KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Austerity seems to be the topic du jour amongst my friends. The economy’s not doing great, everyone tells me. I can tell, not from any financial reports but the fact my foodie pals are spending less on dining out.
And so it was with me when I delved into my pantry and fridge over the weekend and found some scraps – a trio of chicken eggs, some leftover strips of bacon, a quarter packet of grated cheese and some potatoes that have seen better days. It would have been easier to eat out but it would be remiss of me given the food I had on hand.
Waste not, want not. But what do I do with these sparest of ingredients?
That’s when I remembered a conversation I had recently with a friend. She was lamenting the rising prices of food, in particular brunch dishes at local hipster cafés.
“I know they call it shakshouka and I know they’re using ‘premium’ sausages and organic tomatoes... but really, RM20 for baked eggs?” she exclaimed.
“Or more,” I said. Prices only go up, after all, don’t they? Never down.
Now I didn’t have any sausages or tomatoes at home, premium/organic or otherwise, but I did have those eggs. How difficult could it be to bake some eggs in my own kitchen? As it turned out, not very difficult at all, and the meditative rhythm of preparing the ingredients makes for the start of a relaxing weekend at home.
Once the baked eggs are out of the oven, it’s time to dig in with a spoon, scooping out gooey concoction that is part egg, part cheese, part bacon, part potato, and 100 per cent comfort.
When the last bits have been scraped from the bottom of the ramekins, all that is left is to do is let them soak in soapy water and for the chef (and lucky dining companions) to relax and sip some freshly brewed black coffee (and it doesn’t have to be a fancy — and expensive — single origin filter brew; Nescafé would do very nicely indeed).
BAKED EGGS WITH BACON AND POTATO
Since the ingredients — eggs, bacon and potatoes — are so basic, you get more flavours by using the best you can. (Even with the economy the way it is; these aren’t foie gras or truffles, so they won’t really break the bank.)
Take the eggs, for example. Free-range eggs (basically kampung eggs) are usually more delicious than ones from battery farm hens, and more nutritious too, if the Internet and celebrity chefs are to be believed.
The seasoning here is simple: just dried herbs, sea salt and black pepper. To jazz up this dish, feel free to experiment with your favourite herbs and spices — from fresh coriander to Chinese five spice. A dash of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce on the finished dish wouldn’t go amiss either.
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 strips bacon
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 200°C. Put the peeled and cubed potatoes into a pot of water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 6 minutes and then drain. Heat one tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. Add the parboiled potato cubes, dried herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Pan fry till slightly crispy on the edges, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
Place the strips of bacon on a baking tray. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of butter (melted). Allow to crisp in the oven, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Inside each ramekin, line the sides with the now cooled strips of bacon; two strips to each ramekin. Spoon the pan-fried potato cubes into the ramekins until half full. Sprinkle the Cheddar cheese over the potato cubes.
Crack an egg into the centre of each ramekin. Sprinkle more salt and pepper over each egg. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the eggs are set but still runny in the centre. Serve immediately, one for each person.
For more Weekend Kitchen stories and recipes, visit http://devilstales.com/weekend-kitchen/