Eggs Benedict is an all time breakfast classic packed full of flavours, contrasting textures and colours. The ingredients are very simple: toasted Ciabatta, Iberica ham (though German Smoked Ham (as shown above) or Bacon work well and are significantly less expensive) topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce served with slow roasted tomatoes, basil and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Waitrose Paleta Iberica de Bellota 65g £4.99 (£7.68 per 100g) transforms Eggs Benedict into a real luxury dish with its melt in the mouth texture and rich flavours, in addition it has the great advantage of not requiring cooking!However some cooking is required and for a very long time poached eggs were my nemesis, I tried everything: swirling the water as I added the eggs, buying the freshest possible eggs, adding white wine vinegar to the water, using metal and silicone poachers and yet none of these either singularly or in combination guaranteed “the perfect poached egg”. Then one day I caught a programme by Heston Blumenthal where he revealed the secret – break the egg into a cup and then carefully tip the egg onto a skimmer as shown below, leave the egg on the spoon for a few seconds before carefully tipping the egg back into the cup. By doing this the wateriest part of the egg white is removed and when the cup is carefully immersed into a large pan of water taken off the heat containing a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and the egg tipped into the water the egg will remain as a tight white ball (well usually – sometimes despite everything things still goes wrong and the pan is filled with frothing white streamers of egg white!)
Total time 20 minutes, serves 2.
4 eggs (use the freshest eggs possible, Clarence Court Burford Browns with their rich yellow yolks are my favourites)
2 or 4 slices of Ciabatta depending on the size of the loaf and appetites! (Both Sainsburys and Waitrose sell wonderful Ciabatta loaves)
Iberica ham, enough to cover the slices of bread (Waitrose – see picture below)
Hollandaise sauce (Maille have a great ready-made sauce and any remaining sauce can be kept for up to 4 weeks in the fridge after opening)
Cherry tomatoes or a small tomatoes such a Perino (Tesco) are ideal.
Fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper (try grinding some pepper corns in a pestle and mortar for a real pungent blast of pepper. Don’t over grind or you will end up with dust and a totally different taste experience!)
I have not given any timings for the steps below as they naturally flow one to another.
Switch on the oven and turn it up to 190 degrees Centigrade.
Without waiting for the oven to warm up place the tomatoes in an oven proof dish and drizzle lightly with olive oil before placing in the oven and leaving to roast. (If you are using bacon instead of ham place four rashers in a lightly oiled baking tray and put into the oven to cook at the same time as the tomatoes).
Meanwhile fill a large sauce pan two-thirds full with water and add a tablespoon full of white wine vinegar, cover and bring to the boil.
While waiting for the water in the large saucepan to boil gather all the remaining ingredients, cut the Ciabatta, crack each egg into a cup before gently pouring the egg onto a skimmer spoon as shown below. The egg should only be left on the spoon for a few seconds to allow the watery part of the egg white to drain away before the egg is carefully tipped back in to its cup.
Put a second smaller saucepan about one-quarter full of water on to the stove over a low heat (too high a heat and the sauce will split) and place a small bowl containing 6 to 8 teaspoons full of hollandaise on top of the saucepan and stir occasionally as the sauce heats through.
Once the water in the large pan is boiling turn off the heat, remove the lid and carefully tip the eggs out of their cups into the near boiling water. Rather than simply tipping the eggs in from on high slowly submerge each cup in turn so the water floods into the cup and over the egg and then tip the egg out into the water.
Put the Ciabatta onto toast and at the same time place two plates in the oven to warm through.
Make some coffee!
As soon as the toast is ready remove the plates from the oven and start to build the dish in the following order: toast, ham, eggs, hollandaise sauce, with a side dish of roast tomatoes (don’t forget them its all too easy!) and a sprig of basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The only difficult step is in getting the poached eggs out of the pan. Use a skimmer spoon to slowly lift one egg at a time from the pan, tipping the edge of the spoon against the walls of the saucepan in order to drain off any water trapped on the surface of the egg and then remove any final traces of water by dabbing the underside of the spoon with a wad of paper towel before placing the egg on top of the ham and toast.
