Do you ever come across a meal that is perfect for its time? One that seems somehow to represent you, entirely, right in that moment? This is my "perfect for me right now" meal, and I've been eating it an awful lot lately so I thought I'd share.
It has four main elements:
1) Speck. This is not bacon, or at least not as you know it. I got tired of boring sliced supermarket bacon, rubbery and flaccid and flavourless. I purchase speck as a big piece which means I can slice it to my desired thickness (oh, about a centimetre) and then into lardons. Sauteed in olive oil, those little morsels become crisp and juicy and terribly flavoursome. In the past I've used speck in wintery soups and stews, but more recently I'm sizzling it up in all sorts of exciting ways.
2) Silver beet. I never loved this vegetable. It was terribly green and terribly earthy. The stems were chewy. I didn't know what to do with it. But a few years ago I jumped on the cavolo nero bandwagon, and found I loved it steamed then sauteed with garlic. Last year I tried that same simple method on some market-bought silver beet and tables began to turn. The final twist was when I planted a few seedlings last spring. That stuff grew and grew, and when I'd finally picked it all, it grew back again. Silver beet had it's time in the sun and in my kitchen, and I've not looked back. I'm looking forward to having it on tap again this summer.
3) Eggs. Or rather, very recently laid neighbourhood eggs. My chicken dream still hasn't come to fruition, but I've got the next best thing - friends with chickens. Every time I'm handed a carton of fresh-laid goodness, my heart skips a beat. And while most eggs find their way into cakes and tarts and Pearl's thrice weekly "mushy eggies", I save the very freshest for poaching. You can add your vinegar, swish your water, stand on one leg and whistle the national anthem all you like. All you actually need is a pan, simmering water, and the very freshest eggs.
4) Bread. Good bread, preferably sourdough, thick sliced, drizzled with olive oil, grilled in a hot pan till the stripes appear then rubbed with a cut clove of garlic.
All of that thrown together gives you this meal, this perfect anytime, every time meal. It could be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. It's just right for one, but could feed a crowd. It's simple food, which means it has to rely on the quality of its ingredients. And it's got enough green to be good for you, and enough other bits to feel like a treat.
Saute speck in a little oil until golden. Add half a clove of garlic, crushed, and some washed, sliced silver beet. Cook for several minutes until silver beet is tender and wilted (keep it over gentle heat so as not to burn the garlic). Add a little water if it needs some help. Season it all liberally with good salt and freshly ground pepper. Meanwhile, poach eggs. Grill bread and rub with the other half of the garlic clove. Pile on the silver beet mixture, top with the eggs, and tuck in.