Spinach, Spud’n’Egg Cocotte:
A lovely veggie lunch or supper.
Prep: 20 mins.
Cooking: 20 mins.
Course: Veggie lunch or supper
Rating: 2: Easy, if a little long-winded before final assembly
There is some amount of phaphin’ about before you can assemble and cook the dish, but it is worth the effort, time and trouble (it’s even worth the washing up!)
- 4 large/extra large/ruddy ginormous eggs
- 2 very large duck eggs/a goose egg…. I’d draw the line at an ostrich egg.
- 1 onion (I prefer red, but yellow, purple…….. blue if you can find one….).
- Spinach leaves – loads of ‘em (a big supermarket bag of baby spinach leaves would just about do it, I suppose, for a thin-ish layer….. However much you have, it will rarely be enough because spinach cooks down so much).
- 10-12 new spuds
- Pot of crème fraiche
- Fennel seeds
- Pine nuts (for texture). You could use other shelled nuts, but crush them enough.
- Olive Oil
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Seasonings: It’ll take a fair amount of salt and a great amount of coarsely milled black pepper before you decide that it’s enough.
- Frying pan
- Deep oven dish (no, I don’t mean an oven dish for a deep oven; it’s an oven dish that IS DEEP – I’m having to be so careful about what I say. Pay attention at the back there…..) with a lid (or make a foil lid…. with foil!).
- A larger oven dish, into which the first oven dish will sit, because you are going to cook this using a ‘bain-marie’ (see Tricks’n’Tips to discover whatever a ‘Mary’s bath’ is!)
- Put the new spuds on to boil for a while. You want them about half-cooked and then let them cool down so that you can handle them.
- Chop the onion as finely as you can. You can use garlic if you wish; it’s up to you, but keep the finely chopped garlic separate from the prepared onion as they’ll go in at different times.
- Prick the air sac in the bottom of the eggs (see Tricks’n’Tips) and hard boil them (the eggs, not the air sacs) by keeping them on a gentle boil for ten minutes.
- Pour the boiling egg water into the washing up bowl (might as well use it as it is clean, it’s hot and you’ve paid for the heat; and will reduce the hot water that you use) and run cold water into the saucepan, over the eggs. Change the cold water after one minute (feel how warm it has become from the eggs?) and keep cooling them down as much as poss, as quickly as poss. This reduces the amount of black that surrounds the yolk when you cut the egg open. Why?
- Pop a good-sized knob of butter and a splash of hot water from the kettle into the same saucepan you used for the spinach. Put it on the heat and melt the butter into water. Put all of the spinach leaves in the saucepan and stir. Pretty soon (3-4 minutes?) you’ll have a dark green mass in the bottom of the pan. Keep it moving when on the heat. Drain it away. Put the pan aside for now.
- Crush however many pine nuts you wish to use with the broad edge of a chef’s knife.
- If the spuds are cool enough to handle, cut them into slices, cubes (not jelly baby shapes because you’ll still be there carving them next Xmas…) or whatever you wish. Just crush them with a fork if you want.
- Sauté (fry in butter and a little oil – see Tricks’n’Tips) the onions, spuds and the crushed pine nuts until the spuds show signs of colouring. Put aside, ready for assembly.
- Mix the fennel seeds (go on – guess!) into the crème fraiche, ready for assembly.
- Put the kettle on to boil – and not just for a cuppa.
- Lightly oil the bottom of the cocotte/oven dish and layer with the wilted/cooked spinach.
- Halve or quarter the boiled eggs lengthways and make a layer with them on top of the spinach.
- Top the eggs with all of the onion/spud/mixture and level it off as much as poss. Season – and don’t spare the freshly ground black pepper here…
- Plop the crème fraiche mixture on top, levelling off as much as possible.
- Make two shallow dips in the surface of the crème fraiche and crack a duck egg into each one. Season well.
- Grate parmesan cheese over the top. Allow some gaps so that you can see when the whites of the duck eggs are actually cooked/set. If you have some nuts or something attractive left over from something else, pop that on top.
- Put on the lid.
- Place the cocotte (the deep oven dish) with the lid into the larger open oven dish.
- Slide the whole thing onto the oven shelf, just inside the oven, pre-heated to 140 degs C. but do not close the door yet.
- Pour boiling water into the open oven dish so that the cocotte is sitting in a bath of boiling water – that’s a Bain Marie.
- Push the two dishes, together, further into the centre of the oven, close the door and set the timer for 20 mins.
- After 20 mins, open the door and look at the duck egg; if it is set, the dish is ready. If not set, give it a little longer until it is.
- Ideally, the duck eggs should have a set white and a runny yolk.
- CAUTION: When taking out a Bain Marie, lift the whole thing out very slowly, remembering that you have a bath of boiling water there. DO NOT SPILL IT. If you take the cocotte out of the bath, there is a danger that the boiling water might drip off the cocotte onto your legs; then you’ll drop the ruddy lot!
- Take off the lid and take the cocotte to the table.
- Argue about who wants the duck eggs and tuck in. It goes well with a green salad and plenty of wine.