Out of the Frying Pan And Into the Antipodes--
Recipes & reminiscences from 70-plus years of New Zealand & Australian food; with some of the loves, some of the lovers, and some of the culinary & social history.
(A few names & places have been changed to protect the guilty)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Is There An Egg In The House?



Nearly Easter, so let’s look at some egg recipes, as we stuff ourselves with chocolate goodies that we don’t need. I’ve just found a new chocolate bar, coffee-flavoured, with bits of coffee bean in it: from the Oxfam shop, so ya see, it’s laudable, not sinful. …Oh, dear.
    Once I’m over that dose of cholesterol and sugar, not to mention the caffeine high—it felt good, mind you—I might buy a dozen eggs. Just so long as the latest Aussie scare (was it salmonellosis again?) is over…


“If there’s an egg in the house, there’s a meal in the house”
—or so the story goes, according to the spate of TV ads that we got for several years from the Australian egg authority (whatever that may be). They seem to have gone off lately—though they may well come back, the phenomenon is not unknown. Apparently the sentiment is general—at least, if the big Aussie cookery website, BestRecipes.com, may be taken as the authority on today’s tastes. Their 2018 posting, “12 easy dinners starring eggs” would certainly seem to support this stance.
    That is, until you start looking closely at the recipes! Which I admit I did—well, obsessive, yes. The thing is, I was unconvinced that in the 21st century they could produce as many as twelve egg-based recipes for main dishes. I’ve been collecting recipes for fifty years now, and the egg dishes in my database, as opposed to the meat dishes, the poultry dishes, the fish dishes, the pasta dishes, the rice dishes, the vegetable dishes and even the pulse-based dishes, are by far in the minority.
    And so it proved. The phrase “starring eggs” is particularly well chosen: congrats to whoever came up with that brilliant piece of Internet-speak! Quite unchallengeable, and one could not possibly sue them for misrepresentation!
    ’Cos many of these recipes are not egg-based, at all. Frequently the eggs merely add the finishing touch or just an extra fillip. Acting as the star—right. Or you might call it merely skirting round the subject?


    Here’s the list of the BestRecipes recipes. If you go to the website and follow the arrows beside the pickshas, you’ll find the links to each one. As you’ll see, there is a distinct bias towards the fleetingly trendy, In thing (or possibly now going Out—the overpriced caff in the South Australian Museum was already offering “Buddha Bowls” (no.4) several years back).

1. One-Cup Quiche
This is NOT a quiche! It has no crust. It’s one of 2 recipes in this set that call themselves "quiche" but are actually the crustless Middle Eastern dish, “eggah”.
The author writes: “…Great to eat hot or cold. This is a base recipe and can be changed to suit personal tastes. Add other ingredients such as shredded chicken, ham, corn, asparagus or capsicum.”
Main ingredients: eggs, cheese, bacon, onions, tomatoes.

2. Easy Bibimbap
A version of a Korean dish served in a bowl, which uses an per egg person as just one of the ingredients.
The author writes: “Bibimbap is a traditional Korean dish full of raw veggie goodness topped off with a fried egg, making it the ideal family health bowl.”
Main ingredients: rice, beef mince, baby spinach, carrots, cucumber, spring onions, egg.

3. Scotch Eggs
An excellent version of the good old traditional recipe.
The author writes: “Great for a picnic lunch as well as a family meal.”
Main ingredients: eggs, sausage meat.

4. Egg Buddha Bowls
An offering from Australian Eggs, doubtless an attempt to promote eggs as very With-it and Now. It’s not at all clear, though the picture helps, what the result is meant to be. I finally decided it was a kind of salad, some ingredients possibly warm(ish). It entails a lot of different types of preparation, and what with separate oven-roasting, etc, it seems to use up a lot of power for a fairly feeble result. It’s expensive, too: in addition to the main ingredients there are loads of Asian-style flavourings. The one boiled egg per bowl sits on top, halved.
The authors write: “A healthy meal you can enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner, that crushes hunger pangs and takes a good photo too!”
Main ingredients: quinoa, roast pumpkin, broccolini, carrots, Spanish onion, egg.

