UNITED STATES (NYTimes) - Eggs have not been part of the regular dinner rotation at my house nearly as often as they should be.
But now that I have access to a steady supply of fresh eggs from a local farm, and I have finally mastered the technique of cooking them so their yolks turn marigold yellow and just barely set in the centre (the secret: simmer for 9 minutes, then plunge into an ice bath), I have been trying to change this.
Recently I had a craving for an egg curry (ande ki kari), a dish of hard-boiled eggs swathed in a spicy tomato gravy. So I dug out one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, published in 1980, to look up the recipe.
Ande ki Kari (Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
8 large eggs, at room temperature
3 to 4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, halved through their equators
3 Tbs ghee, butter, safflower oil or grapeseed oil
3 Tbs virgin coconut oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
6 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 (7cm) cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
½ cup boiling water
1 to 2 tsp garam masala, to taste
3 Tbs finely chopped cilantro
Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
Cooked basmati rice or flatbread, for serving (optional)
1. Hard-boil the eggs: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then carefully lower eggs into water. Cook for 9 to 10 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath. Let cool, then crack and peel. Reserve.
2. Set a box grater over a bowl. Starting with their cut sides, grate the tomatoes through the large holes so tomato pulp falls into bowl. Discard skins. Measure out 2 cups tomato purée. (Save the rest for another purpose, such as adding to a vinaigrette.)
3. Heat ghee (or butter or oil) and coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and cook until deeply golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly to encourage even browning.
4. Stir in garlic, ginger and cumin seeds; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and cardamom and cook another 1 minute. Stir in coriander, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes and black pepper, then add tomato purée. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and fat begins to separate, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and boiling water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until sauce is thick and has a satin sheen, 7 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for another 20 minutes to let flavours meld.
5. When ready to serve, cut eggs in half lengthwise. Bring sauce back to a simmer over low heat, stir in garam masala, and gently add eggs to sauce. Simmer just long enough to heat eggs through. Top with cilantro and serve with yogurt and rice or flatbread if desired.
Total time: 1 ¼ hours Yield: 4 to 6 servings
I had not made it in a while, but reading the ingredients on the tomato-stained page immediately brought the flavours into focus: the stinging pungency of garlic and ginger, the smoky earthiness of the cumin, the sweetness of cinnamon and tomato.
The spiced sauce smelled divine while it was simmering, and tasted even better when it was served over halved hard-cooked eggs.
There are many variations of this basic recipe across India, using different kinds of fats as the base, and slightly different spices.
Sahni's calls for a generous amount of vegetable ghee, a solid vegetable shortening.
In my version, I cut down on the quantity, and use a mixture of butter and coconut oil, which lends a distinct mellowness to the fresh tomatoes in the pan.
But feel free to substitute all-vegetable ghee or oil if you prefer.
Her spice technique is also worth noting. As is typical in curries, most of the spices are simmered in the sauce along with the aromatics until the flavours meld.
However, in this recipe, she saves the garam masala for last, stirring it into the thickened sauce right at the end for maximum verve.
After the sauce is simmered, the cooked, halved eggs are arranged in the pan and gently heated so they can absorb that heady liquid. Just be careful not to stir too enthusiastically; you do not want the eggs to tip over and lose their yolks in the sauce.
A gentle shake of the pan is the safer way to go.
Pair this robust curry with rice or flatbread, and you've got dinner.