RotD 22 July 2014: Mexican Eggs in Purgatory

If you’re a cook, you might experience times when you don’t know what to cook for your meal. I myself “suffer” from this so many times, I decided to turn to a technique that could make it a little better… combining recipes.

Actually, I stumbled upon this almost by chance. I was at my neighbor’s house for a breakfast cookout, and I had brought ingredients for my takes on The Honourable Nigella Lawson’s Mexican Scrambled Eggs (from Nigella Express, 2007) and Eggs in Purgatory (from Nigellissima, 2012). The images below come from the provided links to her site.

Mexican Scrambled EggsEggs in Purgatory

We didn’t know which to make, as both were so good, that I wildly suggested, “Why not combine them?” My friend agreed, and the result was a spectacular offering greater than the sum of the individual dishes put together that, this morning, I decided to make it again.

Of course, in combining two dishes such as these, where one dish scrambles the eggs and another merely poaches them, you have to make some sacrifices. I decided that the best way to stick faithful to both recipes was to prepare my eggs the Purgatory way, but adding the Mexican ingredients beforehand. Of course, there are so much more ways to combine these two recipes, but I like to take it step by step. This is my first experiment.

Mexican Eggs in Purgatory

Serves 1

(1 tbsp.) olive pomace oil
(1) small wheat tortilla
(1) spring onion, chopped
(1) green chili, chopped
(1 clove) garlic, minced
(¼ tsp.) chili flakes
(2) tomatoes, chopped
(⅓ to ½ cup) tomato sauce, or to taste
(¼ to ⅓ cup) hot water, or to taste
(1-2) eggs
Parmigiano cheese or salt, to taste

Nigella uses corn tortillas, which I understand is sweet (maize is sweeter than wheat). But it’s nowhere to be found here, so I use wheat tortillas, which make the scrambled eggs taste a lot less pleasant, but are equally effective nonetheless. Furthermore, canned tomatoes are a betrayal to our country, as they are expensive and imported, while we grow tomatoes in abundance here and even have locally-made tomato sauce. That’s why I always use the latter; we bought the former for the first time just last week while we were stockpiling during Typhoon Rammasun/Glenda. Because the tomato sauce is high in sodium content, I always dilute it with water – the same way Nigella adds water whenever she uses canned tomatoes, to rinse out the contents of the can into her dish.

The ingredients for Mexican scrambled eggs.

The ingredients for Mexican scrambled eggs.

The ingredients for Eggs in Purgatory.

The ingredients for Eggs in Purgatory. Spot which are also in the Mexican scrambled eggs!

To prepare the dish, I simply cooked the Mexican scrambled eggs barring the tomatoes and eggs (I would have used just one; Mexican uses two scrambled while Purgatory uses one poached, so I stuck to the latter – but read on why I used two) as Nigella does, then I prepared the Eggs in Purgatory atop it.

The first step is to heat up half of the oil, then roll the tortilla into a sausage shape, snipping it into nice, curly strips. Use a fairly small pan because otherwise, with a large pan, your sea of tomato in the Purgatory will be very shallow (thus necessitating more tomatoes and sauce – it’s not all about quantity), evaporate more quickly, and perhaps not cook the eggs as you would wish.


As the tortillas cooked, I chopped up my spring onion and chili. Actually, you can just use scissors for them, especially the former. If I didn’t need to use a knife to slice my tomatoes, I would use scissors all the way for less washing up.

Around the time I finished chopping up the vegetables, the tortillas were ready. Actually, they were more than ready – due to the small size of the pan they cooked in, they fried up more quickly – and thus I burnt some of them. Oops. It’s not worth it to get out a larger pan just for the tortillas as it means more washing up. Either shake your tortillas around the pan to cook them more evenly, or keep an eye on them while chopping up your vegetables and ready a small bowl nearby. Set the tortillas aside.

After doing such, I lowered the heat to medium, put in the remaining half tablespoon of oil into the pan, as well as the minced garlic and chili flakes. Nigella sometimes uses garlic-infused oil, which is oil that garlic was steeped into for two whole days, for her “express” cooking; however, she uses actual garlic here for its pungent taste, and I do so, too. It’s good.

I then added the spring onions, chili, and tomatoes, as well as my tomato sauce and water. The amounts I specified above are only estimations, as it really depends on your personal preference and pan size, so I used visual cues. Combined, the liquid should cover the vegetables, but not turn into a soup.


When it was already bubbling, I cracked my egg in and sprinkled Parmigiano (Parmesan) around the yolk to make it look like a sun. Or so I would do usually. Today, I used two eggs, or rather, one and a half eggs. My auntie who visited from Taiwan and currently lives in our house was cooking food earlier for another auntie recovering in the hospital from an operation, and she used some of the egg white from one egg. When I cracked this one into my orange-red ocean, so little egg white remained that I decided to put another one in.


Nigella advocates covering this pan (still on medium heat) and keeping an eye on the egg so that the white gets cooked but the yolk remains runny. I have never perfected this, only coming close to such once. Nevertheless, today, I decided to return the flame to high, and let it cook uncovered. After about just one or two minutes, I turned off the heat and poured in the tortillas, mixing it gently in the process.


Normally, I’d be making toast to have with the eggs (I once had rice with it) to provide a carbohydrate base that could complement the sharpness and richness of the eggs and tomatoes. But since I already had toast in my eggs, I didn’t need to get out the oven toaster anymore. Nevertheless, I took out a half-finished bag of potato chips from last night (my dihia‘s friends had come over) and ate them, dipping them into the pan while it was still too hot to eat alone.

Whenever I make eggs in purgatory, I eat them in the pan for two reasons. One, because I don’t want to risk deforming the beauty of the dish in transferring it to a bowl. Two, we have one less thing to wash up, and washing a plate or bowl needs more soap due to its larger surface area.

While I had used ingredients from both recipes enough for one serving, the pan seemed to be so full that could have been meant for two. Of course, the tortilla could simply be a substitute for Gardenia bread that instead of being dipped into the pan, was already in it. The spring onions and chili would act like garnishes over the eggs, but of course, they weren’t; they were main ingredients.

I shared some with Auntie to put over her toast (a simple breakfast of coffee, toast, and peanut butter is all right for her), and she liked it. I loved it, too; the tortillas were perfect in their tomato bath, and the spring onions and chili added a complementary taste to the tomatoes so that it wasn’t too tangy, as that is a risk I find in using a lot of tomatoes in a dish. Eating it up, I felt, as I did last week, that we had made the right choice in combining these two recipes that were heavenly on their own, but even more divine put together.

As I write this, I realize I forgot to garnish my eggs with one delightful ingredient: extra virgin olive oil. I’ll do this next time.

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