Finally it’s time! Time for garden parties, brunches, picknicks and other outdoorsy things calling for quick-to-make, transport-friendly and easy-to-eat things that stay yummy for some time. With the weather finally having stopped yoyo’ing from major flood scenarios to making everyone feel like vampires crisping up in direct sunlight, creating a country-sized outdoor-steambath in the process… Now, making plans for more than just 30 mins ahead is possible at last. In my case, this translates to long days in the park, a hiking trip with hubby here and there and the occasional brunch buffet or BBQ in someone elses garden calling for my kitchen skills.
When it comes to typical brunch or picknick-basket stuff, there’s always one thing I’m looking for – and hardly ever encounter – eggs prepared in a way that doesn’t require a cannon and the appropriate permit to carry it along with it’s ammo. Have I mentioned my dislike for hard boiled eggs yet? Soft-boiled or sunny-side-ups naturally are a rare sight on these outdoors-occasions, simply because their need for an arsenal of cutlery and/or serving-gizmos to keep them fresh disqualifies them for the easy-to-eat bit. Unless… Well, one lovely morning, house- and dogsitting at hubby’s mom’s house I found myself facing a few odds and ends from the evening before, the aftermath of me shamelessly abusing the chance to use her oven for all kinds of savory treats along the lines of tarts and hot pockets. As usual, those leftovers came in amounts that just don’t add up to anything meal’ish on their own, but I had a garden, a comfy chair and a good book waiting for me and no desire whatsoever to trudge over to the store and try to come up with something that wouldn’t keep me from my quality bookworm time for too long. Eyes zero’ing in on the muffin tray I remembered having seen some sort of puff pastry thingy with an egg inside on a hotel’s afternoon buffet a while back, which gave me just the idea I needed. The short version: I lined the muffin tray with sheets of filo pastry, filled them with the leftover scraps, topped them with an egg and popped the tray into the oven until the eggs were just how I wanted them. Since that first tray of experimantal breakfast-with-all-the-fixings-and-egg to-go I’ve refined the method a bit, adjusting it to the occasion at hand – buffet (let the eggs firm up a bit longer), picknick-basket (lightly fold the pastry to protect the egg and use an extra sheet to make the cup more durable) and so on. When it comes to the fillings… of course I’ll share the ones first disappearing out of the tray and my personal fav with you guys, but basically you can go wild with them, use whatever you like or just have flying around your kitchen, as long as it’s savory and not too saucy – that would make for really soggy filo cups.
Here’s the „long“, refined version of the experiment~
6 Sheets of Filo Pastry
2-3 Tbsp Butter, melted
1-2 Tbsp Butter, soft
A 6 Mold, Standard-sized Muffin Tray
1) Generously rub the insides of the muffin molds with the soft butter.
2) Carefully spread out the first sheet of filo pastry and gently brush it with a thin layer of melted butter.
3) Fold the sheet over twice to end up with a 4-layered square of pastry in front of you.
4) Place the pastry on top of the first mold in the tray and center it.
5) Ball up a paper towel and use it to gently tap and wriggle the pastry sheet into the mold while lifting up the rims with your free hand to make it easier to slide the pastry inside and closely fit it in without breaking. There should be a pastry rim of about 2cm sticking out of the molds at this point. Feel free to even out the edges with a sharp knife if you like, but don’t shorten it too much. Gently brush them with some melted butter to prevent them from burning in the oven.
6) If the rim ends up looking a bit messy, nudge it into even folds once the „bottom“ of the cup is safely and snugly inside the mold.
7) Repeat this 5 more times to prep the rest of the tray.
8) Cover the tray with clingfilm and proceed to prep the fillings.
Each of these fillings is… should be… enough – stop „tasting!“ – to fill 2 of the 6 cups
Filling#1 – Everybody’s Darling:
6 Portobello Mushrooms, quartered or, in case of very large specimen waiting to be used up, diced into ½ cm cubes
2 heaps Tbsp Bacon Cubes or Lardons
1 Tbsp Crème Fraîche or Légère
1 Handful of Baby Spinach Leaves
A pinch each of Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg
2 Tsp Chives, finely chopped
1) Set a small pan on high heat and add the bacon cubes.
