Persian Eggs in Fresh Tomato Sauce (Omlet)
On a lazy weekend morning I like nothing more than eggs cooked in fresh tomato sauce (omelt in Persian). With sliced cucumber and chillies, herbs and radishes, olives and lots of warm flatbread to mop up the delicious tomato sauce it makes the most comforting of all breakfasts for me. My eggs and tomatoes recipe is a simple, very healthy one that takes little effort and only three ingredients to make: tomatoes, butter or olive oil and eggs.
Omlet is short for omlet-e gojeh farangi (tomato omelette). It’s a popular dish everybody makes at home but in Iran you can always find it on the breakfast menu of restaurants, in road-side cafés and even in makeshift “tea houses” on hiking treks in the glorious snow-capped mountains overlooking Tehran, my home-city.
Omlet is not only a breakfast dish though. We eat it for lunch and dinner too, usually with bread but sometimes with plain steamed rice too. It’s absolutely delicious with sabzi khordan. This very Persian “undressed” salad is basically an assortment of soft herbs, radishes, spring onions and sometimes chilli peppers. We pick whatever we like from the bowl or basket and eat it with morsels of food.
As with any similar dish there are many variations. Some people start with sautéing onions in butter or ghee. Others stir the eggs into the tomato sauce. I like it in the simplest form, without onions and with the eggs kept whole on top of the delicious tomato sauce. There’s something about sunny-side-up eggs with runny yolks that brightens up my day.
I have no idea about the origins of this dish. The word omlet is obviously not Persian. But it has always been around, probably since early twentieth century when tomatoes (called foreign plums to this day) gradually became the most used vegetable in Persian cuisine. A few years ago a hike in tomato prices caused quite a political stir in the country!
Our omlet is quite similar to shakshuka, a popular Middle-Eastern dish of North African origin, but it’s not spicy and doesn’t include other vegetables such as peppers. My family loves shakshuka too and I often make it, with loads of peppers and spices.
Making omlet is really easy. The key is to use good ingredients and to season well.
Ingredients for an omlet to serve four:
- 60g butter or 6 tbsp light olive oil for a vegetarian version
- 1kg vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
- Sea salt to taste
- 6-8 eggs
- Put the butter (or olive oil) in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until very hot.
- Add half the chopped tomatoes and stir well. Cook for five minutes. Add the rest of the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce is thickened and creamy. Stir well and season with salt.
- Make holes in the sauce and break one egg into each hole. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper or chilli flakes if desired and serve immediately with warm flatbread or any crusty bread that you like. Enjoy!