Joshua Thomas, a chef at my restaurant Dévi, stayed with us at the farm one New Year’s Eve. It was wonderful ringing in the New Year with a fellow New Yorker, and even better sitting down to the lovely breakfast he made for us on New Year’s Day. Joshua made an egg roast, a dish that has been a Christmas Day tradition in his family since he was a child. The key was lots of onions, thinly sliced and slow cooked until they melted into one another, becoming sticky sweet and deeply flavourful. The eggs were hard-boiled and then cooked in the onions, along with tomato and plenty of spices, creating a dish that instantly transported me to the coastal canals of Kerala. Do take the effort to grind the finishing powder with a mortar and pestle just before serving – you will be amply rewarded.
- 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
- 20 fresh or 30 frozen curry leaves
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 large red onions, halved and very thinly sliced
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 whole green cardamom pods
- 2 medium very ripe tomatoes, halved, cored and finely chopped
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/4 tsp roughly ground black peppercorns
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 2-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced
- 1 bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup neutral-flavoured oil
- Heat the oil with curry leaves, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds in a large heavy-bottomed pot for 2 to 3 minutes over medium-high heat until the cinnamon begins to unfurl, stirring often so the cumin seeds don’t burn.
- Stir in the ginger and cook for about 1 minute until it becomes sticky and fragrant.
- Add the onions, salt and turmeric, reduce the heat to low, and cook the onions for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are deeply browned and caramelised. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pot or get too dark, splash the pan with a few tablespoons of water and stir up the sticky bits at the bottom of the pot.
- While the onions caramelise, grind the fennel seeds and peppercorns into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (if using a spice grinder, you may need to double the amount, so that the spices get finely ground).
- Add the hard-boiled eggs to the onions and gently roll them to coat with the onion mixture. Fry the eggs for 2-3 minutes until a light brown skin forms.
- Toss the tomato into the pot and cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato juices have evaporated and the onions look jammy.
- Stir in the fresh coriander, cook for 1 minute, and then stir in the fennel-peppercorn powder. Taste for salt. Serve immediately.