Onion soup with a soft-poached egg
Eshkeneh is an ancient dish thought to date back several thousand years. Onions traditionally give courage and strength in battle and legend has it that eshkeneh was the daily diet of Persian soldiers under the Parthian King Arsaces back in the third century. It was bulked up with pieces of dry bread that would soften in the soup – similar to the way that croutons are used in French onion soup. In some eshkeneh recipes the eggs are whisked into the hot broth, where they create long eggy strands. Poaching them makes this a more elegant dish, and the way the creamy yolks ooze into the warming, golden broth is irresistible.
2 tablespoons olive oil
20 g unsalted butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
250 g kipfler or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
1.25 litres good-quality chicken stock
few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 long strip peel from 1/2 orange, all pith removed
2 tablespoons verjuice
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 small eggs, at room temperature
verjuice, tiny sour grapes (optional), flatbread and lemon wedges, to serve
Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the potato and cook for a minute, stirring to coat well with the onion mixture. Add the stock, herbs, and orange peel. Add salt to taste and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Just as you are ready to serve, fish out the bay leaf and orange peel, then stir in the verjuice and lemon juice. Crack the eggs and carefully slip them into the simmering soup and poach gently for 3–4 minutes or until the yolks are barely set – they will continue to cook in the broth after you remove the pan from the heat.
Ladle the soup straight from the pan at the table, ensuring everyone has an egg. Serve with flatbread and lemon wedges or verjuice, and a few tiny sour grapes, if you like, as garnish.