Turkish eggs – cilbir

Having tasted this at Providores in London I had to find out how to make this ultimate comfort food! I’ve adapted it to as low-fat a version as possible in the past; today was not quite ‘go-for-broke’ but the rationing came off the chilli butter/oil for once! I was reminded of the dish when it popped up in Nigella’s latest TV series so we treated ourselves to a hearty comfort-food brunch today.

You will find proper recipes for this,  but just experiment and vary with what you have to hand. Don’t be too put off by the concept – it sounds a bit unappealing, I know; trust me, it works! It almost takes longer to explain than do, too.

I use 0% fat Greek yoghurt, an individual pot per person or a big pot for 2-3 for a very generous brunch (it would do 4 at a pinch). The following assumes a large pot. (I reckon 0% makes up for a bit of chilli oil!)

Put the yoghurt in a bowl and add a crushed or grated large clove of garlic or a good squeeze of tube garlic, though fresh is tastier. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice (about half a lemon’s worth) and a generous sprinkle of dried herbs if you haven’t any fresh for garnishing. I like a good dash of fines herbes witb that aniseedy tarragon tang. A good few grinds of salt are essential.

Whip together with a fork or a whisk until smooth and creamy and decant into 2-3 dishes, mounding it up in the centre and making a couple of dips for the eggs to nestle in. Put on a pan of water and bring to the boil while preparing the butter.

In a small pan, melt an ounce or two of butter and heat until lightly browned. (I like a salty butter.) Switch off the heat and throw in a good shake of smoked sweet paprika (add a dash of chilli or hot smoked if you like more oomph) or a teaspoon of chilli flakes, or fresh if available, swirling the pan. Add about the same amount (3-5 tbsp) of olive oil and swirl together. Finally chuck in a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped herbs if you have them – dill, parsley, tarragon or chives all work well. Save a few for the final garnish.

Poach 4-6 eggs in the pan of barely simmering water while you toast a slice or two of sourdough bread per person. Drain the eggs well and pop them onto the yoghurt.

Pour the chilli butter over the eggs and around the yoghurt – a colourful moat! Sprinkle any remaining fresh herbs over  and serve immediately with the toast for dipping and a spoon!

The contrast of hot and cold works well though I have seen recipes that tell you to warm the yoghurt – for me, that would make it less unctuously creamy and too runny but try it if you will…

I also omit the top layer of yoghurt which some recipes add in order to keep the eggs hotter.

Tuck in – and have fun working out your ideal version of cilbir!

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