An excuse to get out the blowtorch

(and no, it's not to torch my finals revision in a fit of despair)

Tonight, courtesy of my lovely friend Clare, I had the opportunity to whip out the blowtorch I was given for easter (cook's blowtorch, that is - I'm not into welding or anything) on TWO occasions.
Firstly, I decided to make Shakshuka, a north African dish of (in this version, anyway) sauteed peppers, onions, spices, tomatoes and herbs with cracked eggs on top. It's a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Plenty. I am having a massive Ottolenghi phase at the moment - I have his other cookbook and simply the thought of it makes me salivate (except not, because that is disgusting). More on that another time though - along with my ode to quinces which I am still intending to do. The eggs were taking a painfully long time to cook - watched eggs never boil - although admittedly it was quite fun watching their gelatinous forms slowly turn opaque in their little cocoon of tomato sauce. Clare had brought round a crumble to have afterwards, and I had the bright (and quite exciting - it takes very little to excite me these days, as my life is basically revision) idea of blowtorching the top to caramelise it. It then also occurred to me that I could cook the top of the eggs faster this way - normally I'd stick the pan under the grill, but someone was using the oven. It was amazing to watch - the surface of the egg sort of puckered under the flame and thickened, and then a little crust of white formed. Childishly satisfying. It was delicious, too - we ate it with warm baguette to mop up all the tomatoey goodness, and the eggs were just runny in the middle. I love sauteed peppers that have gone soft and sweet...add some caramelised onions, and yum.

The crumble, I have to report, was the most delicious crumble I have had in my life - and I am a bit of a crumble fiend (as anyone who has ever seen me rhapsodise over it at formal hall will know, or anyone who has seen me polish off several helpings, despite the two courses that have preceded it). Apparently it was a Nigel Slater recipe, and the reason it tasted so good was "massive amounts of sugar". Well, if tooth decay tastes that good, then I reckon I'll be seeing my dentist fairly soon.

Note the deliciously caramelised, toasted crumbly topping in the picture below...and be jealous that you don't own a cook's blowtorch. My housemates clearly thought I was ridiculous when I got it out of the cupboard...but I am clearly the one laughing now. Except I'm not laughing - I'm clutching my stomach and feeling slightly sick from sugar overload.