This was breakfast for my house guest a few days ago. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would work. I had it in my head for ages to make a veggie egg stew. My plan was to use a fragrant herb or vegetable, then one day on Facebook, I saw a picture where someone used Kale, and I thought hmmmn, now that would work too. Other options would be explored later. I wanted to throw something in the mix i.e. something in between the Kale and the eggs. You see, my mum made egg stew in two different ways. One way was to use leftover stew, the other was to sweat down several chopped veggies into a thick stewy sauce and then add the eggs. I have the recipe for her other method of egg stew HERE.
A few weeks ago, my starving self wandered over to my neighbour’s house. It was one of those 14 hour work days. I got to work before 7am to rush in to dial into a conference call and time zone constraints also meant I did not leave work until 9.30pm that day. I was beyond tired and hungry. One of those moments you are sure you drove home on auto pilot. Funmi graciously offered to feed me. She made this freshly prepared Semovita and Oiless Seafood Okro soup, with enough seafood, competing with the okro. Out of sheer hunger, I basically inhaled the food. I was almost done before it sunk in that there was something strange in that soup. Strange, but delicious. I asked her what it was and she said Monk fish. Never had Monk fish in my life before. I am not a fish lover in any way. I rarely venture outside my well-known ones like Tuna Steaks, Swordfish Steaks and Croaker. I grudgingly tolerate Tilapia, but the bones still scare me to death. Discovered Grouper on a holiday to The Algarve, in Portugal, love that too but somehow I can’t seem to find it here in the UK. Anyway, that sums up my fish dictionary, so when I heard her say Monk fish, I nodded my head in appreciation but my tired self didn’t register it.
I sauntered back home, straight into bed, and totally forgot about Monk fish until days after when Funmi told me she was going to our local Fishmongers. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to know where she gets her haul of seafood from, I followed her. It turned out to be a very fruitful trip, and not just because of fish and seafood. Funmi met a close family friend, a much older woman whom she hadn’t seen in almost six years. She had lost the woman’s phone number you see, so you can imagine the joy and surprise on both their faces, to suddenly bump into each other in the most unlikely of places, better still, she also lives in our neighbourhood. Imagine that. Don’t you just love serendipity stories. It even gets better. To be polite, Funmi introduced me to the woman, and said that’s my friend Dunni, she runs a blog. The woman took a good look at me and screamed. You are Dunni of Dooney’s Kitchen. OMG, I have been hoping and praying to meet you one day. OMG, you live in this neighbourhood, no way!!!! She then went on and on to say how much she loves the blog, same with all her friends. This is a woman whose has put children through University. It was so heart warming talking to her. We had such an uplifting and exciting conversation, like talking to a long-lost Big Aunty. She kept saying her best friend (who is also a huge fan of the blog) won’t believe this. She made several attempts to call her friend to tell her she was standing right in front of Dunni of Dooney’s Kitchen, unfortunately, the number just kept ringing. It was lovely, serendipitously meeting a Dooney’s Kitchen reader who lives in my neck of the woods. All because of a trip to the fishmongers. He works in mysterious ways. I will just leave the rest of the story there, lets just say meeting her is an asset to me. That day, it occurred to me that I finally have that thing I wanted to add to my Kale egg stew. It didn’t disappoint at all, after all my mum sometimes served meat and chicken with egg stew. She never dared with fish though, she knew I would not touch it with a barge pole. Here’s my version
You will need
Chopped pieces of Kale – replace with spinach if you live in Nigeria, Ugu may be too chewy, our use leftover Efo riro from dinner the night before
Chunks of Monkfish – replace with smoked Mackerel if you live in Nigeria
Chopped red onions
Chopped peppers – optional
Vegetable oil – i used sunflower oil
Eggs – number will depend on how many people you are feeding
1. Using a little oil in a pan, heat it up and add the chopped onions. If you have chopped peppers, also add at this point and sauté lightly till they soften.
2. Add the chopped Monkfish (or Tuna steak pieces, or Grouper, Swordfish or smoked Mackerel) to the pan and let it fry for a little about 2 minutes. Try not to stir, so you don’t break the fish apart
3. Add the leftover stew and it fry gently on low heat. While the stew is frying with the fish, blanch the chopped Kale. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you need to pre-blanch the kale because, it would not have cooked sufficiently by the time the eggs have cooked through, so you start the cooking process by blanching the kale, to “pre-cook it”, if that makes sense. If you are using spinach though, still blanch it, to get rid of the raw vegetable taste. Of course, if you are using Leftover Efo riro, just add it to the veggies at this stage
4. Now the stew has fried, add the Kale and stir gently, careful not to break the fish apart.
5. Break the eggs into a bowl, whisk gently and pour into the pan. At this point, leave the eggs undisturbed. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Don’t attempt to scramble it at all, until it cooks and is only slightly runny on top. Remember the monk fish, you want to keep as much of the whole chunks of it as possible. It brings some interesting texture to this dish.
6. Once you get to that almost cooked point with the eggs, then with a wooden spoon, you gently scramble. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: You are also gently breaking the chunks of the fish apart in the process, but you know what, while the eggs were cooking undisturbed, you have let the smokey fishy flavour of the monk fish permeate. Very important this happens. You will even begin to tell by the aroma the pan gives off.
Once you start to scramble, mid way through, take the pan off the cooker and let the residual heat cook what is left of the eggs. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: this is to prevent the egg stew from getting dry. You only need enough heat to cook the eggs halfway and then you quickly take it off the heat. Learnt this tip from watching British and French scrambled eggs on TV. We do tend to over cook our eggs in Nigerian cuisine, so picking a leaf out-of-the-way the Brits and French cook theirs is a handy tip, even though I think the Brits and French under cook theirs, to a runny yucky state, but I found a way to get a happy medium.
………….and that’s your Kale and Monkfish Egg Stew. See the fish peeking out?
What is gorgeous about this, is the multi texture component it has, plus the different facets of flavour. The veggie crunch of the Kale, the slightly chewy smokiness of the Monk Fish, the soft squidgyness of the eggs which has absorbed the flavour of the stew, monkfish and kale. Trust me, this is all shades of delicious. As breakfast, no one will want to leave the table till they have emptied their plates.
To make it even more special, I served it with Oven Grilled, Spicy Plantain. #teamfitfam
Breakfast of Champions, I tell you