There’s a joke about a salad farmer who is having a tea in the village café. A neighbour comes in and says: ‘There’s a goat in your field.’ The farmer says: ‘Don’t worry, he won’t eat much’. Shortly afterward, the neighbour returns and says: ‘There’s a cow in your field.’ The farmer keeps sipping his tea and says: ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Then the neighbour returns and says: ‘There’s a man from Crete in your field.’ The farmer leaps up and rushes back to save his field before everything green has been stripped.
People of Cretan background are famous for eating the dark-green weeds that grow wild along the Aegean coast and that were ignored for centuries by Turkish cooks. This egg dish uses the kind of wild (and tame) greens the Cretans have taught the Turks to love.
Eggs With Wild Weeds
1 cup of any or all of these, mixed: nettles, curly endives, chicory, dandelion greens, round radicchio, beetroot (beet) leaves, wild rocket (but not witlof)
3 spring onions (scallions)
80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot paprika
pide bread, to serve (to make your own, see page 45)
1 If you are using nettles, use gloves to handle them. To remove the sting, put in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to cold water for 30 seconds. Pick the green leaves and discard the stems.
2 Clean and finely chop the endives and the chicory, discarding the woody stems. Wash the spring onions, then remove the roots and green outer layer. Finely chop the onion.
3 Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion and brown for 5 minutes. Add the spring onions and cook for another 3 minutes, then add the wild leaves in this order (from toughest to softest): endives, chicory, radicchio, nettle, dandelion, beetroot leaves, wild rocket. Lightly fry for about 5 minutes to let any excess water evaporate. Add the spices and stir. Make four wells in the mixture and break an egg into each well. Continue to cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
4 Serve the kaygana in the pan for people to help themselves. If the yolks spread into the mixture,so much the better. Serve with pide.
Recipe and image from Anatolia by Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale (Murdoch Books) available now in all good bookstores and online.