'Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes' - George Bernard Shaw

‘Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes’ – George Bernard Shaw

It is funny what can make you feel happy. I just found myself thinking: finally, finally it is cold, grey and rainy again – how fabulous that the weather is so dismal and I am so tired, that I want to stay inside, sit behind my laptop and finally write a post again. :-)

The summer has been filled with long sunny days that were just too short for cooking extensive meals. Therefore the last weeks have been all about quick and easy dinners fixes. This dish has been one of my favourite discoveries: a simple silky omelette with plump and juicy prawns. The flavours are a combination of the saltiness of soy sauce and the delicate garlic of chives. It makes a lovely lunch dish or a light dinner with some fried rice and steamed paksoi.

I came across this Asian dish in the most roundabout way. It all started with a visit to Spain earlier this year and a day trip to Gibraltar. On a lunch menu full of rich and heavy dishes, the “Prawn Omelette” caught my eye.  The combination made so much sense. There I was looking forward to a delicate fluffy omelette, when my plate arrived piled high with these odd crispy fritters. Unfortunately they were greasy and lacked favour, but they had caught my imagination.

I discovered that Tortitas de Camarones, shrimp pancakes, are a specialty of Andalucía. They are made from an egg-less batter of (part) chickpea flour and of course shrimp.  Once home I almost became obsessed with turning, what sounded like a winning combination of ingredients, into a tasty dish. Obstinate as I am, I tried (and failed) over and over again. When I was mean with the oil the results was rubbery, almost slimy. When I gave in and cooked the fritters in generous amounts of oil, the texture was lovely, but the fritters were sickly greasy.

As I was about to make another experimental batch when my eye fell on the beautiful plump prawns I had bought (a variation on the tiny shrimp I had been using until then, in the hope it would improe things). And I realized I just didn’t have the heart to waste these beauties on another failed dish. So instead I decided to make the omelette that I would have wanted to have been served that day. Simple and plain but so satisfyingly delicate. 

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes....and how it looks in the distance

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes….and how it looks in the distance

Ingredients
(based on ‘Wokking Mum‘)
Serves 1

Marinated prawns
1 tsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry pale sherry or at a pinch some vermouth or sake, use a little less)
1/4 tsp tapioca- or corn starch
salt
pepper
6 large prawns

Omelette
1 small tomato
1 spring onion
optional: oil
1/2 tbsp tapioca- or corn starch
2 tbsp milk or chicken stock or water
1 tsp soy sauce
optional: a few drops of sesame oil
2 eggs
salt
pepper
chives
optional: oyster sauce

 

Recipe

  1. Combine the rice wine with the starch and mix until smooth.
  2. Add the salt, pepper and prawns. Refrigerate until ready to use. .
  3. Skin the tomatoes (bring a small pot of water to the boil. Cut a cross into the skin of the tomato. Briefly drop into the hot water. Remove and skin.)
  4. Dice the tomato. If it is very juicy you might want to discard the seeds.
  5. Chop the spring onion.
  6. If using, heat a little oil small pan. Fry the prawns until 80% cooked. Remove from the pan.
  7. Combine the starch with the milk, stock or water and mix until smooth.
  8. Whisk in the two eggs.
  9. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil (optional), salt and pepper.
  10. Add the tomato, spring onion and prawns to the egg mix.
  11. Pour the mixture back into the pan.
  12. Reduce the heat and cook until the egg is 90% set.
  13. Chop the chives.
  14. Plate and sprinkle with chives and oyster sauce, if using. 

Tips & Variations
After you have cooked the prawns add some thinly sliced onions and/or bean sprouts to your pan


Serve with
Fried rice and paksoi or sugar snaps

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One plate and two forks is all you need to enter chocolate heaven

One plate and two forks is all you need to enter chocolate heaven

Summer has been amazing with seemingly endless sweltering days. But ever so often this glorious weather is punctured by bland grey skies or a powerful rainstorm; Iittle reminders that this summer is not everlasting and that I better enjoy every single beautiful day.

