When I lived in Moscow I used to go to the State Conservatory at least twice every week. We had an apartment in one of the nearby lanes where Stalin once allocated composers, musicians, opera singers and ballerinas their lodgings during the Soviet period. Even when we lived there, I’d wake to verses of Verdi and Puccini floating through the window on the breeze, or the haunting melody of a cello playing Rostropovich, who also once lived in our street. Often there’d be free concerts in the conservatory’s smaller concert halls, but unlike most countries, in Russia, culture doesn’t come with an elitist and excessive price tag. An abonnement of 5 tickets to the Conservatory’s Great Concert Hall would rarely be more than $US 25 per concert.
One of the very first I heard in the Great Hall was Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. It was written when Rachmaninov and his family were in exile after the revolution. Based on a celebrated early nineteenth-century violin composition made famous by Niccolo Piaganini, Rachmaninov interpreted it in 24 variations on the theme for a solo piano and orchestra. The result is utterly breathtaking. I can still picture myself hearing it for the first time in the very same hall where Rachmaninov once played and I don’t think I’ll ever hear it again without being transported back to the streets of Moscow I once called home.
Like all good things that endure simply because they’re good, Turkish Eggs is one of the most delicious breakfast dishes that could ever grace your table. It’s hard to improve on recipes like Peter Gordon’s or Nigella Lawson’s, but this humble little recipe on the theme is different, simply because I’ve substituted ingredients that come from no more than 50 kilometres of Chateau Montfort.
The eggs for this recipe are probably the closest, just a short stroll from the kitchen to the hen house. Richard (Dick the coq for short) and his team of girls keep us in a good supply of luscious deep yellow yolked eggs. We feed them on locally grown corn and a mix of grains, substituted with household scraps and weeds from the garden. They forage free-range in the orchard and drink from a stream that’s fed by the snow-melt of the Pyrenees, so I’m fairly confident these hens produce what could safely be described as the quintessential ‘good egg’.
Instead of regular chilli, I use piment d’Espelette, a chilli pepper originating from Central and South America, introduced to France during the 16th century. The village of Espelette where is has AOP status is just a short drive from CM and a riot of colour during the annual festival, which takes place on the last weekend of October every year. The village is draped in rich red strings of chilli bunting, that line the streets and buildings amidst the various traditional celebrations. Although it’s not a particularly hot chilli, (only 4000 on the Scoville scale) in my opinion, it’s probably hot enough for a breakfast dish.
Yoghurt is another key ingredient in this recipe. I use a local Basque brebis (sheep’s milk) yoghurt, which if you can source something similar, will yield a far richer, creamier result than cow milk yoghurts.
And finally, the lemons, when I have enough of them, come from a tree my mother bought me, affectionately called Lucy. The bread is generally toasted local sourdough baguettes or a loaf I’ve made myself.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, I really hope you have a chance to pause, and listen to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.