At the moment, I want flexible recipes. Meals which are un-precious and can withstand multiple substitutions. I want to cook with the ingredients already in my fridge and pantry and avoid unplanned, energy-sapping, dizzy-making trips to the supermarket. Cooking with what I have helps maintain my equilibrium.
Plus, my repertoire at the moment is relatively small - creative energy and cooking time being in short supply - however I get bored eating the same thing over and over. Flexible recipes mean I can tweak them around, changing small components, so that, while the basic recipe stays the same, the meal is different each time.
All of which makes this recipe for Eggs Poached in a Smoky Paprika Tomato Sauce one of my current favourite dinners. It involves making a speedy smoked paprika and oregano flavoured tomato and spinach sauce. You then poach eggs in the sauce and finish the meal with a scattering of feta and avocado. It’s simple, delicious and balanced.
Plus, apart from washing the spinach, there’s no prep work and, after having cooked this dinner a few times I can now get it done in under 20 minutes.
Perfect for when energy or time are limited.
Poaching eggs in tomato sauce is a technique I’ve used on many occasions - you’ll find a similar recipe, using fresh tomatoes, preserved lemons and lots of herbs in the summer edition of An Honest Kitchen. It’s an easy way to add a good whack of protein to your meal, without dirtying another pan (always important). Plus the egg whites take up some of the flavour of the tomato sauce, which adds to the deliciousness.
Eggs Poached in a Smoky Paprika Tomato Sauce
I simmer the tinned tomatoes vigorously, so they thicken quickly, plus it seems to soften the tinned tomato flavour. Just make sure you stir regularly, to prevent the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
It’s also easy to over-cook the eggs, so watch them carefully and remove from the hot plate when the white is just set. Then serve immediately, while the eggs are freshly cooked.
I've posted some different ways you can adapt this meal, to suit the contents of your pantry and fridge in the notes below the recipe and photos. Serves 2.
800g canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
150g (about 3 large handfuls) baby English spinach
80g goat cheese or feta (see Nutrition Notes below for converting to Lactose Free & Low Salt)
What to do:
Make the sauce: Pour the tomatoes into a wide based frying pan or saucepan, with a lid. Place over a medium - high heat. Add the smoked paprika and dried oregano and season with black pepper. Simmer vigorously for 7 - 10 minutes, stirring and mashing the tomatoes regularly to break them up and ensure they don’t stick to the pan. The tomatoes will thicken, become more sauce-like and turn a slightly darker shade of red.
While the sauce is simmering give the English spinach a thorough wash.
Test the sauce: Taste the tomato sauce for flavouring. You may want to add more smoked paprika, oregano or seasoning, depending on your tastebuds.
Add the spinach & finish the sauce: Add the spinach to the pan and cover with a lid or large plate. It will look like way too much spinach and you’ll probably feel you should try to stir the spinach into the tomato sauce. Resist that urge. Just place the lid on top and leave for 2 minutes. Then remove the lid and stir the now wilted spinach into the tomato sauce.
Cook the eggs: Using the back of a spoon, make 4 indents in the tomato sauce. Crack an egg into each indent. Cover and gently simmer for 7 – 10 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks still runny.
While the eggs are poaching peel and slice the avocado.
To serve: Remove from the hot plate and crumble the goat cheese over the top. Scatter over the sliced avocado and then season with black pepper and serve immediately.
Tomatoes: I tend to use canned whole tomatoes as I think they are sweeter than the chopped variety. However, I have also made this with a pre-made tomato pasta sauce, which cuts down on the cooking time even further. If you’re using pasta sauce then pour the sauce into a wide based pan and start the recipe at the instructions to ‘Add the spinach & finish the sauce’.
Spinach: When fresh spinach is not in season or in my fridge, then frozen spinach works perfectly well. You could also use silverbeet / chard, but I'd recommend blanching this first.
Spices: This meal is delicious made with chermoula, instead of the smoked paprika and oregano. If I feel like some heat, I’ll add in dried chilli flakes.
Avocado & Feta: I almost always have feta in the house, but avocado is sometimes out of season and / or ridiculously expensive. In that instance I’ll scatter over a couple of tablespoons of toasted pepitas or some almonds.
- Suitable for ovo- and lacto-ovo- Vegetarians.
- Low in FODMAPS.
- For a Low Salt meal, replace the feta with almonds.
- Feta is generally low in lactose and can be tolerated by many. However, if you are sensitive, then replace the feta with almonds.
- Gluten free - although it's worthwhile double-checking the labels on the ingredients you buy.