So I have not been doing much cooking at all. On work nights I might throw together a quick dinner, but in the weekends I have been (literally) eating out as much as possible- I’ve been enjoying rooftop, waterside and pavement dining.

There have only been very few exceptions were I was tempted to invite friends over and cook a meal. And even then I did not want to spend long hours indoors preparing dinner. But then at the same time, when my friends are sitting at a table laughing and chatting, I want to be with them instead of standing in the kitchen putting together a meal. This dessert was exactly right:

this chocolate torte comes together quickly and can be made the night before – or earlier in the day.  After it has baked and cooled, you just pop it into the fridge until it is time for dessert.

This torte is decadent; it is so moist it almost has the consistency of a mousse. You can bake one large torte to serve a crowd or, for a romantic, informal dinner, you can make a smaller torte and serve it on a single plate with two little forks to share.  Either way, it is fabulous with a little whipped cream and a tart raspberry sauce or the way I prefer it: piled high with fresh summer fruits.

 

Pure, sensuous and rich decadence

Pure, sensuous and rich decadence

 Ingredients

(from the blog ‘Almacucina’)
Two small 16cm or one 22cm torte – serves 4 to12

110g (6 ounces) 70% dark chocolate
1 tbsp butter
30ml (1/8 cup) strong black coffee (brewed or instant)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
55 (1/4 cup) of (unrefined) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream
a sprinkling of sugar

Recipe

  1. Line the bottom of two 16cm spring form pans (or one 22cm pan) with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 175C (350F)
  3. Au bain marie* melt the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring once or twice. Once melted remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
  4. Bring some water to the boil.
  5. Using an electric mixer whisk the eggs on high, gradually adding the sugar. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until the eggs are pale and have double in volume – about 3 – 5 min.
  6. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
  7. Using a spatula fold the cream into the chocolate with a few quick strokes until incorporated.
  8. Then add the egg and fold in gently and quickly.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared form(s).
  10.  Fill a large pan or deep baking tray with the boiled water. Carefully place the cake pan(s) inside. The water should come about 3/4 way up the pan.
  11. Place in the oven for 25 min (maybe a little longer if using a large pan). The torte is done when it feels slightly bouncy but firm when you press lightly with your finger.
  12. Remove from the hot water bath and allow to cool 10-20 min.
  13. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  14. To unmold run a knife or spatula around the sides. If you find the bottom of the cake is sticking you can place the pan over a small flame to heat the base. Sprinkle the top of the cake with a little white sugar, to keep it from sticking when it is cut.
  15. If you are serving the torte in wedges use a hot wet knife to cut it, cleaning the knife after each cut.

 

* Au bain marie means melt in a heated water bath: bring a pot of water to the boil and then immerse a second pot/bowl until it sits about halfway inside the water. Keeping the water on a soft simmer allow the chocolate to melt.


Serve with

  • Fresh summer fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Whipped cream and a raspberry sauce

 

Summer bliss in a glass

Summer bliss in a glass

 

Enjoying the most wonderful summer heat wave – much too nice to stay indoors and blog regularly…..or cook for that matter….

Usually my idea of a prefect weekends involves pancakes for breakfast, but with this weather I hardly want to stand over a hot stove, endlessly flipping pancakes. Thankfully this fabulously summery dish crossed my path: some fruits stewed with orange and then layered with honey sweetened yoghurt and roasted oats.

The magic in this dish is the contrast of flavours and textures: tart fruit topped with gently sweet smooth yoghurt and crunchy oats.

The original recipe involved a few more steps (and calories): some cream whipped stiff with golden sugar that is folded into the yoghurt and finally some cookies crumbled over the top of it all. But I kept it a little simpler – as this treat is all about enjoying the summer.

