...but Curried version gets chef's vote

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The Independent Online
SOFT-BOILING an egg, the staple of many a breakfast throughout the country, is an intricate art, say the culinary experts.

The basic rule of thumb, it appears, is that the egg should be boiled for four minutes. However, and here comes the tricky part, you can cook straight from the fridge (add 30 seconds), or leave it until it reaches room temperature.

Having decided which of these options you favour, you should also make sure that your egg is placed in the water with a perforated spoon, or something similar, rather than dropped in, and that the water should be simmering or gently boiling - not bubbling like a geyser. Oh, and don't forget to prick the rounded end to let out the air that could otherwise expand and cause the egg to crack.

Once you've mastered this you're halfway there. But who says the celebrity chefs are right in their instructions?

We decided to investigate the egg-boiling style of two people who should know - Debbie Currie, the daughter of Edwina, that scourge of the egg farmers; and Helen Lo, Sainsbury's food issues public relations manager.

And so to the 21st floor canteen of Canada Tower at Canary Wharf, where the chef, Mahmoud Rouag, agrees to let our guest egg-boilers and myself use his kitchen. He also promises to pronounce on the results.

Three pots are selected, three eggs handed out and the stove is switched on.

Before I try my hand at the exercise, I ask Helen how she prepares her eggs - as Debbie looks on anxiously.

"I keep my eggs in the fridge," Helen says. "Then I boil some salted water into which I put the eggs. I time them for four minutes, and then take them out.

"I use salt in the water because it makes it boil quicker and stops the white from coming out if the shell cracks."

Helen has done this before, and confesses she loves a soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers, although she would have first boiled the water in the kettle if she'd been cooking the egg at home.

By now, Debbie is looking very concerned - she has already admitted that she is not a very good cook, and doesn't know how to tackle her egg. But she is enterprising in the face of adversity and disappears to consult the chef.

Conference over, she returns and confidently places her egg in the pot of water, which hasn't yet started to boil.

"Chef told me to do that," she says, "and I've put salt in the pot because Helen did. Chef said to put the egg in when you first put the water in the pot and then take it out when the water starts to boil."

Debbie assures me she does eat eggs, but usually in pancakes and Matzobrai, a pancake made from eggs and Matzo crackers.

Four minutes later and the water in my pot still isn't boiling, but the other eggs are finished.

The chef breaks them both open, and the soft yolk spills slowly over the hardened whites.

He pronounces both eggs to be a success, although he is a little more positive about the Currie-cooked egg. "But they are both cooked well," he says.

Eventually, mine, I'm glad to say, also gets the nod.