So, this dish is not African. In fact it is a sort-of-Italian version of the Mexican dish Huevos Rancheros, which is eggs poached in a hot tomato and bean stew. I first cooked my version of it a couple of years ago when I came back to Joburg from celebrating Christmas in Tuscany. Instead of adding lots of chilli pepper to the tomato base the Mexican way, I use a sort-of Italian mix of fresh herbs: sweet basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. I also omit the beans, since I think it’s quite a full dish anyway. I do sometimes add red kidney beans still, if I’m making it for lunch rather than breakfast.
My friend Gretchen quickly named the dish ’Huevos Johannesburgos,’ and it has become a popular brunch dish among friends. Whilst enjoying my eggs this morning I read the latest issue of TIME, which has a special on ‘Africa Rising’ by Alex Perry. ‘Africa’s progress is real, dramatic and, by now, well established,’ he writes. It gives a balanced overview of Africa’s current progress and promise, for those of you who might not know it. There is also a story by my friends Elles van Gelder and Jonathan Torgovnik on South African women caring for their orphaned grandchildren. All part of the multifaceted reality of Africa.
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 whole garlic clove, lightly crushed
- 2 tomatoes, the more ripe the better
- 1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
- A handful of chopped fresh herbs: eg sweet basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 2-4 eggs
- olive oil
Fry the onion and the garlic until soft in a small frying pan, about 23 centimetres in diameter. I put the garlic clove in whole, lightly crushed, rather than chopped or sliced as I like just a hint of garlic.
Add the diced fresh tomatoes and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the canned tomatoes plus the fresh herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high heat until much of the liquid has evaporated and it is possible to make an indenture in the tomato base without the sauce filling it up immediately.
Make a small indenture for one egg at a time, pour in a little olive oil and then crack the egg into the little space in the tomato base. I use 2 eggs for one portion and 4 eggs for two portions, still using the same amount of tomato base.
Put a lid on, turn down the heat to medium and let it cook until the eggs are done to your liking. It doesn’t matter if it the tomato sauce gets a little burnt, that just adds to the taste. Enjoy!