Thursday, 13 February 2014

Putting Those Eggs into Baskets

Uova al Forno con Peperone, Couscous & Olive
Eggs Baked in Couscous, Peppers & Olives

Not just pretty, but pretty delicious too, these lovely little "baskets" of fun! So simple, both in their ingredients and their preparation, that you must surely love them! This is the kind of dish that will put a smile on your face, even in the most dreary Winter's day... or night for that matter!

Yes, this was my makeshift supper this evening and rather nice it was too! Filled with Sicilian flavors I love, like olives, mint, red peppers and thyme, this was indeed a great way to make the most of a couple of humble eggs and to transform them into something much more special... and a whole lot more fun!

So, what did I have to make supper out of this evening? Let me see... there were a couple of pointy, sweet red peppers, a couple of eggs, a handful of olives, an onion, some fresh parsley, basil and mint and of course couscous. Nothing exotic, nothing expensive and everything as down to earth as can be... and I like that.

Where to begin? Ok, apart from turning on the oven in advance, to get it nice and hot and ready, the first thing I did was to peel the peppers. And no, I didn't scorch them over a flame or under the broiler and then put them in a paper bag and all that... this was a weekday night and frankly- I didn't want to spending that extra time when I could simply pick up a vegetable peeler... that's all you need to do folks!

The next step was to thinly slice the peppers and the onion and to pop them into the frying pan with a good pinch of salt and sugar and a sprinkle of pepper... and just enough water to cover the base of the pan. That's right- water, not oil. The sugar soon dissolves into the water, the water soon boils away and the peppers and onion cook down nicely and caramelize slightly as they go. I find this to work perfectly well for my taste- you can choose to fry if you wish, but I prefer to do things my way... please don't hate me!

Whilst the peppers and onion were gently cooking away, I plucked the leaves from 3-4 sprigs of thyme and finely chopped a little handful of both parsley and mint leaves and added them, with 5-6 finely chopped olives, to the couscous. To make these 2 little individual servings, I filled 1 bowl with dry couscous and then tipped it into a larger bowl, with the chopped herbs and olives, a half teaspoon of salt and a nice grind of fresh pepper and then poured enough boiling water over it to cover it by about 1". And about 10 minutes later, it looked like this and was ready to use to start putting together our supper...

I spooned the couscous into the baking dishes I was going to use for serving and using a tablespoon, simply pressed the couscous firmly to the sides, out from the middle. You can't get much easier than that now, can you?

Next came the peppers and onion, which were also cooked and ready to go and just as hot as the couscous- which is important, because the more heat you can get into the eggs the better, so that they don't have to stay in the oven until forever to cook, running the risk of them becoming rubbery and tough. There are a couple of other thing you can try doing to avoid that... keep going and I will tell you when you get to the next picture- but first, squeeze those pepper and that onion out towards the sides too...

Obviously, the egg was the next thing to go into the baking dish, but first I added a good splash of boiling water, then cracked the eggs gently in on top of that. I carried on by pouring a little more boiling water over the peppers, the couscous and the egg whites- fear not- the couscous can do with the liquid and it will turn to steam in the oven and help to cook the egg. I put a little aluminum foil on top for the first 10 minutes of baking, on the middle shelf at 350°F, then removed the foil, added a light drizzle of olive oil to the couscous, peppers AND the egg and popped them back in for a further 5-10 minutes until the eggs had set properly and couscous had crisped over nicely on the outside.

The finished result had couscous that was wonderfully crispy on the outside, but moist and steamy down below... delicious with the herbs and olives when combined with the creamy egg yolk and sweet and tender peppers and onions... yes, I would call this one a winner!

These are all simple and clean flavors here, but the combination of egg and mint for example is already one of my all-time favorites... Once you try it out- you will know the reason why!

Food can be fun to eat without being trashy, it can be fun but nutritious and need never be boring. All you have to do is to stop and think and be brave and try. And as always- I am glad you decided to drop by and I hope you might try this yourselves sometime! Happy eating, my friends!

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