5. Easy Quiche
No, NOT a quiche. The second of the 2 crustless recipes in this set that are actually “eggahs”. These recipes, whether or not the writers knew it, are revivals of a trendy dish of the 1970s (for example, the “eggahs” in A Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden, 1970, or recipes such as “Baked Carrot Pudding” in Gail Duff’s Vegetarian Cookbook, 1978). They are distinguished, however, by their cheese content: the increased cholesterol & high dairy content is typical of popular Australasian food (at the time the set was posted, “Easy Quiche” had 128 reviews by users).
The author writes: “…Add 2 cups of any type of filling of your choice to this base mixture.” (The suggestions are: bacon and onion; leek and mushroom; diced cooked chicken breast; corn kernels.)
Main ingredients: eggs, cheese, bacon.

6. Caesar Potato Salad
A nice, if fairly standard, potato salad. There are only 2 hard-boiled eggs to 6 servings: it’s in no wise an egg salad. The “Caesar” dressing is half-and-half commercial mayo and Paul Newman's Own Caesar salad dressing.
The author writes: “Delicious potato salad made with creamy Caesar salad dressing.”
Main ingredients: potatoes, bacon, eggs, carrots, spring onions.

7. Chicken and Egg Pasta Salad
Using both cold cooked chicken and eggs strikes me as redundant. You could call it egg-based in that there are 5 hard-boiled eggs for 4 servings, but with 500g of chicken as well, you can see why the chicken comes first in the name. It’d be a hefty family meal for football-playing teenagers, that’s for sure.
The author writes: “A quick and easy lunch in the summertime.”
Main ingredients: chicken, pasta, eggs, tinned red kidney beans, ham, spring onions.

8. Asparagus, Smoked Chicken, Capsicum & Egg Pizza
Sorry, BestRecipes, but this is the epitome of silly! Well, for a start, asparagus on a pizza? The egg, poached separately, sits on top of each small pizza. The finishing touch? I think it’d finish me off. (Gulp.)
The author writes: “It’s Asparagus season, let’s celebrate. This recipe brings out the best in all the ingredients as they compliment each other so well. The soft yolk egg brings another level of yum. A brilliant brunch dish or easy meal. It’s an oz Italian pizza.”
Main ingredients: tinned smoked chicken, asparagus, preserved roasted capsicums, cheese, passata, egg.

9. Mongolian Chicken Egg Net Omelette
Another with-it Asian-inspired effort. In spite of the claims to the contrary I have a feeling this would be fiendishly difficult to bring off successfully—unless you learned the technique at your Mongolian granny’s knee. The one-person “net omelette” (more like a wrapper) contains one egg.
The author writes: “I love Asian inspired dishes, they’re quick and easy. It takes so little time to prepare a healthy meal that's full of flavour, with ingredients that are easy to have on hand. This is my turn to dish [i.e. turn-to dish] when I want a special dinner for one or two without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.”
Main ingredients: chicken, celery, carrots, capsicums, baby sweetcorn, mushrooms, spring onions, egg.

10. Warm Bacon and Egg Salad
Okay, it’s a mixed vegetable salad with bacon and egg dumped on it. The amount of putting stuff in and out of the pan seems unnecessary to me—however. There’s one egg and three bacon rashers per person.
The author writes: “Who says ‘You don’t win friends with salad’? This little number is sure to please even the most dedicated salad dodger.”
Main ingredients: bacon, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese.

11. Bacon and Egg Baked Spud
One egg and one rasher of bacon (this is becoming a familiar theme, isn’t it?) per each large potato. A second hearty dish for your teenage footballers. And I’d certainly fancy it myself on a chilly evening! Yum! Well done, “Jessann”.
The author writes: “Baked potato with bacon egg dash of cream and seasoning.”
Main ingredients: potatoes, eggs, bacon.

12. Meatloaf Stuffed with Eggs and Wrapped in Bacon
More enterprising, but actually a variation on Scotch Eggs! I think it looks tricky, but then I’m hopeless at wrapping sticky, fall-apart things in other sticky, fall-apart things.
The author writes: “This recipe is very nice when you have visitors. Looks delicious and is yummy as well.”
Main ingredients: pork mince, beef mince, “kransky” sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions.

That’s it. Where did all the soufflés go? Well, Veronica, they’d be too hard for the 21st-century cook.


