I’m not talking the Cadbury’s Creme variety but that of the hen! Could there be a more appropriate time than this weekend to celebrate freshly laid eggs in a delicious brunch for an easy, indulgent start to the day?
I’ve been browsing cook books – and consulting Country Living‘s Food and Drink Editor, Alison, for simple dishes which make the most of the flock’s offerings. Below is a taster of what made our mouths water (the baked kind features quite heavily!):
1 Delia Smith’s Swiss Baked Eggs has always been a favourite if mine. She suggests it for supper, but I think it goes very well with soldiers of top-quality wholemeal toast for a late breakfast. Similarly a Country Living one including sorrel.
2 Soft-boiled eggs and broccoli soldiers by Elisabeth Luard (to serve two)
Simmer 500g purple-sprouting broccoli in lightly salted water for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Then drain immediately.
Meanwhile, soft-boil four eggs by your usual method or, following Luard’s, start with the eggs at room temperature, place them in a pan which will take them in a single layer and add enough cold water to cover the shells generously.
Bring the water gently to the boil, leave it to bubble for 2 minutes, turn off the heat and wait another 2 minutes – whether the eggs are large or small, the method is the same.
Transfer the eggs to their eggcups, with a little pile of broccoli spears on the side. Hand butter, salt and pepper, separately.
3 Yotam Ottolenghi’s Baked eggs with yogurt and chilli (serves two) is a rather exciting alternative, featured in his largely meat-free book Plenty (Ebury, £25)
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (gas mark 3). Place the 300g rocket and 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan, add some salt and sauté on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the rocket wilts and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Transfer to a small ovenproof dish and make four deep indentations in the rocket. Carefully break four free-range eggs individually into each hollow, taking care not to break the yolk. Place in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are set. (Alternatively, divide the rocket into two small pans and cook two eggs in each.)
While the eggs are in the oven, mix 150g Greek yogurt with one crushed garlic clove and a pinch of salt. Stir well and set aside; do not chill.
Melt 50g unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Add ½ tsp Kırmızı biber and a pinch of salt and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until the butter starts to foam and turns a nice golden-red. Add six shredded sage leaves and cook for a few more seconds. Remove from the heat.
Once the eggs are cooked take them out of the oven. Spoon the yoghurt over the centre, and pour the hot chilli butter over the eggs. Serve immediately.
4 Jamie Oliver’s Eggy crumpets from his Jamie at Home (Michael Joseph, £30) book are pretty tasty, too.
5 But then there’s always the super-simple Smallholdings muffin – as James and I like to call it – hard to beat in my opinion. Simply poach your egg in just-simmering water (three minutes for medium-size) – choose those which are likely to have the largest proportion of yolk, if possible, I imagine bantam’s would be brilliant – toasting an English muffin in the meatime. Personally, I love a decent covering of Marmite on mine. Then simply place the egg betwixt the halfs of muffin, season with salt and black pepper, and apply a gentle pressure to break the runny, orangey-yellow yolk so that it’s roughly evenly spread throughout.
As long as the eggs you’re using are as fresh as possible the above poaching method works a treat, but the technique is the subject of much debate – see the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog for a run-down through alternative approaches.
In return for their top-quality ingredients, I’ll be giving the girls bunches of goosegrass, a sweet, sticky weed they adore, which I’ve noticed already springing up in verges and under hedgerows.