2) Once they start to sizzle and crisp up, add the mushrooms.
3) Season the lot with salt, pepper and nutmeg and give the pan a hearty flip to distribute the seasoning.
4) Once the bacon is crispy enough for your liking – roundabout 3-4 mins depending on pan, stove and temperature of the cubes – add the spinach leaves and cover the pan with a lid or a plate to let the leaves steam and wilt a little.
5) Once they’ve softened a little – this shouldn’t take longer than 2-3 mins – fold in the crème fraîche, making sure everything’s well incorporated.
6) Move the mixture into a bowl, sprinkle it with the chives after adjusting the seasoning and set the bowl aside.
Filling#2 – Hubby’s Favorite:
4 cooked waxy Fingerling or Baby Potatoes, cubed or thinly sliced
¼ Ring/50-70g of Beef Chorizo, sliced into thin disks
1 Tsp Pimenton
½ Yellow Bell Pepper, very finely cubed
A Pinch of Black Pepper, freshly cracked
1) Place the chorizo disks in a pan large enough to fit them all in in one layer. Set the heat to medium-high and let them heat up for 3-4 mins.
2) Once they start releasing their juices, flip them over and fry them for 1-2 mins on each side until they’re crispy.
3) Take them out of the pan – leave the fat they released inside, that’s your potato seasoning – and place them on a paper towel to soak up the excess fat still clinging to them.
4) Pop the potatoes into the pan and give them a good flip to evenly coat them in the chorizo-spiced oil.
5) Fry them for around 4-5 mins depepnding on how thinly you’ve sliced them, until they, too, crisp up.
6) Add the bell pepper, pimenton and black pepper along with the chorizo, give the lot another flip to evenly distribute the ingredients, then move the contents of your pan to a bowl and set it aside.
Filling#3 – My personal favorite on the breakfast table:
100g Light Cream Cheese
60g Smoked Salmon, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp Chives, finely chopped
A pinch each of Salt and Pepper
1-2 scrapes of Lemon Zest
1) Place the cream cheese in a small mixing bowl.
2) Sprinkle it with lemon zest, salt and pepper and stir until the cheese softens up.
3) Add the chives and stir until they’re evenly distributed.
4) Carefully fold in the smoked salmon.
5) Have a taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary and set the bowl aside
Assembling the Cups
1) Preheat oven to 180°C.
2) Pop the tray holding the unfilled pastry cups and bake them for about 5 mins until the dough starts to crisp up and take on color. This will prevent the pastry from soaking up too much liquid before getting the chance to firm up and hold the fillings.
3) Get your fillings ready and have the eggs in easy reach.
4) Spoon the filling into the cups up to just below the rim of the molds. Even out the filling with the back of your spoon to keep the egg from running all over the place.
5) Crack one egg into every cup, topping off the fillings. If you’re worried about bits of shell going in with the egg, crack them into a small bowl first and use it to slide the egg into the cups.
6) Place the tray back in the oven and bake the cups for 6-8 mins until the eggs are done. The time they take depends a little on the temperature of your fillings and of the eggs themselves. I tried to guesstimate their state by shaking the tray a little, but I had to find out that they look wobblier than they are, so lightly touch the surface of the eggs with your fingertips to determine whether they’re done.
By the way, making these using soft tortillas instead of filo pastry works wonderfully as well, but I strongly recommend having a plate nearby – since they put a new spin on the word „crispy“, gracefully eating one of those straight out of your hand can be somewhat of a challenge.
Oh and… Just food for thought, I haven’t tried it myself yet (mostly because quail’s eggs drive me up the wall): Mini Muffin Tray, Filo Pastry, Quail’s Eggs plus a fancy filling – maybe saffron scented lobster tails? – might make one hell of an entrance at a dinner party~
Aaaand on that note… sun’s up, book and blanket are packed, basket stuffed with yummies, I’m off to enjoy the rest of the day in the park~!