    I do applaud the website for the effort, but in spite of the claims in its “difficulty’ column that all these recipes are “easy”, most of them are not: you’d have to have a goodly number of culinary techniques under your belt to bring them off. And as I say, if you were expecting “starring eggs” to mean egg-based, you were wrong.
    And most of them are, alas, fairly pricy also. The fashion for giving the actual cost of each dish, as with Mrs Wicken’s recipes circa 1894 in The Art of Living in Australia, has long since gone out—and no wonder! True, eggs are still cheap in Australia today, but asparagus, baby spinach, baby corn, broccolini, rice wine, tins of smoked chicken (wot?) and sesame oil, to name only a few of the ingredients in these dishes, are not. Some of the recipes would make a cheap and tasty main dish for a family, yes. But not all, by any means. Like most of the online cookery stuff these days, they’re aimed at those on comfortable middle-class incomes, with the family’s main breadwinner in a well-paid, secure job.
    I think we can fairly say, in summary, that it’s ruddy difficult in the 21st century to provide a set of recipes “starring” eggs in which the eggs are the main ingredient and to which you don’t have to add many other ingredients, usually protein-based into the bargain, such as bacon, cheese, mince, chicken (smoked or otherwise) or sausage meat, in order to make the thing up to the size of an actual meal.

Ancient History, With a Poacher
It was never easy, actually. Back in the bye and bye, of course we had eggs: they were a staple in every Australasian household, then as now. But in the 1950s Mum never did anything more exciting with them as a main dish than add a lot of grated cheese to one beaten egg and, if we were very lucky, a small scrap of bacon, eke the result out with milk and spread it on bread, then toasting the lot in the oven for Sunday tea’s “Mousetraps” Mmm! Apart from that it was often boiled eggs with “dippers” (soldiers to some), either for breakfast (though only as a regular thing when we were very young) or, later, also for Sunday tea. Scrambled eggs also got served fairly often, but not omelettes, and never fried eggs (fried food was sinful).


    She could do a really nice traditional poached egg, but she had a poacher that she often used instead: Dad was fond of poached eggs, and it was much, much more convenient when feeding the family. One of those lidded flat pans with a detachable insert featuring four large holes, that in their turn held little saucer-like neat affairs with tiny metal handles. Unlike many models, our pan didn’t have a long handle, just two small metal loops. It was very light-weight, so I think it must have been aluminium. These days egg poachers have gone up-market, natch, and you can buy all sorts of fancy non-stick and/or fully electrified things, and even special microwave ones, but ours just sat on the stove with the water bubbling gently in the bottom compartment. By the time “slices” came in, the handy all-metal bottom compartment was also used for baking them: just the right size and depth! (See earlier blog articles, Condensed Cholesterol & Sugar Blindness: The Australasian “Slice” (1) and Snap, Crackle— Slice? The Australasian “Slice” (2))


Let’s see if we can find some options for main dishes in which eggs are essential, and which don’t contain bacon (6 of the 12 do!) or cheese (4), and are actually egg-based.

Eggahs
The technique appears in several cuisines, under various names. Let’s start off with a couple of classics from Claudia Roden. She writes:

“An eggah is firm and sound, rather like an egg cake. It is usually an inch or more thick … with a filling of vegetables, or meat, or chicken and noodles… The egg is used as a binding for the filling, rather than the filling being an adornment of the egg. For serving, the eggah is turned out on to a serving dish and cut into slices, as one would cut a cake. It is sometimes cooked in a rectangular dish, especially if baked in the oven. In this case, it is usually served cut into rectangular or square pieces.”
    (Claudia Roden. A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1970. (First published 1968))

    Eggahs are very versatile. They are served as a main dish, often with a salad, but they are also served in the Middle East as hors d'oeuvre (cut into small pieces), or as a side dish to grills and meatballs. They can be eaten hot or cold.
    When cooked, the eggah should be firm, even in the centre.
    General instructions for cooking are:
Pan cooking: Large heavy frying pan to give an even distribution of heat, with a lid which fits tightly. 15 to 30 minutes over very gentle heat, according to the number of eggs used and the type of filling. Usually cooked covered.
Oven cooking: Ovenproof dish with a lid. The tray or dish must be greased. Cooking time in a moderate oven (177°C, 350°F) from 1/2 to 1 hour, depending on size and type of filling. Covered to begin with, uncovered towards the end to allow the top to brown.

