Are we just too blasé about eggs these days?
I’ve just spent the last few days in Istria, the northern part of Croatia where they’re currently celebrating the wild asparagus season. It’s served every way imaginable but most popularly with scrambled eggs which form part of many local restaurants seasonal tasting menus.
You’d be lucky to find such a humble dish here. Apart from breakfast dishes and scotch eggs I rarely spot eggs on a menu - a far cry from their heyday in the fifties and sixties.
Whatever happened to hard-boiled eggs with a glistening dollop of rich golden, homemade mayonnaise or blanketed in a comforting cheesy sauce, the classic oeufs mornay? What about omelettes or, if you want to pull out the stops, soufflés? You’d think in these tough recessionary times restaurants would leap at the chance to cut their ingredient bills but it appears not. Are we just too blasé about eggs these days?
How can you resist?
For inspiration take a look at some of the old cookery books that pop up in secondhand bookshops or charity shops. In Fortune Stanley’s English Country House Cooking (1974) you can find Lord Darymple’s Souffle Top, a delectable concoction of butter, cream eggs and cheese with which to top caulflower, fish pie and (somewhat eccentrically) spaghetti. [For the curious, Lord Darymple’s Soufflé Top is made with 6oz (175g) butter, 6 tbsp single cream, 6 eggs, separated and 6 tbsp grated cheese. Melt the butter in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, add the cream, egg yolks and grated cheese. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of mustard and cook, stirring until the mixture is the consistency of a thin hollandaise. Cool, whisk the egg whites and fold them in, pour evenly over your dish and bake in a moderate oven (around 180C/350F/Gas 4) for about 15 minutes.]
In Pellaprat's 952 page L’Art Culinaire Moderne (1967) nearly 40 pages are devoted to such rarified recipes as oeufs à la Frou-Frou (with asparagus tips, peas, French beans and mayo) and Eggs Jockey-Club (foie gras, calf’s kidney, truffle and demi-glace sauce) along with wonderfully lurid illustrations of eggs nestled in elaborately decorated plates of chopped aspic.
Or lay your hands on a copy of the great Ambrose Heath’s Good Egg Dishes (1952) which provides scores of curious and delicious-sounding fillings for omelettes including clams, cucumber and hop-shoots along with one of the best sets of instructions for making an omelette I’ve come across.
Learn to make a good hollandaise or a béarnaise and you can turn a simple dish into a spectacular one. Rustle up a homemade custard and you have the base for all kinds of brilliant homemade ice-creams. Or whip up a soufflé - not much more difficult than making a white sauce or meringue - for a show-stopping dessert.
So let’s hear it for eggs! Celebrate real eggs this Easter weekend as well as those chocolate ones.
Any favourite recipes or are you one of those people who feels faintly queasy about eggs?