Monday, 11 August 2014

Feelings and Veganism

So anyway, here I am; back again and today, I want to talk about feelings. I used to be afraid to think what I actually thought because the culture that I surrounded myself with made me believe that my feelings were stupid and infantile. This was probably due to the fact that as a teenager, my heroes tended to be middle-aged men as opposed to women – let alone teenage girls.

As I pushed all my genuine feelings, like crushing, liking pop music, fashion, make-up and Coronation Street to the back of my mind, I forced-fed myself a diet of thoughts and feelings less relevant to a life of living in Rotherham and eating Hula Hoops.

Instead, I fantasised about ‘finding myself’ during a road trip around America (Kerouac), being an alcoholic-writer-womaniser-post officer worker (Bukowski), balancing the act of either being an amazing artist or fooling people that I am one in order to get others to act out my fantasies (Von Trier) and taking the best heroin in all of the land, not giving a fuck but then finding myself to be the biggest rockstar that ever did live (Keith Richards).

So, while all this was going around in my head, I was actually missing out on the thoughts and feelings that were relevant to my life. And what I want to say here is that no feeling or thought is irrelevant. In fact, the feelings that you naturally have are the ones that you should be assessing and learning from. 

Despite learning this lesson a few years ago, I still sometimes catch myself doing things that aren’t genuine. For example, earlier this year I became vegan. I ‘know’ that veganism is the right thing to do. The thing is though, no matter what I ‘know’ to be ‘right’, I still can’t follow through with it if my feelings don’t align strongly enough.

I read about people who became vegan and I envied their strength and sought to emulate them. One of my deepest ever fears has always been that I might be deemed by others as a hypocrite. It’s a trait that I despise in others and so…by virtue of that, any sense of me being hypocritical automatically makes me a hypocrite.

In my mind, all my reasons for being a vegetarian logically follow on to justify veganism. The problem is, a logical argument must align with an emotional feeling to ensure that you can follow through with action. All too often, my ‘knowing’ doesn’t align with my ‘feeling’ which results in a kind of internal battle where I always leave feeling defeated because for me, at least, my rational need to avoid hypocrisy always loses out to my emotional ‘self’.

This is a long way of saying that I tried to be vegan for about 3 months. I still think that vegans are right but that I am not ready to fully become one. Hopefully my realisation of this and the fact that I am acknowledging it here in writing will go some way to assuage my hypocrisy, ha! Maybe in order to avoid being a hypocrite, one needs to back up logic with experience. Once you have experience, you can change the way you feel emotionally about something. 

I was going to put a vegan recipe on this post (there are many fantastic ones) but I think this deserves to be on its own for now.


Cya! x
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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Pizza, pesto and ciao to 2013!

I was ACTUALLY playing (read: losing) Scrabble when this was taken aka it wasn't set up for kitsch blogger photos

As I touched on in my last post, 2013 has been good to me. I feel more settled now than I ever have done as an adult and during a walk to Lidl to buy some yeast and strong bread flour for this recipe, I had a good think about why.

I think happiness has a lot to do with what age you feel. I never enjoyed the “young person” thing and up until now, being an adult has been the shittiest crawl through a sewer I have ever experienced. A lot of this has been down to me and how I have approached my life – laziness, being a coward, selfishness and self-pity – but some of it has been down to the STUPID things we are expected to do in this ridiculous, horrible young adult path that is meant to be enjoyable.

Between the ages of 18 and 24, I felt like I was forced to sit on a rollercoaster with a hangover every day. The idea that we are meant to enjoy going out in heels and small dresses and drinking stupid amounts of alcohol. The idea of meeting strangers in grotty, sweaty cavernous rooms with migraine-inducing music and GETTING ON WITH THEM when in reality, the majority of people I meet, I would be happy never to see again. The amount of times I have sat alone in a club, surrounded by hundreds of people but feeling as lonely as hell.

The shared living and the poverty-with-iPhones BECAUSE WE SPENT ALL OUR MONEY ON BOOZE BUT OMG WHY ARE WE SO POOR, the confusion of wrong relationships and strained friendships. The stupid pseudo-intellectual-babble debates that we have again and again and again. Religion, politics, current affairs, charity, war, poverty, the press. All these fucking ISSUES that we argue about like a bunch of car tyres stuck in the mud…as if our arrogant opinions expressed loudly in a middle class hippy pub are suddenly going to change everything. As if we are going to go out into the night half-sloshed and build some new affordable housing.

