Poached Eggs on Green Cushions

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The ‘green cushion’ in this cold first course is a subtle purée of spinach and green pepper with just a bite of fresh green chilli.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large green pepper, cored, deseeded and chopped finely
  • 1 small fresh green chilli, stemmed, deseeded and chopped roughly
  • 500 g (1 lb) spinach, stemmed and washed
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 6 large eggs (size 1–2)
  • 300 ml (½ pint) creamed smetana
  • Salt
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaved parsley, coriander, fennel or dill leaves to garnish

Method

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Add the green pepper and chilli and fry fairly gently, stirring often, until the pepper is completely soft but not browned. Leave on one side in the pan.

Steam or boil the spinach leaves until soft, then drain and press out as much liquid as possible. Put into a food processor with the garlic, the fried peppers and their oil and the sugar and whizz to a smooth purée. Finally, whizz in the wine vinegar and the remaining olive oil. Season to taste with salt and leave until cold.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs for about 2 minutes until soft – the yolks should be opaque but still feel soft to touch in the centre. (I would poach the eggs one by one to get them right.) Put them straight into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking any further.

Not more than an hour or so before you eat drain the eggs and gently pat dry with kitchen paper. Spoon the spinach and pepper purée on to individual plates, then swirl a little creamed smetana on top. Place a poached egg in the centre and garnish with a herb sprig.

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