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Ingredients
(a little altered from Albert Heijn ‘Jools Schotse Zondag‘)
Serves 2


250g mixed frozen summer fruits (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc)
1 twig of fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp honey
1/2 an orange
optional: 1-2 tbsp butter
100g oats
100g Greek Yoghurt 0% fat
Recipe

  1. Place frozen fruit, rosemary and 1/2 tbsp of the honey in a little pan.
  2. Grate in the orange peel and stir in juice.
  3. Bring to the boil. After a few minutes, when the fruit is soft and has released some juice, use a slotted spoon to remove the fruit and allow it to cool.
  4. Discard the rosemary and allow the sauce to cook a little longer and thicken. Add to the fruit.
  5. In a separate pan melt the butter (if using) and add oats and 1 tbsp of honey. Cook stirring regularly until the oats have turned golden.
  6. Stir the remaining tbsp of honey into the yoghurt.
  7. Layer the glasses with fruit, yoghurt, oats (repeat layers). Finish with a little fruit and/or oats.

Tips & Variations

  • Whip 50g cream with some golden sugar until stiff and fold into the yoghurt
  • Add some crumbled cookies to the layers

 

...and now off to have summer adventures...

…and now off to have summer adventures…

Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Do you know how frog’s legs became a traditional French delicacy?

Apparently in the 12th century Catholic monks were growing so fat that the church introduced additional days for fasting when meat was forbidden. The monks were quick to have frogs categorized as fish rather than meat, which meant they could be enjoyed without restriction. Devout peasants followed the example and the tradition of eating frog legs was born.

The first time I had frog legs I was a kid and we were having one of our rare meals out at the local Italian. The frog legs where smothered in a tomato sauce and I remember the adventurous feeling of eating them more than the actual taste. I have not had them often since so I have no idea what inspired me to google a recipe for them the other day. I was blown away to discover how easy they are to prepare. They are hardly any effort, look spectacularly exotic and taste amazing: fabulous little morsels of succulent and delicate meat.

Now I know that they are said to taste like chicken, but really…..they don’t. Especially paired with the deep flavours of grassy parsley and pungent garlic they have an earthy taste that reminds of a shallow creek.

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Ingredients
Serves 4 as a starter

500g frog legs
ca. 1/2 liter milk
30 g (2 tbsp) flour
salt, pepper
2 cloves garlic
12 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
20-40g (1-2 tbsp) butter

Recipe

  1. Defrost the frog legs in the fridge over night or for 15 min in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Place the legs in a bowl, cover with milk. Let the legs soak in the milk for 30-60 minutes (or if you have the time 8 hours…overnight…). Or if you are rushed then skip the soaking all together.
  3. Pour off the milk and dab the legs dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Place flour on a wide place and combine with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a large frying pan.
  6. First add oil to the pan. When it is hot add the butter.
  7. Dredge the frogs in the flour, shake off excess flour.
  8. Fry the legs on medium heat for about 5 min. Flip and fry another 5 min.
  9. Mince the garlic and add when the meat is almost done.
  10. Chop theparsley. Sprinkle half over the legs and toss.
  11. Place the legs on a serving plate and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley.
  12. Serve immediately.

Serve with

  • Just some crusty  bread and a lemon wedge
  • or for a main meals you can add some fried chanterelle of blanched green beans
  • oven roast potato wedges

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An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.  Oh baby, what a discovery!

An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.
Oh baby, what a discovery!


I love to travel – an even bigger hobby than food (ok, that is cheating as travel always involves food).  Usually travelling is about discovering faraway places and exotic lands. Which makes it even more special to discover a hidden gems on my own doorstep.  Again, I am not being accurate… this discovery was not quite THAT close to home, to be honest.

I was visiting friends up in the north. They took me to visit this little town so far off in the northern corner of the country that my navigation system actually took me through Germany on my way home. But back to this amazing place, the fortress town of Bourtange.

