When the Husband and I had no money, and lived on the edge of Salisbury Plain miles from any shops (well, it seemed like miles at the back end of a long commute into London) one of our regular meals was ‘Egg Surprise’. Egg Surprise consisted of whatever we had, cooked up with a can of tomatoes. The surprise was whether there was an egg or not, cooked in the tomato sauce. I was talking to a neighbour about this not so long ago and she told me about ‘Ifits’ which turned up at least once every couple of weeks in her household. ‘If it’s in the cupboard, I’ll cook it’ is what her mum would say. Same thing really.
Well it turns out that there is a recipe for Egg Surprise, although according to HF-W, it’s called ‘Chachouka’ if it’s got eggs in it and ‘Pepperonata’ without. This is very gratifying. The fact that a mainstay of our early married life features in Veg Everyday pleases me greatly. To be fair, Chachouka in the HF-W sense does involve specific ingredients (finely sliced onions and red/yellow peppers) to be cooked with the can of tomatoes, and also includes saffron, smoked paprika and cumin which I don’t ever recall being integral to Egg Surprise, although when the Husband was in charge it usually had a fair amount of chilli in it.
Anyway, as part of our current bid to embrace HF-W’s philosophy of eating a bit more veg instead of meat, Chachouka was supper this evening. I read the introduction of Veg Everyday the other evening and he is quite persuasive. It’s not about replacing meat in a meal, more leaving it out altogether and cooking something so delicious without it that you don’t feel cheated.
I thought Chachouka would be a good place to start, partly for reasons of nostalgia and also because I thought it would be relatively easy to sell to the kids. Pink adores eggs and Blue is a fan of anything tomatoey sauce, but I wasn’t 100% certain that they’d eat it: The sauce isn’t whizzed up – it’s more of a stew, and if the eggs weren’t runny enough, that might have been a show stopper. However, I was more convinced they’d eat that as compared with kale and mushroom lasagne.
It helped that by the time I’d finished cooking it, it was quite a bit later than they would normally have had tea and they were both starving. I’d read the recipe but failed to notice quite how long it needs to be cooked – onions for 10 mins then the peppers for another 20 mins followed by another 15 mins with the tomatoes and then a final blast in the oven with the eggs. I should also ‘fess up and admit to giving them garlic bread with it. Bought from the shop. Bound to make them feel well disposed towards their tea. However, notwithstanding the garlic bread and hunger pangs, they both ate it up and Blue (who I was least convinced about because he can be funny about eggs) said it was delicious. Good job I made a double quantity of the stew so we can have it again without waiting for hours for it to cook.
The Husband and I ate later. “This looks remarkably like egg surprise” he said. Funny, that...