Chicken, Soft Egg, Avocado and Labna Toasts

It’s hard to know which comes first; the contentedness you clock when you’re around familiar things, or whether it’s the things themselves that deliver a sense of calm.

I’ve just had my first Saturday morning back in my old flat. It’s been a strange two weeks of opening boxes and finding ghosts of my former self there waiting for me. With every book and glass that I place back on my shelf, a little stitch of my previous life pulls closer.

Of course there are things that have changed here in this city-by-the-sea over the last three years. Loved ones now have little ones attached to them. Small people are much taller. There are now empty galleons of shop fronts on Oxford Street, while people circle in large cars for aeons trying to find a parking space near warehouse conversion cafes in suburbs where we once bought cheap timber.

I’m a bit different too. Beyond the baby-in-the belly and the mad torrent of hormones, I think I’m actually calmer than I once was. Yet there are things I’m finding I cannot stand. I cannot abide the buzzing of Australian breakfast television- it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end with the braying and inanity. I hate that after only two weeks I’ve slipped into the Sydney-patter of talk of the weather, real estate and the price of parking. As much as I hoped we’d come back and the slate would be wiped clean, I still find it unsettling to drive past the big sandstone court house in Darlinghurst. The mark of the the morbid months we spent inside under its frigid air conditioning is darker than I thought.  And it infuriates me that as much as I adored our first trip back to Gelato Messina, I couldn’t consider the tub of fig and marsala without being tapped by a memory of my last visit- and having no choice but to dump a just-purchased scoop into the bin and dash back after a note came back from the jury- all for nought.

It seems there are ghosts of all sorts waiting for us here in Sydney.

But it’s the relicts of my kitchen that are the most interesting to me now.  If I’m honest, I’m a much better cook than I once was in this squarish space of terracotta tiles and mock marble bench. Unpacking my pots and pans was like unfurling aspirational totem after aspirational totem- back then I suspect I was much like a bike rider who couldn’t get their Ducati out of second gear.  I was horrified to discover murky scorch marks on the bottom of my Le Creuset- back then I hadn’t twigged to the miracle combination of bi carb soda, sea salt and half a lemon to clean it all off.

But there’s plenty there to work with, until some more of my stuff arrives.

Our first Saturday morning in the flat was marked by sunshine streaming in through the windows, half a loaf of Sonoma spelt bread on the counter, portions of a roast chicken languishing in the fridge, left over home-made labna (there’s a great and easy recipe in a good book that I know of…) some avocados, herbs and some eggs.

Earlier in the week The Hungry One had been reunited with one of his great loves.

I woke to the sound of the machine burring downstairs and the gentle strains of Ben Harper– it was a CD we played on loop before we left. The last song was one I walked down the aisle to; it was a soothing influence when the edges of life were a little bit scratchier.

I sat down to juice, the colour of sunshine, the Spectrum section of the Sydney Morning Herald and a philosophical riddle; which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I’ve been intrigued by the pairing of chicken and egg for breakfast ever since I ate the egg en cocotte with roast chicken at Prune, in New York.  It was sublime, gilded with cream and egg yolks and joined by a terrifying amount of black pepper for cut through.

I went for a lighter, more Sydney-style version.

It started  with properly charred toast. Now it’s frankly, not breakfast in Sydney without avocado somewhere on the plate, so a good mashing of that provides a sturdy base.

Then it’s time for the chicken. Of course you could poach your own chicken- but this is a terrific way to use up the skerricks picked from a carcass of a roast, or barbecued chicken.

I combined a cup of roast chicken pieces in a pan with two good dollops of labna (strained yoghurt cheese). It provided a nice lactic tang- though you could easily substitute cream cheese. Then it’s two handfuls of baby spinach to wilt down, some lemon zest for piquancy and some flat leaf parsley for punch.

All that was  needed were some five minute eggs, plunged into water and bicarb so the shells easily shirk away.

I served it with a dash of chilli sauce and a cheek of lemon and a good dose of contentedness.

Then we made a plan to get down to Bondi. We said a quiet hi to the spirit of The Hungry One’s mum, whose ashes we swept off the point of Ben Buckler. We walked around to Tamarama. And we smiled at the sunshine. If this is Sydney’s interpretation of winter, I’m fine with that.

If being calm comes from being surrounded by familiar things- there’s not a lot that can placate me any more than this.

Chicken, Soft Egg, Avocado and Labna Toasts

Serves 2 for breakfast (though would easily work for lunch, or even a light supper with a sprightly glass of wine)


1 griddle pan, or toaster. 1 fry pan. 1 saucepan.


2 slices of sourdough/spelt sourdough1 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado
1 cup of cold roasted chicken, cut into pieces the size of playing dice
2 tbsp of labna, or cream cheese
2 handfuls of baby spinach
zest and juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 eggs, placed in boiling water with 1 tbsp of bicarb soda for 5 minutes, then rinsed under cold water and carefully shelled- the whites will be cooked but the yolks should bleed.


Chilli sauce/ lemon wedges/salt and pepper

Here’s how we roll

1)  Grill or toast your bread, then slick with olive oil.

2) In a medium frypan combine the chicken, labna, spinach, parsley, lemon zest and juice and stir over a medium heat, until the chicken is warmed through, the spinach wilted and the labna has melted enough to bind it all together.

2) Mash the avocado over the top of the slices of griddled bread, then top each with half of the chicken/labna mix. Nestle a shelled, soft centred egg over the top and splash with chilli sauce, salt and pepper if you like. Eat in the sun with the Saturday papers.


{ 1 Comment }
  1. ooh, yes I’m in and yay to our winters! That egg on top looks so good.

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