- Lifestyle

Eastern-inspired brunch recipes from the Towpath Cafe

Eggs bhurji (pictured above)
The origins of this breakfast dish are Indian. It is a great one to serve when you have guests round, because the base needs to be made in advance, so that the flavours have time to infuse. When you want to eat it, all you have to do is add the eggs and seasoning and serve. It is traditionally served with roti or naan, or even rice, but we serve it on toast, with some lime drizzled over the top, along with fresh coriander and spring onions.

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

For the base
3 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
60g fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 green chillies, finely diced – save a little to finish
15g fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1½ tbsp cumin, toasted and finely ground
Salt and pepper
½ lime, juiced

For the eggs
8 eggs
4 tbsp coconut milk (or full-fat milk)
2 tbsp unsalted butter (or a neutral oil), plus extra for buttering the toast
4 slices sourdough, toasted
4 sprigs coriander
2 spring onions, sliced thinly on an angle

Start with the base. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and, when hot, add the onions, stir for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat to very low. Cook for about five minutes, until they start to soften, then add the garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric and cumin and season. Cook until the onions have completely softened and the spices have infused – about another 25 minutes. Check the seasoning, add half the lime juice and leave to cool, so the flavours get to know each other.

When you are ready to serve, whisk the eggs with the coconut milk and season, but only salt lightly; add more salt once the eggs are cooked, if necessary.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter on a low heat. Once it is foaming, add the onion base and stir to warm through for a couple of minutes. Pour in the egg mix and stir constantly to prevent the eggs from overcooking or sticking to the pan – this should take only a matter of minutes, because you want the egg mix to be quite loose. Turn off the heat, but continue to stir: the residual heat will cause the mix to carry on cooking. Check the seasoning.

Butter the toast and place a piece on each plate. Top with the egg mixture, drizzle over the rest of the lime juice and scatter the coriander and spring onions on top.

Lamb meatballs with rose harissa tomato sauce and barley couscous

This is the kind of dish you could keep on eating for ever and it is a regular on our menu. It can be made in advance and takes very little time to plate up.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Serves 4

For the sauce
3 x 400g tins chopped or whole tomatoes, mushed to a pulp
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rose harissa
Salt and pepper

For the meatballs
100g old bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
125ml milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
700g lamb mince
1 onion, peeled, halved and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
50ml vegetable, sunflower or other neutral oil, for frying
200ml Greek or natural yoghurt, to serve

For the barley couscous
200g barley couscous, or wholewheat or plain couscous
4 tbsp olive oil
200ml boiling water
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp parsley, picked and roughly chopped
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons mint, picked and roughly chopped
2 spring onions, sliced thinly on an angle

Start with the sauce. Put the tomatoes, oil and harissa in a saucepan and season. Bring to a boil, stir, then turn down to a simmer, so it is just ticking over. Cook for 45–60 minutes to reduce, stirring from time to time to prevent it catching.

While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Soak the bread in the milk. In a big bowl, mix everything else together, except the oil and yoghurt, then squeeze the bread dry and finely crumble into the bowl. Mix well for a couple of minutes to help tenderise the meat, then shape into compact, 5cm balls – you should end up with 20 in total. Place on a baking tray and refrigerate, to firm up.

When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is smoking hot, brown the meatballs, in batches if need be, for about two minutes on each side – do not overcrowd the pan or they will sweat rather than go crisp. Once browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer to the tomato sauce.

Once all the meatballs are in the sauce, turn the heat down very, very low, cover the pan and leave to cook slowly for about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, make the barley couscous. Put the couscous in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil and season. Give it a good mix, so all the couscous is thoroughly coated, then pour over the boiling water and cover tightly with clingfilm.

After about 20 minutes, remove the clingfilm and fluff up the couscous with a fork. Mix in all the other ingredients and check for seasoning.

Serve the meatballs and their sauce on or alongside the couscous, drizzled with a generous amount of yoghurt on top.

Aubergine kasundi

Kasundi, which originates from Bengal, is a fermented mustard paste that is as strong as Japanese wasabi. The notion of aubergine kasundi would be scorned by traditionalists. We serve this as a weekend breakfast, at room temperature, on toasted sourdough with crumbled feta, chilli and lots of fresh herbs (coriander, parsley and mint).

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Serves 6

250ml vegetable, sunflower or other neutral oil
500g aubergine, halved, quartered and cut into 3cm wedges
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
3 red onions, peeled, halved and finely diced
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 long red chillies, halved and finely diced, seeds and all
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 x 400g tin whole plum tomatoes, blitzed or mashed
2 tbsp muscovado sugar
2 tbsp malt vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat 75ml of the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat until smoking. Add enough aubergine to cover the base of the pan – but not so that it is crowded – brown for about five minutes on each side, then transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the rest of the aubergine, topping up the oil as necessary.

In the same pan and oil, cook the cumin, nigella and mustard seeds on a medium heat until the seeds start to pop and hiss. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the onions, garam masala, ginger, chillies and garlic and season. Turn the heat to low, then stir and cook for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the tinned tomatoes, then rinse the tin with water and add that, too. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.

Add the aubergines, sugar and vinegar to the sauce and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce has thickened and reduced. When ready, check the seasoning and leave to cool.

The kasundi will benefit from being made a few days in advance; the longer it sits, the more the flavours will infuse and enhance (it is essentially preserved, so it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks). Serve at room temperature, with feta, chilli and lots of fresh herbs, or with soft-boiled or poached eggs, or with lamb chops drizzled with lots of yoghurt.

Armenian spice cake

This recipe came from our former chef David Cook’s mum. Everyone loved it so much that it is now a regular on our sweets section.

Prep 10 min
Soak Up to 24 hr
Cook 1 hr 40 min
Serves 8

16 dates, pitted
200ml hot coffee
180g muscovado sugar
200g caster sugar
140g plain flour
140g self-raising flour
120g unsalted butter, cold and diced
330ml full-fat milk
1 whole egg, plus 1 yolk, whisked together
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
50g walnuts, toasted

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan)/325F/gas 3. Soak the dates in the coffee and leave for at least an hour – if you can do this 24 hours in advance, the dates will really take on the flavour of the coffee.

Line a 23cm square cake tin. Drain the dates in a colander and set aside.

Put the sugars, flours and butter in a bowl and rub with your fingertips to form fine breadcrumbs. Take 250g of this mix and press lightly into the base of the tin.

To the rest of the crumbs, add the milk, whisked egg, bicarb, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until smooth.

Arrange the dates over the crumb layer in four rows of four. Pour the batter mix over the top and scatter with the walnuts.

Bake for an hour, then test with a skewer: you want the mixture to cling to the skewer in a fudgey rather than a runny way. Leave to cool for 15 minutes and serve with a generous blob of creme fraiche.

This cake is also delicious served cooled – and even better with a strong coffee.

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