Forget insipid weetabix mush, and cardboard-tasting cornflakes. I could happily start every day with a spicy breakfast. If I’m really treating myself, then I’ll begin the day with Indian akuri, or green chilli-scrambled tofu. The perfect way to blow away the cobwebs first thing in the morning, along with a feisty little cup of coffee.
A really delicious way of introducing a bit of spiciness to a morning meal is in stewed tomatoes. In fact, stewed tomatoes with cooked eggs is such an indisputably tasty dish, it’s enjoyed worldwide. In the Middle East, it’s known as shakshuka, and spices like cumin are often cooked with the onions and peppers. In Mexico, it’s known as huevos rancheros and dried Mexican chillies are cooked along with the onions and peppers.
In America, the dish is known as Eggs in Purgatory. It’s more of a modern middle ground, using pantry ingredients like tinned tomatoes and dried chillies. Anything really, as long as the slow-cooked sauce looks sufficiently fiery and hell-like.
As you can see, there is no single, strict recipe with a dish like this. I’ve written a basic recipe below. But I’ve toyed with lots of variations in the past, for example substituting the brown onion for a red onion, and serving with crumbled feta on top. It’s also lovely if you serve it with a generous amount of Claudia Roden’s dukkah heaped on top, and jalapeños in brine have also made a super addition. The key is that you cook it nice and slowly, so that the kitchen fills with lots of lovely smells and entices people down to the table for an indulgent breakfast.
Serving tip: If you’re catering for lots of people, then make a big batch of the stewed tomatoes. Divide into ramekins, hollow out a little hole, and break an egg in it. Put the ramekins on a tray, and then cook at 180C for 10 minutes, or until the white is set. You won’t have soft yolks, but it’s a really efficient way of feeding lots, and is absolutely delicious. Finely grate parmesan on top for extra goodness.
Eggs in purgatory, serves 4 – 6
2 onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 medium-hot chilli(es)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
Pinch of salt
1 egg per person
Coriander, to garnish
To serve: Percy Ingle sourdough (£1.19!), or a french baguette
1. Heat some oil in a pan. Add the onion and peppers, and cook on a gentle heat. Don’t rush this. It will take at least 15 minutes.
2. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook for a couple more minutes.
3. Stir in the paprika, then add the passata and tinned tomatoes, and cook until the sauce reduces to a loose chutney-like consistency. Season with a little salt.
4.Use a spoon to make four little hollows in the sauce. Crack the eggs into the holes. Let them cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes, and then put a lid on the pan (or a metal tray on top of the pan), and cook covered for 2-3 more minutes.
5. Garnish with coriander, and then serve with some crusty bread.