft. Can be pepared to this stage and kept in the fridge until needed.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Divide onion and capsicum among four individual oven-proof shallow dishes. Break two eggs into each dish and top with the ham, cut with scissors into pieces about 2-3 cm long.

Bake for about 8 minutes, or until eggs are set and ham is crispy. Season with salt and pepper. For a low carb meal skip the toast!

Serve with buttered sourdough toast on the side.

Serves 4

Sweet Potato Rosti with Fried Eggs

Sunday’s a good day for a leisurely cooked breakfast and about 3 weeks ago I decided to make this sweet potato rosti which I had seen in the free brochure published monthly by Coles supermarket and available at the check out.

Sweet potato, bacon, onion and thyme – preferably fresh – is a winning flavour combination, but I had to make this four times before I got it right. The first time I made one large rosti, as per the recipe, but the outsides started to burn before the middle was properly cooked. Second time I made individual rostis, like fritters, but they had a tendency to fall apart. Third time I added an egg and a bit of flour to the mixture and again made small fritters, but the flavour wasn’t the same.

The original recipe said to microwave the whole sweet potato for five minutes before grating it, but this overcooked the outside while leaving the inside raw. So on my fourth and final attempt, instead of microwaving the sweet potato I stir fried the mixture and then made it into one large rosti. This worked well and here’s my version of the recipe!

To make a more substantial meal serve rosti on a slice of buttered toast, with a green salad on the side.

Sweet Potato Rosti with Fried Eggs

1 large sweet potato (about 800g)
100g bacon, diced
1 brown onion, finely diced
3 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme (or use dried)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
Olive oil

Peel and grate the sweet potato into a bowl. A food processor with a coarse grating disc makes this a breeze. Alternatively use the coarsest side of a hand grater. Mix in bacon, onion, thyme, salt and pepper.

Heat a little olive oil in a medium sized non-stick frying pan. Add sweet potato mixture and stir fry for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture has softened. Heat a little oil in a smaller omelette pan about 20 cm in diameter. Pack sweet potato mixture into the pan and smooth the surface, pressing down with a spatula. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until golden underneath. Loosen around the edges, then place a plate on top and invert the pan so the rosti ends up on the plate. Slide back into pan, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Cook for 5-10 minutes on the other side.

Meanwhile in another pan, fry the eggs sunny side up, or however you like them.

Cut rosti into 4 and arrange on individual serving plates. Top each serving with a fried egg.

Serves 4