This is what my brain was like from about 2006 – 2012. Six years of anxiety-ridden hell.

But this year, I changed. I think that I have finally become the age and the person that I was so desperately frustrated to be. It’s in no small part thanks to some wonderful person that I fell deeply in love with and some kind-hearted, beautiful friends I found again. It’s not that these people have DONE anything exactly. More that…everything just feels right and because it all feels so right, I feel right too and I want to do right.

And that feeling is so refreshing, so carefree and so precious that I want to breathe it forever and ever.

In reality, there are still loads of things I will do wrong and even if I don’t, most people fuck up this Zen-thing by having children and replacing all the contentment with perpetual anxiety, guilt and tiredness. So yeah, things will probably go wrong again and I don’t expect to live in this dream-state forever (just in case people think I am boasting or naïve, I’m not, I’m not!)

Anyway, I’ll be quiet about everything that might go wrong in the future because seize the day and all that shit.

Another thing that makes me super, super happy is pizza. The closest I have ever come to making a pizza is grating extra cheese onto a gourmet Co-Op Margareta. So this is pretty big.

I got the recipe from Rose and the highlight, for me, is the pesto which is soo tasty and so satisfying to blitz up.


 Start by making your dough. This recipe will make enough for 4 medium, super thin pizzas.

500g strong white flour (and a bit extra for kneading)
1 tbsp salt
A 7g sachet of dried yeast
A sprinkle of caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
330ml tepid water (or the same amount of grams if you’re weighing it all)

Put the flour and salt in a bowl. In a separate jug, mix up the rest of the ingredients and leave for one minute. Whilst you’re waiting, pre-heat your oven to a tiny temperature (like 100c for about 3 minutes or some shit…unless you have the heating on or it is summer – in which case, don’t worry about this step).

Pour the wet stuff into a little well in the middle of the dry stuff. Use a metal spoon to gently incorporate the whole lot together. Persevere: I thought that I had used way too much flour but after a few minutes, it all comes together to make a sticky dough.

By now, you can turn your oven off if you decided to put it on.

Flour a work surface and tip your dough out. It’s time to knead! I have always failed at this – never, ever have I had dough DOUBLE in size – the thought was laughable. But this time, I had a nice warm area (the pre-heated oven) and I kneaded my ass off.

Spend about 5-6 minutes or maybe even 7-8, pulling the dough, like stretching it and then putting it back together. Also knead it in a massage-y way. Basically, just keep that shit moving until it’s smooth and slightly less sticky. You can use quite a bit of flour without it being a disaster.

Now, lightly flour a bowl and put your dough in it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and cover with a damp tea towel. Put it in your nice warm oven and shut the door. Seriously, the oven needs to be warm…and no more than warm….for this to work.

Leave for an hour. While you wait for the magic to happen (seriously, it’s actually magic!), get making your pesto. It doesn’t take THAT long to whip up and it is amazingly tasty – properly beautiful.

A basil plant (99p from Lidl)
50g raw pine nuts
88g grated parmesan (the stuff I had was veggie friendly so any kinda hard cheese will do)
2 cloves of garlic
110g or ml of olive oil (seems a lot but this makes quite a lot of pesto)
A large pinch of salt


Tear off all the leaves from the basil plant and chuck them in a blender (or a bowl if you’re using a hand blender). It’s fine if a few stems go in there too. Add all the other stuff – whizz – hey presto! Store it in the fridge, perhaps in a little jar.


 Tick tock, tick tock.

Okay, after an hour, take your dough out. I really am still in shock that this stuff doubled in size. Break the dough into half and half again. I made two pizzas so am storing half of the dough in the fridge for later this week (it’ll be fine for up to a week).

Put two (or how ever many pizzas you are making) baking trays into your oven, upside down. Now, pre-heat that oven again. 200 fan, 220 no fan.

