This is the kind of meal that encapsulates the real joy I get from cooking; picking out a few random bits and bobs from the fridge, using up leftovers, rescuing something that was once fresh but is about to become very much the opposite… And ending up with a really tasty dish that’s all of my own making.

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No idea what you’d call the result of this particular combination of ingredients (a deconstructed Spanish omelette, maybe, if I felt like being poncy? Or fried eggs and fried potatoes, if I was going to be basic), but it consisted of a pile of boiled purple potatoes left over from my pre-birthday fish supper the other night, half a red onion from the tomato salad with the same meal, some verging-on-very-floppy baby sweet peppers and a tomato that really had seen better days.

Some herby seasoning, a couple of eggs, and here is a frying-pan-full-of-delicious-randomness. There are pretty much unlimited variations on this dish, depending on what you have, but I’ve listed a few suggestions below.

Serves 1
olive oil
1/2 red onion (or 1/2 brown onion, or 1 shallot, or even a couple of spring onions), roughly chopped
leftover boiled potatoes (as much or as little as you have), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 clove garlic
2 baby sweet peppers (or 1/2 red/yellow/orange bell pepper), roughly chopped
1-2 medium tomatoes (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved), cut into quarters and core removed
1 tbsp basil leaves (or 1 tbsp parsley), chopped
pinch of cayenne (optional)
2 eggs (or more, or fewer, depending on your appetite)

1 Heat a good glug of olive oil in a frying pan (preferably one with a lid). When hot, add the onion, and cook over low heat until soft. This can take up to 10 minutes.

2 Add the boiled potatoes. You can turn up the heat to make sure the potatoes crisp up a bit, but keep an eye on it and don’t let the onions burn. When the potatoes have started to brown, turn the heat down and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir and put the lid on.

3 Add the peppers, stir, put the lid back on, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the peppers are soft. Then add the tomatoes and most of the basil (or parsley), stir gently to combine, then put the lid back on. Cook for just a couple of minutes. You want the tomatoes to cook through, but not break up, so don’t move them around too much.

4 Make a well in the middle of the veg mix, tip in the eggs, then put the lid back on. Make sure the heat is quite low, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Check the eggs and if the whites are set and the yolks still soft and runny, sprinkle over the last of your herbs, season with a little salt (and pepper, if you haven’t used the cayenne) and serve.

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A spice odyssey…

February 10, 2010

After my rather chilli weekend, I began wondering just how many different kinds of chillies and hot spices I have in my cupboard. So, I’ve just got them all out, and counted nine different ways of heating up my food! Some I use more often than others, and one – the jar of Very Lazy Red Chillies, which I was given – I haven’t used at all.

From left to right, they are: hot chilli sauce, for Thai-style soups; the jar of chopped chillies in wine vinegar, which I haven’t been lazy enough to open yet; the pul biber/tomato paste mix from Istanbul, which I use in my Turkish and Middle Eastern cooking; dried piri piri chillies that I bought on holiday in Portugal a couple of years ago, which I use in more Mediterranean flavoured cooking; flaked pul biber, which, again, I use for a Middle Eastern taste; hot mixed peppercorns, suitable for pretty much anything you want to give a kick to; hot paprika, which is, of course, essential in Spanish cooking; cayenne, for Indian or Mexican food; and, finally, a string of what were originally small, fresh chillies, but I thread them and hang them up to dry out, and these I use mainly in curries.

I know there are much bigger chilli-heads than me out there, so can anyone tell me if I’m missing out on some hot delights? And what about some new ideas for my current chilli collection?