Friday, November 19, 2010

Tuna Hash and a Poached Egg

There are some things I just cannot do. Touch my toes, speak French, or make potato pancakes. When I make potato pancakes, they rarely form a nice cake at the bottom; or if they do, they collapse when I come to turn them. But in my defeat I've decided that I'm good at hash: chunky, messy, and crisply golden.

Another thing I'm not so good at is gardening. I like the idea; I keep giving it a shot. But then we get sick or busy, the weeds take over, and I lose hope. A few months ago I gave up on the potatoes, sure that they wouldn't amount to anything much. But this week, after I pulled out the broad beans – which this person of little faith planted on top of the tatie trench – I began digging out some intrusive couch grass. As I dug, to my surprise I discovered taties the size of my fist – sixty of them!

Unfortunately, because I didn't expect them, by the time they were discovered I had impaled a dozen of them on the gardening fork, further proof I'm a rotten gardener.

With a sack of stabbed potatoes, a carton of backyard eggs, and three hungry kids, I found myself dreaming of hash. In an American diner, they're usually cooked with beef or pork and topped with a fried egg. However, we don't cook red meat and I don't like fried eggs.

But in a funny little second hand cookbook, I found another idea. The book is the hilarious Take a Tin of Tuna (yes, it's slightly nauseating if you look at it too long), and includes a recipe for tuna hash. While it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, by the time I had fiddled with the proportions and changed a few ingredients, I ended up with something truly satisfying. The tuna met my need for something unctuous and meaty mixed in with the potatoes, and was even enough to get my four year old, who mostly hates taties, to eat a plateful.

Of course, if you're concerned about the overfishing of tuna and your four year old will eat another form of protein, you might make it not with tuna but with a few thick slices of bacon, chopped and fried with the onions. Or leave out the meat and stud it with salty feta or grilled haloumi just before serving.

Tuna Hash and a Poached Egg

- 1 kg potatoes
- several tablespoons olive oil
- 2 or 3 shallots, or 1 onion, sliced finely into half moons
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced including some green bits
- 1 cup peas
- 425g can tuna (or 2 thick rashers of bacon or a slab of haloumi or perhaps some feta...)
- 3 or so stalks flat-leaf parsley (optional), chopped
- 6 eggs, or however many your household needs

Peel the potatoes (or not) and cut into rough 1cm dice. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Blanch the peas for a minute, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, and boil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until barely cooked. Drain and set aside.

Warm several tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the shallots (or the onion), and cook over medium heat until tender. Add the spring onions, potatoes, peas and tuna and stir to combine. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, pressing down with a spatula from time to time to encourage golden bits.

While it's cooking, boil the kettle, pour the water into another wide skillet and bring to a very gentle simmer, that is, water in which a tiny bubble rises once or twice a second.

Run the spatula around the potatoes, turning them over and roughing them up. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until you have lots of golden crispy bits or you're just too hungry to wait any longer.

Meanwhile, poach your eggs* in the other skillet. To do this, break an egg into a shallow coffee cup. Gently slide it into the barely simmering water, and repeat until you have a ring of eggs. Poach for four to six minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is deliciously runny. The time will depend on the size of your eggs.

Place a good helping of hash on each plate, and top with poached eggs. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and pass the pepper.

*Note: This method of poaching works perfectly with very fresh backyard eggs; pretty well with fresh organic eggs; but it's somewhat messy with stale supermarket eggs. You could always soft boil them instead.

Inspired by a recipe in Joie Warner's Take a Tin of Tuna.

(Backyard: potatoes, eggs, parsley. Local: olive oil, shallots, spring onions, peas, and possibly bacon. Not very eco or local: tuna.)

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