What an amazingly versatile food an egg is. I well remember as a child the slogan of “Go to work on an egg”, the very successful advertising campaign of the Egg Marketing Board.
For some reason, we only ever had boiled eggs for Sunday breakfast after Mass or for tea after a day’s hunting. Eggs come in so many different sizes, the smallest being the quails’ eggs which, hard-boiled and peeled, are delicious dipped into truffle or celery salt and make a good canapé.
Bantam eggs are the next size up. We kept bantams when we lived in Port Said in Egypt. My father, a career soldier, was stationed there in 1955. The following year we had the Suez Crisis, and all wives and children had to be evacuated in the middle of the night. We were put on an army ship, which wasn’t allowed to stop, to take us back to England. My little sisters and I (I was six at the time) mourned leaving our bantams far more than leaving our dolls behind, one of which fell into the canal.
Then there are duck and goose eggs, which are perfect for baking and give your cake a great rise.
I must briefly mention gulls’ eggs. There was only a short season for them, in May I think, and it was a perilous journey climbing up cliffs and into their nests to collect them. There was great excitement in the City, where my husband worked, to go to the “Gulls’ Egg Luncheon”, given in aid of a charity, so you paid to go and then tucked in. Rod often bought some home so I tucked in too! They were so good and the yolk was bright orange. I think they have been an endangered species since 1981, so no more foraging for them.
The last and biggest egg is the ostrich egg; I have never eaten one but I have friends who live in Kenya and cook one as an omelette to feed 12 guests, as it’s the equivalent to 24 hens’ eggs.
The recipes I have chosen this month are both for hot soufflés – one sweet, which is so easy and really a bit of a cheat, it takes five minutes to prepare, and then a good old-fashioned savoury one that takes longer but is well worth the effort.
Hot mushroom soufflé
300g black flat mushrooms
60g butter plus extra 10g to fry mushrooms
60g plain flour
l tablespoon grated Parmesan
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1 small onion
Whiz the mushrooms and onion in a blender until very finely chopped. Melt the 10g of butter in a saucepan and cook mushroom/onion mixture until all the moisture has gone –
it needs to be quite dry.
Melt the 60g of butter in a different saucepan and add the flour and milk slowly to make a smooth white sauce.
Add a tablespoon of Parmesan and four egg yolks and mix and season well. Stiffly beat egg whites and fold into the mushroom mixture.
Put into well buttered 22cm soufflé dish and cook in a hot oven for around 25 mins. It should be brown on top and well risen but still wobbly in the middle.
This does six for a first course or four for a main course.
Hot passionfruit soufflé
½ jar of passionfruit curd (available at Waitrose)
1 heaped tablespoon of Bird’s Custard Powder
4 passionfruits for decoration
Butter a 19cm soufflé dish well. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the passionfruit curd and custard powder. Meanwhile beat the whites stiffly and fold into the yolk mixture.
Pop in a very hot oven for around 12-15 minutes – it should look brown on top and risen but still with a slight wobble when ready. Serve surrounded by halved passionfruits (see picture below.) Serves four.