I mentioned in this post that I’d requested a copy of the River Cottage Veg Every Day! book from my local library. I requested it back in April, but apparently half of Auckland had the same idea (ok, a slight exaggeration perhaps…) so there was quite a waiting list for it. Of course, I could have just gone and bought it rather than wait, but I’ve resolved not to buy any more books (cookbooks or otherwise) if I can borrow them from the library because A) books from the library are generally free, B) books from the library only temporarily eat up valuable and limited bookshelf space, C) library books won’t take up expensive box space when I next move country, D) if I detest a book I can just give it back rather than being annoyed that I spent good money on it when I could have used said money to buy butter or gin, and E) if I love a book so much that I know I will definitely read it again or realistically cook more than ten recipes from it, I can then go out and buy it, knowing that it will be a worthwhile investment. Basically, it’s like test-driving books. Particularly when it comes to cookery books (so should that be test-cooking?).
This plan only works because the Auckland public library system is brilliant. All the public libraries across Auckland are managed by the council (apparently this is a relatively recent development and only happened in the last couple of years) and all linked up to the same computer system. So when I request a book, it will come from whichever library has it available, it’ll be delivered to the library of my choice, and, most importantly, there aren’t any inter-library loan charges involved. To me this seems the most blatantly logical way to run a network of libraries, but apparently it doesn’t work like that in, say, Edinburgh. Since this system covers 55 libraries (yes, 55!), you won’t be too surprised to hear that the selection of books is very comprehensive and includes the latest releases (albeit often accompanied by long waiting lists). This was something that I was extremely pleased, and indeed impressed, to discover.
So anyway, back to River Cottage Veg Every Day!, which is what this post was actually supposed to be about, rather than my over-enthusiasm for Auckland’s public libraries. I finally made it to the top of the waiting list and was able to pick up a copy about a fortnight ago. Flicking through it randomly, there were plenty of recipes that I wanted to try and I couldn’t choose what to try out. I decided to be logical and start reading from the beginning and pick out one recipe to start with. I got as far as the second recipe, chachouka, a North African dish which I’d never heard of but looked pretty damn delicious in the accompanying photo. It’s a spiced (but not spicy) and flavourful sort of stew that consists of peppers, onions and tomatoes, topped with baked eggs. It’s perfect for a lunch or light dinner, and I loved it! The egg means that the leftovers don’t reheat all that well, so I’ll be keeping this one bookmarked for when I have guests over.
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Every Day!
Be warned that this dish does take a wee while to cook, but it isn’t difficult to prepare and doesn’t take too much effort. This is best eaten as soon as it is prepared, accompanied by a simple green salad and bread to mop up the egg yolk. This dish doesn’t really make for great leftovers – unsurprisingly, the egg yolks cooked completely when I reheated the leftovers for lunch the next day, so I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as when freshly cooked, although the pepper and onion mixture was still delicious.
3 tbsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
1 red peper
1 yellow pepper
¾ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of saffron
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1. Pell and finely slice the onion. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan (use an ovenproof one if you have one) and add the onions. Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 mins, stirring frequently until soft and golden.
2. Meanwhile, deseed the peppers and finely slice them (I’d suggest slicing more finely than I did in the photos), Feel and finely chop the garlic cloves. When the onion is ready, turn the heat down to low and add the peppers and garlic to the pan. Cook for at least 20 mins, stirring frequently, until the peppers are softened. Add the spices about 10 mins in.
3. Add the tin of tomatoes, including the juice, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over a low heat for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.
5. Adjust the seasoning of the pepper mixture if necessary. If your frying pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish. Make four hollows in the mixture and carefully break an egg into each one. Bake for 10-12 mins, until the egg white is cooked, but the yolk is still runny (it can be a little difficult to tell if the egg yolk is still runny, but basically remove it from the oven as soon as the egg white is cooked). Serve accompanied by bread and a green salad.