Eating eggs at Easter is a tradition that can be dated back to the 13th century. Eggs were forbidden during the lenten period and people would decorate the eggs in the week running up to Easter Sunday before breaking the fast.
The Victorians introduced chocolate eggs to Britain resulting in the multi-million pound industry it is today. It also keeps the supermarket shelves full from Boxing Day until the barbecue stock comes in.
Eggs are a vital part of many recipes, either sweet or savoury. I go through a phenomenal amount of eggs in my cooking. When a recipe calls for yolks, I try to find a way of using the whites and vice versa.
Whites can be successfully frozen and it always surprises me how they whip up so well after being defrosted.
In January this year James and Linda Christie who own Ballinteer Farm outside Coleraine, diversified from milking cows into quail farming. They decided to specialise in this niche product that’s uniquely local. Quail eggs are a quarter of the size of a hen’s egg but have four times more iron and potassium and 3% more protein. They have a mottled blue shell and cook in a fraction of the time.
Chefs like quail eggs because they’re compact and look really well on a plate. They’re great with smoked or poached salmon and all manner of starters. They can be fried or soft boiled and cut in half to show off their luminous orange yolk.
Normally in this country you have to source quail eggs from France so it’s wonderful to see a local producer providing this gourmet product. They aren’t expensive and can be bought in Scott’s Farm shop in Coleraine, Supervalu in Ballymoney or around the food festivals. I’ve used them in a recipe this week as a hash with ham hock. When I was trying out this recipe I used Orr’s of Comber Blue Victor potatoes. If you only try two new things this year make it these potatoes and the quail eggs!
Richard Orr showcased his potatoes at a food event in the House of Commons last week that I was honoured to be asked to cook at. These slow growing potatoes, cooked in their jackets and tossed in butter, scallions and crispy bacon were a real highlight of a successful day. The quality was so good only salt and pepper for seasoning was needed.
Easter always makes me think of Italy as they really embrace this religious festival. My second recipe is for a proper pasta carbonara. Carbonara sauce uses egg yolks, parmesan, garlic and bacon. Despite a popular misconception, cream should never be used in this sauce at any time! I love the silky richness of egg yolk and cheese, enveloping pasta with the salty addition of bacon – a real treat for the end of Lent.
When you use the yolks in the pasta, there’s no better way of using up the whites than in a pavlova. My version has chocolate added – both cocoa and chopped chocolate. There’s a raspberry mascarpone topping to crown it off and celebrate the season.