An egg is among the most nutritious foods that we have access to with many believing that the egg is ‘nature’s multivitamin.’ Eggs contain unique antioxidants and powerful brain nutrients that many people are deficient in. Eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, high quality proteins, good fats and various other lesser-known nutrients. An average large egg contains Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, Vitamin B5 and Selenium along with small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, Vitamin E and many more. A large egg contains 77 calories, with 6 grams of quality protein, 5 grams of fat and trace amounts of carbohydrates. Almost all the nutrients are contained in the yolk, the white contains only protein. So what we really need to take away from the above is that for 77 calories you are getting an incredibly nutritious food; serious bang for your calorie intake buck!
Now I have to add the caveat that not all eggs are created equal. Eggs that come from hens raised in cages and fed an inadequate diet will naturally be less nutritious than a hen that has had a healthier life. However, to be fair Ireland has a very good reputation for chickens and eggs so if you stick with an Irish egg then you can’t go too far wrong. If you can get your hands on farm fresh eggs then that would be the ideal choice, but be warned, if you get used to eggs with those wonderfully plump yellow yokes, you could be spoiled for the future.
In the kitchen the egg is a cook’s treasure indeed. It could be argued that it is probably one of nature’s most perfect creations when it comes to cooking. The variety of uses is astounding and the fact that it can be eaten raw or cooked makes it highly versatile while the savoury and sweet aspects combine to make it an undeniably brilliant food in itself or as an ingredient.
A few years ago in this column I wrote about the simplicity of a boiled egg with soldiers for breakfast. My personal method of boiling the egg to the consistency that I like is to put cold water in a pot, place the eggs in and once it has reached boiling point only then do I start the three minute count. Some people think that you shouldn’t put the eggs into the water until it is boiling; each to their own. I always thought that frying an egg was a lot less contentious until I came across “The Perfect Egg and Other Secrets” by Aldo Buzzi. In the book he describes how to cook the perfect fried egg. First of all you cook it on a low heat and you certainly don’t crack the egg directly onto the pan. You crack the egg into a cup and from the cup pour just the white onto the pan reserving the yoke for a few moments longer. When the white begins to set you sprinkle it with salt and pepper and only then do you pour the yolk on top of it, right in the middle of the circle of white. The theory behind this is that you don’t want the underside of the delicate yolk to come into direct contact with the heat from the bottom of the pan. You then put a lid on the pan to complete the cooking. It is imperative that the fried egg is transferred to a warm plate to avoid over cooking in the heat of a pan.
I tried this as an exercise. I put away my plebeian methods of cracking three eggs into the pan at a time, always congratulating myself on not breaking the yokes. Aldo Buzzi would surely hang me over a bridge head first if he knew about my flagrant disregard for the intricacies of egg frying. I followed the rules precisely and it was a great egg.
Eggs in pots or, as the French like to say, ‘Eggs en Cocotte’ are another favourite. All you need are eggs and crème fraîche and after that you can throw in anything savoury that’s lurking around the fridge. I like them with plenty of crusty bread. Season some crème fraiche with pepper and a little nutmeg. Place a tablespoon of the seasoned crème fraiche in the bottom of a ramekin. Then some recipes call for a little dill on top of that but I often use coriander or whatever fresh herb is to hand – just a little. Crack an egg on the top and then finish with another tablespoon of crème fraiche and a tiny sliver of butter. Top with a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place the ramekin on a baking dish and fill with water to come half way up the ramekin then bake in the oven at about 180 for about 15 minutes or until the yolk is the consistency that you like.
From eggs in pots to omelettes of all flavours, quiches or even as a binding ingredient, eggs are fantastic. What I really want you to take away from this is that eggs are inexpensive, hugely versatile, go with almost any food and are one of the superfoods. All the bad press that eggs have received over the years should be ignored. Embrace the egg, it’s hard to find such a nutritious and versatile food. It is indeed natures multivitamin. I welcome your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown, Rathcoole & Kilmacanogue. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers