New year, new resolutions, new everything, right? Well, an egg, with all its promise of new life, is a very good place to start. Eggs give me everything I want from the kitchen, especially during this post-excess phase: they’re gentle on the wallet, easy to get hold of, fuss-free, quick to prepare, comforting to eat – and full of the sort of amino acids and nutritional benefits that, after a certain point, red wine cannot really boast of having. In terms of New Year’s resolutions, then, eggs give you a lot of easy wins.
They are also incredibly versatile, not least in terms of what you pair them with, so they’re very useful when you’re looking for ways to use up all those bits and bobs you still have lying around after the festivities. I’ve suggested using manchego in today’s omelette dish, but really any other hard cheese, from cheddar to comté, will work just as well. Much the same applies to the herbs and spices: eggs are as happy with the coriander, parsley and dill as they are with the chervil or basil I’ve used here; and while I’ve paired my eggs with what I have to hand in my cupboard at home (chilli flakes and za’atar, in this instance), ground cumin, sharp sumac, regular chilli flakes or even a good crack of black pepper will do the trick, too.
So, be gentle on yourself, keep your slippers on, enjoy breakfast and have a cracking good year.
Harissa and manchego omelette
This works as well as a speedy supper as it does as a brunch dish. I like to eat this with a tomato and avocado salad on the side, but anything fresh and green will tick the boxes, too. Serves four.
90ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
12 large eggs, lightly whisked
100ml whole milk
80g rose (or regular) harissa
2 tsp nigella seeds
15g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g manchego, coarsely grated
2 limes, halved, to serve
Heat the grill to high. Put three tablespoons of oil in a medium-sized (18-20cm) ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion has caramelised and turned a deep golden brown. Tip the onions into a large bowl, leave to cool a little, then add the eggs, milk, harissa, nigella seeds, half the coriander, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Whisk the mix until well combined.
Wipe clean the frying pan, turn up the heat to medium-high and add two teaspoons of oil. Pour in a quarter of the egg mixture, and swirl it around the pan, so it’s evenly spread. After a minute, sprinkle over a quarter of the manchego, then put the pan under the grill for a minute, until the cheese has melted and the eggs have puffed up and finished cooking. Using a spatula, ease around the edges of the omelette to loosen, then slide it out of the pan and on to a plate; keep this in a warm place while you cook three more omelettes with the remaining egg mix (remember to add more oil to the pan with each batch).
Once all the omelettes are cooked, serve them at once, with the remaining coriander sprinkled on top and a wedge of lime alongside.
Scrambled eggs with bacon, sweetcorn and spring onion
Chervil has a delicate, aniseedy flavour that goes brilliantly with anything smoky – in this case the bacon and charred corn – but it’s not that easy to get hold of unless you have access to a good greengrocer. Don’t worry unduly if you can’t get hold of any, though: basil makes a very good alternative. Serves four.
260g frozen corn kernels (or, when in season, the freshly shaved corn from 2 cobs)
2 slices smoked bacon, cut widthways into 2cm-wide strips
30g unsalted butter
8 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on an angle
15g chervil (or basil) leaves, roughly shredded
¾ tsp urfa chilli flakes (or a pinch of smoked paprika)
Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add the sweetcorn and blanch for a minute. Drain, pat dry and set aside.
Put a large saute pan on a high heat and, once it’s good and hot, add the sweetcorn and bacon, and fry for six minutes, stirring now and then, until the sweetcorn is nicely charred and the bacon is crisp. Tip the corn and bacon into a bowl.
Wipe clean the pan, add the butter and return the pan to a medium heat. Once the butter starts to froth, add the eggs, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Leave for about 30 seconds, until the eggs are just beginning to set on the bottom, then stir gently, lifting the set egg to the surface as you do so. Add the sweetcorn, bacon and spring onion to the pan, and leave to cook for a minute or two more, stirring only once or twice, until the eggs are just cooked. Off the heat, fold in the chervil (or basil), sprinkle with chilli flakes and serve at once with some hot, crisp toast alongside.
This makes a delicious breakfast or substantial snack, and is a vegetarian take on the traditional croque-madame (that features a slice of ham, so if you still have Christmas leftovers, by all means add some to yours). If you want to get ahead, make the leeky bechamel a day in advance. The addition of a fried egg turns this sandwich into a meal in itself, but it also works fine without. I like to serve my croques with some sliced gherkin. Serves four.
140g unsalted butter
2 leeks, trimmed, finely sliced and washed (300g net weight)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
15g plain flour
200ml whole milk
90g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
1½ tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp za’atar
8 slices good-quality, thinly cut white bread, crusts removed and discarded
Put 20g butter in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once it’s melted, add the leeks, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and fry for six to eight minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the leeks have softened. Tip the leeks into a bowl.
Add 20g more butter to the pan and turn down the heat to medium. Stir in the flour for a minute, then pour in the milk in three to four batches and whisk continuously, until the mixture is very smooth. Once all the milk is incorporated, add an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, turn down the heat to medium-low and leave the béchamel to bubble gently for seven minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick.
Stir in the cheese, mustard, a teaspoon of za’atar and the leeks, then take off the heat and leave to cool a bit. The mixture should be thick and spreadable.
Lay four slices of bread on a board or worktop and divide the sauce between them, spreading it right to the edges. Top with the other four slices of bread, to form sandwiches. Melt 80g butter in a small pan, then brush this generously over both sides of all the sandwiches.
Put a large nonstick frying pan on a medium heat and, once it’s hot, lay in two of the sandwiches. Toast for four to five minutes in total, turning the sandwiches over halfway through, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, then remove from the pan and keep warm while you repeat with the remaining two sandwiches.
Once all four sandwiches are fried, turn up the heat under the frying pan to medium-high, add the final 20g butter and break in the eggs. Sprinkle each egg with a pinch of salt, and fry for two to three minutes, until the whites are just cooked and the yolks still runny (or cook them longer, if you prefer).
Cut each sandwich in half diagonally, and lay on a plate, one half-sandwich on top of the other at a slight angle, so you can see the filling oozing out. Top each serving with an egg, pour over any butter from the pan, sprinkle with the remaining za’atar and serve hot.
• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.