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 soufflés, 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, soufflés, cakes, chickens...... Somehow it’s all about eggs.
It’s a moment to celebrate the egg
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 the Pope).
The eggs are rolled down the steep main street of the village. First to the bottom
is the winner. It’s very messy – the eggs roll under cars and into the gutter, and
the shells begin 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 rémoulade, sauce verte, not to mention
hollandaise sauce, Béarnaise 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: soufflés, cakes, meringues, choux pastry,
gougère, 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 Pipérade –
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 croûtons 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.
We’ve published a book of Orlando’s recipes full of similar tales. For more about Orlando Gough Recipe Journal click here.