Not much to do with fire, but plenty to do with food. A musing on a simple meal dredged from my archive.
The pleasure that comes from preparing perfect boiled eggs and watching children devour them in blissful silence is hard to beat.
There is at least one day in the week that our youngest have eggs for supper to prevent them from being exposed to excessive amounts of chilli or to make sure that they get fed between getting home from school and an early evening activity. Given the choice, Luca (6) will always take the egg option and Kitty (10) will be torn between eggs now and some other more exotic offering that she might have to wait for.
The great thing is that it takes no more than ten minutes from scratch to serve ‘perfect’ boiled eggs. Luca’s anticipation is priceless. He climbs onto the work top to watch the toast browning on his hands and knees, chooses his favourite china egg cup (always the blue mini), and watches the stove timer (upside down) as if his life depended on it. He is of course ‘starving’ by this point.
I am stressed. I go through such a ritual to make sure that the eggs are ‘perfect’ simply because the disappointment of serving over or under cooked eggs is soul destroying. There is nothing worse than cutting the top off a just cooked egg and seeing just a bit of gluey, gelatinous egg white hanging off the knife, or at the other extreme, discovering a powdery yolk.
The kids’ anticipation makes it so worthwhile. They so badly want ‘perfect’ eggs to dip their soldiers into that I have made it into a science.
Rule No. 1: Make sure that the eggs are at room temperature. If they have come straight from the fridge I place them in a bowl of tepid water for a few minutes.
Rule No. 2: Boil the kettle so you don’t have to watch the pot boil and make sure the pot of boiling water is the right size for the number of eggs you are cooking. Too small and they will be undercooked, too large and they will be overcooked. What exactly is the right size is difficult to judge, but at best, the boiling water should not drown the eggs. It should cover them by a small margin.
Rule No. 3: Follow the five minute method. That is, lower the eggs into the boiling water, simmer for exactly 5 minutes, then remove them from the pot. During this time put on the toast and have the butter, plates and egg cups ready for when the timer goes off.
The reward is in the serving. I use a serrated knife to remove the tops and what a joy it is to see that the white has just set all the way through. Only then can you be half certain that the yolk is going to be hot and creamy.
Then I watch the kids as they dunk their first soldier and wait for the ultimate endorsement: “It’s ok Dad, the eggs are ‘perfect’ ”.