Recipe of the week……Eggs

Eggs have a very special place in French gastronomy as both a staple food and as a much loved cooking ingredient. Perhaps one of the most underrated egg dishes is ouefs en cocotte, which translates literally as egg casserole! although I always call it simply ‘baked eggs with …..’ and this one happens to be with mushrooms and sage butter in cream and Parmesan.

According to Elizabeth David this traditional dish is a cross between oeufs sur la plat, where an egg is cooked in a covered enamel or earthenware dish with a little butter, and a poached egg where the eggs are cooked in a ceramic cocotte or ramekin dish. Both can be cooked on top of the stove or in an oven. Originally I imagine this would depend on whether you had an oven as many people would have cooked over an open fire or taken their dishes to be cooked in a communal oven.

In their simplest form, the eggs are carefully broken into a small dish with a little butter, salt and pepper. These are then cooked in a water bath (where the dishes are half submerged in boiling water, so they do not cook too quickly) until the white is set and the yolk cooked but still soft.

When cream is added it becomes oeufs en cocotte a la crème and can be enhanced with a range of flavourings from just a simple herb, to spinach lightly sautéed in butter, smoked salmon or shredded ham or to my favourite of wild mushrooms and truffles or even foie gras. Some people like to add a topping of grated cheese whilst others prefer none. Allow the seasons to determine just what to add, like the mushrooms in this version.

Baked eggs with mushrooms and sage

Photograph by Ian Wallace

Serves: 4

50g butter, plus extra for greasing

small bunch fresh sage

250g mushrooms, wiped clean

250ml double cream

4 free range eggs

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and lightly butter 4 x 300ml capacity ramekin dishes. Boil the kettle and get a roasting tin ready that will hold the ramekins.

Reserving a handful of small sage leaves, finely chop the rest. Melt the butter in a frying pan and as soon as it stops foaming add the whole sage leaves and fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the leaves are crisp. Do not allow the mixture to burn. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the frying pan to the heat. Fry the mushrooms, chopped sage and a little salt and pepper over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until golden. Divide the mushrooms between the prepared ramekin dishes and pour over the cream. Break an egg into each one and top with the grated Parmesan.

Place the ramekins in the roasting tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 10 minutes until the egg yolks are just set. Scatter over the crispy sage leaves and serve with some wholemeal bread.


Recipe of the week………….baked eggs

Baked eggs and Prosciutto with sage butter

A perfect way to begin the day. Spoil yourself this coming weekend (or weekday if you’re lucky enough) to a one pot dish of eggs baked in the oven with prosciutto and crispy sage leaves. It is a simple but quite delicious way to cook and serve eggs – an ideal brunch dish for 2.

Baked Eggs and Ham 2

25 g butter

12 large sage leaves

4 eggs

4 large slices prosciutto

1 tbs chopped fresh parsley, optional

a pinch smoked paprika

2 slices toasted sourdough

Preheat the oven to 200c/fan forced 180c. Melt the butter in a 20 cm ovenproof frying pan and gently fry the sage leaves over a medium heat for abut 1 minute until crisp and golden. Remove the sage leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Place the ham slices in the ham and crack in the eggs so they all fit in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Scatter over the sage leaves, parsley and a little smoked paprika and serve with toasted sourdough.

Tip: Although a heavy oven-proof frying pan is ideal for this dish, if you don’t have one then use a baking dish and fry the sage butter in a small frying pan first.


Recipe of the week………..summer dessert!

Chocolate marbled meringues with summer berries and white chocolate sauce

Serves: 6

These gooey, marshmallow-like meringues look and taste amazing, topped with a scoop of ice cream and a tumble of summer fruits all drizzled with a white chocolate sauce.

4 eggs whites

250 g caster sugar

2 tsp organic cocoa powder

350 g mixed summer berries

6 scoops vanilla ice cream

white chocolate sauce

100 ml single cream

75 g white, chocolate, finely chopped

1 tbs Cointreau (optional)

Preheat the oven to 130c/250f/gas mark 1/2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Place the egg whites in an electric mixer and whisk on high until stiff, then gradually whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time, until the mixture is thick and really glossy, about 5 minutes.

Sift over the cocoa powder and carefully fold through the meringue mixture to just combine and leave the mixture with a marbled effect. Carefully spoon 6 large meringues onto the prepared tray and bake for 1 hour until set then cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce, place the single cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in the Cointreau if using.

Arrange the still warm meringues on serving plates and serve each with a scoop of ice cream and the summer berries all drizzled with the warm white chocolate sauce. Serve at once.

Tip: If you prefer allow the meringues to cool completely before serving, they are just as good. Meringues keep well, so make ahead of time and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

 


Seasonal delights……..asparagus

As the ground starts to warm after the winter chill, the garden is abloom with spring flowers and the first signs of life in the veg plot start to twist and turn their way towards the sun. It is still too early for any homegrown asparagus but as I drive around the local area I noticed several of the local producers have started to advertise their early crop and it won’t be long before bundles of vibrant green asparagus stalks are all over the markets.

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It is without doubt my first real treat of the season and I am going to pair some tender young stalks with soft poached duck eggs. For something a little different to normal I have scattered over a little dukkah, an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts and spices, which marries perfectly the soft creaminess of the egg and the sweet, almost citric flavour of the asparagus. A bed of creamy tahini yogurt and a slug of fruity olive oil makes this combination truly delicious.

Asparagus with duck eggs, tahini and dukhah

Serves: 2

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini paste

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 duck eggs

1 bundle young asparagus, trimmed

2 teaspoons dukhah*

a drizzle extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 2 plates.

Cook the duck eggs in a small pan of boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh under cold water to stop further cooking. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and cut in half.

Plunge asparagus spears into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and shake dry.

Arrange the asparagus spears over the tahini sauce, pop the egg halves on top  and scatter over the dukhah. Drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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  • dukhah is available from Middle eastern stores, delis and some supermarkets

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