A short history of the place: it was built, it fell into ruin and it was rebuilt. To add some dates to that 1593, 1851, 1967. But those facts really do not say much. That is why I borrowed the below picture from the town’s website.

 

 

Stellar discovery - Bourtagne fortress

Stellar discovery – Bourtange fortress

 

The reason for the fortresses star shaped design was the increased use of the canon in battle in the 15th century. The old medieval ring shaped fortresses proved vulnerable to cannon fire, which resulted in the rise of the star shaped fortress first in Italy and then throughout Europe.

But as I said at the beginning of this post: travel always involves food and this little trip was no exception.  Before we set out in the morning I was treated to a fabulous breakfast. It has become quite a tradition that, whenever I visit, we start the day in the kitchen were HMM and I get to chat whilst JMM conjures up the most amazing treats for us – like those tasty scones I posted a while back.

So here I am sitting in a Dutch kitchen about to discover the skillet pancake which in the States is apparently also known as Dutch Baby Pancake or German Pancake. As I have never seen one of these babies either in the Netherlands or in Germany I was a little puzzled, but Wikipedia is quick to explain that these pancakes were the invention of a Seattle restaurant in the first half of the 19th century and that the use of “Dutch” was s a corruption of the German, “Deutsch”.  But enough talk of faraway places, time for food:

These pancakes are whipped up within no time and are much less effort than regular pancakes as they cook all on their own in the oven. The pancake puffs up magically whilst baking and it is at its best if the crust is lightly crispy whereas the center still has a custardy texture.

These fluffy make a great vehicle for any type of topping: I was treated to icing sugar and apple sauce, but you could add fresh berries, oven-roast strawberries,caramelized pear – the variations are endless.

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Ingredients
Serves 1-2

 

1 tbsp oil or 2 tbsp butter
3 eggs (room temperature)
60g all-purpose flour
120ml milk
a few drops of stevia (maple syrup, or sugar)
a pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla essence
optional: a pinch of cinnamon


Recipe

  1. The batter can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge. (I find they turn out even better when rested.)
  2. Heat the oven to 200C. Place a skillet or oven dish in the oven to heat up.
  3. Once the dish is hot add a few tablespoons of oil or butter.
  4. Whisk the eggs until well combined.
  5. Add the milk, stevia, salt, vanilla and cinnamon if using.
  6. Add the flour. Combine well.
  7. Pour the patter into the piping hot oven dish.
  8. Bake for 20-30 min. It should rise beautifully. You are looking for a golden center and a lightly dark edge.
  9. Serve hot as it will fall very quickly
  10. Toppings are endless, but I adore strawberries and icing sugar.

 

Tips & Variations

  • add some berries to the batter
  • add some lemon zest instead of the cinnamon
  • make small pancakes by baking them in a muffin pan and reducing the cooking time slightly
  • want something slightly similar but savory – try this Yorkshire Pudding recipe


Serve with

  • apple sauce and icing sugar
  • fresh strawberries and icing sugar
  • fresh berries and yoghurt
  • lemon juice and maple syrup
  • brown sugar
  • caramelized pears
  • stewed (frozen) fruit or raspberry apple compote

Other pancake recipes

 

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Oat Banana Pancakes

Oat Banana Pancakes

Buckwheat Blinis

Buckwheat Blinis

Socca Pancake

Socca Pancake

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Rice Pancake

Rice Pancake

Rice Patties

Rice Patties

Apple Pancake Rings

Apple Pancake Rings

Buckwheat Crepe

Buckwheat Crepe

Enjoying the good life with abandon but without any of the guilt.

Enjoying the good life with abandon but without any of the guilt.

I’ve really been slacking on posting vegetable recipes regularly. It has been ages since my last Veg of the Week post.  But this discovery is so fabulous it really deserves the special honour of being vegetable dish of the month. Actually this is my most exciting discovery this year.

