Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A good egg

I think there is pretty much nothing that can’t be improved by a poached egg. Mushroom risotto? Spaghetti carbonara? Creamy polenta? A bowl of steamed vegetables? Top with a soft poached egg, and break the yolk, letting the golden centre ooze through everything. Perfection.

Eggs for brunch is one of my all time favourite things – with pan fried prosciutto and served with rocquette and avocado or with sautéed chorizo and roma tomatoes or on potato rosti with smoked salmon.

Plus, more and more eggs are considered amazingly good for you.* Studies from the ‘80s suggested strong links between problematic high cholesterol and egg consumption (as cholesterol does occur naturally in eggs, each egg has about 200mg). However, the link between egg consumption and ‘bad’ cholesterol which causes, amongst other things, heart disease, may not be as strong as once thought**. I have a general theory (completely unfounded in any experience, training or professional qualification in medical science) that most whole foods are pretty much ok if eaten in moderation. Ie, a couple of eggs now and again won’t hurt***

Basically, I think we can just eat the damn eggs and enjoy them without feeling guilty.

Except, eat ethical eggs. If for no other reason than they just taste better, eat free range eggs. Organic if you can be bothered/can afford them. Cage eggs come from caged chickens. Caged chickens are essentially egg making factories that never see sunlight and look like old mangy dogs. Chickens should not be treated like this. No animal should be treated like this. Caged chickens are most emphatically not happy chickens, and as a result do not produce happy tasting eggs. Do not eat them. Eat delicious, golden-yolked eggs. Beg them off friends who raise chickens in their backyard. Pick them up at markets in the country. Visit a free range farm and collect them yourself, warm and nestled in straw under a brown hen.

On the weekend, during the rain, I made fava bean puree, filling the house the aroma of the warm oniony broth.

Later that night we snacked on the bean paste as a dip, with crunchy heirloom cucumber and radishes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.

But earlier in the day, as soon as the paste was smooth, I smeared it across thick wood-fired sourdough and topped it with poached eggs.

* “Eggs ‘should be considered a superfood’, say scientists” 9 March 2010 (Although note that this particular study was funded by the British Egg Council. Also note that there is a British Egg Council, which is very, very cool)
“Bad cholesterol: it’s not what you think” 14 February 2010
*** For goodness sake, consult your own health care professional if you have any concerns.

Perfect Poached Eggs

2 very fresh free range eggs. The fresher the eggs, the better the egg white holds together, making a firmer poached egg (the opposite is true for boiled eggs – eggs that are a little older have a little bubble of air between the white and the shell, making them easier to peel)

1 small saucepan, filled with about 3 inches of water (enough to cover the eggs)

1 teaspoon white vinegar. Vinegar helps the egg white to congeal - I sometimes like to use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for taste.

Heat the water and vinegar until simmering (not boiling water – just simmering).

Crack the eggs into a saucer or ramekin, taking care not to break the yolks.

Using a slotted spoon, create a gentle whirlpool in the simmering water (this creates a centrifugal force, which I think helps keep the eggs round shape a little better).

Slide the two eggs from the saucer into the water. If the water starts to boil or froth, turn down the heat.

Nudge the water gently to continue the whirlpool effect.

Cook for 2-2 ½ minutes for runny yolks.

Remove with a slotted spoon.

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