What can be more adorable on Easter Sunday morning, than the joy and excitement on the children’s faces when they see the new-born chicks in the Palais des Poulets here on the farm… If our hens don’t get broody, Eileen and John take matters into their own hands. A dozen or so eggs go into the incubator in the potting shed…twenty one days later, the chicks start to hatch out, pecking through the shells with their little beaks… yet another miracle of nature. Within a few hours, they are all fluffed up and cheeping, ready to tuck into a little fine oatmeal or chick mash.
Within 18-22 weeks the females are crowing with pride having laid their first egg. These smaller, initial attempts are referred to as pullets eggs… the term given to a chicken before it officially becomes a hen.
As I cook, I can scarcely imagine life without eggs or hens for that matter. Ever since I was a child, we’ve always had hens, they gratefully gobble up the food scraps and reward us with beautiful fresh eggs a few days later.
The hen manure goes onto the compost and eventually back into the garden to enrich the soil making it more fertile to grow even more nutritious vegetables. What’s not to love about that virtuous cycle…
Recently, the price of eggs has gone up for several reasons, not least because the price of organic and non-organic grain has increased since the Ukraine war.
Because of bird flu, we have been instructed to keep our flock indoors since mid-September (2022) and it looks like they won’t be released until maybe the end of April.
Just like all of us during lockdown, our hens hate being cooped up indoors and long to be able to roam freely through the grass and scratch for grubs and insects. They are altogether happier and healthier when they can wander around naturally outdoors not to speak of laying more delicious nutrient dense eggs.
Boiled eggs and soldiers are one of my favourite kitchen suppers. Friends love to join me, for many, it’s a trip down memory lane from when we were children, dipping little fingers of toast into the runny yolk.
For a posher version for Easter, look out for a few spears of new season asparagus. West Cork has some of the first asparagus of the season so if you’re in that area, get to the Skibbereen Farmers Market early on Saturday morning…tends to sell out…
For perfectly poached eggs, no need for any fancy gadgets…just pop a freshly laid egg, into barely salted simmering water…it will plump up deliciously unlike a stale egg that will splinter and spread all over the saucepan.
Really good eggs, add magic to cakes, the yolks add richness and the whipped egg whites, contribute lightness and a tenderness to the texture but surprise, surprise the quality really matters…
We’re loving our new Easter egg cake to add to the traditional Pasque afternoon tea. A lighter cake than the traditional simnel cake – see Examiner article 18th March 2023. The kids would love to help and they really enjoy making the Easter egg nests and arranging the fluffy chicks on top.
Have you come across Aussie folded eggs yet, a new one to me until recently…I came across them on an Aussie inspired all day brunch menu on a recent trip to California
They’re a kind of elegant hybrid version of a ruffled omelette/scramble that resembles a rose on the plate…. Tender and delicious, often accompanied by avocado or on top of avo toast… it’s become one of my new favourites…
Freshly Boiled Eggs with Asparagus and Soldiers
Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’. A trip down memory lane…
2 fresh organic eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few pats of butter
1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread
6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.
Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the dippies and asparagus on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.
To prepare and cook the asparagus.
Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus, but we rarely do.
Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia. Choose a tall saucepan.
Cook in about 2.5cm (1 inch) of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml/1 pint) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Drain and serve immediately. If serving cold, refresh in cold water and drain again.
Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast
No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result – simply use a really fresh egg laid by a happy, lazy duck or hen. The tips you hear about putting the vinegar in the water are really only valid for eggs that aren’t so fresh – if you have a fresh, organic egg, the albumen is strong enough to hold together. And in my book, what could possibly be the point of poaching an egg that wasn’t any good to start with?
2 organic eggs
toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl or a cup, and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set, and the yolk is still soft and runny.
Meanwhile, make a slice of toast. Cut off the crusts, butter the toast and pop it onto a hot plate. Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain and place on top of the toast. Serve immediately.
Or you can poach the eggs ahead of time and then reheat them briefly in boiling water. Just cook them for a minute less than usual, and then slip them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further.
To reheat the poached eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, draw off the heat and slip the egg back into the water for a minute or two until hot through.
Folded Eggs and Chives and Aleppo Pepper
You can also imagine how good it is with paper thin slices of chorizo or asparagus. We used wild garlic flowers to garnish while they are in season.
2 organic eggs
1 tablespoon cream
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25cm (10 inch) non-stick pan
freshly chopped chives and Aleppo pepper
Whisk the eggs with the cream. Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Melt a blob of butter in the non-stick pan over a medium heat. When it sizzles, pour on the egg and swirl to cover the base of the pan. Allow the egg to set undisturbed for 10 seconds then gradually bring the edges of the egg to the centre with a spatula from all sides so it begins to look like a flower. Just as soon as the liquid egg stops running, remove the pan from the heat, grind some coarse black pepper and sprinkle with finely chopped chives and Aleppo pepper. Slide the egg onto a warm plate. Serve as it is with toast or add bacon, avocado, tomato, smoked fish…Enjoy soon.
David Tanis’s Swiss Rösti with Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg
In Switzerland, rösti (pronounced roosh-ti) is considered a national dish, though it is most popular in the German-speaking regions of the country. Made from grated potatoes, it resembles American hash browns, fried in a skillet like a thick potato pancake and cut into wedges. Rösti is often enhanced with ham, bacon or cheese or served with sausages. This posh version is garnished with smoked salmon, sour cream and a poached egg, perfect for a weekend breakfast. For best results, boil the potatoes one day (or at least several hours) in advance and chill. Cook them until just done and still firm — check with a skewer or paring knife — or they will be impossible to grate.
