Hamine eggs: Simple yet delicious food that’s worth the wait

Lilly Higgins: This traditional breakfast makes a great meal at any time of the day

Hamine eggs with hummus

Hamine eggs with hummus

 

My sister recently bought me Claudia Roden’s revolutionary A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Originally published in 1968, it revealed the delicious wonders of the Middle East to the West with more than 500 recipes, including stories and proverbs.

The memories and culinary wisdom that the Cairo-born cookery writer recalls from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Morocco, among other countries, are priceless. Modern cookery books seem to lack some of the soul and history that books such as this have. It’s so much more than a cookbook, and every recipe evokes the same response: I must cook that and eat that. I adore food like this with simple ingredients, based around families and community.

I’m always drawn to Middle Eastern food and have been meaning to make hamine eggs for so long. The thought of simmering eggs in ground coffee and onion skins for hours made me hesitate, but these beauties are worth it.

Eggs cooked low and slow like this have a creamy yolk and texture unlike those of regular boiled eggs. The longer you cook them the softer the egg becomes. The long cooking time results from the Jewish tradition of slow-cooking food overnight to serve on the Sabbath, when cooking is forbidden. They are incredible in sandwiches with some good mayonnaise and salad leaves.

Beid hamine are a very traditional favourite of Middle Eastern cuisine and are regularly used to garnish various dishes, especially stews. They can be served over ful medames, Egyptian brown beans that are mixed with garlic and parsley and served with wedges of lemon. It’s traditionally eaten for breakfast but makes a hearty and very nutritious meal any time of the day. It’s worth cooking about a dozen eggs at a time, as they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.  

In London recently I ate a bowl of hummus with a “Dinosaur Egg” at Berber & Q in Old Spitalfields Market. Served with warm za’atar, roast red onions, feta cheese and crunchy fresh radish over the hummus with the dino egg in the centre, it was so simple but tasted amazing. Simply crack the skins of the hamine eggs midway through cooking so that some of the dark cooking liquid stains the egg. Once peeled it reveals a very attractive marbled egg that will immediately intrigue and delight adults and children alike.

Hamine eggs with hummus

Serves four
4 eggs
Skins of 3 onions
1tbsp ground coffee
1 tin chickpeas
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
2tbsp tahini
Sea salt
½ cucumber
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ pomegranate, seeds removed
Olive oil
Za’atar or sesame seeds

Place the eggs with the onion skins and ground coffee into a pan or into the pot of a slow cooker. Top with water and simmer for at least six hours. For a slow cooker you can leave it simmer overnight on the lowest setting. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and leave to cool. Peel and set aside.

For the hummus, drain the chickpeas but keep the water. Blitz the chickpeas with the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and half of the chickpea water. Blend until smooth. You may need to add more water. Season to taste with salt.

Halve the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Dice the cucumber and place in a bowl with the pomegranate seeds and tomatoes. Dress with a little olive oil and sea salt and gently mix to combine.

To serve, place a spoon of the hummus and salad in each bowl and top with a halved hamine egg. Scatter with a little za’atar if you have it and serve with warm flatbreads.

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