The Hardware Société’s version of baked eggs is a much-talked-about dish. “You can go out to 50 cafes in Melbourne that serve some interpretation of baked eggs,” says Di Keser, co-owner of the café with her husband Will. They make theirs in a cast-iron cocotte, which Di insists makes all the difference.
The cafe does a roaring trade on weekends and the chorizo baked eggs account for 25 per cent of food orders. But there’s a lot more to these baked eggs than cast iron: they’re about as robust as a break offering gets. Customers dip crusty baguette into spiced tomato concassé, breaking apart the gooey egg yolk lurking beneath the surface, then experience the salty whack of black olives and the tingle of spiced sausage and paprika.
Di recommends home cooks invest in mini Staub cast-iron pots for an authentic recreation of the cafe’s baked eggs, but also encourages creative licence – vegetarians can remove the chorizo, leftover passata can be used up and different nuts and varieties of cheese can be substituted or added. “It’s what your imagination makes of it, and also whatever’s leftover in the fridge,” she says.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
200g tomatoes, chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
4 small handfuls of baby spinach leaves
50g chorizo, diced (Hardware Société uses Istra Smallgoods)
12 black olives, pitted
Chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, to serve
Crusty bread or buttered toast, to serve
You will need four small (or one large) cast-iron cocottes for this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 220°C fan-forced (240°C conventional).
For the concassé, add the oil to a frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until softened but without any colour, about 3–4 minutes. Add the paprika and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste.
Preheat the cocottes in the oven for 10 minutes.
Divide the spinach between the preheated cocottes and crack in the eggs (3 per cocotte). Top with the chorizo and olives and add 1½ tablespoons of the concassé to each. As the eggs start to cook in the hot cocottes, use a spoon to pull the egg from the side of the dish so that it falls back into the mix. Take care not to break the yolks. Bake from 5–7 minutes until the whites are firm and the yolks are still runny.
Scatter over some parsley and serve with some crusty bread or buttered toast.
This is an extract from The Broadsheet Melbourne Cookbook, which contains 80 recipes from the city’s best restaurants, cafes and bars.