Hands down, I think that Claudia Roden is the best food writer out there. What I love is the importance she places on history, nostalgia and cultural memory. My mother just bought her new book The Food of Spain and so far I have only had a little flick through it, but it looks pretty amazing. This recipe is from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food (1985). I made this to form part of the appetizer mezze for an Arabic-themed dinner that I co-hosted recently with some pretty special people. They are also some of the best cooks I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and am trying to convince them to contribute something to this blog.
This is what Claudia has to say about Middle-Eastern eggs:
“Egg dishes are very popular throughout the Middle East. Beid, as they are called, received the full Oriental treatment. Hard-boiled and coloured yellow or brown, flavoured with cumin, coriander or cinnamon, they are sold in the streets with little cornets of rolled-up newspaper filled with seasoning to dip them in. Fried or scrambled, they are enhanced with flavourings of garlic, onions and tomatoes, lemon, vinegar or yogurt. The Arab omelette, eggah, is more like a cake. Thick and rich, it is not unlike the Spanish tortilla to which it is undoubtedly related through the Moorish conquerors of Spain. Did the Moriscos introduce the omelette to Spain, or did they bring it back to North Africa after the Reconquista? It does not appear in early Arab culinary literature, so its origin is still a matter for speculation.”
In Persia, this dish is called Kuku, and the first time I tried it was at a Persian feast a few months ago, made by Becky. It can be eaten hot or cold, and can be made in advance and warmed up again, which makes it very advantageous when cooking for a lot of people in advance, or going on a picnic. It is though, of course, much nicer on the day it is made, still a little crispy from the grill.
Here are the quantities that I used for mine, and it made enough for about 25 little squares. Of course it does all come down to how big your frying pan is, you want the Eggah to be at least an inch thick, and bursting with filling, so that it is almost emerald green when you slice it.
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch coriander
½ bunch mint
5 spring onions
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil, or clarified butter
½ cup milk (optional)
1 tbsp flour (optional)
Preheat the grill.
Wash and finely chop up all of the herbs, and finely slice the spring onions, using the green tops as well as the white parts. Break the eggs in a large bowl and whisk up until frothy. At this point you could whisk in the milk and flour if using. Mix in the herbs, and season.
Heat the oil in the frying pan, and add the fantastically green egg mixture when hot. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs have set up the sides. Put the frying pan under the grill (leaving the door open is fine) and cook for another 4-6 minutes, checking every 2 minutes. When it is done it should be burnished and crisp, and slightly springy.