Recipe 1. Kuku Sibzamini (Persian Potato Eggah)
    6 eggs;  2 medium-sized potatoes;
    4-5 spring onions, chopped, or 1 bunch chives, chopped;
    2-3 tablespoons butter; salt and pepper;
    2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley [to garnish]
Peel and boil the potatoes, and mash to a smooth puree. Mix with about 2 tablespoons butter. Beat the eggs and add to the puree gradually, beating all the time to achieve a smooth texture. Add onions or chives, and season to taste.
Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake in a slow oven (325-350 F. or Mark 2-3) [165-177 C] for about 3/4 hr, or till set and coloured.
Turn out onto a heated serving dish, garnish with finely chopped parsley and serve cut in slices like a cake. (Serves 6.)
(Claudia Roden. A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1970. (First published 1968))

Recipe 2. Eggah bi Eish wa Kousa (Bread and Courgette Eggah)
    6 eggs;  1/2 lb courgettes [zucchini]
    1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped;
    3 slices bread, crustless, soaked in a little milk;
    3 tablespoons chopped parsley;  butter; salt & black pepper
Wash courgettes and cut into 1/4-in thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain in colander for about 1/2 hr. Pat dry.
Fry chopped onion in butter till soft and just golden. Add courgette slices, and sauté till soft and lightly coloured all over. Drain.
Beat the eggs. Add soaked bread, squeezed dry, crumbling it in your hand. Then add onion and courgettes with parsley and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Pour onto sizzling butter in a frying pan and cook gently over very low heat with the lid on until the eggs are set, about 20 mins. Brown the top lightly under a hot grill.
Serve as a main dish with salads and yoghourt. (Serves 6.)
(Claudia Roden. A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1970. (First published 1968))

The mixture of egg and zucchini is one of my favourites. I have made it by substituting a tablespoon of cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little water, for the bread. Often I add a handful of mixed frozen vegetables when finishing the cooking of the zucchini. You don’t need to brown the top but it does just add that extra something, and improves the look of it, too.
    I could just give you the twelve eggah recipes from my database that don’t contain bacon or cheese, but I want to show you more variation with egg-based dishes, so here are just two more “eggahs”, from different cuisines. The first is my translation of a French recipe for an eggplant dish from Provence.

Recipe 3. Flan d’aubergines
    2 kg aubergines (eggplants);  4 eggs;
    3 cloves garlic;  1 small bunch of thyme (dried or fresh);
    4 tablespoons olive oil;  butter, salt, pepper
    To serve: 1/2 litre home-made tomato sauce
Peel the eggplants and cut in rounds. In a colander, sprinkle them with salt and leave them for an hour. Dry well with paper towels. (If the eggplants are nice and ripe you can skip this step.)
Heat the oil in a good-sized frying pan or electric frypan on medium heat. Add the eggplants, lower the heat and let them soften, stirring frequently.
Add pepper, the finely chopped garlic and the thyme leaves. Cook for around 40 min. (The eggplants should be very soft.)
Remove them carefully and drain excess oil on paper towels. Puree them in a blender or food-processor.
Beat the eggs and mix the eggplant puree into them.
Heat the oven to 230°C. Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish and cook in a bain-marie for about 40 minutes.
Serve with a warm home-made tomato sauce on the side. (Serves 6.)
(Elle. Les fiches-cuisine de Elle, Paris, 1973)

You may find the oven temperature is too high, though the bain-marie should mitigate it.
    The classic tomato sauce below would go well with the flan:

Salsa di Pomidoro (1) - Tomato Sauce (1)
Chop 2 lb. [1 kg] of ripe tomatoes. Put them into a saucepan with 1 small onion, 1 carrot, 1 piece of celery, and a little parsley, all finely chopped. Add salt, ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Simmer until the tomatoes have turned almost to a purée. Put the sauce through a sieve [or use a blender].
    If a concentrated sauce is needed, put the purée back in a saucepan and cook it again until the watery part of it has dried up [sufficiently]. Before serving it with meat, fish or any kind of pasta, add, when they are obtainable, a couple of fresh basil leaves.
(Elizabeth David. Italian Food. 2nd ed. (revised), London, Macdonald for the Cookery Book Club, 1966)

The next one is a Swedish recipe:

Recipe 4. Mushroom Casserole - Champinjonlåda
2 cups chopped mushrooms; 3 eggs, slightly beaten;
1 onion, chopped;  1 cup diced cooked ham;
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs; 2 tablespoons tomato juice;
1 cup milk;  1 cup stock;  salt and pepper
Sauté mushrooms and onion in butter, add ham and allow to simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with crumbs, add juice and stock gradually and season. Pour mixture into greased casserole.
Mix eggs, milk and salt and pour over mixture.
Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) until firm, about 30 minutes.
(Serves 4)

I think I’d probably add more breadcrumbs just to thicken it up a little. Do me a favour and please don’t substitute bacon for the ham—it’s too strong and salty.

