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Are we just too blasé about eggs these days?

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Fiona Beckett Fiona Beckett | 17:01 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

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?

 

Tortilla, hollandaise sauce, bearnaise sauce and pavlova

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.

Mary Berry's Hot Lemon Souffle

 

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?


 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Fiona, you are brilliant. Just as I read your description of Lord Darymple’s Soufflé Top, I wanted to know how to make it, and lo! You shared the recipe. It's like you read my mind.

    I love eggs, I do think a lot of people think of the egg as just an ingredient, to be used in cakes and batters and sauces, without any glory for itself.

    But I agree, they are marvellous and so incredibly versatile and so very good.

    I can seldom resist an eggs benedict (or florentine/ royale) with a yolk that breaks runny liquid over my muffin and a rich, creamy hollandaise. And souffles, omelettes and so many, many other dishes, yes deserve more attention on our menus!

    Perhaps it's because most egg dishes are inexpensive and easy to make at home (for those willing to learn the basics of cooking)?

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't know if you are just referring to the UK and USA but you are surely forgetting Spanish cuisine, which is one of the global stellar examples of egg dishes in many forms. In fact an integral part of any formal (usually five-course) dinner in Spain is an egg dish served after the soup or "Entremeses" (starters). Normally breakfast in Spain is not an egg-inclusive meal (except in the "Costa de los Fish and Chips" areas populated by Brits and Germans) but they tend to be incorporated into the many tapas and formal dining norms.
    Just a few examples are the ubiquitous "Tortilla Española" practically a "cake" omelette of slowly sautéed layered potatoes, sometimes onion and several eggs cooked on the stovetop in garlic-infused olive oil and served in wedges or chunks with frilled "Banderillas" spears as Tapas and sometimes Romescu Sauce (a bit like a Fritatta but more robust, direct and flavorful), "Huevos a la Flamenca" eggs baked atop ham or lacon, bell peppers onions garlic and white asparagus in clay cazueletas, "Ensaladilla Rusia", Potato and vegetable salad in a saffron mayonnaise mound with boiled eggs in the mix and as a garnish, egg-Bearnaise-based "Croquetas", "Mayonessa verde al ajo" (Spanish ali-oli); I could go on and on but you get the point. Even the much heralded Ferran Adria at El Bulli used many "altered" eggs in many of his futuristic creations. I have my own takes on these dishes and many others which I'd be glad to share on request.

  • Comment number 3.

    I love eggs and they are a big part of my family's diet. We like everything from boiled eggs for breakfast, poached eggs for lunch and omelette for dinner. Plus so many dishes that wouldn't be possible without eggs! One of the best foods in the world, apart from chicken maybe - but which one came first.....

  • Comment number 4.

    we love eggs so much my wife and i now live on our own the chicks having flown we eat on average 1 and half doz eggs per WEEK and when the new chicks (grandkids) visit the first thing they ask for is strangled (scrambled) eggs

  • Comment number 5.

    Good point @Reiverpacific. I was thinking mainly about the UK but you're right about Spanish cuisine. A well-made tortilla is a delicious thing.

    Glad you like the Lord Darymple's soufflé top @KaveyF - brilliant idea, isn't it? I think you're right about restaurants too - I guess they think eggs are what people have at home and don't have when they're out but I think that's mistaken. Or it certainly would be in my husband's case. He eats eggs at every conceivable opportunity - like you, by the sounds of it, @cooksalot and David!

  • Comment number 6.

    Having written this here's a great collection of egg pix from self-confessed egg fan, food photographer Georgia Glynn Smith http://eepurl.com/kvFfj

    We all love eggs - it's just restaurants which think we don't want them!

  • Comment number 7.

    I was on the point of refusing to eat eggs some 12 years ago as they tasted of fish, presumably from what the hens were fed on. Then we moved to the country and started keeping our own hens and now we have gluts of eggs in Spring and regularly hand them out to family and friends who all report they're the best eggs ever. I am constantly looking for recipes and Charlotte Popescu's little book of "Hens in the Garden and Eggs in the Kitchen" is one of the most useful. Delia Smith usually has a good selection of egg recipes too - as do a lot of vegetarian books (ovo-veggie!) Great to hear it for eggs, thanks, Fiona.

  • Comment number 8.

    I was so happy to read this article celebrating eggs! We love them in my family too. We are always cooking with eggs - and souffles are my Dad's speciality, now passed down to my brother who made a wonderful cheesy souffle last night (and he's only fifteen!). We just hope that our hens can keep up with us...

  • Comment number 9.

    Omelettes can be found in many places - as a non wheat eater I often have one instead of a sandwich

  • Comment number 10.

    "a delectable concoction of butter, cream eggs and cheese"

    Cream eggs? Those incredibly sugary confectionery items from Cadbury? With cheese and butter?

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't have any issues against eggs, in fact I like eggs just like most people, but I have a gastric problem which tends to give me a bad stomachache when I eat eggs. :(

    My friend may not use eggs in her raw food recipes since it's supposed to be raw, but she's really good at creating something that tastes like the real egg using things like cashews, water, etc. A perfect substitute for my egg cravings!

    But oh well, that doesn't mean I should avoid eggs for the rest of my life; it's worse than being a vegetarian.

  • Comment number 12.

    @pattipan - that sounds a truly charming book - although the last thing I need is any more cookery books. Shall try to resist.

    @Grahae great to hear of a 15 y.o. making soufflés - sure way to impress the girls ;-)

    @jimternet - drat that missing comma! Although I think they're spelt crème. Horrid thought anyway with cheese . . .

    And sorry to hear of your egg intolerance @Phanatomic. That really is very hard :(

  • Comment number 13.

    Eggs! We love 'em. We eat duck eggs and goose eggs when we can get them, and of course hens eggs. I make omlettes, quiches, I love them scrambled with a hint of cheese in them, boiled with a lovely runny yoke, (especially Goose eggs), eggs benedict, eggs florentine, love them all.
    But are they good for you or am I storing up cholesterol in my arteries? There are so many conflicting points of view, so we must not overindulge, just in case!

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm not sure where you're eating but everywhere I go I see eggs on the menu! I heartily recommend the souffle omelettes in Myers Cafe in Horncastle if you're ever in Lincolnshire...

 

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