Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Tag: egg

Savory Oatmeal with Soy Sauce & Scallions, Topped with a Fried Egg

Fried egg on oatmeal

I’ve come around to oatmeal again this winter, this blustery, late-bloomer of a winter that’s been littering feathery snow every other week, closing down school and work, painting the trees outside my window an elegant gray-white. Another snow flurry fest is supposedly on the radar, despite the official arrival of spring days ago. Jack Frost did not get the memo.

Winter snow, Charlottesville

So oatmeal. Oatmeal feels cozy, safe, consoling, like Goldilock’s porridge but with better marketing. I’d put it in the same family of comfort as rice and polenta, the same trend bucket as pomegrante and avocado. It’s both quick and forgiving: five minutes flat of simmering with water or milk, and an extra minute or two won’t hurt, a necessary buffer in the chaos of morning preparations.

I like oatmeal sweet: a tiny downpour of maple syrup, a dusting of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, a stir of fresh or frozen berries. If I have time, cooked apples or pears with cinnamon forms a sort of deconstructed breakfast pie.

But even better: savory oatmeal. A bit salty, with a fried egg on top, the golden yolk streaming into the oatmeal like a godly sauce. (I was skeptical, as you might be, but it meets the logic test. And, well, does not rice worth both ways? Rice pudding and rice with savory curry, say?) And, as with rice, a squirt or two or three of fish sauce adds an excellent umami punch, if you are fish-sauce inclined. (We are.)

Savory Oatmeal with Soy Sauce and Scallions

Oatmeal with scallions

Serves 1
Inspired by Mark Bittman &

(doubles nicely, but you may need to simmer longer than 5 minutes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (quick cooking — not instant or steel cut)
  • 1-3 teaspoons soy sauce, to taste
  • 1 scallion, chopped (green parts, white parts if you like)
  • 1 egg
  • Bit of bacon grease, pat of butter, or drizzle of olive oil

Fried eggs in bacon grease

Add the oatmeal to boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer. Add scallions.

Simmer 5 minutes or until it reaches the consistency you like

Meanwhile, slick a frying pan with a bit of bacon grease (or butter or olive oil) on medium-high. (Yes, we’ve started saving our bacon grease; it’s delicious and thrifty! Once it cools just slightly, pour it into a jar and store in the fridge.) Crack in the egg and fry to your liking.

Stir soy sauce into the oatmeal. Scoop into bowl. Top with fried egg and dot with extra soy sauce, if you like. Stare out the window, sink your spoon in, and count the snowflakes drifting down.



I met this African dish in Germany.

I have no idea if it’s “authentic.”

“Ethnic” food here is often half-foreign, half-German.

But in this case, I didn’t care. Bobotie delivered a happy shock – what is this?? – and a curious euphoria for days afterwards.


Homemade bobotie, with a side of rice

Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea, reports BBC) is an African casserole, made with ground beef or lamb and usually a thin layer of egg custard on top. It’s savory, rich comfort food, the kind that makes a monochromatic winter week feel almost cozy.

winter in Germany

Even the prettiest German towns, like Baden-Baden, feel a bit grim in the winter.

The version we tried in a charming Stuttgart restaurant was made with beef and peanuts, their luscious, savory note blazing through.

The bobotie recipes I found online leaned toward almonds and often used lamb with mango chutney and bread soaked in milk. Then I stumbled upon a version by Marcus Sammuelsson with peanuts. His memoir “Yes, Chef” follows how he was adopted from Ethiopia into a Swedish family and ended up cooking in America, all the way to a restaurant in Harlem called Red Rooster. “Yes, Chef” is a fun read, one I’d recommend if you are curious about African food and the ex-pat life.

Marcus’ bobotie also features cumin, coriander seeds, curry powder, red onion, tomatoes, and bread crumbs.

tomatoes and onions

It’s hard to go wrong with garlic and tomatoes.

I combined his recipe with others, using my memory of our Stuttgart dinner as a guide.

I browned the beef and chopped onions, then added minced garlic, curry powder, ground cumin and ground coriander, and two tomatoes. Instead of bread crumbs, I added the bread slice soaked in milk that all the other recipes used, and a 1/4 smooth peanut butter. I mixed it well with mango chutney and raisins, then pressed it into a buttered dish and chilled it in the fridge.

Pack ground beef in dish for bobotie

I started pouring the custard on top, and then remembered the camera!

The custard versions seemed all over the place. I couldn’t even discern the egg in the version we had in Stuttgart, so I didn’t want to make a veritable omelet on top. I dialed back to 2 eggs, 1 extra yolk, and 2/3 cup milk, hoping for a thin layer.

The egg-milk mixture gets poured on top before it goes into the oven. Marcus recommends a water bath, but I find it generally too fussy and unnecessary. (Meaning: I have not figured it out yet.)

After baking it covered in foil for 20-some minutes, and another 15-20 uncovered, the custard should turn a nice golden brown. Like brownies or cakes, bobotie is decidedly done when a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Bobotie, baked

Bobotie, baked

It may not look like much, but it was heavenly.

This version is similar to the one we had in Stuttgart, but laced with sweetness from mango chutney and raisins.

A bit of African sunshine in a dark winter drawing, I hope, to a close.



Bobotie recipe

Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson, BBC, and Epicurious

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 small white onions or 1 medium
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 small tomatoes chopped
  • 1 bread slice, soaked in 2-3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Butter to grease the baking dish

Heat a large skillet or dutch oven, slicked with a bit of oil, to medium. Add the beef  and onion. Stir to break up the beef. Cook until the beef is browned, but no longer.

Add the garlic, curry, cumin, coriander, and tomatoes. Let simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour about 2-3 tablespoons of milk over a slice of bread. Let it soak for a few minutes, then mash with a fork. Here, you are creating binding, which could also be done with breadcrumbs instead.

If the beef mixture is very oily, drain off the oil now.

Stir in the peanut butter, bread mash with its milk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 15 minutes or so. Stir in the mango chutney and raisins.

Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Pack the ground beef mixture into the baking dish. Chill in the fridge for 10-20 minutes; meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Mix together 2/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a sprinkling of nutmeg (optional).

Take the beef mixture from the fridge and pour the egg mixture on top. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove the foil lid. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the egg top is golden brown.