Good eggs

LOOK at this brilliant, bank-holiday-Sunday-morning-all-the-time-in-the-world brunch I made yesterday:  

Bow before its splendour. (Go on; I’ll wait). It calls itself “A New Eggs Benedict” and is from Anna Jones’ marvellous recipe book “A Modern Way To Eat”. It is nothing at all like Eggs Benedict and would not hit that spot AT ALL, if that’s what you fancied, but it is its own wonderful thing. 

Go back and look at it again. Look at that yolk. Looks great, doesn’t it? 

That’s because cooking eggs is one of my TOP SKILLS. (I am surprised nobody has yet endorsed me for it on LinkedIn, given that I am regularly endorsed for abstract concepts that are only tenuously related to what I do).

Here I share the not-so-secret secrets of the two most delicious types of egg. 

Perfect poached eggs

A shallower pan than you think you need. Barely simmering water. The freshest eggs you can find (otherwise the yolk will do that alarming wispy ghost-like thing, and your yolk will be overexposed, and DOOM will follow). A splash of vinegar (white wine, if you have it, but basically anything except Balsamic will do). 

Crack the eggs into ramekins first, then gently but decisively tip them into the water. Keep an eye on them; as soon as the white is cooked, they’re done. 

Lift them gently out of the water with a slotted spoon, and give the yolk a gentle prod with your finger. If it’s squidgier than you want it, pop it back in the water for 30 seconds (but how COULD it be squidgier than you want it, since all the joy of the poached egg is in its glorious runny yolk?)

Perfect scrambled eggs

Butter. Not margarine: butter. More than that. More than you think you could possibly need. Ideally, it’s salted butter; if not, stick in a generous pinch of salt as it melts. It will take a while to melt, because you will have your pan on the lowest heat possible – the barest flicker of a flame. (I don’t understand or trust electric hobs, and if you’re using one then I’m afraid you’re on your own. Who knows how to cook ANYTHING on them? Cross your fingers and hope for the best). 

Crack the eggs straight into the pan. There’s no need to whisk them up first, although if you have an emotional attachment to creating washing-up then you go right on ahead. Otherwise, as I say, just crack them straight in. If a little bit of eggshell gets in there, just fish it out with a bigger bit. All is well.

Scramble the melty butter and the eggs all up together with a wooden spoon. If you’ve got one with one of those pointed corners, this is a great time to use it. If not, no matter. It’ll be a big, buttery, eggy mess. 

PUT THE MILK AWAY. Unless you’re about to put it in your coffee – that’s ok. But don’t put it anywhere near your eggs. They don’t need it. They are perfect and beautiful just as they are.

Gently, slowly, swoosh your spoon in figures of 8 in the pan. Or write the alphabet. Or just do circles. Whatever feels right. It’ll feel like the eggs are never ever ever ever going to cook. You’ll be tempted to turn the heat up – but don’t. 

Eventually, just as you’re about to disobey me, the first little curdle will form. Let everything sit for a few seconds, then stir again. More lovely scrambly bits will have formed. After all the waiting, it’s all very fast from here. Scrambles beget scrambles; your eggs are nearly done. 

Keep going until it’s the consistency you want it. I like them creamy – but not as liquid as Delia serves hers, which are basically egg soup. Take it off the heat before it’s quite done. It’ll keep cooking slightly in its own residual warmth and you don’t want to ruin things right at the end. 

Serve on toasted things. Probably with more butter, because it is too late to bother skimping now.

All other eggs are self-explanatory and forgiving. Go forth and make eggs. 

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