Wednesday, 2 May 2007


Here's another recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's 'The New Vegetarian' column in the Guardian's weekend magazine. This is an aromatic North African dish and it seems to be a real 'kitchen sink' type of dish that a lot can be added to--Ottolenghi suggests preserved lemon or feta, but I think that even some meat like lamb, especially if it was tender and falling apart, would go really well with it.

One of the joys of this dish was the scent in the house as I was cooking it. The herbs and saffron filled with air with a mouth-wateringly fragrant scent and it was hard to not pick too much from it while it was cooking.

The Recipe:

(Reproduced without permission from the Guardian's website. The recipe given is for 4, but I halved the quantities when I made it.)

½ tsp cumin seeds
190ml light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into 2cm strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bayleaves
6 sprigs thyme, picked and chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp saffron strands
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Up to 250ml water
8 free-range eggs

In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bayleaves, thyme, parsley and two tablespoons of coriander, and cook on high heat to get a nice colour. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavoursome. You can prepare this mix in advance.

Place four saucepans on medium heat and divide the mixture between them. Break two eggs into each pan, pouring into gaps in the mixture. Sprinkle with salt, cover and cook very gently for 10-12 minutes, until the egg just sets. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with chunky white bread.

What is healthy about this recipe: Since the recipe is mostly just vegetables, herbs, and spices, it's actually pretty good. The usual caveats about eggs apply, but everything in moderation...

What is seasonal about this recipe: Not that much, to be honest. If you're focused on seasonal eating, it's best to leave this dish to the late summer.

What I learned from this recipe: I'm usually a lot stingier with herbs than I was with this recipe--this one uses handfuls of chopped coriander and parsley--but I think that it's worth trying to use more herbs with other dishes because the results can be spectacular. I should also make an effort to incorporate more saffron into my cooking.

What I will change next time: I'd like to try the same dish but with different vegetables and maybe some meat.

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