The alternative title for this post should be “when life gives you hard-boiled eggs, make egg curry”. The first-grader coloured 26 hard-boiled eggs this Easter weekend. Yep, that is a lot of hard-boiled eggs. I tried to tell him that he was getting a bit carried away. But he had this conviction that his life’s mission was to colour as many eggs as he could before Easter Sunday arrived. After handing off about a dozen to the in-laws, I looked at the remaining eggs worriedly. Because, frankly we are not big hard-boiled egg-eaters. So I did the only thing that any Indian would do. I made egg curry.
Every region and ethnic group in India has its own “traditional” egg curry. The curry is prepared with a lot of spices and thickened with onions or coconut. Then the hard boiled eggs are slipped into the sauce where they lie like inert pieces of stone, not taking up any of the flavours of the spices surrounding them. What makes the Bengali egg-curry special is that the hard-boiled eggs are first stir-fried in very hot oil until they are blistery on top. As a result, you have (or rather the eggs have) this thin skin-like layer which is absorbent like blotting paper and soaks up the delicious curry sauce – a great feature that makes these eggs much more flavourful than your run-of-the-mill hard-boiled eggs in a curry.
In my family, egg curries have three mandatory ingredients: onion, ginger and garlic. But I have a friend whose parents and grand-parents, although fond of their meat, fish and eggs, avoid onion and garlic for religious reasons. Taking inspiration from a recipe that she once shared with me, I decided to make this one not just without onion and garlic, but even without ginger. The end result was very very tasty, if I may say so myself. I served the egg curry with fresh rotis – a kind of unleavened bread, and some Padrón peppers flash-fried and seasoned the Indian way.
The seven-year old smeared the egg curry sauce all over his roti, addressing it all the while as his “marmalade”, asking for more and more, layered the egg and the peppers on top, folded the thing in half, called it “his sandwich” and munched away happily. This from someone who would prefer to starve rather than eat a real sandwich/jam/marmalade (yes we have tried exactly that and yes long story). Also, he exclaimed more than once that everything was excellent.
Recipe: The Minimalist Indian Egg Curry
5-6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1 heaped cup chopped tomatoes (preferably ripe and sweet)
Generous half tsp cumin powder
Generous half tsp turmeric powder
Hot paprika/cayenne pepper/chilli powder to taste
1/4 tsp whole cumin
Scant 1 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tablespoons oil
1/4 tsp sugar
1. Rub a bit of turmeric and the sugar on the eggs – this step gives the eggs a lovely colour and helps the caramelization process.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat till it is piping hot. Add the eggs carefully.
3. Intermittently, roll around the eggs in the oil so that they come in contact with the hot oil and get blistered patches. Careful! Don’t get splattered. Drain and set aside.
4. In the oil add the whole cumin and fry till brown.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir-fry for a few seconds.
6. If your tomato was as juicy as mine, you will already have half a cup of liquid in the pan. Just mix in the spice powders and continue to stir-fry. Otherwise, make a slurry of the spice powders with a quarter cup of water and add.
7. Continue stir frying till the oil floats to the top and the liquid has reduced.
8. You should now have a nice thick sauce. If not, add enough water until you have one. Add your eggs and switch off the heat. Fold the curry sauce all over the eggs.
Recipe: Minimalist Indian Padrón peppers bhaji
Padrón peppers are these Spanish peppers that are a favourite appetizer course in Spain. Eating them is like playing Russian roulette with your tongue because apparently one in ten is supposed to be bitingly hot. All I can say is that we three downed about thirty and did not feel anything remotely spicy. But they were tasty nevertheless!
3 handfuls of Padrón peppers or some similar non-spicy peppers, or even spicy if you have a mouth lined with iron.
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp dried mango powder or amchur
Generous amount of coarse salt
1 tbsp oil
1. Heat oil and once it is piping hot, add the peppers.
2. Stir fry until the peppers get blisters all over and are charred in places.
3. Toast the seeds in a dry pan until aromatic. Crush in a mortar and pestle into a coarse powder. Mix with salt and amchur.
4. Toss the peppers with the spice mix. Serve hot.
Both these dishes can be served with any kind of bread. But if you want to serve a “full Indian dinner”, then you will have to wait for the recipe for roti which I am going to post later.