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Should we talk about how I’m a baking blogger who’s not entirely sure how to successfully poach an egg?

In fact, I’ll do you one better: we could talk about how I’m a baking blogger who is entirely sure of how to unsuccessfully poach an egg.

What’s that? Did I hear someone at the back say we could absolutely agree to discuss neither? GOLD STAR FOR THAT GUY. Excellent idea, that guy, don’t let anyone tell you you’re a figment of my imagination, conjured purely (and briefly, sorry) to get off the subject of poaching eggs and on to baking them (you’ve been great, btw, thanks that guy).

SO. Baked eggs.

I recently scored a week of freelance subbing work for Soho House (this is as close as I get to a humblebrag), and while doing a bit of nosing about their site to get an idea of the content I’d be working with, I came face-to-face with a page of delicious-looking recipes. This one stuck out at me as both doable and delectable (I can ask for no more from a fancy recipe from a fancy place for fancy people). It also struck me as hackable.

Why would I hack a perfectly simple, tasty recipe? Two reasons.

ONE: the recipe needed a tweak anyway, as it mentions butter melting into (or on, or near) the pan of tomatoes, and there is no butter on the ingredients list, nor can I think of an acceptable reason to add butter to tomato sauce.
[climbs onto soap box]: this is Why Sub-editors, ladies, gents and misc!

TWO: parsley salad.
I’m sorry, I really am, but I just can’t with parsley and no amount of cajoling or mocking will change that. And since what ever I cook for this blog goes in my tummy, via my face, I’d prefer if what I produce is something I genuinely would – happily, if at all possible – eat.
You’ve seen me deal with parsley in a recipe by simply leaving it out. What you haven’t seen me do is tackle a list of herbs intended to go into a sort of afterthought-salad, and turn my childish aversion to one of them into divine inspiration: after changing up the herbs for an Italian vibe, I realised that with the addition of pine nuts I could turn a vague scattering of greens into a punchy sauce – a summery pesto – that would go very well with a few flakes of parmesan, if that’s how you roll (and, dude, I’d roll around in it so…). Thus did a Turkish-style dish get a big, garlicky kiss from an inkling of Italy.

I started work on this by making the garnish first. Might as well have the pesto ready to go when the main dish is done, rather than messing around peeling garlic and throttling bits of lemon in the few minutes it takes the eggs to simmer and bake.

Not much needs doing in the way of prep, just pull the basil leaves from their stems and give the garlic a quick chop.

<< We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post (yes, fine, these things are about as regular as freak hail storms, thank you) to bring you breaking news of a CRAZY MUTANT GARLIC CLOVE…>>

<<…and now, back to the random pesto-related thing you were reading. We apologise for getting so excited.>>

I realise it seems a bit mad to chop a clove of garlic that’s about to go into a blender, but suspect we’ve all had that moment of finding an unexpected chunk of un-blitzed strawberry in our homemade smoothie, right? Let’s not have that happen with garlic in our brunch.

That done, chuck it all in a blender, give it a whizz then set aside. It can watch you cook, if it likes.

On to the sauce for the eggs, which involves more garlic, some herbs and spices (spice discussion to follow) and a tin of tomatoes. (That’s the pesto watching from its blender over there – it was really supportive actually. And tasty.)

Then it’s a matter of heating some oil, softening the garlic a bit then mixing in the herbs and spices to warm and release some aroma into the oil. Before the tomatoes go in, let’s have that spice talk.

I’m going to hack  my own hack – or add to it – and strongly recommend swapping out the original recipe’s chilli flakes (still picking them out of my teeth as I type) with smoky paprika. The dish could use the depth.

I’ve edited the written-up recipe, because I’m a nice person, but am putting my foot down re: going back and remaking the dish just to get a photo of paprika in a skillet. I’m nice, but not that nice.

To quote John Lennon: imagine there’s paprika / I wonder if you can / instead of all the chilli flakes / cooking in this pan… (Yoko made him take that line out of the final version – smart woman.)

Moment of insanity, over. For now.

In go the tomatoes, which simmer for a bit and are then joined by the eggs. When the whites start to set, it’s time to put the whole production in the oven.

After just a few minutes of baking – you want the yolks to remain runny – remove the pan from the oven.

Time to get this dish all dressed up in some choice Italian accessories.

I promise that bread is actually toasted. It just doesn’t look it. We’re not going to talk about the grill in my oven right now because the cat has instituted a ‘swear tax’ in an attempt to curb my language, and I’m running out of crunchy treats to forfeit.

The verdict on my eggs in purgatory hack: chilli issue aside, it’s quite a successful conversion. The pesto adds a bit of texture and is bright and zingy against the warm, spicy sauce, and the scattering of cheese ties all the flavours together and adds a bit of ‘oomph’. Which might be American for ‘umami’.

Would and will make again. On the outlandish assumption that you might want to get in in this too: have a recipe.

Now then. (Then, actually, not now.) I’ve been teasing you about doughnuts, haven’t I… I’m a beast. A beast who, alchemist’s honour, genuinely has a doughnut post for you, waiting so closely in the wings you’d be able to smell it, were it not for the two cloves of garlic I’ve just cooked.

Brace yerselves, kids, it’s a grumpy one.

With a happy ending because, I mean, doughnuts.

BRB.

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