Egg, Fennel and Tomato Pie

As the puff pastry lid cooks quickly the poached eggs underneath surrounded by fennel and tomatoes magically retain their softness in this delicious vegetarian main course. Serve with a green vegetable such as spinach, brussels sprouts or crisply steamed cabbage.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs (size 1)
  • 50 g (2 oz) butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced fairly thinly
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 rounded teaspoon paprika
  • 397 g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2–3 sprigs fresh tarragon or mint leaves, chopped roughly
  • 250 g (8 oz) packet puff pastry, thawed if frozen
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Method

Poach the eggs for about 2 minutes until softly done. Carefully transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water so that they stop cooking at once and remain soft.

Melt 25 g (1 oz) of the butter and the olive oil together in a large, deep heavy-based saucepan over a fairly low heat. Add the fennel pieces and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until soft. Then add the chopped garlic cloves and the paprika and stir around for another minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes with their liquid and bring to bubbling for a minute or so stirring around. Stir in the remaining 25 g (1 oz) butter.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave until the mixture is cool, then season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir in the roughly chopped tarragon or mint leaves.

Spoon half the fennel and tomato mixture into a pie dish or rectangular ovenproof dish. Lift the eggs from the bowl of cold water with a slotted spoon, one by one, and let any extra water drip off. Lay the drained, poached eggs on top of the mixture. Spoon the remaining fennel and tomato mixture on top, covering the eggs.

Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to roughly the size of the top of the pie dish. Dampen the edges of the pie dish and lay the pastry on top. Trim the edges and use the scraps to roll out and make decorations for the top of the pie. Make 2 small slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape while baking. Refrigerate the pie for at least 30 minutes or until about 30 minutes before you want to eat.

To make the glaze, stir ½ teaspoon of salt into the egg yolk and then brush all over the decorated pastry lid. Bake the pie just above the centre of a preheated oven, 220°C, 425°F, Gas Mark 7 for 20-30 minutes until the pastry has risen and is a darkish golden brown. Serve the pie at once.

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