Darina Allen on every cook’s best friend: Eggs

HOPEFULLY all those chocolate Easter eggs have been nibbled away by now, if not chop up the remainder and add it to a batch of chocolate chip cookies or scones with some hazelnuts. 

You could even melt it down to make some chocolate sauces to drizzle over crêpes or ice cream. But in this column I am going to concentrate on eggs from happy lazy hens of the feathered kind.

Eggs are truly a superfood, every cook’s best friend. Unsurprisingly they are having their moment again, particularly in the US, evident on both coasts. In virtually every restaurant and café, eggs were starring on the menu in some shape or form, not just for breakfast and brunch. Even food carts and food trucks were serving eggs in many guises.

In Portland, I loved the food cart in Pioneer Courthouse Square called ‘Fried Egg I’m in Love’, manned by a cheery chap selling a range of fried egg sandwiches, all with ‘punny’ names like Yolko Ono, Egg Zeplin, and Sriracha mix-a-lot. Each sandwich has a fried egg, sometimes two... The eggs are sourced from local farms and all sandwiches are served on toasted sourdough, cooked “easy-over medium” and sprinkled with a special spice blend called Magic egg dust.

Another cart in downtown Portland invited customers to Build Your Own Omelette with delicious veggie or protein options on a croissant or bagel incorporating local seasonal ingredients and fresh herbs.

Other trucks did a range of poached or scrambled egg dishes — I loved the sound of Eggs Travaganza, at the corner of 52nd Street and Park in Midtown, New York, long queues for Mexican egg wraps, burritos, egg tacos….

I also heard good things about the Egg Tosti (version of egg and cheese toast) from Steel Cart. Last week I mentioned Daily Provisions on East 19th Street, Lower Manhattan, my favourite new breakfast spot.

There’s a constant queue for their breakfast gougères and breakfast egg sandwiches served on a brioche bun. Egg toasts were served on sourdough with a variety of toppings, sprezzatura and jam, English muffin with ricotta, and smoked salmon, bacon, egg, spinach, and hot sauce.

Egg and sausage, melted gouda and hot sauce in a brioche bun

A perfect breakfast or brunch inspired by Daily Provisions on East 19th Street in New York.

Serves 8

8 brioche buns with poppy seeds sprinkled on top

8 sausage patties

8 organic eggs (1 egg omelette per bun)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g to 175g (4oz-6 oz) Gouda, grated

Hot tomato and chili sauce (or use your favourite brand)

Homemade sausage patties

(Makes 8 large patties)

225g (½lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (eg, parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram and a little rosemary)

30g (1¼oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small organic egg (optional — helps to bind — reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

Dash of oil for frying

Tomato and chilli sauce

30g (1oz) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 3 inch (2cm) dice.

2 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 dstsp castor sugar

1 dstsp soft brown sugar

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp water

First make the sausage patties:

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Divide in 8 and flatten into patties. Keep covered and chilled.

To serve: Split the brioche bun in half but keep attached at one side.

Fry the pork patty in a hot pan in a little extra olive oil while you quickly make a 1 egg omelette.

Heat a small frying pan over a high heat. Whisk the egg, add a little dash of milk, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a little clarified butter to the pan, when sizzling add the egg, tilt the pan and quickly make an omelette and fold.

Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese onto the base of the bun and pop under a grill. When the cheese has melted top with the pork patty and the omelette. Drizzle generously with the hot sauce, fold over the brioche and serve ASAP on a square of parchment.

For the tomato and chilli sauce

Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water. Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

Avocado Toast with Labneh, Chorizo Crumbs and a Poached Egg on the side

Serves 1

1 slice of sourdough bread

Extra virgin olive oil

Rocket leaves

½ ripe avocado

Parsley

Chorizo Crumbs

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

125g chorizo, peeled and cut into 5mm dice

100g coarse breadcrumbs

1 tbsp labneh

3 cucumber strips or diagonal chunks, seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar (makes more than needed but keep in a box in the fridge)

A few drops of best quality white wine vinegar

1 fresh free range organic egg

Garnish

Segment of lemon or lime

First make the chorizo crumbs

Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo. Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.

Careful, it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.

Drain and add to the chorizo.

Chorizo crumbs are a brilliant resource, keep them in a covered box in the fridge. They are great sprinkled over cauliflower or mac and cheese and soup. Season the cucumber strips or diagonal chunks of cucumber with a few drops of vinegar, salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar.