Roll out your pizzas. I used a wine bottle (thoroughly washed, label scoured off) as I don’t own a rolling pin. Worked FINE. Make it super-duper thin – like if I was a person and I had gone through a breakup and lost LOADS of weight from never eating because every time I ate something, I cried NOT SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE – that thin. Put each pizza base onto a sheet of tin foil.


 Now, OMG, there is so much to do. Top your pizza.

A box of passata
Dried oregano
Mozzarella
Whatever else you like – sundried tomatoes, artichokes etc. etc.

Pour on a bit of passata and spread it around with a spoon. Sprinkle the oregano over your base and swirl on some of the pesto. Top with a few slices of mozzarella.

Take an upside-down baking tray out of the oven and sliiiiide the tin foil onto it. Place in the over. Repeat for additional pizzas. I waited about 10-12 minutes and although the cheese was bubbling, the middle was still quite doughy. I guess just wait until the middle looks firm. I wouldn’t have thought it would be more than 15 minutes.


 Serve with sweet potato chips, a crème fraiche dip and a leafy salad.

Satisfying, healthy and messy. MY FAVOURITE.



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Sunday, 29 December 2013

East & West - Review

Oh, well. And if this ISN'T a Christmas miracle then I don't know what is. I found this old review in my drafts and while some of you may have read it before, some of you definitely won't have! Wow, oh wow.

Anyway, this was the last review I ever did as the official Food Reviewer for this lil newspaper. The end came thanks to what SOME people would regard as "a series of fuck ups". Actually, these fuck ups have ended up making 2013 one of the most fulfilling and fantastic years I've had as an adult on this planet.

So, RIP food column but hello to becoming a better, happier human.

Love and best wishes from the meanest muncher in town xxx

SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Food Review: East & West
Address: 227 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield S7 1FJ

Visit Laura's blog at www.meanmuncher.blogspot.com
Nothing is new; it’s all been done before. The Rolling Stones were the best rock ‘n’ roll band, the 1920s/50s/60s had the best fashion and Nokia phones are basically as good as technology is ever going to get. Sadly, the same can be said for the world of food: an Indian restaurant usually means a pickle tray to start, some curry and a side; an Italian means a thin-crust pizza or lasagne and a Chinese means chicken coloured in with a luminous orange highlighter.

So, when you come across something a bit different, something that you don’t quite understand, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. East and West is a tiny, inconspicuous South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurant squeezed onto Abbeydale Road and is exactly that: a cuisine that until now, I was virtually unaware of.

The neon sign à la ‘local takeaway’, the no-frills interior spotted with wonky tables, the toilet located outside, down an alleyway, and the metal school-dinner trays that each course is served upon might cause the typical restaurant-seeker to do a Dionne Warwick (walk on by, for the uncultured). However, if you’re feeling a little adventurous then East and West is just the ticket.

I still don’t fully understand the menu – what is a starter and what is a main? Do these things even exist? Why do we eat three times a day? I don’t know! Stop asking me questions! To ‘start’ I had the Chilli Paneer (£4.25), which was a total dream and highly, utterly recommended: chunky peppers, onions, and this un-meltable cheese all smothered in the greatest sharp, zingy sauce.

We then moved onto a Dosa, which is basically a large crepe, filled with whatever you like. It’s not quite a main and it’s not quite a starter – reflected in the price (£3.50 - £5.95) but it’s worth a try. We tried grated paneer and masala dosa, both of which were nice and tasty but could have done with a bit more filling to warrant the Sahara-esque expanse of pancake.

The brilliantly-titled Chicken Devilled (£5.50) for me, at least, conjures up terrific images of a world taken over by chickens, all led by a possessed rooster despot. Back in Sheffield though, this translates into chilli chicken and is a joy.

I must point out that East and West is no longer a BYOB establishment and they enforce this new licensing very strictly (a woman left the restaurant because she was not permitted to drink her bottle of red onsite). Alcohol is for sale though and the bottle of wine we shared did the job nicely, so much so that my recollection of how the food tasted from this point onwards is slightly hazy.

To finish, I ordered the Mixed Veg Uttappam (£4.95), which is described as a thick crepe. For me, it felt more like a solid omelette, full of chunky tomato slices and a few peppers but garnished superbly with herbs and a choice of three sauces to dip into.

