Dina’s Eggs

Roughly around week 6-8 of pregnancy, for two weeks and two weeks only, I craved any and all food that registered on my sensory radar. From the Jacket Potato that appeared in The Morning to the crisp memory of Dina’s eggs, served during our stay at Casa da Dina in Alentejo’s countryside. While waiting for Dina to kindly email through her recipe I tried out the first decent looking search result for Mexican eggs.

But Dina’s eggs are next level. They’re way richer and jammier due to the reduction of the tomatoes, creating a simple chutney of sorts which is then finally added to the eggs alongside jalapeño and fresh coriander. Recipe below, as shared by Dina.

So, here it goes:

The tomato sauce

  • 1–1.5kg tomatoes (good ones, plum or any other kind as far as they are ripe. Cut them in quarters or smaller. I peel them, but not totally. You can leave some skin on)
  • 800g  white onions cut in quarters (if too large cut the quarters in half)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt

In a pot (I use a wok) start with the olive oil, generous amount, then make a layer of tomato, followed by a layer of onions and  garlic. Repeat the layers until you run out of all the ingredients. Add the salt and turn on the stove. When it starts boiling lower the heat and cover the pot. Let it boil slowly for 40 minutes to an hour. And it is ready. Taste it to make sure the salt is good. It reduces a lot and you will see a lot of liquid.

You can make abundant tomato sauce and freeze it in small portions. This way you can eat your Mexican eggs anytime you feel like it and faster. You may use the sauce also in stews, etc. etc.

Now the eggs:

  • 2–4 eggs
  • 1 jalapeño (it depends on the size of the chili and the amount of eggs you are making. For both of you I think half is good)
  • 1.5tbsp  chopped coriander leaves (half of this amount goes on the frying pan the other half over the eggs once they are done and on the plate)
  • 3 tbs tomato sauce

On a frying pan pour a little bit of olive oil. Add the 3 tablespoons of the tomato, the coriander and the chopped jalapeño. Let it fry till the water from the tomato sauce evaporates (or else the eggs will turn really mushy and ugly). Pour the eggs on and make them to your taste. Once on the serving plate it is time for the rest of the coriander.


Travel and its opposites

If, as we’re told, the point of exotic travel is to ‘create memories’, and if, as I would insist, our memories consist fundamentally of good stories, and if what makes a good story is some element of unexpectedness, it follows that the point of travelling is to be surprised.

Jonathon Franzen, from the essay Postcards from East Africa, in The End of the End of the Earth pg 181

In 2010 I was staying in the seaside village of Taganga, Colombia when I realised that my cash supply was running dangerously low and I would need to travel to the nearby town of Santa Marta to withdraw more. I passed over the last of my coins to the bus driver for the short trip and was soon wandering through the outskirts of the town. Finally locating a cash machine, I discovered that my bank card had been blocked due to a recent online purchase. Without any backups (lesson learned), or mobile phone, I was reliant on my own ‘smarts’ to dig myself out of the mess. Faintly recalling the details of a nearby hostel, I navigated my way and promptly asked to make use of the wifi. Connected, with a thick Aussie accent filling the headphones I was dismayed to realise that the microphone didn’t work.

A last resort, I asked if I could borrow some cash to call from a local payphone. To which the attendant replied that they would need to check with the manager. Shortly the manager arrived and… ‘Evan?!’. The manager, it turned out, was a Californian I had studied with in Sydney back in 2005, both of us as exchange students. He, of course, happily lent me the money and within 30 minutes I’d spoken with the bank, had the hold on my card lifted, withdrawn cash and returned the borrowed money with a wild sense of wonder at the smallness of the world.

My eleven year old memory emphasises that travel is not manufactured experience, as rampant tourism and the plethora of City Guides might have us believe. Real adventure exposes you to the elements, to learn something surprising about a new place, or possibly even yourself. Conversely, a form of overly planned travel that I’ve come to appreciate in recent years is one that serves an entirely different purpose – one of rest. Both are totally valid, and necessary, in balance. And both are a privilege, though neither require travelling far from home to experience.


A 30th birthday in the City of Light

This year MR turned 30. Despite being European by birth he had never been to Paris , so it has been a floating idea of mine for awhile to take him as a surprise, knowing that he would love it.

Somewhere in the summer lockdown restrictions were lifted and ‘travel corridors’ were proposed between European countries with low case counts. I wasn’t sure how long these would last but booked train tickets and a hotel and crossed my fingers. Naturally, a week before we were due to travel, France was added to the UK’s quarantine list. After MR unwrapped the Paris guidebook I’d given him (the trip ‘unveiling’) we weighed up whether to proceed or postpone and finally opted to go.

No regrets. The trip was a little stifled – Paris restrictions mandated masks in indoor and outdoor spaces, and quite a few businesses were closed – but on the upside we were treated to a near empty city.

Day one we tackled the tourist landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe and La tour Eiffel, with an unanticipated stop at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées where MR bought a dress shirt for our marriage ceremony. Late afternoon we headed back to our luxe room at the Hôtel des Grands Boulevards armed with Carrefour bites to form a makeshift private dinner on our courtyard-facing balcony. The buzz of the open-roofed restaurant below was welcome company.

Day two we wandered Le Marais, first revelling and later struggling in the 32°c heat. After a rest in our hotel we set out toward the lively streets of Canal Saint-Martin for dinner, eventually finding an outdoor table at Le Verre Volé where we sat ’til late drinking natural wine in the balmy evening air.

Day three MR led us to the Musée de l’Orangerie to be overwhelmed by Monet’s Nymphéas. The temperature had cooled and the weather was dreamy. Crossing the Seine, we stopped at Les Antiquaires for breakfast on the terrace before heading on to Le Bon Marché in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. At Hermès MR picked out a tie, generously gifted by AJ and CJ, for our marriage ceremony. After refilling on melon and ham at (the) Café de Flore we picked up a bottle of Mumm to drink at Pont Neuf as the sun set. Our final evening was spent at the rooftop restaurant Tortuga, with views across Paris.

Day four, due to head home, we awoke early to wander up to the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre. Feeling completely indulged and extremely grateful we returned to London to start our 14 day quarantine.

Conclusion: MR loooves Paris 💖 and I concur. The city is aptly referred to as La Ville Lumière for its significance during the Enlightenment but also because it was one of the first large European cities to use gas street lighting on a grand scale. But to me, the City of Light, is an expression of how the stone buildings and blonde gravel illuminate when the sun appears, creating an architectural soft box for the city’s well-dressed.