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Easter Eggs : Eggs From the East

March 27, 1994|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are hundreds of ways to make eggs, but one of the most unusual and delicious comes from India, via home cook Rose Nair of Hawthorne. She calls the dish "roasted" eggs.

But the eggs aren't really roasted in the oven like meat. They're hard-boiled, peeled, then simmered with a sauce of onion, garlic and red chile. At serving time, they're cut in half and topped with a spoonful of the thick, deep-red sauce. It's a wonderful way to use up leftover Easter eggs.

In south India, Nair says that the custom is to serve roasted eggs with drinks, just as we might serve deviled eggs. This particular recipe comes from Nair's mother-in-law, Thankan, who is from the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Although many Indian dishes require a long list of ingredients, this one is exceptionally simple, which makes it ideal for entertaining. Nair seasons the eggs with hot red chile powder from an Indian market, but the effect is sweet rather than spicy. The sweetness comes from the onion.

Nair, who works in the airline industry, was born in Bombay and returns to India occasionally. She hasn't forgotten her roots: Her living room is decorated Indian-style, with low couches on which she spreads Indian fabrics and arranges colorful pillows. It's an ideal setting for her elaborate Indian dinner parties.

And her roasted eggs are often part of the menu. Sometimes she sets the eggs out buffet-style with other main dishes rather than serving them as appetizers. Nestled in the indentations of a deviled egg plate and topped with cilantro, they make an attractive side dish. And they're always welcomed by guests who eat little or no meat.

Nair says that traditionally in India, cocktail snacks are prepared as they're served rather than ahead of time. "You can't let things sit," she says, "because they would become soft in the humid climate."

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Though you obviously don't have to worry about eggs losing their crunch, the dish should be assembled at the last minute. The eggs can be boiled and the sauce cooked in advance, then heated together at serving time. The eggs should be served warm, but if they cool off, don't reheat them, and don't be tempted to give them a quick zap in the microwave, which could make them rubbery. "We don't use microwaves in India," Nair says. "Everything there is so fresh."

KERALA-STYLE ROASTED EGGS (Mutta Varthada) 6 eggs 1 onion, coarsely chopped 2 or 3 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon ground dried red chile 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup oil Chopped cilantro Lemon slices, optional

Hard-boil eggs, peel and set aside.

Combine onion, garlic, ground chile and salt in blender and blend thoroughly.

Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion-chile mixture and stir, then turn heat to low and cook, stirring often, until mixture turns deep-brown.

Pierce outside of each egg several times with tip of sharp knife. Add whole eggs to onion mixture, cover and cook 5 to 10 minutes. While eggs are still in pan, cut each in half lengthwise.

Spoon onto serving plate, topping each egg half with onion-chile mixture and cilantro. If desired, garnish plate with lemon slices. Makes 12 appetizers.

Each egg half contains about: 123 calories; 130 mg sodium; 106 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.12 gram fiber.

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