They're not always pretty to look at, but boy, do they ever hit the spot when all you need is loving goodness! This dish is just that: comfort and love in a bowl. My mum would make it when the mercury took a swan dive or when I was ill. It was something her Italian friend's grandmother made when my mum visited one summer, a long time ago. But it's most likely a dish that is made just about everywhere around the Mediterranean basin: the Turks call it Menemen, or vegetable and egg ragout (with lots of Aleppo pepper). We call it tomato tamago, but whatever its name, it's delicious.
Even if eggs and tomato sauce do not tug at your nostalgic heart strings, it will soon become a fast favourite. Eggs in tomato sauce, the name says it all. I feel silly writing up a recipe for it, but a friend of mine once said that some of my food ideas were too vague or esoteric for his beginner self. So for him, and anyone else who does not feel like a master in the kitchen, a recipe follows. However, as is often the case, it is merely a guideline, a little hand holding to give a shot of confidence. Use it as an inspiration, deviate from it as far as you like.
The only 'rule' to this dish would be to keep the tomato sauce chunky and flavourful: at the height of summer, you can let the tomatoes and whichever other vegetable inspires you to shine in their natural state, enhancing them with a few torn leaves of basil or oregano, but in the midst of winter, add as many spices as you dare. In fact, I often like to purge my spice cabinet when I make eggs in tomato sauce. Most spices have healthful benefits, so if you feel the sniffles creeping up on you, let yourself go with the spice jars! You really can't go wrong.
For those of you who are a little wary about mixing too many spices together, here is a -by no means exhaustive- list of aromatics that pair well with eggs and tomatoes, and cannot help but agree with each other: bay leaf; Berbere spice mix; chile (fresh or dried); Chinese five spice; cinnamon; citrus peel; coriander seed; cumin; curry powder; fennel seeds; paprika (mild, hot or smoked); garam masala; ginger (fresh or ground); oregano; pepper (any and all types -try long pepper, it's divine!); Ras el Hanout; rosemary; thyme; turmeric...
Eggs In Tomato Sauce
Feeds one, multiply as needed
1 or 2 eggs
250ml/ 1 cup tomato sauce
or 125ml/ ½ cup diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ onion, chopped or sliced fine
oil and/or butter
3 tsp mixed ground spices, plus a few pinches of the more colourful ones for garnish
salt and pepper
In a small pan, heat the tomato sauce.
If you are starting the sauce from scratch: heat oil and/or butter in a small pan over medium-high heat.
Add onions. Stir until a light brown crust forms at the bottom of the pan, add garlic and spices.
When the garlic is cooked, about 1 minute, add the diced tomatoes.
Cook until everything is bubbling and the tomatoes start to fall apart.
Adjust the seasoning.
At this point, you can either pour the sauce into individual bowls and crack the egg over top, and bake in a 180'C/ 350'F oven for 6 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
Or, you can crack the egg right into the pan, and poach it on the stove top.
Serve hot from the stove or warm-ish.
Garnish with a sprinkling of spices.
Make it for brunch, lunch or even dinner, be sure to have lots of crusty bread on hand to mop up all the sauce. Add a salad or some other vegetables on the side, and dinner couldn't be any easier. If you happen to have a few left-overs pining away in the fridge, add them to the sauce, it will only taste better. You can sprinkle some cheese on the eggs going in the oven, or you can scramble those in the pan...