The gratification of eating out and being able to pick something like an Uttappam, in complete ignorance, is something I miss. This new world of guessing and road-testing unfamiliar dishes and liking them or not liking them is something that we so rarely see now. This owes to the authenticity of the food at East and West, marking it on the map as a must for any food lover.



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Thursday, 26 December 2013

An Essay: Rethinking Cannibalism

Carving up an old enemy

And so. Is it really that bad? I’ve become obsessed with the idea of eating a placenta. I don’t particularly ever want to eat one and I have no desire to offer any future placenta I may or may not produce to anyone (unless they really WANTED to eat it, in which case, who am I to stand in their way?)

What I think about is – wow, you can eat what is basically some human without breaking any laws. I don’t really know whether eating a placenta counts as cannibalism though. It’s probably more like eating a yolk in a chicken egg; one big ball of nutrients.

So, putting placentas to one side, which I imagine is what happens to the majority of them, what about lipo and unfortunate accidents? A finger chopped off here, a head chopped off there.

It’s a confusing area and so I’ve started to begin categorising things in my head:
  • A fingernail? NO – it’s dead
  • A bogie? NO – it’s not part of the body
  • A kitten? NO – it’s an animal
That’s as far as I have got but any ‘moot points’ you can think of, please let me know and we can discuss them!

Anyway, vegetarians generally don’t eat goose fat etc. and so let’s just SAY that you decided to have some post-Christmas liposuction and then you took a pot of it home to make some crispy roast potatoes. I bet you all recoiled – eeeewwwwwww, that’s disgusting… but calm, calm, calm – get all your reactionary shit out of the way and thiiiink.

You have probably had a better life than a goose. You know what you’ve eaten (and after all, you’ve EATEN it so it can’t be that bad) and you know that you haven’t been rolling around in your mate’s shit (hopefully).  So eat your fat! It’s free (minus the lipo costs), it’s easy (okay, well it is serious surgery but after that, it’s a breeze!), it saves an animal (you’re still alive!) and it’s excellent recycling.

And now for a thought in my head that should never have made it out: to all you people out there who eat very bloody, very rare steaks…..is this really SO bad?

I think we need to start a movement and I as the Mean Muncher want to be the movement’s birth mother (placenta for sale!)

Amputees and those who have recently died of natural causes - this blog needs you!!


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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Fusion Organic Café - Review

UNRELATED: missing my bro this Christmas (he is on an oil rig)

I wanted to do a post on ‘how to have a vegetarian Christmas’ (above) but I couldn’t be bothered to take any photos and my mum has done all the cooking which means it would be a bit of a cheat. Next year, huh?

Anyway, I wanted to bring to you a little story. When I was about 8 or 9, my parents took me to Spain for a summer holiday and it was the first trip on a plane I had ever had!

We flew with British Airways and apart from the whole getting a metal lump filled with people into the air and actually managing to steer it to a specific location, the most fascinating thing for me was the sick bag.

I wondered if I should start collecting them from all the different airlines. The one (overwhelming and ultimately fatal) worry I had was that most of my friends had already flown before. What was the point in collecting them when everyone else already had TEN sick bags? I was on the back foot and instead of fighting against adversity, I gave up.

Over the next few years, I had the good fortune to fly with Aeroflot (you shared a recycled one), Emirates (a 24-carat gold sack for one’s pukes), JAL (a cute Hello Kitty bag), American Airlines (supersize), Virgin (you puke into a sexy cabin crew member’s hand) and so on and so forth.

And each time I flew, I thought “you stupid, stupid idiot – why didn’t you start collecting them when you first thought about it” but NOW, I can’t start collecting them because I have missed all these opportunities already and so there is absolutely no point…even if I manage to fly on a million more airlines, there is still no point because I have missed all these opportunities.

