Otherwise known as eggs baked in very creamy mashed potato with very buttery spinach.
If this recipe were an object it could be one of the four blankets draped or more often flung on, over and about our sofa throughout the colder months. We have no heating you see, blankets therefore play very important roles in our lives. Maybe the dark green fleecy one, my favourite, deliciously cosy and familiar, the one ready to be tugged reaasuringly around my shoulders, tucked under knees and toes in preparation for another chapter, episode and or another favorite of mine, a nap…The blue blanket however would be a fish pie, the deep green one pasta e ceci or a mothership minestrone and the funny grey blanket come cape – a plate of sausages and mash.
The blankets have taken up their winter residency on the sofa, I have started pulling on poloneck jumpers and banging on about vitamin C and handcream, large quantities of soup are being made at least twice a week, it’s that time of year, time for eggs baked in very creamy mashed potato with buttery spinach…..
It’s all looking rather neat on the plate, obviously the idea is you mash everything up together, gently of course, into a big potato, butter, spinach, more butter, garlic, egg mess which is altogether more tasty.
An Egg – fried in olive oil until it is frilly at the edges but still runny of yolk- perched on top of some nice mashed potato, maybe with a flick of Tabasco has long been a favourite of mine. It was a great relief to discover Vincenzo shared my affection for such things. I can’t remember exactly when it was I decided to adapt our classic comfort supper by baking the eggs in the mash, I remember the inspiration though, it was a recipe from Fegus Henderson’s ‘Nose to tail Eating’ for baked celeriac with eggs.
Decant the mash into a warm dish….make 4 indents in the surface of the mash into which you break the eggs……Season the eggs and place two small knobs of butter on top. Bake in a hot oven for approximately 5 minutes until the egg whites are firmed up but the yolks still runny. Serve immediately.
Even before I had made it I had an inkling it would become a trusted favourite ….. and I was right.
My soft spot for mashed potato is deeply engrained and blurred by nostalgia. I grew up with very buttery mash. Despite my mum’s affection for Elizabeth David, olive oil (we are talking England in the 1970’s here not that many years previously people were still buying olive oil in little bottles from the chemist) and French Provincial Cooking, we were not deprived of more stoutly English suppers. We were not only raised on ratatouille, dauphinoise and ragus but also hearty English fare, much of it topped or accompanied by a good generous dollop of mash; smoked fish pie, Shepard’s pie, plump pork sausages, fried eggs, liver and bacon or simply straight. a bowl of plain mash, easy and celestial.
I can get a little evangelical about mashed potato but only because I have been converted. It was a tiny epiphany but an epiphany just the same, the discovery of the potato ricer. Maybe you already have a faithful and trusted way with mash, maybe you too are evangelical, good, you should be, it’s important to be sure of your mash. If on the other hand you are less certain then maybe you should consider a potato ricer, a rather pleasing object especially if you find a classic metal one. A ricer gives mash a lovely even texture, incorporates plenty of air into proceedings it also makes mashing or should I say ricing an easy, rather satisfying and mildly amusing - all those little worms of potato – task. Best of all, you don’t need to peel the potatoes, you just cut them into chunks and cook them with the skin on, which is meant to preserve the flavour. Then as you rice them the skins are removed.
The potatoes. Until I am persuaded otherwise I will keep using local grade A potatoes, red skinned, everyday ones bought from a farmer I trust. They have nice balance between floury and starchy as I find very floury potatoes tend to get rather waterlogged and often using all starchy ones produces a mash which is a little too sticky and gluey for my taste.
I follow Hugh’s advice when it comes to milk and butter……. plenty of it…. Did I mention I met him once, I was a waitress in this great organic pub he was being all organic in, he was really rude to me, I mean REALLY REALLY rude…TWICE, he made me cry. I got over it and despite it I still really like his food, his books, dammit I even buy his books, I have 4 of them and I have only defaced one photo of him in each, innocent stuff, moustache here, silly nose there, Toe weed written across his forehead I figure he deserves it.
The mashing. When I have drained the potatoes into a colander I put the whole milk ( about 200ml for every 1kg/2llb of potatoes) and lump of butter ( about 140g for every 1kg/2llb of potatoes) back in the still warm pan over a very very gentle flame so the milk warms and the butter melts, then I turn off the heat. I then quickly push the potato through the ricer into the pan and beat it energetically with a wooden spoon, I season with salt and pepper and beat again adding a little more milk if necessary. Sometimes I will add a very big spoonful of cream if I have some in the fridge.
The spinach. We are eating lots of spinach at the moment, what with the broken elbow and my impending cold, I seems the sensible thing to do. I am buying the big meaty stuff from the market, deep green and glossy leaved spinach that makes you feel stronger just looking at it..
You wilt the spinach down in a big covered pan. A very thorough draining and then a few minutes being nudged around a frying pan with plenty of butter and some garlic is all this spinach needs.
So there you have it, some comfort on a plate, the culinary equivalent of a fleecy green blanket…..
Eggs baked in very creamy mashed potato with buttery spinach
4 generous servings
- 1 kg spinach
- 1.3kg all purpose potatoes
- 160g butter for the potatoes
- 200ml – 250ml whole milk
- salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg
- 4 large eggs
- 75g butter for the spinach
- 2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed with back of a fork in a little salt
set the oven to 200°c/ 4ooF
Wash and rinse, wash again and pick over the spinach and then scoop it into a big heavy pan with just water you have washed it in clinging to the leaves. Cover the pan and put it over a modest flame. After a few minutes, turn the spinach with a wooden spoon, it will be starting to wilt. Keep and eye on the spinach after about 5 minutes it will have wilted down to about a 1oth of its original volume sitting in a pool of green liquid.
Drain the spinach in a fine holed colander – keep the liquid, you should drink !!!!….think Popeye kids. Set the spinach aside.
Make the mash. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into halves or chunks (without peeling them if you are using a ricer) and boil them a large pan of lightly salted water. When they are soft enough to mash, drain them thoroughly.
Put most of the whole milk and lump of butter back in the still warm pan over a very very gentle flame so the milk warms and the butter melts, then I turn off the heat. Put the rest of the milk and some extra in another small pan and warm it. Quickly push the potato through the ricer into the big pan and beat it energetically with a wooden spoon. Add more milk from the small pan, beat again and taste, check the consistency is as you like it.
Season with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg and beat again adding a little more milk if necessary.
Decant the mash into a VERY warm oven dish – this is really important as the heat of the dish will help cook the eggs. Working quickly so the potato stays nice and hot even the mash roughly with the back of the wooden spoon and then make 4 indents in the surface of the mash into which you break the eggs. Season the eggs and put two small knobs of butter on top. Bake in the hot oven for 5 – 10 minutes until the egg whites are firmed up but the yolks are still runny.
While the eggs are baking warm the butter and garlic over a very gentle flame so the butter melts and is infused with the garlic. Add the spinach to the pan and raise the heat. Stir carefully so the spinach is warmed through and well coated with the butter.
Pull the eggs from the oven and serve immediately.
It must be all the spinach and hours under one of the aforementioned blankets beacuse Vincenzo is really really on the mend, the plaster comes off early so he can start physiotherapy. He will not be doing any proper drumming for a while, hard for a drummer but at least the tapping can commence