Now I thought I would lure you in by describing this as a no-noodle lasagna. If I had been more forthcoming in my description, I am sure I would have scared you off. But now I have got you reading, I will reveal what the best replacement is for regular lasagna sheets. It is not zucchini (too moist), not aubergine (too chewy) it is…. white cabbage.

Crazy I know! But believe me, it works!!

I will own up that I really do not like white cabbage. I am still haunted by childhood memories of limp, grey, funky smelling cabbage leave wrapped around greasy, tasteless rice and mince. Couldn’t stand the stuff.

Never thought I would ever post a white cabbage recipe, but here I am raving about the stuff. Once you briefly blanch the leaves in boiling water and layer them with a Bolognese sauce and cheese, you have the most amazing carb-free lasagna. The cabbage leaves have a comforting bite that is similar to al dente pasta sheets; lightly chewy but soft at the same time.

You can stick to your regular recipe for traditional Bolognese sauce. Just make sure you meat sauce is on the dry side as the cabbage sheets will not soak up moisture as lasagna sheets do. For this dish I added plenty of mushrooms to bulk up the sauce with some extra fiber and minerals. As you are being unconventional already, I suggest you skip the effort of making a béchamel and give the below combination of ricotta, cottage and cream cheese a whirl. I really enjoyed both texture and flavour it added to the dish.

The result is an amazing lasagna that has the same comfort as a regular lasagna but is just that little bit healthier. And like a regular lasagna I feel that this one tastes even better reheated the next day. So, make sure you make a double portion…. at least.

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Ingredients
(inspired by the blog ‘Simple Roots Wellness‘)
Serves 3-4

500g mushrooms
2 onions
2-3 garlic cloves
(300g-) 500g mince
1 can of peeled and chopped tomatoes
a pinch of chili flakes
1/2 tbsp honey
optional: a dash ofWorcestershire sauce
salt, pepper
optional: 10g of chives
2 eggs
200g cottage cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g (light) cream cheese
1 tsp mustard
100g cheese for grating

 

Recipe

Make the sauce

  1. Bring a very large pot of water to the boil (I use the largest pot I have.)
  2. Slice the mushrooms and fry them in a wide pot or large deep fry pan until just tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Chop the onion and fry in the same pan.
  4. When the onions are translucent, mince the garlic and add it. Stir until fragrant.
  5. Add the mince meat and stir, breaking it up, until the meat has just coloured.
  6. Add the tinned tomato.
  7. Season the sauce with chili, honey, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  8. Allow the sauce to simmer whilst preparing the rest of the dish. Stir once in a while and add a little water if it starts to get too dry. (When you assemble the lasagna the sauce should be quite thick as the cabbage leaves do not soak up liquid as regular lasagna sheets do.)

Prepare the cabbage

  1. Carefully peel the leaves off the head of cabbage. Cut out the thick ribs. You are looking for looking for the amount of leaves that will comfortably cover a teatowel when placed next to each other.
  2. Place the leaves into the boiling water until they turn opaque (about 2-3 min). Using a slotted spoon remove the leaves and lay them on a kitchen towel to dry. Depending on the size of your pot you might have to do this in a few batches.

Make the sauce

  1. If using, chop the chives.
  2. Whisk together the two eggs.
  3. Add the ricotta, cottage and cream cheese and blend.
  4. Season with mustard, salt, pepper and add the chives.

Assemble the lasagna

  1. Heat the oven to 175C.
  2. Place 1/4 of the meat sauce in the bottom of a dish (about 20x35cm).
  3. Top with 1/3 of cabbage “noodles”.
  4. Add 1/4 meat sauce and 1/2 the cheese mix.
  5. Another layer using 1/3 of the “noodles”.
  6. 1/4 meat and the rest of the cheese mix.
  7. The rest of the “noodles”.
  8. The remainder of the meat.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 min. The dish can be prepared until this step and then refrigerated to be finished another day.
  10. Grate the cheese and sprinkle on top.
  11. Bake for another 20 min.
  12. Allow to rest before 5-10 min before serving.