Egg Curries
Indian egg curries are made by hard-boiling the eggs. They are then used in the same way as the meat, pulse, or vegetable component would be in a curry recipe. In India egg curries are served in the same way as a meat dish would be, as part of a meal which also includes at least one vegetable dish, and either chapattis or rice. Here are two of the main varieties: the first is a basic Indian egg curry and the second is a version of the “moli”, a dish originating in southern India, in which the sauce is made with coconut milk.


Recipe 5. Egg Curry (Anda ka kari)
8 hard-boiled eggs, halved;  4 tomatoes, chopped;
1 onion, finely chopped;  2 cloves garlic;
1 inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger;
1/2 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder;
1 teaspoon coriander seeds; 1 teaspoon turmeric powder;
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds; 2 tablespoons coriander leaves;
1 teaspoon garam masala [to finish; see below]
4 tablespoons ghee;  1 teaspoon salt
Lightly fry the onion in ghee. Meanwhile grind the garlic, ginger and spices. Add this masala paste to the onion and fry for two minutes. Stir in the salt, tomatoes and coriander leaves and simmer till the sauce begins to thicken.
Add the eggs, sprinkle with garam masala and heat through for five minutes. A tablespoon of lemon juice may be added before serving.
Serve hot with rice or a vegetable dish.
(Jack Santa Maria. Indian Vegetarian Cookery. London, Rider, 1973)

Garam Masala
(1) A simple garam masala may be made by grinding 1/2 cup green cardamom seeds, 1 cup cumin seeds, 1/3 cup cloves. Mix together and store in an airtight jar.
(2) Grind together 3 parts cardamom seeds, 3 parts cinnamon, 1 part clove, 1 part cumin seed.
(3) Grind together 4 parts black peppercorns, 4 parts coriander seed, 3 parts cumin seed or fennel seed, 1 part cloves, 1 part cardamom seed, 1 part cinnamon.
(Jack Santa Maria. Indian Vegetarian Cookery. London, Rider, 1973)

The recipe below is one of the simplest for the egg and coconut milk curry usually called a “moli” in Indian cookbooks. You will find versions of it wherever Indian dishes have influenced the cuisine.

Recipe 6. Eggs in a Yellow Chili Sauce (Teleri Pindang)
6 hard-boiled eggs;  1 tomato, peeled and chopped;
1 onion, peeled and chopped;  1 clove garlic, chopped;
2 cups coconut milk;  1 teaspoon turmeric;
1 teaspoon chilli powder [or more, to taste]; oil;  salt
Shell eggs and cut into halves.
Heat a little oil, sauté onion and garlic and when lightly browned add  the tomato and simmer till this softens. Gradually add the coconut milk, stirring all the time.
Then add remaining ingredients, except eggs. Bring to boil, stir and rub through sieve.
Return sauce to pan, add eggs and cook over low heat for 3 mins.
(Robin Howe. The International Wine and Food Society's Guide to Far Eastern Cookery. London, International Wine and Food Society, 1969)

Spanish-Style
Two egg-based dishes from Spain: one scrambled-eggs fashion, the other a Spanish omelette.

Recipe 7. Piperade
This Basque egg dish can be served on toast as a simple lunch or dressed up for a more formal meal with slices of grilled or fried ham.
6 eggs;  2 red or green peppers [capsicums];
4 large tomatoes;  2 medium potatoes, boiled & diced;
2 small onions, thinly sliced;  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped;
2 tablespoons butter;  salt and pepper to taste;
chopped parsley to garnish
Cut prepared peppers into strips and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain well. Melt the butter in a large, heavy frying pan and cook the onions and garlic until soft and golden-brown. Add pepper strips and cook gently for 10 minutes.
Peel tomatoes and chop roughly. Add to pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cooked, diced potatoes.
Beat the eggs and seasoning. Stir into the vegetable mixture. Cook as you would scrambled eggs until the mixture is just set and creamy. Sprinkle with parsley for serving. (Serves 4-6.)
(Mary Browne, Helen Leach & Nancy Tichborne. The Cook's Garden: For Cooks Who Garden and Gardeners Who Cook. Wellington, [N.Z.], A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1980)

I would avoid the toast: this habit is a relic from the beginning of the 20th century, when toast accompanied all sorts of little messes as a first course (or, in the days of the British Raj, also as a savoury at the end of the meal: “first toast” and “second toast”.) A crusty white bread would probably go with it in Spain. And a glass of red!

