Eggs are the most vital ingredients for cooks and are also contentious


Eggs – one of the most vital ingredients for cooks and also one of the most contentious.

The recent scare involving traces of the insecticide Fipronil, being found in eggs imported from the EU has brought them into sharp focus once again.

This substance, used to kill fleas, has been banned by the EU as not fit for human consumption. Since the salmonella scandal in the 1980s Britain has been rigorous in making eggs the safest of products. In June guidelines for their safe consumption were updated stating it was now officially safe to eat a runny yolk. The irony is that eggs from Britain and Ireland have never been safer, and yet we import substandard varieties from outside.

The answer is simple – buy local eggs from a reputable producer. We’re spoilt for choice in Northern Ireland for suppliers of ethically sourced eggs. When you crack an egg onto a plate, the yolk should be vibrant orange, sitting pert on the solid white. An anaemic looking, flaccid yolk in the middle of runny white is not ever going to taste good or do anything for your baking. You might have to pay a little bit more for free range but it’s infinitely worth it. Go to the producer’s page on the Food NI website for the best eggs we have to offer.

Last weekend was the first ever Omagh Food Festival and I was delighted to host and cook at the event. There were local producers, excellent street food and a cookery area featuring local chefs. One of the chefs was Aaron Duffy of the recently reopened Mellon Country Inn, located just outside Omagh. He cooked a dessert which was a play on lemon meringue. One of the interesting elements to the dish was a microwave meringue. I’m normally very sceptical about anything that has been “nuked” but Aaron placed whipped egg white with sugar and cornflour in a plastic container, microwaved it for a minute on full power and turned it out. It had the consistency of marshmallow and was actually lovely. He coated it in a lemon shortcake crumb to add texture to his dish, which included a homemade lemon curd and lemon gel. It was a really quick and efficient way of using up excess egg whites too. I don’t own a microwave but will be trying it the next time I’m near one.

Rhubarb’s in full swing at the moment and makes the perfect partnership with a good egg custard. My first recipe this week is for a rhubarb and custard roulade. An egg sponge filled with homemade custard enveloped with cream and studded with rhubarb. Pat McKeever who makes Long Meadow Cider, outside Portadown, was at the show with his new Rhubarb and Honey Cider. The custard for the roulade contains a toot of this brew and adds a fragrant, sweet note. You can check out their website for stockists.

Bacon and eggs have a natural affinity and my other recipe uses them in a baked egg dish. To keep with the Tyrone theme, I’m suggesting you use Kennedy Bacon from Omagh. Mervyn Kennedy cures the bacon in the old fashioned way – no injecting salt solutions for rapid results ,just salt and time for him.

The bacon is crispy 
and golden and leaves fat in the pan and no horrible white liquid.

The bacon is combined with leeks and cream, eggs cracked on top, sprinkled with cheese and baked. Dip some toasted soda farl into the soft yolk for the perfect, decadent breakfast.