We may all still be finishing off chocolate eggs from last weekend, but eggs are still where I’m at. With their promise of hope and new life, eggs feel particularly right this weekend, as many of us anticipate Monday’s planned next step out of lockdown. Lots of us feel a bit like an uncooked egg at the moment: wobbly and fragile, encased in our shell. But now it’s time to crack things open. We may have got a bit set in our ways over the past year or so, but don’t forget we’re as protean as eggs themselves: versatile, able to change and to do things differently. We all just need some heat to do so.
I use the Thai Taste brand of sticky rice, which needs only a 30-minute soak and is widely available in supermarkets; if you use a different brand, check the packet for how long to soak it, because some can need as long as overnight.
Soak 30 min
Prep 15 min
Cook 35 min
For the peppers
4 small- to medium-sized red romano peppers, stalks on
4 large eggs
2 tbsp double cream
1½ tsp gochujang paste
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1½ tbsp (5g) coriander leaves
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
For the sticky rice
125g sticky rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes (or longer, depending on brand; see recipe intro)
100g kimchi, finely chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp gochujang paste
Turn the oven grill to its highest setting. Cut a slit along down the length of each pepper, making sure they remain attached at the top and bottom, then scoop out and discard the seeds and pith. Lay the peppers slit side up on a wire rack set over a large tray, grill near the top of the oven for seven minutes, then carefully turn so they are now slit side down and grill for another seven minutes, until the skin is blackened and bubbling in places. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the rack, still slit side down, so any liquid drains away.
Turn the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Drain the rice, then tip into a 24cm ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid. Add all the rest of the sticky rice ingredients, 180ml water and a third of a teaspoon of salt, and mix to combine. Bring up to aa simmer on a medium-high heat, then turn the heat down low, cover and leave to cook for six minutes.
Once the rice is partially cooked, arrange the charred peppers open side up in a row across the centre of the rice. Push the peppers down into the rice, then open each one out and season the insides with a good pinch of salt. Carefully crack an egg into each pepper hollow, so the egg is more or less enclosed (don’t worry if some of the white escapes), cover and bake for 12 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks runny.
While the eggs are cooking, mix the cream and gochujang in a small bowl. In a second bowl, mix the spring onions, coriander, sesame oil and a good pinch of salt. Drizzle the cream mixture over the eggs, top with the spring onion mix, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve hot with the lime wedges alongside.
This take on affogato doesn’t use an ice-cream base, but a baked custard to get a brulee effect. The cream can be made the day before, but take it out of the fridge about half an hour before serving, so it softens. The meringue brittle makes more than you need, but it will keep in an airtight container for up to a week and is a perfect mid-afternoon treat. This dish also works well without the shot of espresso.
Prep 15 min
Chill 3 hr
Cook 55 min
For the baked custard cream
200g double cream
200g whole milk
75g light brown sugar
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out and pod reserved
5 egg yolks – reserve two of the whites for the brittle, and save the rest for another use
⅛ tsp salt
For the meringue brittle
2 egg whites (see above)
⅛ tsp salt
150g caster sugar
50g blanched hazelnuts, toasted, half blitzed to a fine powder, the rest roughly chopped
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cider vinegar
40g desiccated coconut
4 shots freshly made espresso, to serve
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Mix all the ingredients for the baked custard cream in a small saucepan, put on a medium heat and cook, whisking often, for seven to 10 minutes, until it’s the consistency of a thin custard. Strain into a 30cm x 20cm baking dish, then bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes. The top will blacken in patches and the custard will look very curdled, but don’t worry: it’s meant to.
Transfer the custard to a small bowl, including all the crusty browned bits from the sides, then use a stick blender to blitz to a smooth, shiny cream. Refrigerate for about three hours, until cooled and thickened, by which time it should have a soft, pudding-like consistency.
Turn down the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3 and line a large, 39cm x 30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Put the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place, and whisk on medium-high speed for a minute or two, until foamy and starting to stiffen. Still whisking, drizzle in the caster sugar bit by bit, then whisk for another three to five minutes, until the meringue is thick and shiny.
Remove the whisk attachment and, using a spatula, fold in the finely blitzed hazelnuts, cornflour, cider vinegar and desiccated coconut. Dot a tiny blob of meringue underneath each corner of the greaseproof paper, so it sticks to the tray, then thinly spread the rest of the meringue mix over the top of the paper, making sure it covers the entire surface. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts all over the top, bake for 30 minutes, then remove and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, break the brittle into rough shards.
Spoon the cream mixture into four small glasses (martini glasses or ramekins will do) and top with a few meringue shards. Serve the espresso shots alongside, pouring as much or as little of the coffee over the cream as you like.