Orlando Gough

Well.

Saint Delia says that Masterchef is a nonsense because most of us can't cook an omelette. And a new saint, Saint Felicity, says that that's nonsense, as we're not necessarily interested in cooking omelettes, or souffls, or baking cakes;

what we want to cook is exotic stuff like Chicken Jalfrezi.

Who knows? Judging by the ranks of ready meals at the supermarket, Saint Delia has a point. Judging by the fact that the word jalfrezi' is now in the English Dictionary raising the mouth-watering possibility of using it in Scrabble Saint Felicity has a point; though she rather bizarrely followed up by devoting her next column to a recipe for Victoria Sponge cake.

Omelettes, souffls, cakes, chickens...... Somehow it's all about eggs.

It's a moment to celebrate the egg

as glue

as the inspiration for Humpty Dumpty

as a crucial ingredient in the pick-me-up egg nog

as the indispensible component of a cooked breakfast

as an instant meal: scrambled, boiled, fried, poached, omelette

and by extension, if you have more time, frittata, tortilla, eggah, kuku

as a way of elevating something to the status of a meal for example:

asparagus by itself, not a meal.........asparagus with poached egg, a meal

as the central component of eggy-peggy language (for anyone outside

the society, it's a secret language created by putting the syllable egg' after

every consonant so for example Felicity' becomes Feggeleggiceggiteggy')

as a symbol of rebirth - hence Easter eggs, and hence the Easter Day sport of

egg-rolling in the village of South Stoke just outside Bath. You hard-boil your

egg, and decorate the shell (this year's eggs included Boris Johnson and thePope).

The eggs are rolled down the steep main street of the village. First to thebottom

is the winner. It's very messy the eggs roll under cars and into the gutter, and

theshellsbegin to come off. The competition is fierce and disturbing, and the

smell is even fiercer and more disturbing....

the yolk as a basis for emulsification with oil (what genius discovered that?):

mayonnaise, sauce tartare, sauce rmoulade, sauce verte, not to mention

hollandaisesauce, Barnaise sauce, sauce Maltaise, sauce moutarde..... magic!

the yolk as a partner in liaisons with milk and cream, a basis for custards,

mousses, ice creams.....and as a means of thickening broths and soups

the yolk as a binding agent in egg tempura, and therefore a component of

some great masterpieces of Early Renaissance art

the white as a rising agent: souffls, cakes, meringues, choux pastry,

gougre, Yorkshire pudding,..... and as a means of clarifying broths

the shell as an example of a perfectly designed container

as something not get on your face

as the perfect protest missile

and so on.

Try this Piprade

it's a standard Basque dish, but you don't find it served very often here in Britain.

Chop two medium onions; cut open, de-seed, and slice three small red peppers. Fry them gently together in olive oil for ten minutes. Add four chopped garlic cloves and six chopped tomatoes, and cook gently for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut three thick slices of white bread into cubes. Make crotons by frying them in hot olive oil till golden. Beat eight eggs, season with salt and pepper, and add to the vegetable mixture, stirring all the time, as if you're making scrambled eggs. Mix in the croutons, and strew with chopped parsley.

This dish is remarkably similar to the Tunisian Chakchouka, and the Turkish Menemen. Though in the Basque country it's served with fried slices of Bayonne ham, which is hardly likely in Tunisia or Turkey.

Experiment with different herbs mint, basil, coriander....

Good with green peppers instead of red.

Serves four.

We've published a book of Orlando's recipes full of similar tales. For more aboutOrlando Gough Recipe Journalclick here.

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