The idea of putting yogurt and eggs together may sound unconventional and even slightly eccentric. Yogurt plays an integral part of Turkish cuisine and is used liberally on everything sweet and savoury. It cools a dish down by reducing spice levels, adds acidity and creaminess, and in this case where the yogurt is cold and the eggs hot, it provides a great temperature contrast.
Cilbir—what this dish is called in Turkey—is technically made with poached eggs. I don’t know about you, but anything that requires dexterity and precision in the kitchen is something that I would never attempt. So fried eggs it is. I’ve said in the instructions below to fry the eggs to your liking, but I would highly recommend leaving them runny. The oozy yolks form a part of the sauce, and that with the yogurt and chilli butter is the real essence of the dish.
The garlicky yogurt beneath the eggs would traditionally be at room temperature. Nigella specifies in her recipe to bring the cold yogurt to room temperature by warming it in a bowl suspended over hot water. I tried it both ways and hands down prefer it fridge-cold. What I said earlier – the temperature contrast. Incidentally, it’s just way easier too! Typically the yogurt would have just minced garlic and salt stirred in. While this tastes great, what makes it even better is a pinch of sugar and grated lime zest. I could eat this plain by the bowlful.
The chilli butter that gets drizzled over the top is a crucial part of this recipe. In Turkey, they would use the Aleppo pepper which is a lot milder in taste compared to the chilli powder you find here in India. I played around with the proportions for a while, substituting it with paprika, red chilli flakes, chilli powder and a combination of the three (setting my mouth on fire a few times in the process). I’ve found that the Indian chilli powder works best here. It has the right depth, heat, and flavour. I’ve also cut back on the amount of butter to still be able to make it a weekday meal without it being too decadent. If you haven’t tried this yet, I can guarantee that you have new pleasures ahead.
- 4 eggs
- A few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped
- Salt, to taste
- 200 ml thick yogurt
- 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp lime or lemon zest
- Salt, to taste
- 15 grams butter
- 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- Zest a lime or lemon, making sure to get just the top layer and not the bitter white pith. Measure 1/4 tsp. Add garlic cloves, sugar and salt to a pestle and mortar and pound to a smooth paste. Add the garlic paste and lemon zest to the yogurt and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Melt butter with olive oil in a small non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to melt, add chilli powder and cook for 45-60 seconds, swirling the pan occasionally. Decant into a small bowl. Retain the pan.
- Crack two eggs at a time into the same pan and fry the eggs to your liking. (Tastes best with runny yolks). Season the eggs with salt.
- To serve, divide to yogurt between two plates. Place two fried eggs on each plate on top of the yogurt. Drizzle over the chilli butter and top with chopped coriander. Serve immediately with toast to mop it all up with.
*Adapted from Nigella Lawson
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