Eggs are a totally magical ingredient, the quintessential fast food, versatile, nourishing… Think about it, if you have two boiled eggs or in the case of hungry chaps three or four for supper with a few slices of brown soda bread you’ll feel deliciously sated. They need to be good eggs of course, really fresh and preferably free range and organic. The exciting thing is that a growing number of people have been smitten by the ‘fancy fowl’ bug. All over the country people are keeping a few hens in their back gardens and have discovered the joy of collecting and eating their own freshly laid eggs. Kids of all ages love hens and it’s a brilliant way to reconnect them with how food is produced. Several local schools have a chicken coop with a couple of hens and the children learn how to care for them – it’s a brilliant way to foster entrepreneurial spirit – several have started to keep hens at home and sell the eggs to their mammie’s friends and the neighbours.
It’s win win all the way, instead of paying the council to dispose of the scraps from your cooking they can be fed to hens and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful eggs a few days later. The hen ‘poo’ is a brilliant addition to your compost, which in turn can go into the garden to make the soil more fertile to grow healthy, beautiful fruit and vegetables.
So for those of us who do have hens, this time of the year can be challenging – hens don’t love cold weather any more than we do so their productivity is diminished during the winter – as soon as the weather improves they start to lay with gay abandon. Suddenly there’s a glut of eggs. There are several ways of preserving eggs, My favourite short term way of preserving eggs is Buttered Eggs – a simple technique which seals the shell and gives the eggs a delicious curdy texture. Pickled eggs are another brilliant solution; they are a great favourite in British pubs and deserve to be much better known over here as do Scotch Eggs which are having a terrific revival.
850ml (11⁄2 pints) white wine vinegar
10g (1⁄2oz) fresh root ginger
7g (1⁄4oz) white peppercorns
7g (1⁄4oz) black peppercorns
12 organic eggs, hard-boiled
Put the vinegar and spices into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, sieve and leave to cool.
Peel the eggs, run under a cold tap to remove any traces of shell and put into a sterilised Kilner jar. Pour in the spiced vinegar. The eggs must be completely covered; otherwise they won’t keep. Seal the jar with the clip and keep for 3–4 weeks before using.
450g (1lb) best-quality sausage meat (or homemade sausage meat)
6 hard-boiled eggs (preferably free-range)
1 tablespoon) freshly chopped herbs, eg. parsley, chives, thyme
1/2 teaspoon English mustard
1 beaten egg
dry, white breadcrumbs
best-quality oil for deep frying
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and put in the eggs carefully, one by one. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. (The eggs should be covered with water.) Pour off the water and cover with cold water.
Mix the fresh herbs and mustard thoroughly through the sausage meat. Divide the sausage meat into 6 even-sized pieces. Put a piece of sausage meat onto a floured board and flatten it with your hand into an oval shape, large enough to cover an egg. Shape the sausage meat around the peeled egg with your hands, making sure that the egg is evenly coated and there are no cracks. Cover the rest of the eggs in the same way.
Roll the Scotch eggs in seasoned flour, beaten egg and finally coat them with dry, white breadcrumbs. Coat all the eggs in the same way. Heat the oil for deep frying; making sure it is deep enough to cover the eggs. The fat should be a medium heat, 180C\350F, because if it is too hot, the outside will be brown before the inside is cooked. Put the Scotch Eggs into the basket (a few at a time) and lower them into the fat. Fry them for 5 or 6 minutes, and then lift them out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve warm with a good Green Salad and perhaps a Tomato and Basil Salad.
Fried Eggs with Crispy Sage
Simple, but so delicious
2 freshly laid organic eggs
Clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil
4-6 sage leaves
Sourdough toast – from Arbutus Artisan Bakery in Cork
Heat 3-4 tablespoons of clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. Crack the egg one at a time into the pan and allow to sizzle for a minute or two. Baste with the hot butter or olive oil or flip them over. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a warm plate, add the sage leaves to the pan and allow to sizzle for a couple of seconds in the butter or oil. Pour the contents of the pan including the sage leaves over the eggs. Serve with lots of sourdough toast.
Fluffy Smoked Haddock and Parmesan Omelette
This delicious omelette was a favourite of the English author and playwright Arnold Bennett and is still served at the Savoy Hotel where he ate almost every night after the theater. It would also be good made with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel. Delicious for breakfast or served with a green salad for lunch or dinner.
Serves 1-2 as a main course
2-3ozs (50-75g) smoked haddock
a little milk
1 oz (25g) butter
1/4 pint (150ml) cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
parsley, freshly chopped
10 inch (25.5cm) omelette pan, preferably non-stick
Put the smoked haddock into a small saucepan. Cover with milk and simmer gently until it is cooked enough to separate into flakes (about 10 minutes). Drain. Toss the haddock over a moderate heat with half the butter and 2 tablespoons of the cream and keep aside. Separate the eggs beat the yolks with a tablespoon of the cream and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whip the egg whites stiffly. Fold into the yolks with the haddock and add half the grated Parmesan cheese.
Melt the remaining butter in the omelette pan. Pour the mixture in gently and cook over a medium heat until the base of the omelette is golden. Spoon the remaining cream over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the finely grated Parmesan. Pop under a hot grill for a minute or so until golden and bubbly on top. Slide on to a hot dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately accompanied by a good green salad.
Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream with Pedro Ximénez and Raisins
Really good eggs and really good cream makes really good ice cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips, Turkish delight or crystallised ginger, finish the ice cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.
4 organic egg yolks
110g (4oz) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and seeds from ½ vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)
100g (3 1/2 oz) Muscatel raisins covered with 100ml (3 1/2 fl ozs) Pedro Ximénez sherry or Pedro Ximénez Malaga wine
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)
Add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.
This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Serve with Muscatel soaked raisins, with a chilled glass of Pedro Ximénez on the side or poured over the ice cream.
New season’s Irish asparagus is at the Skibereen Farmers Market from Tim York of Lisheen Organics. Phone 028 38824 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Homage to Rose Gray from the River Café two and half day cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Gillian Hegarty, who worked with Rose at the legendary River Café will teach some of her favourite recipes – not to be missed Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th April 021 4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie
Sea kale, now in season for just a few short weeks is a deliciously delicate vegetable traditionally grown inside terra pots to exclude the light. It resembles celery in appearance but has a totally different, sublime flavour. It is never found in super markets and rarely even in Farmers Markets but you can occasionally find plants in good garden centres and it’s a perennial that’s definitely worth growing yourself. If you’d like to taste it first it will be on the menu at Ballymaloe House near Shanagarry for the next couple of weeks with the first of the new seasons asparagus from the walled garden. 021 4652531.