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South Indian egg curry made with hard-boiled eggs.Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

So many circumstances determine how and what we eat – who we are, where we live, what we do – yet many similar dishes have origins in different terroirs. Every culture has its dumpling, its flatbread, its doughnut, its pasta or noodle. What about the saucy egg?

Around the world, eggs are poached in tomato-based stews and sauces, with similar veggies and varying spices. There’s Middle Eastern/North African shakshuka, Turkish menemen, Basque piperade and Southern Italian eggs in purgatory – all served with some form of bread for mopping up the bowl.

Eggs love a gentle, spa-like cooking experience; moisture acts as a heat conduit, tenderly cooking them while preventing a rubbery texture. Eggs pair well with just about everything; poached in some leftover stew, curry or tomato sauce to serve over rice or toast, they make a quick and easy dinner and an excellent way to repurpose leftovers.

In this South Indian egg curry, the eggs are hard-boiled first, rather than cracked into the sauce and simmered, though you could do it that way instead – make a few divots in the cooked-down sauce, crack an egg into each, turn down the heat, cover and cook to your liking. If you want to go the hard-boiled route and don’t have surplus decorated eggs on hand this week, cover as many eggs as you like with cold water and bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water, then peel once they’re cool enough to handle.

All saucy food requires some form of bread. Here’s a simple way to make a batch of naan that doesn’t require rising: Stir together one cup of all-purpose flour and a quarter teaspoon each of baking powder and salt; stir in two tablespoons of oil and a quarter cup of water, then knead until smooth. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes, then divide into four pieces, roll each very thin on a dry countertop (don’t flour it – the dough needs to grip to get nice and thin) and cook in a very hot skillet (cast iron is ideal) with a drizzle of oil or dab of ghee, turning until each bread browns and blisters on both sides.

Egg Curry

Saucy stews and curries almost always improve in flavour after a day or two in the fridge; if you want to make this ahead, hold the eggs back and add them as you rewarm the curry over medium heat, adding a splash of water (or coconut milk) if you need to loosen it up a bit. If you want to skip the eggs (or add to them), this is also excellent with diced potatoes, cauliflower florets or cubed tofu.

  • Vegetable or coconut oil or ghee, for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño or other chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • A small handful of cilantro, if you like
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 28 ounce (796 millilitre) can whole, diced or stewed tomatoes, or 3 to 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a generous drizzle of oil or ghee and cook the cumin and mustard seed for a minute or two, until they start to sizzle and pop. Add the onion and cook for three to four minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and a small handful of chopped cilantro stems (save the leaves for garnish) and cook for another minute or two.

Add the chili powder and turmeric and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes (if canned, with their juices) and about a cup of water. Add the garam masala, season with salt, reduce the heat and cook until the tomatoes break down and the stew thickens, adding a bit more water (or even coconut milk) if it gets too thick or to loosen any browned bits. If you like, cool and refrigerate to reheat up to five days later.

When you’re ready to eat, peel and halve your eggs lengthwise and stir them into the curry or nestle them in on top. Serve topped with cilantro, if you like, with rice or naan. Serves about four.

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