Sundays, in my imagination anyway, are lazy days to be taken at a leisurely pace. Starting with a mug or two of freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee. Gentle music helping to create a relaxed atmosphere, the dogs curled up on the couch. Breakfast will follow, preferably prepared by someone else. Alas we can all dream. The reality is often rather different. In truth Sundays can be just as hectic as any Saturday; Samuel works in Niela’s knitwear studio every Sunday. Joseph on the other hand frequently has band practice on a Sunday afternoon. Now he works every other Sunday and breakfasts at 4:30am! Trying to find time for those leisurely long family breakfasts will have to remain an idea that is pleepsing on the back burner for awhile longer.
However; I’m not one to be defeated by the practicalities of the hurly burly that is family life. Our day begins early, usually around 6am at the weekends. Why? Doesn’t the duvet’s alluring attraction prove too much? In the week we, well Stephen and I, get up at five every morning. Times change. This used to be so that chickens could be fed, dog walked, washing machine fed with a never ending supply of clothes, the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded all before breakfast. Sadly the last of our thirteen assorted hens has met its maker. Our pair of brindle terrors are generally walked later in the day. Our internal alarms seem permanently set for the wee small hours. To make the most of this: we get settled on the settee; mull over mugs of fresh coffee; listen to some gentle music and slowly wake up. It’s just the relaxing family breakfast that’s missing from this rural idyll. Due to the fact that young Heath is a whirlwind on four paws at the best of times we usually try to snatch a quiet hour before we let them disturb our peace.
Sunday breakfast just can’t be toast, even if its homemade sourdough. Or even homemade muesli, it just can’t. Even if we don’t often manage to sit down all together I like to make something that seem more special than our usual breakfast staples of either something on toast or porridge with a fruit compote. When we had thirteen laying hens, eggs had to be included. Even I, an obsessive cook and baker, couldn’t manage to use that many eggs every week. Now, hen less the tradition continues. I like to make something that adapts itself easily to being served in several sittings or is very quick to prepare. This week I decided to make ‘Bombay Eggs’ using Meera Sodha’s marvellous book ‘Made in India’. This is the recipe that has been tickling my imagination. It consists of a spicy tomato and spinach sauce with eggs gently poaching in their vegetable nests. There are various similar versions of this; the two best known are probably Huevos Rancheros and chachukka, I’m going to have to check the spelling.
To make this delectable delight you begin by roasting cumin seeds in a large frying pan that has a lid, you’ll need that later. I usually use about two teaspoons of coriander and one of cumin seeds. Sometimes the proportions vary, depending on the state of my store cupboard and whether the boat’s come in. Once they’re is a lovely aroma in the air and they have turned a couple of shades darker carefully tip the spices into a grinder or use a pestle and mortar and gently crush them. I love the smell of freshly roasted spices. Now heat four tablespoons of oil, I’ve now switched to rapeseed oil, tip your spices back into the pan fry for about one minute and add the onions and cook until they are floppy and are beginning to turn golden at the edges. Don’t rush; this will take about eight minutes.
Next add your crushed garlic and ginger. If I’m feeling lazy I use a couple of heaped table spoons garlic and ginger paste, it’s not the same but I like the pungent hit you get when the paste meets the heat. I think its the acetic acid. Otherwise use four large cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and a small thumb length of ginger about four cms. Cook for two or three minutes before adding two 450g tins of chopped tomatoes. Meera Sodha says 1kg of chopped fresh tomatoes. Early on a Sunday morning that seems a bit too much chopping for me. So tinned toms will do. Maybe fresh ones would have not involved a trip to casualty, but that’s another story entirely.
Leave the tomatoes and onions pleepsing away for fifteen minutes. Such a wonderful word for gently simmering. By now they should be thick and the sauce should still be vividly red. Add a tablespoon or so of tomato purée and salt to taste, my default measure is usually one tsp, add a tsp of sugar, about half a tsp of chilli powder, I usually use chilli flakes and up the cumin seeds and a good couple of pinches of turmeric. If you don’t want to stain your fingers its about a quarter of a tsp.
You will need to add the spinach gradually, letting each hand full wilt before you add the rest. Once it has all wilted you can add the eggs. If anyone is eating later I just take a portion of the sauce out of the pan and reheat it in a smaller pan before adding the eggs.
Now if your not happy about cracking the eggs directly into the pan, crack them into little preparation dishes or ramekins and carefully slide the eggs into the pan. Usually its two eggs per person. Put the lid on and cook on a very gentle heat for ten minutes. The yolks should still be runny and the whites cooked.
Garnish with lots of freshly chopped coriander leaves, a generous sprinkling of black pepper and serve with toast or any Indian bread of your choice. Homemade soft nans are a McCormack favourite.
Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I use hard boiled eggs then it is so easy to feed the minions later in the day. Sam will normally rush in for a quick lunch. He usually gives me a ring and by the time he has; locked up the studio, walked a couple of hundred metres, a plate of eggs in a spicy sauce is on the table, the nans have been warmed up in the microwave and one smug mum looks on. Sometimes, if I’m really pushed for time, I make up a simple tomatoes sauce just by sautéing a couple of cloves of garlic in the oil add the tomatoes and a few mins later some good quality balti paste, then the spinach. While this is reducing, hard boil your eggs or just plop your fresh eggs into little nests you’ve made in the sauce. Pop the lid on and in less than fifteen minutes you have a lovely light lunch or a brilliant breakfast. Just don’t tell anyone about this short cut. Needs must at times.
Things have moved on since I started this post. Mental health issues have plagued me. Ironically I have had plenty of time to write these posts. However, it just didn’t happen now I’m feeling much more on top of things so look out for a few more posts. Samuel is a student living in a shared student flat. Joseph is working in a local bakery and getting up at five seems like a unheard of luxury and we will be upping sticks and moving of this remote rock we’ve called home for 11 years.
I just had to sneak in a photo of Filska and Heath.