Photo: Florence Charvin

Twenty things I know about eggs, and you should too.

1. Egg farming in South East Asia was a ‘thing’ three and half thousand years ago. The jungle fowl was domesticated and the chook has been part of the landscape ever since. 

2. If you’re lucky enough to have an egg in the house then you have a meal in the house. 

3. Often taken for granted like the dependable, but frumpy, aunt of food ingredients, the cackleberry has a habit of being there when we really need something wholesome. 

4. Henfruit is as delicious as it is wondrous. It’s the thing we eat that also has the capability of creating a new life. Your quinoa, cashew cheese, and kale chips can’t do that! The egg really is the Wonderfood. 

5. A multitalented oblate spheroid is the heart of mayonnaise while simultaneously being the key player in the meringue game. There never was, nor will be, a more complete food or versatile ingredient. What other food makes its own sauce?! I cannot resist that unctuous, oozing yolk that wraps the white and the Vogel’s toast in a golden, silky blanket, speckled lightly with freshly ground pepper and flakes of boujee salt.

6. Aside from its deliciousness and protein characteristics, the humble bum-nut is easy to produce at relatively low cost in all kinds of climates and keeps well for a month or so. The built-in mechanism to indicate when it’s past its best assaults the air and leaves no doubt.

7. Such is the importance of eggs in the professional kitchen that the toque, or chef’s hat, has a fold for every egg recipe the chef has mastered from souffle to sabayon. Urban legend has it that a new cook will be asked to cook an omelette by the chef so as to demonstrate their skills. It’s not just about producing a good omelette. The test shows dexterity and experience as well as how confidently the new cook handles a pan over a flame. 

8. Egg white is called albumen and turns white when it reaches 60 degrees celsius.

9. The best before date for eggs is five weeks from the date of laying. Unlike a ‘use by’ date you can eat eggs after they have passed this date. If you’ve kept them in the fridge they may well be good for another two weeks. As the egg gets older the whites become less firm. Crack eggs into a cup rather than adding them directly to baking or cooking mixes just in case you’ve left it too late. 

10. The strength of an egg white is measured in haugh units. Eggs from young pullets score over 90 while eggs from older hens only reach the 70s. Younger birds produce eggs that poach better. They’re often smaller (size 6). Eggs from young hens have darker brown, smoother shells. As the hen ages the white becomes less firm and the shell becomes paler and rougher in texture. 

11. After selecting the freshest and best eggs for poaching, cook them gently in a pan of not-quite-boiling water. Add a little vinegar to help the whites set. Don’t crowd the pan. 

12. If you struggle with poaching, try froaching! Start by gently frying eggs then add water to the pan and put a lid on it. The eggs will steam their way to perfection.

13. If you’re baking and want a bargain, search out ‘commercial’ grade eggs from your local egg farm (sadly few in number now). These eggs are generally from older hens and have weaker shells but are just fine for baking or scrambling. 

14. My go-to brunch or lunch dish, particularly for guests that drop in out of the blue, is a frittata. Perfect for turning anything you find in the fridge or garden into a quick meal. The Eggah/Ejjeh is an Egyptian version of the frittata full of onions lightly caramelised with cumin and coriander seeds, raisins, nutmeg and fresh herbs. The perfect standby for when your mummy drops in unexpectedly.

15. Drop an egg or two into soup to boost the protein.

16. Top two-minute noodles with a boiled egg.

17. Make a thin one-egg omelette and use it to wrap sushi.

18. Add 2 tablespoons of water to your omelette mix for a fluffier, lighter texture.

19. Let’s not forget eggs’ best friend, bacon. The farmyard marriage began in 1500 BC when salted pork belly dropped in China. Picture the delight of the peasant that first joined the egg, bacon, and bread dots together to create a winning trifecta of such magnificence that it is ubiquitous in pork-eating cultures and probably always will be. My favourite B&E sammies are found at Holly Bacon in Hastings and Adoro Cafe in Napier. 

20. Despite shopkeepers telling farmers how to farm and customers what to buy, the egg will triumph and be with us in so many guises for as long as we want omelettes for breakfast, quiche for lunch and tiramisu for dessert. 

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