Recipe 8. Tortilla (Spanish Omelette)
The “tortilla” is flat, solid and filling, can be eaten hot or cold. The classic tortilla is a combination of eggs and potatoes cut into very tiny dice and fried in butter till crisp and golden.
Choose a frying pan that is not too large, since the finished tortilla should fill it and be about an inch thick. Beat the eggs as for an ordinary omelette and when the potatoes are ready [fried and golden], pour in eggs, season and stir well. Now is the moment to add cooked peas and minced parsley if liked. Do not stir as it cooks, but shake occasionally.
Holding the pan with the left hand, cover it with a plate, turn pan up side down on to it and slip the tortilla back into the pan with the cooked side uppermost. Cook a few minutes more till the second side is browned but the inside is soft.
(Mary Hillgarth. The International Wine and Food Society's Guide to Spanish Cookery. London, International Wine and Food Society, 1970)

The Spanish omelette (tortilla) is, as Claudia Roden notes in A Book of Middle Eastern Cookery, related to the Middle Eastern eggah. The big difference is that the tortilla should still be soft inside while the eggah is firm throughout.

The French Touch
This dish of eggs baked in a creamy onion sauce could be served as a starter or as a lunch dish. A “soubise” sauce is a classic French sauce based on onions.

Recipe 9. Oeufs Soubise
    4 eggs;  8 oz [225 g] finely chopped onion or shallots;
    1 oz [25-30 g] flour;  2 tablespoons cream;
    1/4 pint [150 ml] stock;  1/4 pint [150 ml] milk;
    1 bay leaf;  2 oz [50 g] butter;  salt, pepper
Cook onion in butter in covered pan over gentle heat for about 10 mins, till soft. Sieve or mash [or use blender; and return to pan]. Blend flour in pan. When smooth, stir in the stock and milk. Add bay leaf and simmer, stirring continuously, for 5-6 mins till lightly reduced, then remove bay leaf, add cream, and season.
Butter or oil 4 individual ramekins (4-5 oz size) and put a good tablespoon of the soubise sauce in each. Break in an egg and add another tablespoon of sauce, leaving the yolk uncovered. Put in a bain-marie and bake in a preheated oven, 375 deg. [F] [190 C] about 20 mins, till white is just set.
(The Observer. Good Food, [1970s])

Timeo Danaos?
Avgolemono is a Greek soup which traditionally combines egg and lemon. It had a brief vogue with English-speaking cooks in the mid-1970s, but as most of the instructions weren’t very clear, those of us who dared to try it probably didn’t do very well with it. Jane Grigson offers an unusual variation using a fennel bulb, which I’ve used as the basis of this recipe. She uses a start-from-scratch fish stock: in classic French cuisine fennel is supposed to go with fish, but I don’t like the combination, so I’ve replaced it with a litre of chicken stock. It may be served hot or cold.

Recipe 10. Fennel Avgolemono Soup
    1 large fennel bulb;  3 large egg yolks;
    juice of 2 lemons (or more);  6 thin lemon slices;
    1 litre chicken stock (salt-reduced);  12 fennel seeds;
    12 peppercorns;  6 coriander seeds, lightly crushed;
    Optional: 1 teaspoon Pernod or anisette;
    Garnish: chopped fennel leaves
Slice the fennel finely and simmer in the stock with the spices for at least 30 minutes, until very tender. Strain through a sieve, pressing out as much juice as possible. Discard the solids. Return liquid to the pan.
Turn up the heat and bring the soup to just below boiling point, then take it off the heat.
Whisk the yolks and lemon juice together, then slowly add a ladleful of the soup to them “from a reasonable height, so that by the time it encounters the egg yolks it is well below boiling point. Keep whisking. When the mixture is amalgamated, add it slowly to the soup which should be off the heat so that it, too, is well below boiling point. Taste and add more lemon juice if you like, and [optionally], bring out the fennel taste with the Pernod or anisette. Divide between six warmed soup bowls and float a lemon slice on top of each one, with a few fennel leaves.”
“These somewhat pernickety finishing processes are to prevent the egg curdling.”
To serve cold: Pour the soup into a bowl and sit it in a larger bowl of iced water, then leave in the fridge to chill. (Serves 6.)
(Based on: Jane Grigson. Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1980)

Classic with a Chance of Cheese
Cheese is such a favourite with eggs in Western-style cookery that I had a hard time finding recipes that weren’t soused in it. These two have just a touch of cheese, and shouldn’t instantly harden your arteries and send your cholesterol level through the roof.
    The first is a quiche in classic style; leeks have long been a favourite in quiches. This recipe dates, I think, from the mid-1970s. By this time fancy cheese varieties were available in New Zealand. Quiches were newly fashionable—real men didn't eat them but had them placed in front of them regardless. Variations with frozen pastry or with directions for preparing the pastry from scratch also appeared in the local publications.

