The chemistry of cooking has always fascinated me. I think it is amazing how a good cook can combine a few simple ingredients and come up with something which is totally delicious . . . and how depending on how you combine them with any number of other ingredients, you can come up with something new and different each time.
Take birds eggs for instance . . . they come in all shapes and sizes and colours . . . and are all basically the same thing, no matter the size or colour. Humans mostly consume chicken eggs, although duck eggs are also quite popular as are quail. Filled with vitamins and coming in their own fragile package you can eat them on their own, cooked or raw and depending on preparation you can come up with no less than 4 different ways to have them all on their lonesome . . . boiled, fried, scrambled, poached . . . and even those can be varied according to what you choose to do with them. What is a frittata or omelette but eggs, beaten and scrambled and put together in different ways with different additions!
But then, beat them up with other ingredients like flour, sugar and eggs, and you have a cake, or cookies, or pies . . . again depending on what you add and how. Then there are the sauces you can make with the components of an egg . . . which again can differ widely according to what you put in and with them, and which part of the egg you use!
I think eggs have to be the most versatile of all basic ingredients! And one of the things we look forward to most when we start to think of breakfast or brunch, and they are something which I always have in the larder.
Over the past two weeks, and for the next two weeks The Sunday Times is publishing a pull out Ultimate Cookbook as part of the Incredible Edibles Food Series, dedicated to food and dining. This weeks focus is on Brunch and Baking, and you can get your copy of The Sunday Times Ultimate Cookbook: Brunch and Baking this weekend, on Sunday the 1st of December, featuring a wonderful variety of the finest and most delicious Brunch and Baking recipes brought to you by a great ensemble of celebrity chefs and restaurants here in the UK.
Three weeks in to this feature and we are enjoying another beautiful selection of recipes which combine two culinary traditions, Brunch and Baking. Brunch is a lovely idea we have adopted and adapted over here from America and it is something we have really taken to here in the UK. It’s a wonderfully leisurely way to entertain . . .which can be as indulgent and complicated . . . or as simple as you like it. There are no firm and fast rules. it only really matters that you enjoy yourself and that something incredibly tasty is involved.
If you are looking for indulgence then I am sure a nice hot stack of Nigella Lawson’s pancakes, dripping with butter and syrup will do the trick, or maybe Paul Hollywood’s, Raised Pork and Egg Pie . . . and if you are looking for something tasty to bake you can’t do much better than Mary Berry’s Whole Orange Spice Cake, which also graces the cover of this lovely pull out mini-mag.
I could not wait to get stuck in and it was really hard to choose just one recipe to show you here today, there are so many lovely ones, but today I chose Eggs Benedict from Le Caprice, a most prestigious West End London establishment, which was quite popular with the late Princess Diana.
Who doesn’t like Eggs Benedict?? You get all the elements of a delicious and simple breakfast . . . ham, poached eggs, and toasted muffins . . . slathered with a rich, indulgent and buttery sauce . . . what’s not to like about that!
Some people might be put off from making their own hollandaise sauce. It can be rather fiddly and difficult to do, but the instructions in this recipe were simple, concise and easy to execute and as you can see I ended up with a beautiful sauce. We both enjoyed this very much.
Having been in business for more than 30 years Le Caprice was one of Princess Dianas favourite restaurants. It prides itself on it’s timeless interior and modern approach to European Classics such as this delicious Eggs Benedict. Perfect for breakfast or brunch!
for the hollandaise:
40ml of white wine vinegar (8 tsp.)
40ml of water (8 tsp.)
1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
a few sprigs fresh tyarragon
1 bay leaf
200g unsalted butter (14 TBS)
3 small free range egg yolks
fine sea salt and ground white pepper
4 medium free range eggs
1 TBS white wine vinegar
2 English Muffins, halved
4 slices of good quality ham
salt and ground white pepper
First make the hollandaise. Place the vinegar, water, shallts, herbs and peppercorns in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by two thirds. Strain through a fine sieve and leave to cool, reserving the liquid and discarding any solids.
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over very low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, carefully removing any white liquid on top. Strain and kee the clarified butter at room temperature.
Put the egg yolks into a small bowl (Or the top of a double boiler) with half of the vinegar reduction. Whisk over a pan of gently simmering water untl the mixture begins to thicken and doubles in size. Using a ladle, trickle in the butter, whisking the mixture continuously. You may use an electric hand whisk. If the butter is added too quickly the sauce will split. when you have added two thirds of the butter, taste the sauce and add a little more or all of the remaining vinegar reduction to taste. The vinegar should just cut the oiliness of the butter. Add the remainder of the butter in the same manner as before. Season, cover and leave at room temperature until needed.
Poach the eggs by bringing a saucepan of water to which you have added a little white wine vinegar to the boil. Do NOT add salt as this will make the white separate. Crack the eggs into a cup and gently pour into the water. Poach for three minutes.
To serve, warm up the ham under the grill and lightly toast the muffins. Place a slice of ham on each muffin and top with a poached egg. Coat with spoonfuls of the hollandaise sauce and season. Serve.
Note: I like to sprinkle a few chopped fresh chives on top for colour and presentation.
Get your copy of The Sunday Times Ultimate Cookbook: Brunch and Baking this weekend, on Sunday the 1st of December 2013, the third in a four-part series. Featuring a selection of the finest recipes of the celebrity chef era. The Ultimate Cookbook is part of The Incredible Edibles Food Series dedicated to food and dining. This series will finish with the final edition, Dinner Parties on Sunday December 8.
Visit thesundaytimes.co.uk to subscribe and to find out more details about exclusive Times + chef events hosted at some of the country’s best restaurants.