Jenny Chandler explores and celebrates all things eggs ahead of her upcoming demo in honour of World Egg Day
Some ingredients are so commonplace that it’s difficult not to take them for granted. How about eggs? Other than Easter time when, let’s be honest, it’s more about the chocolate, eggs are so often the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Well, Friday is World Egg Day and time to celebrate the extraordinary versatility and delicious possibilities of eggs. I’ll be in the Demo Kitchen cooking with, and offering tips about, a variety of eggs available in the Market.
The vast proportion of eggs eaten around the world are hen’s eggs, with around 5 billion egg laying chickens at work every day, but there are many other eggs available too. They offer an economical and extraordinarily convenient source of nutrients, principally top-quality protein, vitamins A, D, B2, B12, folate and iodine. Nature has miraculously packaged all this goodness into a portable shell, that will keep for weeks (although the fresher they are, the better they taste).
Top end restaurants serve up black-headed gull’s eggs during the short spring season and you could get in on the party by ordering some from Wyndham House Poultry. Goose eggs are seasonal too, coming into the Market in the spring and early summer. Ostrich eggs are often on offer; the body builder’s dream, weighing in at around two kilos, equivalent to a couple of dozen hen’s eggs. An ostrich egg will take around an hour to boil or make you a feast of an omelette should you own a large enough pan. This week we’ll be concentrating on the Market regulars: fabulously fresh chicken, duck and quail’s eggs that are available year-round.
A kitchen wizard
Every egg is a kitchen wizard, given half a chance, capable of thickening, enriching, adding volume, emulsifying and even going it alone as a boiled, fried, poached or scrambled centrepiece. So how do you choose which egg to go for?
Hen’s eggs vary in size, with a medium egg weighing around 60g. I usually calculate the whites at 30g, yolks at 20g and the shell at 10g (handy to know if you’ve lost count in a recipe or are using leftover whites). A truly fresh market egg from a well-fed chicken is hard to beat and will always be my go-to for baking. You’ll find plenty of tips and recipes in my Market blog series.
A duck’s egg has a slightly richer, more pronounced flavour than the more familiar chicken egg. There’s a higher ratio of yolk to white too which, when it comes to a boiled, fried or poached egg, is good news in my view, as I’m all about the velvety yolk rather than the potentially rubbery white. Now this is where you do need to be careful with boiled eggs, as the duck white has a higher level of protein and firms more quickly than a hen’s white as it cooks—a boon in my book as I love runny yolks and always fear a slimy, unset white.
Many bakers love to use duck eggs in their cakes—just remember to weigh the eggs when substituting and adjust the number of eggs in a recipe accordingly. The lower ratio of white to yolk and the lack of globulin in the whites does mean that you’ll beat less air into duck eggs with twice the elbow grease, so they would not be my first choice when I’m looking for light, voluminous cakes, however they’re winners when it comes to rich custards and curds.
A quail’s egg is just perfect for bite-sized canapés, be it simply boiled and dipped in celery salt or a diminutive fried egg served on a slice of black pudding or rosti potato. You’d have to be a nutter to consider baking or cooking with them as an ingredient due to their diminutive size, but they can be added whole to dishes such as a bijou pan of shakshuka (Arab baked eggs) or served as a dainty poached egg to top an elegant starter. Quails eggs make perfect pickled additions to a green salad or platter of cold meats, without over powering the plate, and look really pleasing packed into a jar with whole herbs and spices.
Join Jenny for tips, tastings and recipes Friday 12th October in the Market Hall, 1-2:30pm