Friday, March 20, 2009

Polenta Farmer's Eggs (Huevos Rancheros)

I love brunch. It's so nice to start a Sunday by having a nice hearty meal with your friends or family. Unfortunately most brunch meals require spending the whole morning in front of a stove cooking and very little time actually enjoying the meal and the company.

This recipe is a variation of huevos rancheros that can be baked, allowing more time to enjoy the morning. Huevos rancheros is a popular breakfast in Mexico and the US meaning "eggs ranch-style" or "eggs country-style". The dish traditionally was served for on rural farms for a mid-day meal.

In Mexico, huevos rancheros is made with corn tortillas, vegetables and eggs. In Europe, corn tortillas can be hard to find so I've made this with polenta and added large quantities of vegetables to make a wonderful healthy brunch.

Polenta Farmer's Eggs (Huevos Rancheros)
3/4 cup (125 grams) of polenta
1.5 cups (375 ml) of water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tsp olive oil
1 green pepper diced
1 onion diced
1 can of diced tomatoes (drained)
6 eggs

  1. Combine the polenta, salt and water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. As soon as it boils, turn the heat off and let the polenta cool slightly and absorb all the water.
  2. Spread the polenta on the bottom of a greased 9x12 baking tray.
  3. Crush the coriander and cumin seeds in either a blender or a mortar and pestle (you can substitute powdered spices but the flavor will be milder)
  4. Saute the onions and peppers in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spices and drained tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Spoon the mixture on top of the polenta. Using a spoon make 6 indents in the vegetables where the eggs will go.
  7. Crack the eggs into the indentations.
  8. Cover the dish and cook at 180 degrees until the eggs have set. Approximately 20-25 minutes.

This recipe can be partially made the night before. Simply put the dish in the refrigerator after step 6 and finish in the morning.
Serves 3-6 people

Cooking time: 45 minutes
Active time: 15 minutes

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grandma's Tomato Sauce

Whenever I make this tomato sauce I'm reminded of my grandmother. She was a fantastic cook that could make almost any Italian dish without a recipe. She also was amazingly good at making food appear out of nothing. She would just look at what dried, frozen or canned ingredients she had in the house and somehow make a really nice meal from them. One thing that she always had frozen in the house were Italian fennel sausages. They were usually broken into pieces and mixed with beef mince in her lasagna. Occasionally she would make a rich tomato sauce out of the sausages serve it with a steaming bowl of spaghetti.

I now serve it with wholewheat pasta or spelt pasta because my tastes have matured a bit, but on the whole this is a recipe that Grandma would be proud of.

Grandma's Tomato Sauce
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil (for those of you who don't like to measure, a good glug)
1/2 an Onion or the white part of1 leek, diced
a large pinch of fennel seeds
1/4 of a red pepper, diced
4 Quigliano's Sausages (Italian Sausages)
2 Cans of diced tomatoes
Salt to taste
a pinch of hot pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a pot and fry the onion, fennel seeds and yellow pepper for 2 minutes. Remove the sausage meat from the casing and break into small pieces. Add the sausage pot and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the sausages are browned. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and hot pepper flakes as needed. Let simmer for at least another 10 minutes. This sauce can be served immediately but is best if left to sit overnight before serving.

You can also add minced vegetables such as courgettes, spinach, mushrooms or white beans to this sauce. Add the vegetables a few minutes before you serve the sauce so that they don't get over cooked.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 27 minutes