Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Egg-in-a-hole with charred red peppers and parmesan

The first time I ever saw egg-in-a-hole was in the film Moonstruck, one of my favorite films of all time. It was when Olympia Doukakis cooked breakfast for herself and her on-screen daughter and protagonist, Cher.

That close-up of the eggs being cracked into the cut-out hole in the bread, sizzling in the skillet with what I presume was red peppers on the side and then served on top, was the first time I’d ever experienced food porn. Mind you, I was quite young when I first saw the film and despised eggs at the time, but I was inexplicably intrigued. What was this? Why haven’t I seen it before? Why haven’t I eaten it?

Some years later, when I was all grown up yet still never having tasted egg in a hole, I attempted to recreate it; I have been making it ever since.

It’s a straightforward and simple dish, ideal for brunch or breakfast, especially after a night out drinking, lunch or light supper.

I kept the red peppers from the original dish in the film, which I charred, but also slightly jazzed it up with the addition of garlic and parmesan cheese. The flavors are simple yet so satisfactory. The savoriness of the eggs —cooked however you like, even though runny would suit the dish best— and the smoky quality of the charred peppers, the umami flavor of the parmesan, the earthiness of the whole-wheat bread and the rich smoothness of the butter, is all you need to have a delicious tasting dish that you can enjoy any time of the day.

Egg-in-a-hole with charred red peppers and parmesan

I prefer using whole-wheat bread or rye, preferably sourdough, as it has more depth of flavor, but any country style bread will do. Please don’t use sandwich bread though, it doesn’t do this simple dish any justice.

Yield: 2 servings

2 thick slices fresh, whole-wheat bread (from a crusty loaf, not sandwich bread)
1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ long red pepper, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium-sized eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of finely grated parmesan

Butter the bread slices generously on both sides with the softened butter and using a round cookie-cutter or the rim of a small glass, cut a hole in the center. Keep the centers; you will cook them as well.

In a medium-sized frying pan, non-stick and big enough to fit the two bread slices comfortably, add the olive oil and heat over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the pepper strips and cook them, stirring often, until they start to caramelize and char around the edges. Be careful not to take them too far and burn them because they will taste too bitter. About a minute before they are done, add the minced garlic and sauté, stirring continuously. Transfer peppers and garlic to a bowl and set aside.

Keeping the pan hot on the stove, still over a medium heat, add the buttered bread slices, arranging the centers you had cut out around the edges of the pan. Cook one side of the bread until a bit crusty and golden, for about 2 minutes, and then flip it over. Immediately break the eggs into the holes of the two bread slices, put a lid on the skillet (any lid you have that fits the frying pan will do, it doesn’t need to be tightly sealed), and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. For the yolks to stay a bit runny, they’ll need about 4 minutes.

Transfer to individual plates, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the charred peppers on top. Finally, sprinkle with the parmesan and eat immediately.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Strawberry chamomile sorbet

When I made the chamomile syrup to serve with the meringues and strawberries last week, I immediately thought that it would be fantastic in a sorbet.

I came up with this one, made with strawberries, not only because I can’t get enough of them, but also because the combination of strawberries and chamomile is heavenly, to say the least, with flavors that complement each other in the most unique way.

It’s simple and quick to make and the outcome is a refreshing, incredibly flavorful sorbet, guaranteed to cool you down and sweeten your senses.


Strawberry chamomile sorbet

The sweetest and tastiest the strawberries, the better the flavor of the sorbet.

You don’t need to make popsicles, but I rather enjoy the single serving that makes it also easier to eat. You can alternatively churn the sorbet in an ice cream machine and serve in scoops.

Yield: 10 popsicles (about 90 ml each)

500 g fresh strawberries
200 g chamomile syrup (see here how to make it)

Special equipment: blender or food processor, fine sieve, popsicle molds or vodka shot glasses, wooden sticks

Prepare the chamomile syrup following the instructions here.

Rinse the strawberries and hull them. Place them in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and into a bowl to get rid of the seeds. Be careful not to throw away even a drop of the precious strawberry pulp!
Add the chamomile syrup and stir to combine. Give it a taste and if it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more syrup or, alternatively, you can add a bit of icing sugar. Mix well, especially if you added any icing sugar in order to dissolve it completely, and empty the mixture into the popsicle molds or shot glasses, filling them by ¾.
Place in the freezer. Once the sorbet begins to set, add the wooden sticks. Leave the sorbet popsicles in the freezer for 3-4 hours or until completely set.

Taking out the popsicles from the molds or shot glasses is a piece of cake as long as the sorbet has set properly. Run the sides of the mold/shot glass under cold running water and holding the wooden popsicle stick with your hand, pull the popsicle out. You’ll probably feel some resistance at first, but it will eventually come out.

Alternatively, you can pour it into an ice cream machine and then in a suitable container and into your freezer, thus making simply a sorbet and not pospicles.

You can keep the sorbet in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Meringues with strawberries, crème fraîche and chamomile syrup

Dutch strawberries are divine, a word I don’t normally use to describe anything, let alone fruit, but there is no other word to accurately describe them. I am amazed each and every year by how beautiful their flavor is and those perfectly ripe, juicy ones are unforgettable and you want their taste to last for hours, much like the first kisses with someone you really like.

I wanted to incorporate them in a dessert but nothing that would mask, overwhelm or hide their flavor, so this unassuming yet scrumptious dessert came to life.

Meringues, crème fraîche, strawberries, mint leaves and a chamomile and lemon syrup. Subtle flavors, floral, fruity, aromatic.

While the crackly meringue that’s marshmallowy and chewy inside and crispy outside is quite sweet, the crème fraîche comes in to bring balance with its tanginess. The juicy, slightly tart and sweet strawberries lend their freshness and the chamomile syrup ties everything together with a gentle, calming yet intensely aromatic hug with hints of acidic lemon. Topping it off with a few leaves of bright mint that are not there as a garnish but a true flavor addition, completes the dessert.

It’s a great dessert to close a dinner with friends or to enjoy with your significant other.

Meringues with strawberries, crème fraîche and chamomile syrup

These meringues are large individual ones; that’s how we like them, voluptuous and plump. For some, perhaps, they may be too much for one serving, so unless you share it, then you may want to make them a bit smaller.

The chamomile syrup, which is not thick, would also work perfectly in cocktails and sorbets.

Yield: 5 generous servings


for the meringues
See recipe here (make sure to read the whole post for tips on how to successfully make them)

for the chamomile syrup
200 g granulated white sugar
250 g water
Zest of 1 lemon (in strips, not grated)
4 tsp dried chamomile flowers

to serve
About 200 g crème fraîche
Fresh strawberries
Small fresh mint leaves


for the meringues
See recipe here and make sure to read the whole post for tips on how to successfully make these meringues.

for the chamomile syrup
You can make it 4-5 days ahead.
In a small saucepan, add sugar, water and lemon zest, and place over a high heat, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and remove immediately from the heat. Add the chamomile and stir. Put the lid on and let the syrup infuse for 1 hour. Then, pass the syrup through a fine sieve and into a clean bowl and discard the chamomile.
Allow the syrup to cool completely.
Keep it in the fridge, tightly covered. It keeps for a month.

Place the meringues on individual serving plates. Crush the centers with the back of a spoon and top them with a good dollop of crème fraîche. Arrange a few strawberries on top, halved if they are big.
Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the chamomile syrup or more to taste. Add a few very small mint leaves and enjoy immediately!