Lazy bank holiday brunch: Try Chris Barber's quick and easy pesto baked eggs

A brunch in minutes made from store cupboard ingredients
Lazy bank holiday brunch: Try Chris Barber's quick and easy pesto baked eggs

For a quick and easy brunch try pesto baked eggs from Easy by Chris Baber (Ebury Press, £16.99). 

Growing up in the northeast of England, Chris Baber was always obsessed with food – but he never thought he’d actually be able to make it into a career.

“I’m not from a massive foodie family,” he admits. “We had good, home-cooked food, but by no means was it MasterChef – it was spag bol, cottage pie, roast dinners – the classics.” Baber has fond memories of food, particularly going to his granddad’s house on the weekends. He recalls being in the kitchen with him – “and I guarantee there’d be music, he’d be having a good time cooking, dancing, enjoying it. I could see he enjoyed the process, and I loved being part of that. I could see how much satisfaction he got from serving us as a family,” Baber adds.

But his food education didn’t come from his family. As Baber explains: “I was self-taught, through what I was gathering on TV – I’d come in from school and watch stuff like Ready Steady Cook, I was obsessed with cookery shows. I’d see things and after watching, go in the kitchen and experiment” – and this “naturally evolved” into Baber learning how to cook.

A long-time fan of cooking shows, Baber soon found himself on one – BBC One’s Yes Chef, which he won in 2016. He calls it a “surreal” experience – and one that was very far from his life back in Hexham, Northumberland – but adds that “once I got started, it was like I finally found what it is I love to do”.

 Chris Baber, author of Easy (Ebury Press, £16.99).
 Chris Baber, author of Easy (Ebury Press, £16.99).

This is when his life completely changed. His food hero, Atul Kochhar, was a judge on the show, and invited Baber to come to London and work in the kitchen of his Michelin-starred restaurant, Benares. Looking back now, he says it was “absolutely bonkers, but the most incredible experience”.

And as a home cook, it was a real trial by fire. “I’ve probably never worked so hard, but I’ve also probably never learned so much in such a short space of time,” Baber admits.

His future wasn’t to be in professional kitchens, however. Instead, Baber wanted to translate what he learned into simple tips and tricks for people at home – and that’s what he’s done in his debut cookbook, Easy.

Throughout the book, you’ll find the odd recipe from the northeast of England, such as singing hinnies (pan-fried scones), or panacalty (a type of corned beef pie).

“It was really important to me – first of all, because it tastes delicious and it’s easy to make,” Baber explains. “There’s so much food out there, and we’re lucky enough to have access to the most amazing ingredients from around the world, which is fantastic. But I also think there are some recipes like panacalty – it’s a northeast delicacy – if people aren’t making it, I feel like some of these recipes can eventually die out.

“It’s something I grew up with and I’ve got great memories eating it,” he adds. “And I’ve got an opportunity here to share it with people who aren’t just in the northeast, and shed new light on it as a dish.” Baber muses that outsiders might think food from the northeast is “cheap and basic – but actually, I would say it’s wholesome, hearty food that is designed to fill people up and satisfy you, but with tonnes of flavour and not much fuss”.

Many of these delicacies have been passed down in working-class families, and they “deliver on taste – but also ease and cost as well”, he notes.

And Baber certainly seems to be onto something – celebrities including Tom Daley, Alan Carr and Gordon Ramsay are fans, his YouTube videos have been viewed over 4.5 million times, and he has some 161k Instagram followers.

“When I was younger, I thought food’s a passion – I’ll never work in it, or maybe I’ll lose the passion for it. But I was so wrong – I just grew to love it even more as I began to work in it.” And whether it’s cooking a roast for his family or taking the time to make porridge for himself in the morning: “I just love food,” says Baber. “It’s one of the greatest joys in life.” 

Easy by Chris Baber is published by Ebury Press, priced £16.99. Photography by Haarala Hamilton. Available now.

Pesto baked eggs

recipe by:Chris Baber

This tasty little number goes to show you can make a belter of a brunch with a few simple store cupboard ingredients in no time

Pesto baked eggs

Servings

1

Cooking Time

18 mins

Total Time

18 mins

Course

Main

Cuisine

Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

  • 1 garlic clove, sliced

  • 400g can cherry tomatoes

  • 3 tbsp basil pesto

  • 2 eggs

  • Salt and pepper

  • Bread, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium–high heat.

  2. Fry the garlic for 30 seconds, then stir in the tomatoes and two tablespoons of the pesto and season with salt and pepper.

  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover loosely and simmer for eight to 10 minutes until you have a fairly thick sauce.

  4. Use a spoon to make two wells in the tomatoes. Crack an egg into each well, cover and cook for about five minutes or until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft.

  5. Take off the heat, spoon over the remaining pesto and drizzle with a little more oil. Serve with bread to dip in the egg yolk and sauce.

    Easy by Chris Baber is published by Ebury Press, priced £16.99. Photography by Haarala Hamilton. Available now.

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up