The 2015 Ulster Bank sponsored Balmoral Show was launched last week with a breakfast event in the Terrace restaurant of the historic Robinson Cleaver Building in Belfast’s city centre.
My job was to cook breakfast for nearly 60 guests, alongside the chefs from the Terrace, using local produce. Serving a good breakfast simultaneously for big numbers is one of the most daunting things for a professional cook and its all about the eggs!
This time the eggs came from Marlfield Farm, outside Portaferry. The Elliott family have been rearing free-range poultry for over 40 years and grow cereal to provide their birds with a natural feed. I’d cooked their chicken at a dinner in Portaferry last summer and it was excellent. Their eggs lived up to my expectations – a proud standing orange yolk atop a firm pearly white. They tasted delicious and held their shape perfectly while cooking.
Eggs are an intrinsic part of cooking and an ingredient any good cook couldn’t survive without. I make a lot of fresh pasta and the challenge there is to use up whites, while in a lot of cases it’s the other way round. Either way every part of this beautiful ingredient should be used.
Egg whites can be frozen successfully – just label how many are in the bag for future reference and defrost completely before using.
Last summer a group of food producers from here, organised by Food NI, travelled to the House of Commons to showcase our local food. Cavanagh Eggs from Fermanagh are a relatively young company, started in 2012 by John and Eileen Hall near Newtownbutler in Fermanagh. Like Marlfield, they produce free range eggs to an excellent standard. My task was to cook with the ingredients provided. I used these eggs in London to make a frittata, an Italian baked omelette, with Roy Lyttle’s leeks from Strangford and Peter Hannan’s guanciale bacon.
A little piece of Northern Ireland on the plate that went down very well.
Purple sprouting broccoli is just coming in to season now and enrobing it in eggs and cheese with the addition of crispy bacon and wilted scallions is the perfect way to enjoy it. It’s like souped up broccoli – the flavour is more intense and has leaves that add another texture dimension. It’s a very good way of using whole eggs.
When you’ve separate whites to use up a perfect way is to cook a show stopping Baked Alaska. It might have a 70’s feel to it but this classic always hits the spot. Sponge, jam, ice-cream, billowing crispy meringue? How could that ever go out of fashion?
Meringues are better when you use older eggs – don’t ask me why. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for it, but they’re definitely better than fresh!
Sable Biscuits are a time honoured French tradition. Originating in Brittany, known for its butter, the name literally means sand. The biscuits, redolent of butter, sugar and egg yolks should have a sandy crunchy texture as their name suggests.
Eggs are such a wonderful thing and should always be respected.
I love this anonymous quote: “Eggs are very much like small boys. If you overheat them or overbeat them, they will turn on you and no amount of future love will right the wrong!”