 


Serve with

  • A green salad made from lettuce leaves or green beans

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Some of the health benefits of cabbage

  • White cabbage are a Good source of vitamin C and folate and potassium
  • Cabbage is filled with antioxidant power. This enables our systems to fight free radicals and clear up toxins, including potential carcinogens.
  • The fiber in cabbage keeps your blood sugar levels from fluctuating and also regularizes bowel movements. Cabbage is anti – inflammatory vegetable
  • Eating cabbage may also reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer, specifically colon cancer.
  • It speeds healing of ulcers and improves digestive health.
  • Raw cabbage cleans the waste from the stomach and upper bowels which improves digestion and reduces constipation.
    (Source: tarladalal.com)

 

More recipes replacing carb with veg

 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

 

The first days of spring always feel so tentative and so restrained: watery sunshine, pale buds. I wondered what I liked so much about this insipid season last year. And then spring burst out in its full extravagance. Suddenly there are almost endless hours of day-light (none of that hopeless saving of time). Everywhere you look there are vibrant greens bursting into life.

And then out of the blue there is Easter (was it not only just Christmas?)

As a kid Easter was spent hunting for eggs at my grandmother’s.  Usually we first coloured them with those brightartificialdyes that came in tablet form, but I will never forget the year that my uncle arrived with all these littlesachet of natural dyes….including dried red insects. (The seed for my fascination for unusual ingredients was planted at a young age :-) )

Besides painting eggs we do not really have any family Easter traditions…Except for eating together of course. This means that I am free to experiment with other people’s foody traditions :-)  One wonderful discovery has been this beautiful braided sweet bread circled around a dyed egg.

The tradition of eating sweetened bread for Easter may date back as far as the Homeric Greek period (ca. 1100–800 BC). The eggs echo the significance of Easter as they are traditionally connected with rebirth, rejuvenation and immortality. Or, viewed from a more practical perspective: eggs were forbidden during Lent, after 40 days there would have been plenty of eggs that had to be used up.

This bread tastes wonderfully sweet and light; it looks stunning on any Easter brunch table.

NB: Nowadays I tend to opt for slightly less exotic ingredients for dying eggs. For some ideas pop over to my post on dying eggs with natural ingredients.

Wishing you a Happy Easter!

 

 

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Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Italian Dish‘)
4 breads


230ml (1,25 cups) milk
80g (1/3 cup) butter
1 package of instant yeast (about 3 tsp)
pinch of salt
80g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 eggs
350-500g (3,5 cups) flour
1 egg
6 dyed eggs (they can be dyed raw as they will bake in the oven)

 

Recipe

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until the butter just melts. Do not let the milk get too hot (or allow it too cool before adding it to the yeast).
  2. In a large bowl combine yeast, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the eggs and mix.
  4. Add the warm (not hot!) milk and butter mix.
  5. Add about half the flour and combine using the dough hooks of your mixer. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the remaining flour to form stiff dough. (The amount of flour needed will vary. You are looking for dough that is not sticky any more.)
  7. Knead the dough (either by hand or in a stand mixer) until the dough is pliable and soft.
  8. Lightly oil a bowl. Place the dough inside. Cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled – for about one hour.
  9. Prepare two baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.
  10. Punch down the dough. Divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope (about 2.5cm / 1 inch thick and about 35cm/ 14 inch long).
  11. Taking three pieces at a time, braid them together. Loop into a circle, tucking the ends inside.
  12. Cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place until double – for about 30 minutes.
  13. Heat the oven to 175C (350F).
  14. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the bread.
  15. Place a dyed egg in the center of each bread, pushing it down slightly.
  16. Bake about 20 min until ht bread is golden brown.
  17. Allow to cool on a rack.
  18. Note: If you leave the bread out for a few hours you should no longer eat the eggs.

More Easter and egg recipes

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