Recipe of the Week | Eggs in Purgatory

Eggs in Purgatory | Photo Credit Randolph Graham

There are a number of recipes for this lost classic. Looking to create a recipe with my signature on it, I went to the store to get the ingredients for the recipe below. So when I saw a foodie friend walk into the store, we talked for a moment about this dish. I asked about the origin and meaning of the title.

She thought about it for a minute or so and said, “No idea about the origin. I suppose the title is just a strange way of saying eggs poached in tomato sauce.” She went on to say, “Some say the meaning is associated with the Catholic faith. The eggs represent souls and the fiery sauce surrounding them represents their suspension between Heaven and Hell.”

That being a little too heavy for me I quipped, “Or I suppose you could just compare “Eggs in Purgatory” to “Huevos Rancheros.”

“Yeah. You could do that” she said rolling her eyes. She continuing to talk as she turned her back to me and walked away saying, “but I wouldn’t.”

Whatever the meaning or comparison, this is an incredibly satisfying dish that you’ll be proud to serve to friends and family alike.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion (medium dice)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced thin)
½ habanero pepper (diced fine)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (crushed)
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (diced)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
4 ounces feta cheese (cubed)
4 large eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 10-inch skillet that can go in the oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook for five minutes or until soft and almost translucent. Add the next seven ingredients (habanero through pepper). Cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly, to release their fragrance.

Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), tomato paste, honey, and vinegar and stir to incorporate. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 12 minutes or until liquid is reduced by almost half.

Turn the heat off and press the cubes of feta into the tomato sauce. Make four indentations in the sauce with the back of a soup spoon. Crack an egg into each indentation being careful not to break the yolks.

Place the skillet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for ten minutes or until the egg whites are done. Serve with lots of fresh, crusty bread for dunking into the eggs and tomato sauce.

Note: When served, the yolks should be a little runny so that they mingle with the sauce after taking your first bite.


Chef Randy’s latest book: Ojai Valley Grill It Cookbook: vegetarian and vegan recipes and tips for successful grilling with color photoon Sale at AMAZON

For additional recipes, see Chef Randy’s website at

Chef Randy has been a vegetarian for over 40 years and eats local and organic grain, fresh fruit, and vegetables as much as possible. He is known locally as the “Healthy Chef.” His column, Chef Randy, is syndicated in California newspapers. See his website at for more recipes.

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