Bloke in the Kitchen. Chakchouka: Moroccan tomato-poached eggs

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

Chakchouka: Moroccan tomato-poached eggs with (optional) flatbread

chakchouka 2
This is the kind of thing, but in this case you see it’s chopped fresh tomatoes.

This is usually used as a breakfast, but in many respects it is more like a dinner. It’s just that eggs are often seen as a morning thing, and here we’re basically making a spicy tomato sauce and poaching eggs in it.

Some people say this is a good hangover cure, and maybe it would help, but not so much because of what it contains. It may help your hangover if you’re the one making it because it is the only breakfast I know that makes you think and keeps you busy for half an hour, taking your mind off how you feel.

There’s a bit of flatbread-making involved, which takes a while but is not difficult even if you’ve never made bread before. It’s not like a loaf that contains yeast to make it rise: it’s just flour, oil and water, really. If you’re going to do that, it needs to be done (or at least the dough made and ready to cook) first. Alternatively you can use any kind of bread, from ordinary toast or French to naan, all of which will serve the purpose even if they’re not authentic.

COWBOY TIP

If you’re a complete novice at bread-making, have a go in private some time so you can make a few mistakes and it doesn’t matter. But really, it’s childsplay and you’ll get a kick out of it if it’s even half-decent.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO DO THE BREAD, HERE’S HOW. IF NOT, SKIP TO MAIN DISH

flatbread
The bread doesn’t have to be perfectly round. You’re going to rip it apart and use it to scoop up the sauce and eggs

INGREDIENTS (FOR THE FLATBREAD)

Plain flour

Olive oil

Water

Salt

METHOD (FOR THE FLATBREAD)

Put three good  handfuls of flour plus a pinch of table salt into a mixing bowl and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it up so the oil is absorbed and the flour is not powdery. Add a cup of warm water and mix well with something like the handle of a wooden spoon.

COWBOY QUESTION 1

Q. Why use “something like the handle of a wooden spoon”?
A. Because once you add water, until you get the consistency right it’s going to be very sticky. If it is too wet and you use your hands it gets stuck between your fingers and is hard to get off and generally a pain in the artichoke.

When the dough is tamed and spongy but not wet, knead it thoroughly with your hands.

COWBOY QUESTION 2

Q. What does knead mean?
A. It is the process of squeezing, leaning, punching etc. that gets dough ready.

Keep the flour handy and use a little on the dough and your hands if it’s still sticky. When the dough springs back a bit when you press it, it’s ready.

Spread some flour on a flat surface (chopping board, worktop etc.), divide the dough into small handfuls and roll them one at a time in the flour, then dust the rolling pin with flour (again, to prevent sticking) and roll the dough out so it’s about the size of pitta bread but a bit thicker.

Heat a frying or griddle pan without oil so it’s pretty hot, and drop your bread in for five minutes or so. Keep an eye  on it and check underneath. When it’s a bit singed on one side, turn it (with just one in a pan you can flip it like a pancake, but easier).

INGREDIENTS – MAIN DISH (for two people)

One medium tin of chopped tomatoes (400 grams)

Green pepper (1)

Onion (1)

Garlic (1 clove)

Chilli (one, deseeded, chopped small) or chilli flakes (half a teaspoon)

Eggs (one or two each)

METHOD

Heat a good, heavy frying pan, big enough to keep the eggs apart while they cook but small enough that the tomato mixture is at least half an inch deep.

Chop the onion quite small and fry gently in a little olive oil until it is translucent.

Add the chopped green pepper and continue gently until that is soft.

Add the chopped or crushed garlic and the chopped chilli or chilli flakes and continue for two minutes.

Pour in the tinned tomatoes, add a little salt and pepper and let it bubble gently for 15 minutes.

Make small wells in the tomato mixture (push in a cup, small bowl, orange etc.) and crack an egg into each. Let them cook there for a few minutes until the whites are set.

Serve on dinner plates with a flatbread each.

I told you it was a bit labour-intensive, but with this process plus some juice,  coffee and tea, any hangover should be receding. If you started off with a clear head, good for you.

chakchouka 1

 

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. Lancelot Salad: vegetarian with artichokes and pasta

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

lettuce
Yes, we’re using this. Lettuce. Mr Clean. Mr Bland. But we’re giving him a makeover. We’re giving him muscles, wit, power.

The very mention of the word ‘salad’ might suggest that it would be suitable for vegetarians, but that’s just not true. In some places (fast food outlets, for instance) they are quite likely to put bacon bits in there just so you don’t get away with eating healthily. If you think of a salad as something that contains lettuce, that’s just the classic plateful. Salads are usually cold, but can involve cooked vegetables. They can be warm, too – nothing technically wrong with that.

The one we’re looking at here is a vegetarian version of a tuna one we did a few months ago. It’s got lettuce and cold pasta, but if you take out the tuna, that’s all the protein gone. We are going to replace that with eggs. And we’re going to liven it up with artichokes and walnuts. If you never thought you would end up using artichokes – those spiky, weird things that look like medieval weapons and seem barely edible, be grateful to the people who cut them, prepare them and put them in jars.

The dish is a balance of vegetables, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and pasta, which gives it carbohydrates and bulk. But if you think of a meal of just pasta and lettuce, it’s like a film with no action, so we’re packing it with grenades of flavor.

penne
Get some of these down you, lettuce boy.
artichokes
And these: artichokes. You feeling tough yet?

IMPORTANT

Make more than enough. It’s not hugely filling and if you make a good one, people may well want seconds.

The choice of leaves is crucial, too, as some of the common types can be bitter. The very floppy green ones are just a bit too 1960s, when the world thought lettuce was lettuce and that was it. Iceberg is crunchy and easy to use but lacks flavor.

COWBOY TIP

If you’re not sure, buy a bag of mixed leaves. That will save you having to clean and chop them anyway, although unless it says on the bag that they’re washed and ready to eat, give them a rinse in a colander and a good shake to get rid of the water.

INGREDIENTS

Penne (or farfalle (bowties) or fusilli or rotini (the twisted ones)

Lettuce (cos or romaine)

Soft boiled eggs (one per person)

Artichokes (a jar or two, ready to use)

Walnuts (a bag or two, shelled and ready. Pecans would do)

Olive oil

Fresh lemons

walnuts
Walnuts. Do you know how much Vitamin C they contain? A lot, that’s how much

METHOD

Boil the pasta, drain it, return it to the pan, fill the pan with cold water and repeat until the pasta is cool. Make sure it ends up dry.

Boil the eggs (see below), cool them in the same way and shell them carefully.

Unless you have your own tried and tested way, try this: Put the eggs in the saucepan, cover them with cold water by about half an inch (1cm), bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and give them four minutes. Then get them into cold water so they don’t cook any further.

Put the pasta in a big salad bowl and add about the same quantity of leaves. Add the artichokes (drained, but a little of the liquid won’t hurt, because it has flavour). Sprinkle in the walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze on half a lemon for two people, more for more people.

Mix it up (with your hands is best, or use salad utensils).

Serve in big bowls if you have some, big plates if you don’t, and place the egg halves on top. Make sure there is salt and pepper on the table.

eggs
Boiled eggs. Just enough to set them. Don’t boil them to death, but you don’t want them bleeding all over the place either