Wednesday, April 27, 2011


If you're wondering, those are respectively the French and English baby names for that universal food, the egg, whose versatile splendours can encompass the simplest dish for the youngest child to the most elaborate confection for a wedding feast, and which is loved from one end of the earth to the other.

I certainly love eggs in all their multifarious manifestations: as themselves, simply boiled, the yolk still a little runny, the white silky-perfect; scrambled in butter, on their own or with smoked salmon or cheese and herbs; poached in eggs Benedict or on top of grilled fish, or with noodles; coddled and baked; fried with bacon, and conjured into omelettes and piperades and frittatas. I love the magical transformation of egg white into divine meringues; of the yolks into satiny mayonnaise or tangy hollandaise or peppy bearnaise. I love how whole eggs combine with sugar and milk and cream to make custards or deliciously simple icecream; with butter and sugar and flour to make a dizzying panoply of cakes. I love how eggs bind a stuffing and add interest to a simple sauce; how made into puffy omelettes, cut into little pieces and mixed with herbs and spices into leftover rice that's been fried, they instantly make a ho-hum Sunday night make-do into something a good deal more exciting than mere thrifty recycling!

And I love the fact that our eggs are proudly authored by the four brown hens(see above) who bustle and cluck importantly about just outside the kitchen window, turning the grain and grass and seeds and worms and insects they eat into little brown and white powerhouses of deliciousness!

Here's a couple of completely contrasting recipes I've devised, which departing from two eggs, create two very different results! These are tangy bearnaise sauce and simple homemade icecream. Both are easy to make, economical, and require no special gadgets at all:

First, separate the whites and yolks and put into two separate bowls.

For the icecream:

Beat the egg whites till stiff, add sugar(about 100 grams) and beat again till glossy as meringue. In another bowl, whip about 200ml cream till stiff, add about 50 grams sugar. Mix the meringue mix and cream mix till well-folded in. Add drop vanilla essence, melted chocolate, strawberry jam, or whatever other flavour you like, and mix in well. Do not use anything that has water in it--eg no fruit juice--as otherwise it will form crystals in the icecream. Put in a freezer container (I just use an old icecream container) and freeze, overnight if possible. This icecream always works, does not need extra churning or beating, and has a beautifully creamy texture with no ice crystals at all.

For the bearnaise:

Meanwhile, chop half an onion into very small pieces. Put the onion in a small pan with some vinegar--cider or wine vinegar is best. The vinegar should cover the onion but no more. Simmer gently until the onion has almost completely absorbed the vinegar. Put a bigger saucepan of boiling water on the stove, and place the smaller pan with the vinegared onions in it. Add a dropof water, and then the egg yolks, alternating with some butter(you'll need about 50-60 grams butter in all--but just taste to see, it needs to taste tangy, not too eggy, not too buttery, but be smooth and well mixed.) Take off stove, season to taste with salt, pepper and a little chopped fresh herbs(I like fresh thyme particularly, but tarragon and sage are also good with it.) Serve with steak or fish.

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