There is something I love about discovering familiar things in unexpected places. The hint of chocolate in the savory depths of a bowl of chili, the roll of thunder and flash of lightning in the midst of winter, a face you know and love in a strange, foreign crowd. I don’t think you fully know a thing until this happens. We need contrast to expose the full spectrum of possibility that any one thing possesses – novelness to appreciate it fully.
Recently, this happened to me with eggs. I was gawking over the ethereal beauty of Brian Ferry’s photography over at The Blue Hour when I came across a vivid and absolutely resplendent photo of someone enjoying Moroccan baked eggs. “Moroccan baked eggs?!?”, I thought. These are eggs as I have never known them. I opened up my favorite (and only) Moroccan cookbook – Casa Moro – by Sam and Sam Clark (an exceptional book, by the by) and there, amongst the pages that I thought I knew so very well, was a recipe. How did I miss this?
You might think you know an egg, even though an egg is, quite frankly, a difficult thing to know. They are so multi-dexterous, taking so many forms. Boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, whipped into soft peaks/hard peaks, suspending oil in water, binding together the tender crumbs of a cake or the shreds of vegetable in a fritter, souffled into cloud like lightness. They are the food of many faces, many disguises. And yet, here was a face I had not known.
To be honest, I’d grown a little bored of eggs of late. My husband could eat an egg every day for breakfast without flinching. I am more fickle in my affections. Some days, their congealed form staring up at me at 6 in the morning while I struggle to gain functioning consciousness just does not do it for me. Other days they are a thing that ignites ravenous hunger in a way no other food exactly can. Somedays there is simply nothing like an egg.
When I awoke on Saturday morning, it was an egg day. It was cold and rainy, and the thought of softly poached eggs immersed within an exotically spiced tomato sauce laced with onions, garlic and chilies and left to bake together in a hot oven was a thing of warmth and comfort. A familiar thing in an unexpected place. An egg known more completely than before.
Moroccan Baked Eggs
Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark. As suitable for breakfast as for dinner, and especially good served with an anise scented flatbread to use as your edible fork.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 4 – 6 garlic cloves, sliced into rounds
- 1 red or green chili, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- a pinch of cayenne
- a pinch of saffron (optional)
- 1 small bunch kale, collards or chard, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
- 4 organic, free range eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them fry gently for a minute or two. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let sweat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and golden.
Add the tomatoes, garlic, chili, paprika, cayenne and saffron and continue to cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until you have a thick, fragrant sauce that is not too liquidy. Add the greens and cook for a few minutes more until wilted. Taste the mixture at this point and add more seasonings if necessary until you have it just how you want it.
Make four little divots in the tomato sauce and carefully break an egg into each hollow. Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and a little more smoked paprika for color – and carefully place into the hot oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still a little runny.
P.S. Still working on the blog. The hubby is doing all the work for me in his spare time, and I’ve lots of updating to do with categories and such, so it will be a work in progress for a little while longer. Thanks for your patience.