Smoky Turkish eggs (Cilbir)

When it comes to easy and nutritious food, you can’t go wrong when choosing an egg. They can be cooked in minutes and provide protein aplenty, minerals such as selenium, iron and zinc, as well as various B vitamins.

Eggs are, without a doubt, also one of the tastiest things on the planet. Who doesn’t love an egg of the poached variety on top of their smashed avocado, unctuous yolk dribbling seductively down the toast? And I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy a side of creamy, fluffy scrambled with their smoked salmon or bacon.

When I started to reduce my intake of animal products in the wake of Veganuary, I thought that cheese or milk chocolate would be my number one yearning, But no, the humble egg was what I missed most on those days that I was consuming mainly plant based food. I craved an egg mayo sarnie for lunch, and lamented the lack of eggy bread in my life for speedy breakfasts. Thankfully, I’m only reducing my animal produce, not eliminating completely, so my eggy treats can still be enjoyed, usually at a weekend as part of a lazy brunch or leisurely lunch.

Versatility is the egg’s forte. They’re a speedy nutritious meal in and of themselves, and can be cooked so many different ways: boiled, fried, “cloud” (just search on instagram if that’s an enigma to you…). Not only that, but they’re an integral binder and raising agent in so many of our old faithful recipes such as sponge cakes, pancakes and souffles. Custards are given a silky richness from eggs, and brownies can be made super luxurious by the addition of a couple of extra egg yolks (a trick learned from Nigel Slater aka brownie maker extraordinaire).

And meringue. MERINGUE. Well, however magical aquafaba is (and it is spookily cool what you can do with what is effectively leftover ‘bean-juice’), meringue just isn’t the same made without stiff egg whites whipped into glossy, billowing towers of sugary goodness.

Eggs and I haven’t always had the best relationship, however. When my son was a baby we had the most memorably dramatic incident in a restaurant whilst on holiday in the Black Forest, Germany (a beautiful part of the world with incredible food incidentally).

We’d just finished our main course (I’d had schnitzel and it was delicious- funny, if not entirely unpredictable, how my memory latches onto the details of ‘significant’ meals) and were just about to order dessert (kasekuchen, if I remember correctly) from the pleasant, yet reservedly aloof waiter when my little boy starting being sick. Or should I say, vomited his ENTIRE meal. Violently. Projectile fashion

The poor waiter was covered, not to mention our table, the surrounding wall and floor area, and even a few other diners got “splashed” a little. Oops.

There were no pleasantries from our fellow patrons, and, lacking the unrelenting politeness of a Brit, the waiter did not hide his contempt at the situation. Mortified, hubby and I apologised profusely. Avoiding the steely glances of staff and customers, we attempted to mop up the mess with a few baby wipes (they didn’t cut it, if you’re wondering) paid quickly (leaving an extravagant tip) and left without tasting the dessert I’d been looking forward to all day.

That signalled the start of my son’s allergy. After another few incidences (at home, thankfully) we realised he couldn’t handle egg in a ‘pure’ form. His reactions got worse (hives and breathing problems alongside the vomiting), so perhaps we should be grateful that the Germany incident only costed us our dignity. And a super generous tip.

So, despite my little boy’s allergy, I still cook eggs regularly for the rest of the family, not least because they’re a cheap, nutritious way to feed a crowd.

This recipe encapsulates the very essence of the Pennywise Pantry. It’s fancy enough to share with guests for a midweek supper or weekend brunch (the luxury of the smoky butter and thick, whipped yogurt ensures that), yet is incredibly cost-effective and simple, using ingredients that you’ll often have in your fridge and store cupboard.

The smoky paprika butter complements the sweetness of the roasted pepper, (the addition of which is not in any way authentic, but a lovely accompaniment) and the heat of garlic and chilli gives this dish a heady exoticism which means there’s a bit of intrigue to your brunch dish.

Just remember to warm your bowls first; you want to take the chill off the yogurt in order to ensure a seamless creamy merging of ingredients.

The peppers are my off -piste addition but go pretty well I think.

So enjoy your turkish eggs or “Cilbir” with family and friends, in the comfort of your own home, free from watching eyes, austere waiters and safe in the knowledge that no panic apologies will be at all necessary.

You’ll only be sorry you hadn’t tried them sooner.

Smoky Turkish eggs (Cilbir)

Ingredients (serves 2)

200g plain full-fat Greek yogurt

1 tbsp. finely chopped coriander (or dill, which is more traditional, but not my preferred herb)

1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste with coarsely ground sea salt

100 ml white vinegar

4 eggs

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tbsp. Olive oil

1 tsp. Aleppo pepper OR half tsp paprika mixed with half tsp chilli flakes

1 jar of sweet roasted peppers and crusty bread, to serve.

Method

Warm two bowls whilst you whisk the yoghurt, garlic and salt together. Ensure they’re well combined, then put to one side.

In a small pan heat the butter over medium heat until pale brown. Take off the heat and add the chilli flakes/paprika mixture, letting it warm through and sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the remaining olive oil.

Add the vinegar to a medium sized saucepan filled with water. Poach the eggs by cracking them onto a saucer then slipping into the simmering water — runny centres will need roughly 5 minutes cooking (depending on size).

Toast or cut your bread while the eggs are cooking.

Put a few tablespoons of the yogurt in each warmed bowl, then sit a drained poached egg on top. Spoon over the remaining yoghurt and add a tablespoon of the roasted peppers . Stir the butter/oil mixture and drizzle generously over the yogurt then scatter with the coriander or dill.

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