And this is how I feel about Fusion Organic Café in Sheffield. It’s always a worry to review a restaurant when you have spoken at length about sick. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here so let me be explicit:

I ONLY WISH THAT I HAD TAKEN A PHOTOGRAPH OF EVERY SALAD I HAVE EVER EATEN THERE BECAUSE THEY VARY EVERYDAY, THEY ARE MORE INVENTIVE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE AND THE PEOPLE THERE PRODUCE SIX SALADS EVERY DAY. I STOPPED TAKING PHOTOS BECAUSE I HAVE MISSED SO MANY AND NOW THE TASK FEELS OVERWHELMING. THE SALADS ARE DELICIOUS AND THE ONLY REASON THEY ARE LINKED TO SICK IS BECAUSE I SHOULD HAVE STARTED TAKING PHOTOS OF THEM WHEN I FIRST THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

And so, this is (to eliminate any remaining confusion) a positive review.

The salads cost £3.70. You get to choose 3/6 salads and when I say salad, I mean lentils and sweet potato and bulgur wheat and purple sprouting broccoli, olives, courgette ribbons, coconut rice….basically all the stuff that you can’t be arsed to cook! For all the veggies out there – this place is as good as it gets for a work lunch. It’s almost all veggie and loads of gluten-free, dairy-free stuff. OMG I can’t shut up about this place and OMG it does meat too for all you cute-baby-animal eaters (lol lol).

Oh and one final thing. The café is a training café linked to Freeman College so that young people with learning difficulties or behavioural problems can train and work in a great environment. The staff there – especially Moo, who is perhaps the most enthusiastic cashier I have ever met – are wonderful. It’s a great business and a producer of ultra-healthy food that we are lucky to have in Sheffield.

Butcher Works, 74 Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 2NS – I think they close at about 3pm and they are also shut in school holidays. Take out or eat in.

Fusion Organic Cafe on Urbanspoon




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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Disatrous Salted Butter Caramel Cake



** Strangely, this post contains BREAKING BAD SPOILERS so if you haven't watched it to the end and plan on doing so, this one ain't for you **

Did you watch Breaking Bad? I had tried to watch it and in the way that I do with anything that requires more than 5 minutes of my attention, I gave up. Not because it was bad – because it was great! No, just because I had SO much to catch up on and it was SO overwhelming and so I gave up.

But then, everyone started to talk about “the ending” and people were all excited and saying things like “TV WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN” and so I watched and watched and WATCHED. One day, I watched 13 hours of the stuff.

And what I discovered was this: in the end, it all revolved around bowel movements; that one fateful shit.

Maybe Skylar had brewed some very strong coffee for after the meal. Maybe the cartel had slipped some laxative into Hank’s morning cuppa, mistaking it for ricin. Or maybe, Hank was on some new Hollywood diet pills; just shitting out all the fat from Sky’s cooking.

I don’t know.

But what I DO know is that had Hank not needed to drop a load at the dinner party then Walt & Co would probably be on their way flying first class to the Czech Republic to open up a new car wash. Him and Sky would bathe in methylamine, snort lines of homemade pink cocaine and wife swap with Jesse and Andrea.

While we’re talking about crap, my housemate has bought some wet wipes that sit next to the toilet. We’re rationed to one per poo but MY WORD it feels as if I have suddenly become a billionaire.

So, let’s bring it away from shit and back onto chemistry.

Cooking caramel for this cake made me feel like I was cooking meth, as can all baking because well, um, it is CHEMISTRY. I remember one guy on the Great British Bake Off who was very into manipulating ingredients with clever boffin techniques and I think he won so WOW, this is chemistry: call me Walter White Chocolate Chip or Jesse Pink Cupcake coz this chemistry chick is here to stay!


Please see above a photo of the making of caramel, which was just one of the many things that went wrong with this recipe.

The final DISASTER was when I followed the instructions to "turn out the cake", which was MEANT to be slightly uncooked. So the top photo illustrates what happened and is also the reason why I am going to be a responsible blogger and not post the recipe, ever.

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Turkish Eggs



And sometimes blogging can seem like such an IMPOSITION. The thinking, the writing, the re-writing, the eating in different places even though you KNOW which curry is best and which vegetarian café near the Cathedral forces you to buy a salad you don’t want. It’s the taking of photos, the taking of photos again because the cheesecake just DOESN’T REALLY LOOK RIGHT in that one. The uploading, the “um, that one is slightly better than that one because on that one I look like I am mid-stroke but oh, um that one, oh GOD look at my chins, shall we re-shoot?” The editing of photos when you have time on your hands and the panic of OH SHIT I don’t have time to edit all the photos for THIS post but now I’ve made expectations and doesn’t it always pay to be average?

