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Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, Sumac, and Charred Tomatoes

March 18, 2014

Several weeks ago Tony’s mom, Judith, gave me the cookbook, “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I cannot express how much I adore this cookbook and according to just about every other foodie, cookbook hoarder, and critic who’s known about it for the last year, it’s a hit among everyone! Every time I open the book I can spend hours flipping through the pages and pages of gorgeous photography and I always discover a new recipe that I MUST try. Every recipe uses slightly familiar ingredients, but adds a new technique or exotic spice that I cannot wait to explore.

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I’ve had my eye on several recipes since receiving the book and when Judith flew out to visit us in Florence I knew we had to recreate some of the recipes. (She also brought copious amounts of brown sugar and baking powder so I could still make my American baked goods!) The first night she was here we treated ourselves to a lovely cappuccino and assortment of chocolates at Caffe Giacosa and walked aimlessly around the streets of Florence. We stumbled across a small grocer who had an abundance of fresh produce outside, including a variety of the most beautiful tomatoes I’ve ever seen, and in that moment I knew I had to make Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, Sumac, and Charred Tomatoes. Now, I know what you’re thinking– Another egg dish in a cast iron skillet?? But bear with me because this dish is too pretty and too tasty to overlook.

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Cooking this dish was an adventure as it always seems to be the case in Italy. We first made our way to the Mercato Centrale to pick up freshly ground lamb, herbs, and produce. Unfortunately, we only gave ourselves an hour before closing to get all of our ingredients so it felt slightly like a scavenger hunt. Finding a butcher within the Mercato Centrale that is willing to grind lamb is a challenge in itself, but if you can, ask your butcher to mix two-thirds lamb shoulder and one-third lamb belly for the best flavor. In Italy, the lambs tend to be smaller, so we had to do a mix of lamb and mutton, which is just a sheep older than a year, but it was still very good.

Next on our list was to find a Middle Eastern market in the city center. After many Internet searches and random store visits, we were able to find harissa, tahini, and cilantro at a small international market near San Lorenzo Square, Vivi Market, that carries quite a range of things… Including throwback Betty Crocker baking mixes, fish powder, various Indian spices, “Mexican Beans,” canned peanut butter, and ramen noodles.

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I personally loved this recipe because there were so many different flavors, textures, and colors involved. The book provides alternative ingredients to incorporate in the dish, which is nice since finding a lot of the ingredients proved to be difficult in Florence. The first time I made this recipe I didn’t have sumac on hand, which gives a tart, lemon flavor so I simply added more lemon zest. The second time I made this recipe I used my favorite Tzatziki recipe instead of the Tahini Yogurt Sauce suggested and I loved the addition of mint, dill, parsley, and cucumber. Overall, it is a great recipe for a crowd, especially a crowd who likes meat, and can easily be prepared in advance! I will definitely be trying out other recipes within this cookbook as I get my hands on all of the necessary ingredients!

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Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, Sumac, and Charred Tomatoes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook:

Braised Eggs:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (1¼ cups/200 grams total)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 ounces/300 grams ground lamb (ask your butcher for two-thirds shoulder and one-third belly)
2 teaspoons sumac, plus extra to garnish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant ½ cup/50 grams toasted, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons/50 grams toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons harissa paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon peel
1 1/3 cups/200 grams cherry tomatoes
½ cup/120 milliliters chicken stock
4 large free-range eggs
¼ cup/5 grams cilantro leaves or 1 tablespoon Zhoug
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Yogurt Sauce:
Scant ½ cup/100 grams Greek yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons/25 grams tahini paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 6 minutes to soften and color a bit. Raise the heat to high, add the lamb, and brown well, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with the sumac, cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat, stir in the nuts, harissa, and preserved lemon and set aside.
  2. While the onion is cooking, heat a separate small cast-iron or other heavy pan over high heat. Once piping hot, add the cherry tomatoes and char for 4 to 6 minutes, tossing them in the pan occasionally, until slightly blackened on the outside. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the yogurt sauce by whisking together all the ingredients with a pinch of salt. It needs to be thick and rich, but you may need to add a splash of water if it is stiff.
  4. You can leave the meat, tomatoes, and sauce at this stage for up to an hour. When you are ready to serve, reheat the meat, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Make 4 small wells in the mix and break an egg into each well. Cover the pan and cook the eggs over low heat for 3 minutes. Place the tomatoes on top, avoiding the yolks, cover again, and cook for 5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
  5. Remove from the heat and dot with dollops of the yogurt sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with the cilantro. Serve at once.
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