Recipe 11. Tarte aux poireaux (Leek Quiche)
    1 lb. white part of leeks;  3 eggs;
    1/2 cup grated Gruyere; 1 1/2 cups cream;
    8-in. partially-cooked pastry shell;
    pinch of nutmeg;  1 tablespoon flour;
    4 tablespoons butter;  salt and pepper
Wash leeks well, then slice. Boil vegetable in covered saucepan in 1/2 cup salted water and 3 tablespoons butter. When little water is left, lower heat and simmer leeks for about 30 minutes, until they are tender.
Add flour, mix well, and cook slowly for several minutes, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Beat cream, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the leeks and taste for seasoning, then pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle on the cheese and dot with remaining butter.
Bake in preheated medium hot oven (375°F [190°C]) for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. (Serves 4 to 6.)
(Vogue New Zealand. [1970-1980?])

    Finally, here is a classic soufflé (yes, Veronica, there is a soufflé) that is brightened by a touch of Parmesan. If you’re making it in Australia, I’d advise using baby spinach, which has been pre-washed: it’s a recipe for real spinach, not the silverbeet which is usually miscalled spinach in modern Australia, and the “English spinach” (real spinach) available here is usually filthy. (See Killing Vegetables: Silverbeet) You don’t want little bits of grit in your lovely soufflé.

Recipe 12. Spinach Soufflé
One of the best vegetable soufflés. ... The ideal with a soufflé is to have a crisp outside and a creamy inside. If by some ill chance you have to keep a cooked soufflé waiting, leave it in the oven with the door barely open for a further five minutes.
1/2 kg (1 lb) spinach, cooked, chopped
2 tablespoons butter;  2 tablespoons flour;
150 ml (generous 1/4 pt) hot milk;  salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
4-5 egg yolks;  3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
4-3 egg whites, beaten stiffly;  3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Reheat the spinach with one tablespoon butter. Make a thick sauce with the remaining butter, flour and milk. Stir in the spinach and season well, remembering that the eggs will soften the flavour. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks one by one, then about half the cheese to taste.
Fold in the egg whites carefully—the best way to do this is to beat in a tablespoon of egg white fairly vigorously to slacken the mixture, then the rest of the egg white can be folded in gently with a metal spoon. A few small blobs of egg white won't matter, better to leave them than turn the mixture about too much.
Butter a 1 1/2 litre (2 1/2 pint) soufflé dish and sprinkle it with breadcrumbs, tipping out the surplus. Pour in the soufflé mixture. Scatter the remaining crumbs and cheese on top.
Have the oven heated to 200°C/400°F, with a metal baking sheet inside. Place the soufflé dish on the hot sheet and close the door. [Gently!] Turn the heat down immediately to 190°C/375°F and leave for 30 minutes.
(Jane Grigson. Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1980)
[Serve immediately. In her English Food Jane writes that everyone should be ready at the table for a soufflé: “In a properly trained household, the cry of ‘Soufflé!’ should have the same effect of assembly as ‘Fire!’”]

This recipe will serve 4 generously. It is one for the reasonably experienced cook, but if you follow Mrs Grigson’s instructions about mixing in the egg whites, you should be fine. Just remember to close the oven door GENTLY and NOT to open it until the specified time is up! Depending on the size of your soufflé dish you may need to add a collar of greaseproof paper: if you do, butter it, too. The soufflé will start to collapse a bit when you dig the spoon into it, but if you serve it immediately everyone should get the desired helping of fluff. The breadcrumbs aren’t obligatory. The same recipe can be used with a purée of any other vegetable.


    I hope you find something do-able amongst these egg-based dishes. I have tried to select recipes which don’t require a lot of expensive extra ingredients but which are more than just yer basic fried egg. –Though mind you, 400 years after Velasquez’s old woman, I still do ’em that way, too!