… Breaking Eggs

Well, what a stooshie we had after last week's article about omelettes. I fear I may have lost a couple of friends in the fall out. I shall say no more other than to quote the wise words of Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking. As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own.

Let us sail, with luck, into less turbulent waters, to wit the land of tic toque. No, not tik tok, and nothing to do with Syrian refugees being shamelessly ripped off.

Toque. The chef's hat? Well, for once I'm not going to bore you with too much ancient history. Especially as I suspect most of it be be Grade A nonsense. One of life's great truisms - never try to bulls**t a bulls*****r. Like the notion, perchance, that a chef's hat has 100 folds, signifying the number of ways he knows how to cook eggs.

Now I have an excellent first name for a cynic, to witThomas. (My doubting namesake sounded like a sensible critter to me, frankly.) I've never counted the folds, but I'd be surprised if there were a hundred. (Can any of you pros confirm this, assuming you're still speaking to me?) I was going to say the same about egg recipes, but Escoffier lists 104 in Ma Cuisine. Last week, we had omelettes. Today I'm not going to go on to boiled, poached and fried. Instead, I thought we might take our broken eggs a wee bit further afield. First to France.

Oeufs a la Bourguignonne

This is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In their preface to the recipe the ladies write, This is a good dish for a light supper or a winter luncheon, and can be made more important if it is garnished with sautéed chicken livers , or braised onions, and sautéed or grilled mushrooms.

Don't you just love that? Henceforth I am on a quest to try to make all of my dishes more important.

Traditionally one poaches the eggs in the wine, but you can do them in water if you prefer. Remember the basics. For poached eggs they should be as fresh as possible: and don't cook with wine you wouldn't drink. As  you'll see from the title this is a Burgundian dish. Sadly, few of us can afford Burgundy to drink, never mind to cook with. Use a decent light red in its place.

Ingredients (for 8 servings)

400ml beef stock; 400ml young red wine; 8 eggs; 1 clove of garlic, crushed; 1 bay leaf; 2 or 3 parsley stalks; large pinch of thyme; 1 tbsp finely chopped shallots; pinch of cayenne pepper, pinch of black pepper; 25g softened butter; 25g flour.

To serve (optional, but very French)

8 oval slices of bread sautéed in clarified butter and rubbed with garlic (apparently these are known in France as canapés); chopped parsley.


Heat the wine and stock. Poach the eggs in the mixture and set aside with a little of the liquid. You could make this in advance and reheat the eggs by placing the dish over a pan of simmering water.

As an aside, I have discovered that poached eggs can be remarkably robust. I normally give them 3 minutes for a nice runny, but not too runny, finish. If you are cooking for a crowd, poach them for two minutes, refresh in cold water, then cook for a final minute when you're good to go.

Add the herbs and spices, then boil to reduce the liquid by half. The next bit involves the classical French style of thickening a sauce using what is known as beurre manié. You combine the flour and butter and whisk it, little by little, into the liquid. My gut feeling is that these days we'd thicken the sauce by boiling to reduce it, then add a bit of butter for a nice sheen. I've never made this dish. Comments please, non-abusive ones only.

Anyway, you now have your sauce. Check the seasoning. I've just noticed that the recipe hasn't mentioned salt at all, which seems odd. As ever, check your seasoning before serving. Pop each egg on a canapé and pour over it some of your sauce. Voilà.


Next, across the Atlantic, to Mexico. Well, sort of. Huevos Rancheros is a Mexican classic. I'm guessing that there are as many versions as there are Mexican cooks. This one comes courtesy of Dougie Bell of Lupe Pintos Deli.

Dougie is a Scottish legend who has produced four amazing and amazingly funny cook books. I particularly love his take on this, from The Mexican Wrestlers' Cookbook. It is, he says a Scottish/Mexican fusion. Go to Lupe Pintos for the authentic ingredients, or just improvise. Black pud in a Mexican dish? Only Dougie could get away with that. As he says, the tortilla base is reminiscent of a potato scone, the pinto beans a substitute for the Heinz baked beans ever present on a Scottish breakfast plate (not on mine - Ed), rich tomato salsa, Stornoway black pudding and fried eggs.

Dougie Bell's Huevos Rancheros

100g massa harina; 100g plain flour; 400g mashed potato; 50g butter; 1 can of La Costena piinto beans in sauce; 1 can of Herdez salsa or your faavourite brand; black pudding cut into cubes; eggs for frying; queso fresco (fresh cheese) for garnish; salt.


Mix the potato with the flours and the butter, then knead into a dough. Roll out and cut into 10cm circles. Heat the beans and salsa separately. Fry the black pudding and eggs. When they are cooking, fry the potato tortillas in a dry pan on both sides until lightly brown.

To serve, put some beans and black pudding on each tortilla. Top with a fried egg, lightly salted, then salsa and some queso fresco for garnish.

Tom Cooks! will return on 4 November


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