From Monday we are going to be celebrating British Egg Week – and as you may have deduced from the number of times that egg recipes have appeared in my column over the years, I am a dedicated fan. Eggs are so versatile, easy and nutritious and we too often overlook them as a source of reasonably priced, delicious meals.
I will be marking the occasion this year by showcasing various eggs from the Clarence Court range in my restaurants. I'm sure you must have come across these colourful specimens in the supermarkets; there are all kinds of lovely eggs from unusual breeds of hen, duck and quail.
There's certainly a lot more to do with eggs than merely frying, scrambling and poaching them for breakfast – although if you do cook them conventionally you will find they taste an awful lot better than most of the bog-standard examples that you find on the shelves.
I'm always slightly puzzled by the fact that people seem to think eggs are just for cooking for breakfast. Why not fry up some wild mushrooms with a few eggs and serve them as a simple dinner-party starter? Or what about knocking up some home-made Scotch duck eggs? I was recently inspired by a fantastic Scotch egg that I tasted while I was judging the first-ever British Street Food Awards at the Ludlow Food Festival; it was made with black pudding instead of sausagemeat – a truly brilliant breakfast snack.
Omelette with prawns and sea greens
It is important to keep this omelette slightly undercooked so that it stays nice and moist. I would also recommend buying raw sea-prawns in their shells as the flavour will be far better than buying pre-cooked prawns; and then you can make a second meal out of the shells. If you live near the coast then you will easily be able to access sea vegetables; if not, just use some baby spinach instead.
Allow about 400g of head-on prawns or 300g of headless prawns to yield the amount below. My favourites are the fresh Red Sea prawns (available from Waitrose from next Thursday; £22.99 per kilo).
A good non-stick frying pan is an essential piece of equipment for omelettes. Gone are the days of proving your pan for hours with salt and oil.
12 medium eggs, beaten
120-150g shelled weight of good-quality salt-water prawns
100g wild sea vegetables like sea spinach or sea purslane (if you can't get hold of them, baby spinach will do instead)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt about half of the butter in a hot frying pan, add the prawns and sea vegetables, season lightly and cook on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes or so, turning them as they are cooking. Put to one side and keep warm.
Season the eggs with salt and pepper then rub a little butter into a non-stick
frying pan, heat gently then add a quarter of the egg mixture for one person.
Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the egg begins to set.
Remove the pan from the heat and slide the omelette flat on to a cold plate to prevent it cooking any further.
When the omelettes are all cooked, warm them through in a moderate oven for a couple of minutes, then serve with the prawns and sea greens scattered on top.
Coddled duck eggs with ham and chives
Also known as oeufs en cocotte, this dish seems to have disappeared off restaurant and dinner-party menus. I'm not really sure why, as it's the perfect breakfast or brunch dish. Perhaps it's time for a revival?
4 duck eggs
Butter for greasing
120ml double cream
A couple of thick slices of good-quality ham, finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Grease some ramekins or similar with a little butter and carefully crack an egg into each dish. Place the ramekins in a roasting tin containing about 3cm of boiling water and bake in an oven for 7-8 minutes or until just set.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the cream to the boil with the ham and chives, season and simmer until it thickens.
Transfer the ramekins to small side plates or similar and spoon the cream mixture on top and serve immediately.
Pancakes are great to serve at any time of the day and they are especially popular at kids' tea-time. You can vary the fillings, but I've just used apples here as home cooks often run out of ideas for ways in which to use apples in puddings. You could also add a few blackberries to this as there are still plenty of them around. You can serve these with ice cream, thick cream, mascarpone or a couple of good knobs of butter.
1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
About 100g sugar (or more if the apples are tart)
1 medium egg
1tsp caster sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the apples and sugar and cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often, until they are nicely mashed. Taste them and add more sugar if necessary. Remove from the heat and put to one side.
To make the pancakes, whisk the flour, the egg and the teaspoon of sugar together with one-third of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk; strain if necessary. Heat a non-stick frying pan, rub with a little vegetable oil, then pour in a little pancake mix, tilting the pan immediately so that the mixture spreads evenly. Turn after one minute with a spatula or pallet knife. Continue with the rest of the mix. If you are making lots, make them in advance and stack them up between greaseproof paper then re-heat in the oven for a minute before serving. To serve, re-heat the apple mixture and either spoon down the centre of the pancakes and roll up; or spoon in the centre and fold in half then half again to form a triangle. Re-heat in the oven for a couple of minutes then dust with icing sugar and serve.
Blackberry bread and butter pudding
4 slices of bread or brioche, quartered
A good knob of butter, softened
3 whole eggs
6 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
350ml double cream
3-4tbsp melted marmalade, or apricot jam to glaze (or icing sugar to dust)
Double cream and blackberries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Lightly butter an ovenproof dish or individual ceramic basins if you want to make smaller puddings. Place half the blackberries in the bottom of the dish or dishes. Butter the bread or brioche and arrange the slices in the dish, overlapping and covering the whole dish.
Bring the cream and milk to the boil. Mix the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together then pour over the milk and whisk until well mixed, then carefully pour over the bread.
To cook, you'll need a deep tray such as a roasting pan larger than the pudding dish or dishes. Stand the dish or dishes in the tray and pour in boiling water three-quarters of the way up the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the custard has just set. Remove from the tray and leave to cool a little. Brush the melted jam or marmalade over; and serve with extra blackberries and cream, if desired.
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