Are we bored of sprouts yet? Still got a few floating about the fridge? Here’s yet another way to use them up.

Ah, Brussels Sprouts. I love the little farty green spheres and I look forward to their arrival in the markets every winter. It wasn’t always this way. I actually remember the first and only time we boiled sprouts at home. It was the first time we bought them ever in Vancouver and my mother cooked them the only way she’d heard how – by boiling them to death. As you can imagine, they didn’t really go down well. Since then, I’ve eaten many a boiled sprout but I’ve also learned that roasting them or pan-frying them is the true way to go. Pan-frying them gets any cut edges beautifully brown and while they’re great to eat as is, here I incorporate them into a frittata.

I also make use of the fabulous crispy fried onions that are so popular in Scandinavia and Germany. I always have a tub to hand – for sprinkling on hot dogs (as they do up in those northern countries), topping frittatas or salads, or just snacking out of hand (terrible, I know). I’ve found them in most supermarkets and also at Ikea.

Sprout Frittata

Brussels Sprouts Frittata

Trim about a dozen Brussels sprouts and cut in halves or quarters depending on their size. Heat a 10 inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the Brussels sprouts and fry, turning occasionally until they start browning. Meanwhile, preheat your grill and beat together 5 large eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper. When the sprouts are as brown as you like them, and tender, reduce the heat and arrange the sprouts evenly in the pan. Pour over the beaten eggs and stir quickly to get as much of the egg to the heat. Pat down the mixture before it all sets. While the top still has not set, sprinkle generously and evenly with some crispy fried onions. When the bottom of the frittata starts to take on some colour, move the pan to under the preheated grill and cook until the top has set. Serve.

I’ve started cooking with the goodies I brought back from Orlando and first to be opened were the stack of corn tortillas I lugged back. Four were set aside for huevos rancheros for two and the rest frozen for another day. Hooray for delicious corn tortillas! At their most basic, huevos rancheros are tortillas, fried eggs and ranchero sauce, a tomato and chilli salsa and they’re normally served for breakfast. Well, if someone would kindly make me a hot savoury breakfast each morning, then I’d probably take part in this supposed most important meal of the day but as no one’s yet volunteered, I had these for dinner instead.

Eggs on Tortillas

Huevos Rancheros

There’s something supremely comforting about huevos rancheros – the combination of tomato and egg is certainly one we have encountered elsewhere but it’s such a classic. Apart from the corn tortillas (unless you live in the States), it’s likely you already have all the ingredients for this in your kitchen cupboards; here in the UK, corn tortillas can be purchased online or it’s perfectly fine to use the flour tortillas found in all major supermarkets. The recipe is also easily multiplied if you need to feed a small crowd.

Yolk

A Kitchen Cupboard Ranchero Sauce
makes enough for 4 servings.

1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
slices of pickled or fresh jalapeño
250ml vegetable stock
salt to taste

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the oil and butter. When both are hot, add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the crushed garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the cumin, oregano and cayenne and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, add as many pickled jalapeño slices to the tin of chopped tomatoes and blend them together (I used a stick blender). Add this and the vegetable stock to the pot, stir well to combine, and leave to simmer together until it’s reduced and thick (about 10-15 minutes). Salt to taste and serve as part of your meal.

Basic Huevos Rancheros

For each serving, you’ll need two tortillas (preferably corn but flour will do) and two eggs. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and heat the tortillas on both sides until brown spots appear – brushing first with oil is optional. Or even better (but I didn’t do it this time), fry your tortillas with lots of oil so they go all crispy. In same frying pan, heat some oil and fry your eggs in whatever style you prefer. I like my eggs to have runny yolks. Serve the eggs on top of the tortillas. Top with ranchero sauce and serve.

Great things to have on the side if you have them: fresh Mexican chorizo, refried beans, cheese, avocado slices, Mexican rice, fresh coriander.

Apart from a one day stopover when I was seven years old, this trip over the new year was my first time in Hong Kong. For the first time in a long time, this was a proper holiday with no work commitments; I was there to see one of my best friends who moved out there about two years ago. My trip was packed with catching up, seeing the sights and sampling as much of the local cuisine as possible. Thank you so much, M and S, for hosting me!

One of the first and best breakfasts I had (jetlag meant that I desperately needed a big meal in the morning) while there involved scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs. I went all the way to Hong Kong to eat scrambled eggs!

Australia Dairy Co.

Oh, but what luscious and silky scrambled eggs. They were from the famed Australia Dairy Company and when we visited one weekday, we found a queue going down the road. Not being in any rush, we joined the end of it and to our surprise, we found ourselves at the head of the queue (still going down the road) in about 10 minutes. It was soon apparent how they managed to turn over customers so quickly. Everyone was sat wherever possible, sharing tables if necessary. Your food arrived within 5 minutes of ordering and your bill was also ready when you finish for you to take up to pay at the counter next to the entrance. This was not a place to linger. We shared a table with two other friends having breakfast and while it was a bit cramped, it was never uncomfortable.

