Very soon, if not already, we will be nibbling away at the chocolate variety but I would like to turn your attention to the humble egg.
There has been a lot of media attention on cholesterol, and it is easy to forget that eggs are a nutrient rich, affordable contribution to a healthy diet. Also medical bodies such as the British Heart Foundation believe that the cholesterol found in eggs doesn’t usually make a great contribution to blood cholesterol.
They are an excellent source of protein containing all the essential amino acids needed by the human body, and they contain most of the recognized vitamins (with the exception of vitamin C). They are also rich in minerals, particularly iodine, phosphorus and zinc and are relatively low in calories. A medium egg contains about 80 calories.
Buying and storage
It is best to buy organic eggs, which means free range, but free range eggs are not necessarily organic. You should consume them within 21 days of being laid and store them in the fridge because chilling slows deterioration, but allow to return to room temperature before use.
How fresh is your egg? Put a whole egg in cold water. If it sinks it is fresh, but if it floats it is probably old as eggs have a tiny air pocket in them, which gets bigger the older they get.
Once you have cracked an egg, the whites and yolks can be frozen separately for up to 6 months. If you are making a dessert using either just whites or just yolks, freeze the leftovers. Egg whites freeze really well, but the yolks can become a little thicker and more glutinous when thawed. To avoid this you can beat in half a teaspoon of salt or sugar into every two yolks frozen. Just make sure you label your containers with sweet or savoury so you know which dishes to use them in and note the number you have frozen!
Defrost them in the fridge overnight before using. For example if you make a meringue with the whites, freeze the yolks with some sugar to make a crème anglaise or petits pots de crème or crème brûlée (rich baked custards – just three ingredients: egg yolks, milk or cream and sugar) another day.
More than hen eggs
Here in Luxembourg quail eggs are easy to find and can be fried, poached, soft or hard boiled in the same way as hen eggs. They have beautiful speckled shells and are delicious for canapés, starters or for children’s breakfasts.
One of my favourite tapas is a thin slice of baguette, lightly toasted, with a piece of Serrano ham and topped with a fried quail egg. I am not a fan of fried eggs, but the little quail egg with the salty ham and crunch of the baguette is quite special.
Quick and easy
There are a lot of quick and easy meal options with eggs: omelets, frittatas, tortillas, soufflés, quiches. They can be baked, poached or scrambled. They team up so well with almost every vegetable and herb, as well as fish and meat and of course cheese.
My quick dinner option is a mix of the Spanish tortilla and a frittata. I have sautéed courgette and red pepper because that is what I had in my fridge, but you can use whichever vegetables you have available. I would blanch harder vegetables like green beans, broccoli, carrots, asparagus etc. before adding them to the dish.
Then I fry the potatoes, season, add the eggs and pop under the grill. You can either parboil some potatoes beforehand or use leftovers.
- In a frying pan, sauté your vegetables until golden and then remove to a plate.
- In the same pan, fry the slices of potatoes until golden, return the vegetables to the pan and season to taste.
- Combine 5 eggs (1 per person and one for the pan) and pour over the potatoes and vegetables. (You can add some grated cheese, drops of goat’s cheese or cubes of feta.)
- Place the pan under the grill until the egg has puffed up and turned a lovely golden colour.
- Serve with a crisp green salad.
And of course any leftovers are delicious cold with a salad the next day.
Another time saving option is making mini quiches. Use muffin trays to make a batch with puff or shortcrust pastry and then freeze them individually wrapped and take them out and reheat in the oven as a quick and easy starter, quick lunch or light dinner. The list of fillings is endless, prosciutto and roasted pepper, smoked salmon and spring onion, classic bacon and cheese.
And for dessert?
In the UK, even before the current baking mania, Easter is a time for cakes. So here is a great cake recipe showcasing eggs, but low fat and low in flour compared to a traditional sponge cake.
Mandarin fat free sponge cake – serves 8
- 50 g plain flour
- 3tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs separated
- 175g caster sugar
For the filling
- 295g can mandarin segments, drained
- 500g tub low fat fromage frais
- icing sugar to dust
- Preheat oven to 160C/fan, 180C, 350-375F. Grease and line base and sides of 2 x 20cm sponge tins
- Sieve the flours and baking powder together.
- Separate eggs and whisk egg whites until stiff.
- Whisk in sugar.
- Beat the egg yolks and then whisk into the whites.
- Fold in the dry ingredients using a large metal spoon and divide between the 2 tins.
- Bake for 18-20 mins until risen, light golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool in the tins for 10 mins, then gently remove and leave to cool completely.
- Mix mandarin segments with fromage frais. Peel away the greaseproof paper and sandwich with the mandarin mix. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Best eaten on the day it’s made.
Text and photos: Alison Korter-Lacki, March 2013
The CLEW decorista shows you how to dye your eggs with natural soft colours.