If you haven’t heard, eggs have taken over the Instagram world. Tags like #yolkporn and #eggporn and open face sandwiches with molten yolk centres have invaded social media. The simple reason why eggs have become the superstars of the food instagramers is that they’re easily available, cheap, nutritious and beautiful to look at.
I love eggs in all its forms – fried, boiled, omelette, poached etc. However, when I was younger, I detested runny yolks and the soft boiled eggs that are a Singaporean breakfast staple. I could only tolerate the hard boiled eggs and the ones my grandma poached in sambhar. My grandma was an adventurous cook for her time as I have never seen anyone add eggs to sambhar. She called it ‘Muttai Sambhar’ and I recall sitting on the high stool in her long, shophouse kitchen and pouring ladlefuls of hot sambhar and floating eggs onto my pile of rice. Just marvellous!
Fast forward many years later, I’d rather have a molten centre egg then a hard-boiled one, especially he ones with the grey rings around the yolks. For this simple, everyday egg masala, I’ve chosen to add semi-set eggs with a slightly molten yolk as opposed to the traditional hardboiled eggs. I love the creamy, lusciousness against the spicy and jammy masala. You could use any type of hardboiled eggs you like and if time is short, you could also crack the eggs into the masala after it’s cooked and gently poached them like you would for a Shakshuka. The key to easily peeling hard boiled eggs is to immerse room temperature eggs into simmering water. Immediately after they’re taken out of the hot water, add them to a bowl of ice-cold water. The shells come off easily. I cooked my eggs for 8 minutes to get the molten yolk effect for my egg masala.
When I’m pressed for time or when I run out of ideas for dinner, I make this simple but utterly delicious Egg Masala dish. I always have the ingredients at home and sometimes I even throw in some firm tofu or precooked potatoes to stretch the meal. You’ll need a wide base, thick-bottom pan, like my Le Creuset Buffet Casserole, to quickly reduce and cook the sauce. The wide base allows the liquid to evaporate quickly and thick cast iron evenly cooks the masala. As there is no meat added to this dish, a lot of flavour is developed from the browning of the onions [photo 3 below] and the cooking out of the masala paste that leaves a brown layer called fond [photos 5,8, &9] This is a distinct difference in cooking curries and stews in a good cast iron pan versus a non-stick pan as the fond is what gives depth and flavour to all slow-cooked dishes. That glorious deep-colour in all indian gravies is also a result of slow-cooking over low heat. You can make a large batch of this masala base and freeze portions to use when needed. That way, you don’t need to do any slow-cooking, just quick prep during busy weeknights. I’ve also simplified things by processing all the ingredients in the same food processor to minimise prep time and washing up. I hardly have ground spices in my kitchen as they lose their fragrance quickly. If you don’t have whole spices, then the same amounts of ground cumin, coriander and black pepper listed in the recipe would also work. Reheated leftovers are fantastic over grilled sourdough toast – an indian open-faced sandwich!
Everyday Egg Masala
- 5-6 eggs : hardboiled & peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1-2 teaspoons red chilli powder
- 150g / 2 medium red onions, skinned & quartered
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 150 g, 1 medium tomato : quartered
- 3-4 tablespoons coconut / vegetable oil
- 2.5 inches cassia / ‘cinnamon’
- 2 cloves
- 1 green cardamom pod
- 1-2 cups light chicken stock / water
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- sea salt, to taste
- In a thick-bottom pan, like a Le Creuset buffet casserole, dry toast the black peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Once cooled, grind to a fine powder using a food processor. Pour our spice powder. Add turmeric and chilli powders.
- In the same food processor, chop onions to a medium-coarse texture using the ‘pulse’ button. Pour out contents.
- In the same container, add ginger and garlic and grind to a fine paste. Pour out ginger-garlic paste.
- Using the same food processor container again, roughly chop tomatoes (not watery) with 2-3 ‘pulses’.
- In the same thick-bottom pan, heat coconut oil over medium flame. Once oil is hot enough, add whole spices – cassia, cloves and green cardamom. [Photo 1]
- After 10 seconds, add roughly ground onions. [Photo 2]. Add a pinch of salt. Fry in oil till properly caramelised, about 10 minutes. [Photo3] Using a wooden spoon, frequently toss onions.
- Add ginger-garlic paste. Fry for 1 minute. Add ground spices. [Photo 4]. Add a splash of water to precent spices from burning. Fry spice paste-masala for 1 minute.
- Add roughly ground tomato. [Photo 5]. Add a pinch of salt. Fry this masala until the oil starts to separate [Photo 6] and it eventually becomes thicker, like jam [Photo 7].
- Continue to fry the masala until it turns a shade darker and it it starts to leave a brown layer (Fond) [Photo 8] Using your wooden spoon, scrap the brown layer constantly. If it starts to dry out or burn, immediately add a splash of water/stock to loosen the masala paste.
- Once the fond is thoroughly scraped, add light chicken stock/water to create a gravy of a consistency you like. Scrap the fond again as adding stock would deglaze the pan. Cover with a tight lid. Reduce flame to the lowest. Cook the masala gravy for another 5 minutes. The oil would have separated again and you’d be able to see small tunnel-like holes on the surface. Check for seasoning. Sprinkle a pinch of garam masala and stir. Add boiled eggs. Switch the flame off. Cover with lid until ready to serve.
- Enjoy with plain rice or scooped on thick slice of sourdough.