The short menu is either on Chinese on the table or brought in English separately. There are a few sets and then an a la carte menu that mostly consisted of the food in the sets served separately along with a few more bits and bobs – like I said, it’s short and they obviously specialise in dairy and eggs (it’s the “Dairy Company” after all though I have no idea if they have any relation to Australia). We both opted for a Breakfast Set (26 HKD): toast with butter, fried or scrambled eggs, macaroni with ham in chicken soup and coffee or milk tea. Scrambled with milk tea for both of us.

I think the macaroni soup is a good example of what they call soy sauce western food – there is obviously a western influence on this dish but nowhere in the west would you see a dish like this. This was certainly filling but not something for which I’d jump through hoops.

The Breakfast Set

But those scrambled eggs! I’d jump through a dozen flaming hoops for that plate of softly set yellow. The buttered crustless toast on the side was thick and fluffy perfect with it. All this and a hot milk tea really set us up for the day.

Scrambled Eggs and Buttered Toast

We also tried one of their egg custards (20 HKD). There are yellow (egg) and white (egg white and milk) versions and we tried a yellow. It’s very smooth and soft set and while I’m not a big fan of milk in general, it very slowly started to grow on me. Well, it didn’t grow on me enough to actually like it – we didn’t even manage to finish half.

Egg Custard

Egg Custards

Definitely recommended and if you happen to pass it and are feeling a bit peckish, do get their scrambled eggs (also available in a sandwich). I’ve got to learn to make eggs like they do.

Australia Dairy Company
47 Parkes Street
Jordan
Hong Kong

A stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock and strata is the plural of it. A strata is also this dish made of layers of bread and eggs – it’s pretty easy to see where its name must have originated. With a few hot dog buns leftover and some kale in the fridge drawer to use up, I set about putting together a strata for our dinner.

Kale and Cheese Strata

But wait! Before you read to this point and think, oooooh, I’ve got to have that for dinner, well, stop right there. This recipe requires the strata to rest for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator so a bit of preplanning is required. This was for our dinner the following day. The rest in the fridge allows the bread to soak up all the egg and milk poured overtop. All that’s needed on the day of eating is to take the dish out of the fridge, preheat your oven and then pop it in and let it bake. Simples.

A Portion of Kale and Cheese Strata

The result was this golden puffy delight – all crusty on top and tender underneath. Think of it as a savoury bread pudding that’s very adaptable: I can picture lots of other vegetables and cheeses that would work here and can even imagine a bit of chopped ham or crumbled cooked sausage in the layers. We had it for dinner, with some charcuterie on the side, because I wanted to try the recipe midweek but it would also be perfect as part of an easy breakfast or brunch.

Kale and Cheese Strata
adapted from a recipe at smitten kitchen.
serves 3-4.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups/large handfuls of chopped kale
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups/large handfuls of cubed bread
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano)
3/4 cup grated/chopped gruyere
4 eggs
300ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Throw in the chopped onion and fry until softened.

Set a pot of water boiling and boil the chopped kale until softened. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can. (Another way to do this is to add the kale to the onion, pour in a little water and slap a lid on the pan – the kale will steam in there but it might take a while, as I learned.) Mix together with the cooked onion. Season with a little salt, pepper and the grated nutmeg.

Mix together the cheeses and set aside.

Take a small-medium baking dish and layer your ingredients in it: bread, kale/onion, cheese, bread, kale/onion, cheese, bread, kale/onion, cheese. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, mustard and milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the layers in the baking dish. Cover the dish with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

When you’re ready to eat it, take the dish out of the fridge and uncover it. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius. When the oven is hot, place the dish into the centre and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or however long it takes for your strata to be golden brown on top, hot all the way through (I slipped a knife into the middle and then tested how hot the knife tip was) and puffing up gently.

Remove from the oven and serve.

When I first read of the combination of yogurt and poached eggs, I was quite sceptical. Really? I just couldn’t get my head around the liquid yolk paired with the tangy yogurt. But then more recently, this photo on Flickr had me wondering again. The answer is a resounding yes as I decided to make it at home topped with a chili spiced melted butter for a light supper one evening. The original dish is called Çılbır and comes from Turkey though I’m not sure what time of the day it’s normally eaten over there; I imagine it’s excellent for brunch. Garlicky thick yogurt, poached eggs with centres of liquid gold, and chili infused butter, all mopped up with accompanying slabs of Turkish bread; proper Turkish Aleppo pepper was not used but it was still good.

Turkish Eggs with Yogurt

In London, a version is available at the Providores and Tapa Room where whipped yogurt is use (I’ve not tried it). I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also offered up in the many Turkish cafes in Dalston.

And this is what I put together at home; what follows is not so much a recipe as just general guidelines. If I remember correctly, we had a salad of chopped cucumber and tomato on the side to cut the richness.

