Confession – I bought this without knowing what the hell it was, because it was purple. Didn’t have a name, and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But I had to have it. A quick Google search along the lines of “purple spinach like plant” threw up a ton of options (there are so many different foods that are purple – what in the world are purple strawberries? Dipping in food colouring doesn’t count, you know. But seriously, do they really exist?) I know I’m digressing here, but blue/purple tomatoes too? Whaaat.
It’s Amaranth. You get them both in green and purple, and this one I had stumbled upon was the latter variety. What was a staple food of the Aztecs and Incas, and still a native crop in Peru, it apparently has been cultivated for over 8000 years now. Chock full of calcium, iron and protein, it’s been rightly named the “future crop of the year”! The grains of the plant have their equal share of nutrients too, and contain an unusually high quality of protein as compared to their more commonly found counterparts.
I wanted the keep the preparation as simple as possible and retain the vibrancy of its colour. Hence these simple baked eggs. The amaranth is lightly wilted and assembled like a wreath around the eggs. I’ve used chicken eggs, but just wanted to show from the picture that different types can be used (the smaller freckled ones are quail eggs).
Very quick to rustle up and makes for a great simple meal with a side of toasted bread. Moral of the story – venture out more and try new ingredients; you don’t know how much you might love it!
(I’ve fully cooked my eggs, but runny yolks would work wonderfully too).
INGREDIENTS: (Serves 1 – 2)
A small bunch of spinach, about 100 gms
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely diced
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 200 C / 395 F.
Pluck out the thin tender stalks of the amaranth along with the leaves. Rinse them well and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Add a small glug of olive oil in a pan and sauté the shallots and garlic until lightly browned. Tip in the amaranth and toss for a minute until they just about start to wilt. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until they get cool enough to handle. Once there, gently squeeze handfuls and remove as much liquid from them as possible.
Lay out the wilted spinach around the sides of 2 ramekins or a small baking dish. Make a small well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes depending on how you’d like your eggs. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately as is, or with toasted bread.