Egg Dishes: a few ideas
Φ Eggs have long symbolised spring and rebirth. The ancient Egyptians ate hardboiled eggs at festivals
Φ The Oxford Companion describes eggs as ‘The acme of food packaging:’ they are excellent sources of nutrients and even include Vitamin D in a form we can utilise without sunlight (useful in winter).
Φ Despite this, eggs have often suffered from an oddly negative image. In the Middle Ages, they were classified as wet and cold — as opposed to more healthful dry and warm foodstuffs — to such an extent that the whites were sometimes held to be practically poisonous, and only fit for the bin. More recently, Edwina Currie resigned from her post of Health Minister in 1988 after making an erroneous warning about salmonella in British eggs.
Φ The World Egg Throwing Championships are due on 26 June in Lincolnshire. See website
Φ Eggs make you a nicer person. Researchers in the Netherlands have apparently found that eggs make you more generous, by increasing your levels of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. Consequently, volunteers dosed with tryptophan (an amino acid found in eggs, which is important in serotonin production) gave twice as much money to charity as those dosed with a placebo.
Φ Finally, one for the pedants: albumin is a class of proteins; albumen is egg white.
Without going as far as the commentator who advocated buying eggs only ‘from a known hen,’ we do recommend organic or free-range eggs. They contain more omega-3s, antioxidants and much better karma than caged eggs.
Enhance egg dishes with parsley, chives, paprika or salt. If serving cold hardboiled eggs, stop the yolks turning green by plunging them into cold water immediately after cooking.
* Easy starters
1. Take an egg. Halve it lengthways and cut a tiny slice off the bottom of each half to give them a flat base to sit on (to stop them sliding or rolling onto their sides). Place large side up. Top with mayonnaise, one anchovy fillet & paprika.
2. Scotch woodcock: mix scrambled eggs with anchovy, spread on hot buttered toast, and cut into fingers.
3. Serve boiled eggs with good-quality mayonnaise and salad leaves. To perk up any shop-bought mayo: take out a couple of dollops and mix with one raw egg yolk and a few drops of lemon juice. Also, sprinkle a touch of paprika over the finished dish, just for interest and colour
4. Serve whole boiled quail eggs with celery salt.
These dishes also make good canapés.
* Raw egg-yolk dishes
Serve a raw egg yolk, possibly cradled in half an eggshell, atop pasta carbonara, creamed spinach, steak tartare (chopped fillet & seasonings — give it a try), Scandinavian Fågelbo, or as a dip for asparagus spears. See the cartoon above for a Scandi-style tartare. NB pregnant women are advised to avoid eating raw egg
* Egg-white dishes
Use up egg whites by making meringues, floating islands, macaroons or omelettes. Make romantic rose-coloured meringues with a few drops of food colouring, or miniature multicoloured meringues for children’s treats. The other great user-up of egg whites is macaroons and Angel Food cake. Macaroons take a bit of work to make, but the still-warm, slightly sticky, fresh macaroon is totally worth it compared to the dry brittle shop-bought offering. Angel Food cake (an American speciality) depends on egg whites for its famously light-as-air quality. If you’re not a baker, whisk up egg whites and fold into omelette (made normally) mixture before cooking for extra-fluffy omelette
* Omelette/scrambled eggs
Recipes abound involving dairy products; we recommend crème fraîche; it has more bite and interest than milk or cream. For the fluffiest omelettes, whisk egg whites separately before adding to the main mix.
Good ingredients for omelettes (or scrambled egg) include:
♦ Green peas
♦ As recommended by De Pomiane, ‘little pieces of bread fried in butter’
♦ Dumas suggests a pudding of strawberry omelette with vanilla sugar, served floating on fresh strawberry purée
Adapt the omelette suggestions to sandwiches. Chopped hardboiled egg & cress, bound with mayo, is delicious. Try it with watercress, too
* Eggs Benedict or Florentine
Your classic dish consists of soft-poached eggs & ham — that is, some form of bacon, ham, Parma ham or prosciutto — on a hot buttered muffin, lavished with warm Hollandaise sauce. For the Florentine version, replace the ham with spinach (either wilted, or raw baby leaves).
Try adding chives, parsley, watercress or bacon into the mix; rumours also abound of tiger bread or pancakes being substituted for the muffin (although to what end, we know not)
Smoked salmon, asparagus or avocado are popular accompaniments to these dishes, either on the side or perched aloft
* Two Salads
1. Place a soft-poached egg in a salad of lardons or gésiers (gizzards), frilly endive lettuce & red wine vinegar. This can be absolutely delicious but, because of the small number of ingredients, the lettuce must be as fresh as humanly possible for it to fulfil its potential. Try a farmer’s market or farmshop and make it the same day, or buy a ‘growing lettuce.’ If all else fails, reach for the back of the lettuce racks to get the most recent arrivals. (If anyone should look questioningly at you while you scrabble around, give them a good glare, then tear off a leaf and defiantly eat it at them — that usually sees them off)
2. Mix hardboiled eggs with tomato, cucumber, cooked cold green beans, green peppers, onion, anchovy or tuna, garlic & black olives for a salade Niçoise. According to the french cooking bible Larousse, this salad does not include potato. This makes it a salad that is not only delicious, but also one you can use to intimidate any would-be food experts
* Scotch eggs
One for confident cooks! (Actually, not so much — some recipes are easier than others.) A great way to make the most of sausagemeat. Try this BBC recipe (click here)
* Anglesey eggs
Mix mashed potatoes with chopped cooked leeks, butter, salt & pepper, and place in a dish. Top with halved boiled eggs (cut side down) and pour over a simple cheese sauce (butter & flour, made into a roux, with milk and grated cheese). Grill till golden-brown
* Egg nog
Aka egg flip. Eggs with cream, sugar, spices, and brandy or rum; the ultimate winter hot toddy.
Lady Macbeth drugged King Duncan’s hapless guards with something like this, only she called it a posset. “I have drugged their egg flips, that Death and Nature do contend about them,” etc, probably wouldn’t have sounded the same. (Macbeth, as we know, sneaked in and killed the king; as an afterthought, he also knocked off the guards just in case they’d witnessed anything.)
* Further dishes
Advanced cooks may like to search online for the following and choose according to what’s in the cupboard: eggs poached in red wine; bobotie; kedgeree; eggs en cocotte (baked); eggs in aspic; real custard; stracciatella; piperade; avgolémono; pain perdu or eggy toast; devilled eggs (a delicious retro starter)
Our wine buff, Richard J Smith of the Wine School of Cheshire says: Eggs are perhaps challenging — but think an indulgent brunch, and think fizz! Ridgeview Grosvenor 2011, from Surrey, is a heavenly match. Made from 100% Chardonnay (often referred to as blanc de blancs), this superb sparkling wine is low on acid and high on bubbles. Its full flavour works with the creaminess of eggs Benedict. With smoked salmon instead of ham, it is sublime.
Egg mayonnaise needs a lighter wine. Picpoul de Pinet works to perfection. Pinet is a tiny French appellation and, at around 2000 years old, one of the oldest grape varieties. (Editor’s note: since Picpoul is also one of our favourites for seafood, we’re thinking prawn omelette & Picpoul would attain a true pinnacle of perfection.)
The Taster hopes this page has given you a few ideas and useful links for eggs. For more ingredients, click HERE.