Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Good, Ugly Supper

Consider yourself lucky that I don't have a camera handy. Piperade, a garlicky Basque speciality of stewed peppers, onions and tomatoes, into which eggs are lightly scrambled, is homely at best. Poaching or baking the eggs might limit the unattractive colour bleed, and a generous hand with the parsley could distract the eye, but piperade's sheer ugliness is hard to disguise.

No matter. This might not be dress-up and go-out food, or even set-the-table-for-dinner food, but it makes an undeniably moreish supper. The traditional accompaniment is salty, silky Bayonne ham, France's answer to the more famous Spanish serrano and Italian parma. But I had my fill of jamon with a bowl of this soup, so I added a bit of extra salt and proceeded without.

I used fresh tomatoes--a variety available here called Marmot, which look like little bean-bag chairs--and bell peppers; substituting good-quality tinned tomatoes and some jarred, roasted peppers would produce a deeper, rounder flavour. For a bit of heat and complexity in my version, I put in a pinch of Spanish smoked paprika; in southwest France, this would most likely be piment d'espelette, also known as ezpeletako biperra. Tabasco could even be used, though I'm generally of the opinion that it only belongs in Bloody Marys.

The ham might be optional, even some of the garlic, if you're sensitive about such things, but I wouldn't sit down without a big piece of crusty bread and a juice glass full of simple, robust wine. Oh, and finally, I've written this for Eat the Right Stuff's vegetarian blogging event. So check it out, for recipes that are far more inventive--and attractive--than mine.

I worked off a recipe from Marlena Spieler's Vegetarian Bistro, which differed in calling for red and green peppers (I forgot to buy the latter), marjoram and cayenne. Since her version made enough for six, I'm giving a scaled-down version with slightly different instructions.

Serves 2
Total time 30-35 minutes Active time 15 minutes
2 smallish onions
2 bell peppers
vine-ripened tomatoes, equivalent to about 1 1/2 cups chopped*
1-2 cloves of garlic
3 medium eggs (adjust based on the number of people eating, and the desired ratio of egg to sauce), not fridge-cold
smoked paprika or an equivalent
olive oil

Thinly slice onions. In a medium-sized, deep frying pan or skillet, heat enough olive oil to just coat the surface and add the onions. Season and allow to soften for about 10 minutes on a moderate heat. Coarsely slice the peppers and chop the tomatoes. First add the peppers, allowing these to cook for at least 10 minutes, or until they become almost silky. Now add the chopped tomatoes, giving about 5 minutes for them to soften, meld and give up their juice. (Allow a bit more time for flavour blending if you are using tinned tomatoes.) Slice or chop the garlic and add, along with the paprika. Cook for a few more minutes, adjusting the heat if necesary, until you have a dryish but coherent sauce. Turn the heat down to low. In a bowl, crack the eggs and whisk lightly with a fork.** Spoon in a bit of the sauce, then add the egg mixture to the pan, stirring gently to combine. Continue to stir until the eggs are just cooked through, then remove immediately from both the heat and the pan.

* If the only fresh tomatoes you can find look pale or cotton-woolly, substitute a can of plum tomatoes with most of the juice drained.
** At this stage you could also poach the eggs, though I would advise that you look for advice on how to do this elsewhere.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

I'd love to see a photo. It's sounds messy but I bet the colors are beautiful. Such a unique combination.