Get cracking: Skye Gyngell reveals how to cook the ultimate comfort food - fresh eggs

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Everybody has their own comfort food. For some it is toast, ice-cream or chocolate. Mine is eggs. I generally eat them on a Sunday evening at the end of a long working week when I get home, between having a bath and crawling into bed. I love little soft-boiled eggs with soldiers that have a thin smear of Vegemite on them – a vestige from my childhood in Australia. I love how its salty flavour mixes with the richness of the orange yolk.

Look for eggs that are as fresh as possible. Their whites should be bouncy and their yolks bright in colour. Watery eggs with yolks that break when cracked generally aren't very fresh. Shell colour is not important, as this depends on the variety of chicken. But being free-range and organic makes all the difference.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com

Soft-boiled eggs

When I lived in Paris, almost the first thing I learnt to do was cook eggs. Although boiling an egg so it's perfectly soft sounds easy, somehow it isn't. Timing is essential – and like all good things, practice is important. I like to eat two boiled eggs at a time, as one is never quite enough.

Serves 1

2 very fresh, organic free-range eggs

Boil a small pan of water over a medium heat with just the smallest pinch of salt. Now carefully lay the eggs in the water using a spoon – they will crack easily if they drop to the bottom and the white will ooze out. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the water and let rest for a minute or two before eating. For eggs that are between soft- and hard-boiled, cook for a minute longer. Grill a slice of bread, remove the crusts, spread with lashings of butter and cut into soldiers.

Eggs en cocotte

These baked eggs are lovely to serve for a late-night supper with nothing more than a little green salad, a plate of good ham and some warmed bread.

Serves 4

4 very fresh organic free-range eggs
2 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche
50g/2oz Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

You will need four little porcelain ramekins for this dish. Start by heating your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4, then crack one egg into each ramekin, spoon over the cream, season with salt, sprinkle with Parmesan and finish with a generous grinding of black pepper.

Once the oven is warm, carefully transfer the ramekins on to a flat baking tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for eight minutes, remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Omelette

Lightly browned on the outside with a soft oozing centre, omelettes make the perfect light lunch dish. They are easy to make if you follow some simple guidelines – the most important being the use of the right pan. It should ideally be not too deep or wide, and non-stick if possible – well looked after. There is a pan specifically for making omelettes; ask at your local kitchen shop if you think you will use one frequently. Omelettes can be served completely plain just as they are or filled with cheese (Gruyère being the best option) or what the French call "fines herbes": tarragon, chervil and parsley.

Serves 4

8 very fresh, free-range, organic eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A knob of unsalted butter

Crack the eggs into a bowl, and whisk together just enough so that the yolks combine with the whites. Season with the salt and pepper. Place the pan over a fairly low heat, add a little butter and turn the pan from side to side so that the butter coats the pan evenly. Once the butter has stopped foaming and just begun to turn a nutty brown, stir in the eggs. Using a fork, and being careful not to scrape the bottom of the pan, drag the sides in from the outside of the pan, at the same time tilting the pan to allow as much liquid as possible to run underneath. Once it is firming up, use a spatula to lift one side of the omelette and fold it on top of the other side to form a half-moon. Again using the spatula, press down once or twice on top of the omelette to secure it, and gently slice it from the pan on to a plate. Serve while really warm.

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