The ultimate hen party: Skye Gyngell gets innovative with eggs

Easter is still a few weeks away, but Skye Gyngell is already on the hunt for a comforting egg – albeit the kind delivered by chickens rather than a fluffy bunny
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Indy Lifestyle Online

What better time to write about eggs than in the month of Easter? They are so irresistible because if you have a few in the fridge, the possibilities are endless – from boiled to scrambled, omelettes to French toast. And simple custards and ice-creams can be made if you have a little sugar, a vanilla pod and a spot of cream.

At work we have a chicken coop, and while the chickens produce few eggs, the one or two we gather, we cook while still warm – there is nothing better than a spankingly fresh egg, cracked into a warm, buttery pan, cooked until the whites are just translucent and the yolk wobbly and runny.

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

Vanilla custard pots

Delicate pots of vanilla cream bound by fresh eggs make for a simple and light end to a meal. They're not much more than a spoonful or two each, and they leave you wanting just a little more. In summer, we serve these with a bowl of ripe and sweet English strawberries.

Makes 8 pots

500ml/17fl oz double cream
200ml/7fl oz whole milk
160g/5 oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
6 large eggs, yolks only

Combine the cream and milk and five tablespoons of the sugar in a large saucepan. Scrape the beans from the vanilla pod and add along with the pod. Simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit to infuse for an hour, then reheat the cream mixture until just warm. Whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar in a large bowl until just combined, then pour over the warm milk and strain. Pour into a jug and allow to cool to room temperature.

To cook, pour the custard into eight little pots or ramekins and place in a deep-sided baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper, leaving space between each pot. Place the baking tray on a baking sheet – this will provide double insulation and help the custards set evenly. Cover each pot with clingfilm. Add enough water to the tray to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 45 minutes. To test whether they are ready, remove a ramekin from the oven and shake it gently – the custard should be slightly wobbly. Remove the ramekins from the bain-marie and set on a cooling rack. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. They will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.

A simple omelette

I think an omelette is one of the most satisfying meals you can make when you are tired and want something delicious but not time-consuming to make. Use the freshest possible eggs and a good non-stick pan that is roughly the diameter of the omelette you want to make.

Serves 4

12 eggs
Salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Place your pan over a very low heat to warm – this is very important, for the pan should be hot when the eggs hit so that they will sizzle immediately when they hit the pan.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and season generously with salt. Beat them just enough to break down the yolks and the whites. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the butter, then swirl the pan so that it coats the base and the sides. Once the butter is sizzling, pour in the beaten eggs. Allow the eggs to completely coat the base of the pan. Turn down the heat once more and begin gently to use a spatula to cut through and scramble the layer of eggs. Scrape the sides then leave briefly to set a second puffy layer and scramble once more. Continue to do this until about half the egg has set. This is the point to add a filling such as cheese. I like something that melts well yet still retains its flavour such as Gruyère or Beaufort –allow 50g/2oz per 12-egg omelette.

Now, using the spatula, gently fold both sides inwards on top of each other and cook for a further minute before sliding on to a warm plate.

I like to eat omelettes accompanied by something warm, and here have served it with spinach and torn toast.

Egg soup

This recipe comes from Greg and Lucy Malouf's book Saraban (Hardie Grant, £30). It has a simple, peasanty flavour to it and is one of the most comforting soups I have eaten.

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
20g/¾oz unsalted butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
tsp ground turmeric
tsp fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
250g/8oz kipfler or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
1¼ litres/2 lb good-quality chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 long strip of peel from half an orange, all pith removed
Sea salt
2 tbsp verjuice
Juice of half a lemon
6 small eggs, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flatbread and lemon wedges

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add

the onion and garlic and fry gently until translucent. Stir in the spices and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the potato and cook for a minute, stirring to coat well with the onion mixture. Add the stock, herbs and orange peel. Add salt to taste and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.

Just as you are ready to serve, fish out the bay leaf and orange peel, then stir in the verjuice and lemon juice. Crack the eggs and carefully slip them into the simmering soup and poach gently for 3-4 minutes or until the yolks are barely set – they will continue to cook in the broth after you remove the pan from the heat.

Ladle the soup straight from the pan at the table, ensuring everyone has an egg. Season with salt and pepper and serve with flatbread and lemon wedges.

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