Pan grill or toast the sourdough bread, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Lay a few rocket leaves on a plate and pop the slice of sourdough on top.

Scoop out the avocado from the skin and lay on top of the sourdough cut side upwards.

Add a dollop of labneh to the plate and fill the cavity with a little labneh and sprinkle lots of warm chorizo crumbs over the avocado and add a poached egg and some cucumber to the plate.

Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and garnish with a segment of lemon, or lime if you prefer.

Serve ASAP.

Crispy potatoes, fried eggs and spring onions

An irresistible and comforting brunch. The crispy capers add a delicious zing but are optional.

Serves 1

2-3 cooked potatoes, depending on size

Extra virgin olive oil

2 organic free range eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 spring onions

5-7 capers or fresh sage leaves fried until crisp

Peel the cooked potatoes and cut into ¾ inch slices. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the potatoes, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until crisp and golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer onto a hot serving plate. Keep hot.

Heat some more olive oil in a clean pan. Add the capers and cook until crisp, 1-2 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Fry the eggs.

Lay on top of the fried potatoes, side by side. Sprinkle with lots of green spring onion tops, sliced at an angle. Top with a few crispy capers; add a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper.

Omelette Arnold Bennett

Omelette Arnold Bennett was created in the 1920s by the chefs at the Savoy Hotel to commemorate author and playwright Bennett writing his novel, Imperial Palace, while staying at the Savoy. This dish is a true British classic. This delicious omelette would also be very good made with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel.

Serves 1-2 as a main course

50-75g (2-3oz) smoked haddock

A little milk

25g (1oz) butter

150ml (5fl oz) cream

3 eggs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Garnish

Parsley, freshly chopped

Equipment

25.5cm (10in) omelette pan, preferably non-stick

Put the smoked haddock into a small saucepan. Cover with milk and simmer gently until it is cooked enough to separate into flakes (about 10 minutes). Drain. Toss the haddock over a moderate heat with half the butter and 2 tablespoons of the cream and keep aside. Separate the eggs, beat the yolks with a tablespoon of the cream and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whip the egg whites stiffly. Fold into the yolks with the haddock and add half the grated Parmesan cheese.

Melt the remaining butter in the omelette pan. Pour the mixture in gently and cook over a medium heat until the base of the omelette is golden. Spoon the remaining cream over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the finely grated Parmesan. Pop under a hot grill for a minute or so until golden and bubbly on top. Serve in the pan or slide on to a hot dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately accompanied by a good green salad.

Hot tips

West Waterford Festival of Food, April 20-22, has been running in Dungarvan and environs annually since 2008. Over the years the festival has been a showcase of the food of the region, as well as playing host to some of our top chefs, fresh flavours, interesting influences, and good ideas. This is one festival where there is definitely something for everyone: A full children’s programme, foraging trails, bus tours, cooking demos, dining experiences from high end to very casual, plus markets. Taste the best of the county with the local farmers’ market on Thursday, the weekly country market on Friday, the festival’s quayside market on Saturday with a seafood theme, all culminating in our famed festival market on Sunday when over 100 stalls fill the town centre. Bígí linn!

Sri Lankan Irish Celebration Concert on Friday April 20 at 7pm in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House: Join Mario Ananda, a famous Sri Lankan singer, for a special Sri Lankan Irish Celebration concert. Enjoy a selection of Sri Lankan finger foods. €25 per adult, €10 for under 16s. Tickets available to buy at the door on the night only.

Homemade Butter, Yoghurt and Several Cheeses, Wednesday, May 2, at 1.45pm. The idea has somehow developed that it is difficult to make butter, cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy products at home. Nothing could be further from the truth.Sign up for this morning course (which includes a light lunch after the demonstration) and you will come away knowing how to make a long list of delicious dairy products including butter, yoghurt, cottage cheese, coeur a la crème, labneh, paneer, and a simple farmhouse cheese. You’ll also discover how added flavour can be achieved with fresh herbs and fruit. Butter and cheese making is one of those simple but deeply satisfying kitchen crafts that not only deserves to be resurrected but can also provide additional income or a vibrant business. Students who would like to learn how to milk a cow can join us at 8.15am when we milk our Jersey cows and separate the milk and cream. www.cookingisfun.ie 

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