The title literally means “ranch-style” eggs, but we might translate it as “farmer’s eggs”. This simple dish is widely enjoyed in Mexico at breakfast. In this recipe, the tortillas are spread with refried beans and topped with a spicy tomato salsa. It should be mentioned that much of the most exciting food in Mexico, often based on a tortilla in some form or another, is sold by street vendors. A tostada is a crisp tortilla fried and used like a small plate on which to pile other good things. A quesadilla is a tortilla also fried quickly and folded over a filling – often cheese but it can be mushroom, meat or potato with chopped chorizo sausage. And flautas is a rolled fried taco filled with potato, beef or chicken, covered with guacamole, lettuce, sour cream and more cheese. This recipe uses crumbled feta, which is a good substitute for the sharp Mexican cheese queso fresca.
The warm tortillas are used where we might use toast or a muffin. You can make your own wheat or corn tortillas but our food stores are full of all styles of tortilla – large, small, soft and hard – all of which are handy to have in the pantry. Some are made from wheat, some from specially treated maize flour, sold as masa harina. Note that these Mexican “tortillas” are not the same as the Spanish tortilla, which is a solid egg-based omelette.
Stephanie Alexander’s huevos rancheros
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
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230g (1 cup) refried beans
8 soft tortillas, store-bought or homemade
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
8 free-range eggs
60g crumbled feta cheese
1 handful of coriander sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, to serve
Cherry tomato salsa
1 shallot, finely chopped, or 2 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 green jalapeno or other hot chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 punnet (200g) cherry tomatoes, quartered
Juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 120°C (100°C fan-forced) and put a large ovenproof plate or a baking tray inside – large enough to hold all the tortillas. Put your serving plates in the oven to warm them too.
To make the cherry tomato salsa, saute the shallot or spring onions in the oil in a frying pan over medium heat until well softened. Add the chilli and cook for 5 minutes. Tip in the tomato and any juices and stir to combine. Add the lime juice and taste for salt. Cool to room temperature and set aside.
Warm the refried beans either in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add one tortilla to the pan and cook until it is heated through, softened and starting to puff, about 30 seconds. Turn the tortilla and fry the other side for a further 30 seconds. Transfer the tortilla to the plate or tray in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
Add the oil and butter to the pan over medium heat. Crack in the eggs and fry until the whites are a little puffed and crisped at the edges. You may need to cook the eggs in two batches, or use two frying pans.
To serve, remove the serving plates from the oven. Put two tortillas on each plate and spoon some warmed refried beans on top. Top each tortilla with an egg and add a portion of the cherry-tomato salsa. Sprinkle with the feta and coriander. Season with salt and pepper if needed and settle a lime wedge on the side of the plate.
This is a lightly edited excerpt from Fresh by Stephanie Alexander, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $44.99, photography by Alan Benson.