If I was a member of the upper class or a psychopath of any class, I would certainly hire an intern. What a splendid way to really give yourself a self-assured pat on the back: I’m so great that people want to do the SHIT parts of my life FOR FREE!!! What a ball!

Anyway, that explains the hiatus. I can’t promise that I will get any better at this but in the meantime, let me tell you about the time the local paper (The Sheffield Star) asked me to write a recipe for them.

“Write” is funny because yeah. So, instead, I regurgitated one from BBC Good Food and wrote this long drawl about what was in my head at that moment. I sent it off, waited, had a photographer come round to my house and had to cook the friggin meal again. Then I had to ask a friend to ‘test’ the meal, which meant I had to eat it again. By this time, I’m thinking, Jesus, this is DISGUSTING.

Anyway, the paper didn’t print everything I wrote. In fact, they printed perhaps one sentence and I got to be a musician or a celebrity or a politician and complain loads:

ME: “I’ve been misquoted!”

FRIEND: “But that is what you said – exactly! Look, it’s written in this Word document that you sent to them.”

ME: “But it was taken out of context!”

That was it, really. Most of the page was taken up with a picture of my big, pale, make-up free, frizzy-haired face.


So, here, for my real fans, I will post the unabridged version:


“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a princess and dinner like a pauper” said someone with no children, no job and a vegetable patch in the back garden.

In reality, I tend to do the whole shebang in reverse order. Occasionally, I will almost get it right by eating a large lunch. Unfortunately though, those days tend to conclude with less of a pauper dinner and more of a family-sized bag of Maltesers with no hope of utilising the “seal up and save some for later” sticker (does anyone actually use those?)

And so, when I got some time off work the other day, I decided to make a hearty, healthy breakfast (or brunch – after all, I was off work) to see if the pauper dinner naturally followed on.

Scanning through the BBC Good Food website (the Holy Grail for all my cooking), I came across a Turkish recipe called Menemen. It’s basically like Nigella’s ‘Eggs In Purgatory’ but without the doomsday name.
There are different variations of Menemen. Some choose to leave the eggs whole, frying them into the mixture and others prefer to scramble the whole lot together. Seasoning is also a bit of a free-for-all, meaning that oregano, thyme and parsley are all welcome in the frying pan.

The eggs, vegetables and pita bread in this dish mean that you’re getting vitamins, protein and carbs before you’ve even left the house. If you’re fussy about your carb intake then a) does your breath smell a bit dodgy? BUT b) the morning is obviously the best time to enjoy them.

Did the motto serve me well? Yes! The meal was delicious and I definitely wasn’t hungry until around 2pm. I then whipped up some brownies and ate quite a bit of the raw batter but thankfully redeemed myself in the evening with a Greek salad.

All I need now is some motivation to get up at sunrise and to be blessed with non-blurry morning vision for chopping chillis as opposed to fingers. Hm. Looks like it’s back to toast and Marmite until further notice then.

This is my housemate, Rachel, testing the recipe. This photo is mainly included to show off my hologram of a cat and dog (behind).

The article is here.

Serves 2, Vegetarian
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 chillis, chopped (and de-seeded if you’re a wimp!)
2 large red onions
1 red pepper
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
A sprinkle of caster sugar
4 eggs
A handful of parsley
2 pita bread

Method
1.      Heat up your oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and add your garlic, chilli, onion and pepper. Cook on a medium heat until the vegetables soften.
2.      Pour in the tomatoes and sprinkle with roughly a teaspoon of sugar to take away the sharp taste of the tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes have reduced, about 5 minutes.
3.      Make four ‘wells’ in the mixture and crack eggs into each one.
4.      Cover the pan with a lid or a chopping board (keep an eye out as the latter is almost certainly a fire risk).
5.      Warm up the pitas under the grill.
6.      When the eggs are firm and cooked (but still wobbly), take the pan off the heat and sprinkle with parsley.
7.      Serve with pita on the side to dip into the runny yolks.


                                                                                                                                                  
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