Turkish Eggs with Yogurt

Allow at least two eggs per person. Poach them. Crush a small clove of garlic into a generous amount of plain Greek yogurt. Divide the yogurt between your serving dishes. In a small pan/pot, heat approximately 1-2 tablespoons of butter per person. When the butter has melted, add some hot paprika, allowing it to be cooked into the butter, colouring it a deep orange-red. Top the yogurt with the poached eggs and drizzle over with the melted butter.

I didn’t have anything green to sprinkle on top but I reckon chopped fresh mint or flat leaf parsley would be lovely. Serve immediately, while the contrast between the hot eggs and the cold yogurt still exists, with some Turkish bread or pita on the side to mop up the yogurt and yolk.

There’s a stand at my local market that sells the most beautiful free-range eggs; the farmer’s name is David Emmett but it’s usually a woman or a boy manning the stall. I’m not sure what they feed their chickens but the yolks are consistently a gloriously, rich orange that I’ve not seen in any of the supermarket free-rangers. While they usually sell their eggs (medium or large sizes) by the dozen or half-dozen, about two weekends ago, they had small eggs. And not only that, they were selling them by the tray (30 eggs!) for only £2! I couldn’t help myself and walked, no, skipped off with a trayful.

But at home, where my tray seemed to take on mammoth proportions, there was the problem of what to make with them all. Well, for a start, cheese soufflé, one of the few dishes that Blai’s actually requested for me to make. I’ve made individual chocolate soufflés in the past but never a big one and so I turned to a blog whose recipes have never done me wrong: Orangette. Molly’s recipe is that of Julia Child’s, the doyenne of French cuisine, and with two such ladies backing this soufflé, I knew it should turn out reasonably well. Incidentally, I looked up the recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique and it’s pretty much the same.

Cheese Soufflé

We ate the light and fluffy, yet deceptively rich, cheesy soufflé with a simple salad on the side, with lots of vinegar in the dressing to cut through the creaminess from the main dish. Despite the richness, the two of us somehow managed to put away the whole thing, normally meant for four.

Soufflé and Salad

Cheese Soufflé
adapted from The Way to Cook, by Julia Child via Orangette.
serves 3-4.

2 tbsps finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I used another hard cheese – Grana Padano)
2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter and more for buttering
3 tbsps plain flour
1 cup (250 mL) milk
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
6 small egg yolks (or 4 large yolks)
7 small egg whites (or 5 large whites)
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat your oven to 200C, with the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Prepare your baking dish – I used a deep, round stoneware dish about 20cm in diameter. Butter the inside well and then dust all over with the grated hard cheese.

Now make the bechamel. Heat the milk and keep hot. Heat a small pot over medium heat and melt the butter in it. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook for a minute or two, taking care to keep stirring and not letting the mixture burn. Take off the heat and pour in all the hot milk at once. Stir furiously, you don’t want lumps! Place back on the heat, reducing it to low, and slowly cook for a few minutes until the bechamel is thick. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. When thick, take it off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Beat in (you can still use the wooden spoon) the egg yolks one at a time, incorporating well.

In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks are formed. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the bechamel mixture to lighten it first and then fold in the rest, alternating spoonfuls of egg whites with small handfuls of the grated gruyere. When everything is incorporated well, gently pour the souffle into the prepared baking dish. Use your spoon or a spatula to trace a circle in the souffle along the side of the dish.

Gently place the soufflé dish into the oven, closing the oven door as carefully as possible (do not slam it!). Now follow all the primary rule for good soufflés: do not open the oven door while it is baking! Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top should be golden brown and the souffle risen at least a couple of centimetres, maybe more – of course, if you’re unable to see through your oven door, I guess you’ll just be timing.

Take it out of the oven, marvel at the soufflé’s puffiness and serve immediately! A soufflé waits for no one! But really, if it doesn’t work out this time, a fallen soufflé is just as delicious as a risen one. As you can see, mine didn’t rise very evenly; there’s always room for improvement!

Cheese Soufflé

More excellent soufflé tips can be found at 101 Cookbooks. And also a thank you to Kim Kian for the lovely stoneware dishes!

You could call this breakfast for dinner, albeit a Mexican style one.

Beans and Eggs

I made a batch of these quick beans with cumin and oregano but used pinto rather than black as in the recipe. At least, I think they were pinto beans… As they were cooking, I took my trusty potato masher and gave the beans a good smash here and there and ended up with pseudo refried beans. Of course, you could always make truly refried beans from any leftovers from the recipe.

A few flour tortillas were heated up in my frying pan and the same pan was then used for frying a few eggs. Onto the plates went a couple of tortillas, a few large spoonfuls of the beans, some grated cheese, the fried eggs, sliced avocado and a sprinkling of chopped coriander. Can’t forget the salsa and sour cream on the side! It took almost no time at all and satisfied any Mexican food cravings I had!

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