900g (2lbs) yellow-fleshed potatoes, parboiled, peeled and chilled
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter, duck fat or vegetable oil, plus more as needed
4-6 organic eggs, at room temperature
6 slices smoked salmon (about 225g/8oz)
225g (8oz) crème fraîche or sour cream
snipped chives, for garnish
watercress, for garnish
Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the parboiled potatoes onto a baking sheet. (Try not to mash them). Season with salt and pepper.
Place a 23cm (9 inch) cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is hot, use a spatula to transfer all the grated potatoes to the skillet. Let the potatoes begin to brown, then turn heat to medium. Press down lightly with spatula to form a thick cake. Let the cake fry gently until the bottom is golden brown and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Shake the pan to be sure the cake isn’t sticking; loosen with a spatula if necessary.
Lay a plate over the uncooked side of the cake and carefully invert the cake onto the plate, crisp side up. Return the skillet to the stove, add a little more butter to the pan as necessary and slip the cake back in, uncooked side down.
Fry gently for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp on the second side. Remove from heat and slide the cake (or invert) onto a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Poach the eggs.
Fill a wide skillet halfway with water. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Break each egg into a teacup, then carefully slip it beneath the water’s surface. Cook for 2 minutes, until eggs are barely set, then turn off heat. (Leave eggs in hot water to finish cooking as you prepare the plates).
Cut the rösti into wedges and divide among plates. Drape a slice of smoked salmon next to each wedge. Remove eggs one by one with a slotted spoon (holding a towel beneath spoon to catch excess water), and place on the other side of each wedge.
wedge with a dollop of crème fraîche. Garnish with a sprinkle of chives and a
sprig of watercress.
Asparagus, Rocket and Wild Garlic Frittata
This is an example of how we incorporate seasonal ingredients into a frittata. Asparagus is an extra treat here; you can use any asparagus, but I tend to use the thin, weedy, but still delicious spears in frittata and to add to scrambled eggs.
225g (8oz) thin asparagus
8 organic eggs
50g (2oz) Parmesan or Pecorino or Coolea or a mixture, freshly grated
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped wild garlic and rocket leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
wild garlic flowers, to garnish (optional)
salad leaves, wild garlic and rocket, to serve
non-stick frying pan – 19cm (7 1/2 inch) bottom, 23cm (9 inch) top rim
Bring about 2.5cm (1 inch) of water to the boil in an oval casserole. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus, add 1 teaspoon of salt and blanch for 2-4 minutes until. Drain. Slice the spears at an angle, keeping 4cm at the top intact. Save for later.
Whisk the eggs together into a bowl. Add the blanched asparagus, except the tops, most of the Parmesan and the wild garlic and rocket leaves. Season well.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the egg mixture and reduce the heat to the bare minimum – use a heat diffuser mat if necessary. Arrange the asparagus tops over the frittata and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Continue to cook over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until just set. Alternatively, after an initial 4 or 5 minutes on the hob you can transfer the pan to an oven (this is my preferred option), preheated to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 10-15 minutes until just set.
Pop under a
grill for a few minutes, but make sure it is at least 12.5cm (5 inches) from
the element. It should be set and
slightly golden. Turn out onto a warm plate, cut into wedges and serve
immediately with a salad of organic leaves, including wild garlic and
rocket. Garnish with wild garlic
flowers, if available.
Easter Egg Cake
A gorgeous, luscious Easter cake, fun for all the family.
Makes 1 cake
400g (14oz) self-raising flour
300g (10oz) caster sugar
zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)
4 organic eggs, beaten
300ml (10fl oz) whole milk
300ml (10fl oz) light olive oil
Easter Egg nests (see recipe)
3 x 20.5cm (8 inch) round tins
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Line the cake tins with parchment paper.
Sieve the flour, sugar and lemon freshly grated lemon zest into a bowl. Whisk the egg, milk and oil together in a separate bowl.
Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Divide evenly between the three tins, bake in the preheated oven until well risen and golden on top for 30-45 minutes approx.
When the cake is fully cooked, it will have shrunk in a little from the sides of the tin. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.
Makes enough to ice one cake generously but you may want to use a little less. Keep the remainder in an airtight box in the fridge to decorate cupcakes, cookies…use within 5 days.
150g (5oz) egg whites
225g (8oz) caster sugar
zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)
450g (1lb) butter, softened and cut into cubes.
Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a food mixer, rest over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the egg whites reach 80°C. Whisk on maximum speed in the food mixer until stiffly whipped and cool. With the machine running, add the freshly grated lemon zest and butter, one piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to whisk until it re-emulsifies.
Spread a layer of buttercream on 2 cakes, sandwich the three layers together. Ice both the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired.
For this Easter Egg Cake, we make Easter Egg Nests to embellish the top but have fun, use your creative streak and get the kids to participate. Enjoy and Happy Easter to one and all.
Easter Egg Nests
Super easy and fun to make – decorate with fluffy Easter chicks.
110g (4oz) Rice Krispies or Cornflakes
175g (6oz) chocolate
72 mini speckled eggs
cupcake papers or ring moulds
Put the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat immediately and allow to melt in the bowl. Stir in the Rice Krispies or Cornflakes.
Spoon into cupcake cases. Flatten a little and make a well in the centre. Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs. Allow to set.