Introduction

Introduction

Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497886
Photographer
Louise Hagger

Eggs, so often overlooked or taken for granted, are one of the most beautiful, magical ingredients that nature has ever provided. They are satisfying to hold, their shells smooth and oval. Speckled, freckled and coloured, we have a choice of hen, quail, duck, goose, ostrich, even gull. Each unique in colour, size and flavour and cleverly packaged so that the delicate contents are protected within a perfect porous vessel. It is what lies within that provides us with a rich nutritious source of culinary experiment. Often lost, tucked amongst the other ingredients of a Full English breakfast and neglected until the weekend, isn’t it about time we brought that box of eggs to the forefront of our cooking staples and celebrated this humble food?

An egg contains two ingredients: a yolk and a white. They have different properties and can be used together or separately. The yolk can be emulsified together with other ingredients to produce creamy mayonnaise, custard and hollandaise. The white can be whipped into a pillowy meringue, a foamy cocktail or a soufflé. Together, the two can add flavour, richness and lightness to cakes, omelettes, quiches and mousse. There are endless possibilities for such a modest ingredient.

Can there be anything more pleasing than the tap-tap and crack that heralds the morning boiled egg? Then you open its lid to dunk hot buttered toast into the golden yolk within. Even fussy toddlers will happily tuck into a runny egg with fat Marmite soldiers. And is there any meal that cannot be elevated by the addition of an egg on top? Eggs can perform so much other culinary magic, however. Their neutral, rich flavour provides an ideal background for a huge array of ingredients, both savoury and sweet. Combine with mustard, salty bacon, fresh herbs, mature cheddar, anchovies, spiced cayenne, smoked fish, celery salt, bitter salad leaves and warm lentils. And that’s just the beginning… There’s also lemon, cream, sharp apples, chocolate and cinnamon to consider.

Always buy good-quality free-range eggs. A caged chicken lives a miserable life and this is reflected in the quality of the egg it produces. You will be rewarded with a good healthy egg, a pert yolk the colour of the sunset, a strong gelatinous white and a delicious taste. Look out particularly for Burford Browns or Old Cotswold Legbar.

Eggs should be as fresh as possible for frying, whisking and poaching; slightly older eggs are best for boiling and peeling. To test, place your egg in a glass of water. A fresh egg will sink and assume a horizontal position, a slightly older egg will tilt slightly and an old egg will float vertically (as carbon monoxide is slowly released into the air sac).

The phrase ‘You can’t even boil an egg’ is shorthand for ‘You can’t cook anything, no matter how simple’. However, there is need for careful cooking and basic knowledge to cook an egg perfectly. Get it right, and an egg will make you proud.

From providing reassuringly humble treats to something very, very posh, without the mighty egg, our culinary lives would be infinitely poorer.

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