Where has this recipe been all my life?! It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe, featured in At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking, published in 2018. This is truly something unique and I’m so glad I made this.
Ms. Lawson prefaces the recipe with: “If I hadn’t eaten the Turkish eggs at Peter Gordon’s restaurant, The Providores, I most certainly wouldn’t be tempted by the idea of poached eggs on Greek yogurt. I say that only to pre-empt any hesitancy on your part.”
The egg dish is called çilbir, which is pronounced chulburr. Ms. Lawson calls it “a revelation and a complete sensation.”
¾ cup Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 x 15ml tablespoons unsalted butter
1 x 15ml tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 large eggs (fridge-cold)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
a few fronds fresh dill (chopped)
Fill a wide-ish saucepan (I use one of 22cm diameter) with water to come about 4cm up the sides of the pan. Put it on the heat and cover so that it heats up faster. Line a large plate with some kitchen roll, get out a slotted spoon, and put both near the pan now.
Now fill another pan – on which a heatproof bowl can sit comfortably – again with water to come 3–4cm up the sides, and bring to the boil. Put the yogurt in said bowl, stir in the garlic and salt, and sit it on top of this pan, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir it until it gets to body temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped double cream. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl as it is, over the pan.
Melt the butter gently in a small pan until it is just beginning to turn a hazelnutty brown (this is why, in classic French cuisine, it’s known as beurre noisette), but make sure it’s not actually burning. Turn the heat off under the pan, then stir in the olive oil, followed by the beautiful red pepper flakes; it will foam up fierily. Leave to one side while you get on with the eggs. And this is when you should be thinking of putting the toast on.
When you are ready to poach the eggs, crack the first egg into a finemesh strainer suspended over a small bowl, then lift it up a little and swirl gently for about 30 seconds, letting the watery part of the white drip into the bowl. Gently tip the egg into a small cup or ramekin and, aiming for the white, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice; I know everyone else says vinegar, but I just don’t like the taste of it on the egg, and the lemon does the trick just the same. Proceed as above with the second egg.
When the poaching water is just starting to simmer, take a cup or ramekin in each hand and gently slide in the eggs, one on each side of the pan. Turn the heat right down so there is no movement in the water whatsoever, and poach the eggs for 3–4 minutes until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.
Transfer the eggs with your slotted spoon to the paper-lined plate to remove any excess water. Do remember to switch off the heat. Sorry to state the obvious, but I have too often left it on this low without noticing.
Divide the warm creamy yogurt between two shallow bowls, top each with a poached egg, pour the peppery butter around and slightly over the yogurt, scatter the chopped dill on top, and eat dreamily, dipping in some thick well-toasted bread as you do so.
Normally I would have made some flatbread for this egg dish, but naan is so easy to find for me these days!