12 Aug // Lift your (breakfast) game

There was a time in my former life as a young professional graduate that scrambled eggs were my signature dish, and I tell you (as a single lady) there are very specific occasions where having scrambled eggs as your signature dish is a very good idea. After sharing my technique (med-low heat, rubber spatula, soft folds) on my first blog Heartbreak Pie years ago, I had a friend of a friend drunkenly yell at me across the room at a party that my scrambled eggs got her laid. They’re married with twins now. (You’re welcome).

I’m no longer a carefree young professional; I’m a bedraggled freelancer just trying to keep her head above the water, and navigate the world (without tinder). I feel like a decent set of scrambled eggs just may not have the lure it used to. I feel like I need to focus on the future, maybe hunt out an inspirational quote written in a hand-painted font over a watercolour background sunset that says something along the lines of Don’t Look Back, You’re Not Going That Way. I feel like I have to lift my game. Don’t get me wrong, mastering the basics, getting a feel for it, and perfecting the simple things is important. But the time has come for us to push ourselves a little. Dear readers, no longer content with (potentially impressing men by) scrambling eggs and serving them on sourdough, I would like to introduce you to the soft-boil-and-crumb. I soft boiled an egg, I crumbed it, I shallow-fried it: I nailed it. And I served it on a salad. It’s a mother-flipping brunch salad, and it is amazing.

Whether your intentions are pure, and you simply want to have your friends over for a Sunday brunch, or whether your intentions involve wanting to impress part-time-lovers at breakfast time, if it is time to bust out the big guns, it is time to make this salad.

This is my third recipe in a series for Fisher & Paykel, in my Weekend Gourmet style of cooking - one of eight cooking styles in their quiz you can do here. I wanted something I could spend a bit of time and love preparing, somewhere to put the herbs and the haloumi and the free range eggs. Some Sundays a breakfasty-salad is just what I feel like - lots of veggies, plenty of flavour and texture, and the piece de resistance - an egg that’s been soft-boiled-and-crumbed. I have this thing in kitchens and in life, that one should always approach with confidence, and if you’re not confident then just pretend you are and hopefully good things will happen. It’s honestly not that hard, and it’s such a delicious addition. Just don’t forget the hot sauce.

Nothing says Weekend Gourmet like standing in your kitchen shallow frying crispy onions (in your underwear?), perfecting fried haloumi, balsamicking (it’s a word) up some mushrooms, and soft-boiling-and-crumbing an egg. Pick the herbs fresh from your garden should if you wish (to feel smug about being great at growing herbs), and stock up on veggies and coffee beans on Saturday, to save you leaving the house Sunday morning. Because brunch at home can be one of the best ways to spend a lazy Sunday: flatmates, pants, friends or lovers optional.

Herb and haloumi brunch salad with a soft-crumbed egg

This recipe is part of a series I've done for Fisher & Paykel.

Serves two

NB: this is vegetarian! But so full of flavour. But also I’m not going to stop you if you want to add bacon.

You will need:

Plenty of neutral cooking oil

Plenty of flaky sea salt

1 brown onion

1 block of haloumi

A lemon

Good olive oil

White wine vinegar

A decent bunch of flat leaf parsley

A decent bunch of fresh mint

Other soft herbs should you desire it: a little basil, maybe some coriander

Half a small head of cauliflower

Chilli flakes

About two cups of mushrooms, chopped into thick slices

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 crushed clove of garlic

Nuts and seeds: I went with flaked almonds, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds. But do what your heart tells you.

3 free range eggs

Breadcrumbs

The salad itself is a matter of assembly and timing. I would put the cauli in the oven, then do the onions. Then boil the eggs and set aside in cold water. Then gently tear the herbs, and add to a bowl with the seeds. Then fry the mushrooms in balsamic and set aside, or keep warm in the oven. Then fry the haloumi, and add it to the bowl of herbs with all other ingredients, and the dressing. I would then peel the eggs very carefully and heat the oil. I would then gently toss the salad and place in serving bowls. I would then crumb and fry the eggs, and serve immediately on top of the salad. Go forth!   

For the crispy onions:

We are letting our main man Yotam Ottolenghi guide us: these onions are from his excellent Mejadra rice recipe

1 cm (when poured in your pan) neutral cooking oil  

1 large brown onion, sliced  

1 generous sprinkle sea salt

Thinly slice the onions. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan or frying pan. When very hot, carefully add the onion. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, untl they’re golden. Remove from the oil with the spoon and place in a colander lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside until you’re ready to assemble.

For the cauliflower:

Cauliflower gets the nod because it adds to the salad being filling, without being too starchy or carby (as much as I love starch and carbs)

Place florets in a roasting dish and drizzle with a little oil, flaky sea salt, and chilli flakes. Grill on a high heat for about ten minutes, then set aside.

For the dressing:

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Juice of half a lemon or lime

I would not even bother whisking them together, but simply drizzle them all over when you’re ready.

For the mushrooms:

Heat the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat, and once it’s mostly melted, add the mushrooms and a little drizzle of olive oil. Increase the heat, season, add the balsamic, and the garlic. Stir well and cook until soft and there’s no more liquid in the pan.

For the haloumi:

Cut you haloumi into strips. Using your same frying pan, heat a very small drizzle of oil to a medium-high heat. Add the haloumi and move around the pan a little, to try and get a crisp edge. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Flip over carefully and continue to fry.

For the eggs!

Boil two of the eggs in a small saucepan for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the water and run under cold water, then sit them in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Carefully peel.

Take a raw egg and gently whisk it and place in a small bowl. In another small bowl, place the breadcrumbs. NB: you could make your own breadcrumbs, or add parmesan, or chilli flakes, or anything really! Once you start, the world will be your eggy-crumbed oyster.

Heat some neutral cooking oil in a small saucepan (note: you could re-use your onion oil here) - you want a couple of centimetres in the pot. Once it’s at a high heat, take a boiled egg, roll it in raw egg (weird I know, but work with me here) then roll in breadcrumbs. Gently place in the oil with a slotted spoon, and allow to cook until golden, flipping it over part way through. This won’t take long! Repeat for both, place atop your assembled salad and serve and enjoy.