The last few weeks have been big, in a whole range of ways. Three major work tasks which have taken months of planning all culminated simultaneously, requiring long hours and weekend overtime. We had an unexpected trip back to NZ because of a family emergency, which was both sad and lovely in an intensely bittersweet way. I’m also back in the gym after 6 months off due to a neck injury, pushing through the protestations and post-workout aches of an unfit body. I’m tired, mostly in a good way though, and seriously ready for some laziness and indulgence over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
Laziness and indulgence doesn’t really mean sleeping in, because that’s not something I can easily do anymore. My idea of a restorative weekend is lots of yoga, shopping at the market, trialling new recipes, taking photos, writing, getting out of the city, and catching up with friends – hardly laziness then, but these pleasures require an investment of precious time and it’s this that makes them indulgences. True laziness really only came last night in the form of a night at home, a bowl of ham and pea soup, curling up to watch a movie and missing the end because I fell asleep at 8.30pm.
While we’re on the subject of laziness, having friends over for Sunday brunch has to be my new favourite way to entertain. Dinner takes so much work and planning and shopping, but a half decent brunch can be thrown together with minimal effort and far fewer dishes. Chances are that if you come to my place for brunch in the next six months, you’ll get this baked egg dish. It’s so good that we’ve already had it three times. Recently I made it for Sunday brunch, preparing the greens and mushrooms the night before and stashing it in the fridge. On Sunday morning I was able to hit an 8.30am yoga class, then return to set the table, whip up a batch of muffins and get organised before our friends arrived at 10.30am. When we were ready to eat it was a simple process of popping the eggs into the oven and baking for a short time. Here, a bit of forethought and planning made for a leisurely, social brunch, unmarred by my usually hopeless ability to multi-task in the kitchen in the presence of guests. Best of all, the final product is sure to impress, with the richness of cream and nutmeg elevating the humble greens and mushrooms into a decadent yet nourishing breakfast.
The recipe has taken a little fine tuning to get it to the point where I’m happy with it. I prefer to use silverbeet (also known as Swiss Chard) as the green. Spinach does give a more elegant result, but with baby spinach at $3.99/100g, for the quantity needed it is significantly cheaper to use silverbeet (I’m rather fond of it’s deep green, robust leaves and irony tang anyway). Baking the eggs takes a little practice with the timing, as different ovens clearly behave quite differently. Deb recommended baking for 30 minutes, but the first time I pulled out completely rubberised eggs after only 23 minutes (…which we still ate because *omg* it was still so tasty). The next time – 15 minutes – still over-cooked. The next time – 10 minutes – initially perfect, but I hadn’t counted on the hot mixture around the eggs hardening the yolks after they came out of the oven. The lesson is to remove them just before you think they are cooked to your liking, which really is the only concentration required during your otherwise lazy Sunday brunch. Happy long weekend all!
Baked Eggs with Greens and Mushrooms
Approximately 500g silverbeet/Swiss chard (1 large bunch, stalks removed) or the same quantity of spinach
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
200g mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cream
A little freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
Thoroughly wash the greens. I find that the easiest way to do this is to run a sink of water, then immerse and swish the greens. Remove most of the white stalk (if using silverbeet) and chop roughly. With the water still clinging, wilt the greens in a large, hot pan until tender but still bright (about 1-2 minutes for spinach; at least 5 minutes for silverbeet). Cool the greens under cold running water, then squeeze them in handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop and set to one side.
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until they have softened. Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium-high, then sauté until the mushrooms have softened and any liquid they produce has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and the chopped greens. Remove the pan from the heat and check the seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and spread out evenly. If making the night before, cover and stash in the fridge.
When you are ready to cook the eggs, use the backs of a couple of teaspoons to form six large indentations in the mixture. Crack an egg into each. Place into a hot oven (230°C/450°F) and bake for anywhere between 8-30 minutes, depending on the voracity of your oven. Remember that the eggs will continue cooking after you remove them from the oven, so try to pull them out when they are slightly underdone. Serve immediately.