Potato and egg. That bloody genius, comfort combination of soft, earthy starch and runny yolk, which together prove you don’t need money to eat like a king. Potato and egg are the basis of a Spanish tortilla, of course, which I first ate sandwiched between a white baguette in Valencia. A double carb-load that could not have tasted better if I’d been on a three-day bender. In which case, a classic egg and chip or hash-brown breakfast is as good as it gets.
But no, it’s a rather dry January by all accounts and I’m dreaming of warmer climes. Slovenia actually. Where I ate an extremely delicious potato and egg curry. It was made by two Indian guys, Rajeev and Pradeep, who are by simple default of being Indian, amazing cooks. These guys’ innate ability and knowledge of spices amazes me still.
We were staying in an eco-community on the border of Slovenia and Croatia (I wrote about it here). There was a little garden that grew all sorts of veg and herbs, with a large plum tree in the middle of it. The whole garden was served by the refuse water from the kitchen and bathroom. The compost toilets didn’t use flush, and so couldn’t contaminate the water supply. Instead the waste was used for compost along with all our food scraps. Nothing went to waste here, which I thought quite incredible.
It was August and a glut of tomatoes were weighing heavily on their tendrils. We’d spend our days madly preserving them before they rotted. Sun-drying them or cooking them down into sauces.
On this particular day, we made potato and egg curry. The tomatoes formed the base of it, cooked down into a sweet, spicy sauce that coated both potato and egg.
Eaten alongside spiced cauliflower, an aubergine pickle and a tomato salad, it was the perfect summer meal. But serve it with a steaming mound of grains, hot chapatis or naan, and extra chilli, and it’s a bowlful of winter comfort.
Of course, tomatoes taste as plastic as the packaging they’re wrapped in at the moment. So I don’t suggest you buy them, unless you already have and they need using up. In which case, this is a good way to revive their flavour. Either that, or use tinned or any of your own summer preserves.
Thankfully, potatoes are very much in season. There are plenty of varieties too, so look around. Vivaldi are my new favourite (thanks Jane) and would work particularly well here, thanks to their velvety texture. The most common, Maris Piper are fluffier and don’t hold their shape quite so well, but it’s a personal thing. If all else fails, use whatever old spuds you have at the bottom of the veg box. It will turn out just fine. Fresh curry leaves are sometimes a luxury, so if you can’t find them, leave them out altogether.
For a winter bowlful, eat this with grains (rice, quinoa, bulgar wheat) and hot chapatis, or whatever comforts you the most.
Rajeev and Pradeep’s egg and potato curry
1 large onion
1 big thumb of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic
400g tinned tomatoes or 600g fresh tomatoes
optional: a small handful of fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
optional: ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
Halve or quarter the potatoes so they’re roughly the same size, then place in a large pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until just tender. Add the eggs for the final 7 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, peel the onion, ginger and garlic. Finely slice half the onion, then blitz the rest with the ginger and garlic in a food processor. Heat a good splash of oil in a hot pan, then add the blitzed mixture and sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes to release the flavours. Be careful not to cook it for too long as it will burn and taste bitter. Add the tomatoes (roughly chop them if fresh), along with all the spices. Cook until reduced and smelling good.
Peel the potatoes and eggs, keeping them separate. You can remove the potato skins, chop them up and stick them in the curry or fry with garlic and oil for a snack. Add the potatoes to the curry, stirring well to coat and adding a splash of water to loosen if needed. Quarter the eggs, then stir through just before serving.