Eggs are a key ingredient in many recipes but it is at breakfast time that they really come into their own. The supermarkets are full of a bewildering variety of eggs added to which there a numerous farm shops and the like selling free range eggs. However over the last few years I have become a fan of the Burford Brown and Old Cotswold Legbar eggs produced by Clarence Court. These eggs are widely available in the supermarkets ranging from Morrisons and Waitrose right through to the food hall at Fortnum and Masons) and they never fail to delight. The Burford Browns with their rich brown shells are especially appealing when it comes to that all time favourite of boiled egg and soldiers. Cooking and eating is not only about taste all the other senses play a key role as well and appearance and colour in particular can make all the difference to the appeal of a dish. Both the Burford Browns and the Legbar eggs have rich yellow yolks and they give a really intense golden yellow colour to any dish that they are used in (see for example the earlier post “Croissant with scrambled egg and bacon”).
Much is said about storing eggs and their freshness, personally I keep my eggs in the fridge and usually use them within a week of buying them which means that they are generally eaten 2 to 3 weeks before their sell-by date.
What are your favourite eggs and do you ever use duck or goose eggs?
This is one of my all time favourite breakfast dishes combining as it does a mixture of sweet lingon sylt (jam) and the savoury salty taste of the smoked back bacon set against the warm flaky croissant and the rich soft scrambled egg.
Croissant with scrambled eggs and bacon
Combined Prep and Cooking time 15 minutes. Serves 2
6 small tomatoes (Perino tomatoes from Tesco are ideal)
4 rashers of smoked back bacon
4 eggs (Clarence Court, Burford Brown eggs with their rich yellow yolks are my favourite)
30 g Orkney coloured cheddar (this yellow cheese helps ensure that the scrambled eggs maintain their rich yellow colour)
2 large croissants (Morrisons)
Lingon sylt (IKEA or from Lidl under its German name ofPreiselbeeren)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt (Maldon)
Roasting dish large enough for the tomatoes and bacon
Bowl or large mug for whisking the eggs and cheese in
Frying pan, approx. 25cm diameter
Pestle and Mortar
Set the oven to 180 degrees C and leave to warm up while gathering together the utensils and ingredients.
Wash the tomatoes under the cold tap, shake dry and place in the roasting dish before lightly drizzling some olive oil over them and place in the oven.
Crack the eggs into a bowl or large mug and grate in the cheese, then whisk using the chop sticks and set to one side.
Take the roasting dish from the oven and with the tomatoes kept to one side of the dish lightly drizzle some olive oil over the rest of the dish and place the bacon in the dish before returning to the oven.
Leave to cook for 5 to10 minutes, (this is a good time to make coffee and to grind the pepper corns in the pestle and mortar) before taking the tray out of the oven once more and turning the bacon over and continuing to cook.
At the same time cut the croissants almost in half so that they are like clam shells and place them in the oven too (if the croissant are frozen arrange them so that the “clam shells” are open and facing downwards.
Put the frying pan on the stove at a medium heat and drizzle a little olive oil into the pan and wipe round the pan with a piece of kitchen towel so that the whole pan is coated with a thin film of oil.
Pour the egg and cheese mix in to the frying pan and use the chop sticks to ensure that the cheese is evenly distributed. As the mix cooks keep working it with the chop sticks bring cooked egg from the edges of the pan back into the centre.
After a couple of minutes the eggs will be almost cooked, take them off the heat and set to one side, the eggs will continue to cook.
Working quickly it is now time to assemble the dish: take the hot croissants from the oven and spread a thin layer of lingon sylt to the top of the bottom half of each croissant and then place two slices of bacon on top of this followed by the scrambled eggs. Finally add the roast tomatoes to the plate together with the basil and add salt and pepper to taste.