A cracking start to the day with eggs from Hoxne
PUBLISHED: 09:39 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 09:49 12 April 2016
Weekend family brunches are definitely sunnyside up for chef Stephen David
I think we take the good old egg for granted. Annually in the UK we consume nearly 12 billion eggs, but when did you last think of cooking something special with them?
I firmly believe all creatures, animals or birds, benefit from the sun on their backs, the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviour and generally run around without a care in the world. So when I’m buying eggs, I purposefully seek out Havensfield Happy Hens’ blue-boxed eggs – it’s worth asking your local farm shop or deli for them.
The Brice family work with local farmers across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to rear small flocks of chickens totally free-range with excellent husbandry and care. Having visited one of their farm flocks near their Hoxne base, I saw the lovely pasture fields and bags of space the contented plump birds get to scratch around in. Having found the perfect eggs, what to do with them for my nearest and dearest for weekend brunch?
Shakshuka is an unusual punchy one-pan dish from North Africa. I first enjoyed its zingy simplicity for brunch at the lovely Darsham Nurseries Café on the A12 near Yoxford, where Lola and Thom’s produce-led Middle Eastern cuisine is foodie delight. I like to fold in raw courgette ribbons just before serving to warm through. The chilli content is down to personal taste. I am famously a chilli wimp (refined palate is the preferred label) so tend to go easy on the fire.
Local rapeseed oil; 1 large onion, cut in quarters and thinly sliced; 2 bell peppers, preferably yellow and red, halved, seeded and thinly sliced; A few garlic cloves, thinly sliced; 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground; Cayenne pepper or chilli flakes, to taste; 1 – 2 mild red chillies, very finely sliced (seeds optional); 2 tins plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juice; Maldon sea salt and black peppermill; 4 very large free range eggs; Small packet Greek feta cheese, drained and crumbled; Coriander or basil leaves to garnish; Warm flat breads to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 175c. Into an ovenproof deep wide sauté pan over a medium heat, add a glug of oil along with the onion and peppers. Once contents are hot, turn the heat down to low, cover and gently fry, stirring occasionally, until softened, for about 15 – 20 minutes. Uncover and turn up to medium, stir in the garlic, paprika, cumin and chilli if using (go easy to start with) and stir-fry for a few minutes. Fold through the red chillies, tomatoes and seasoning to taste before bringing to a good simmer, covered. Remove the lid and make four wells in the top of the stew with a ladle and break an egg into each. Bake uncovered in the oven until the egg whites are fully set. Remove and sprinkle over the feta and the herbage for colour. Serve along with the flatbreads.
Eggs Benedict, is a classic American breakfast staple. Lovely variations are Eggs Florentine with added wilted spinach, or to replace the ham with smoked salmon, or smoked trout or eel fillets, for Eggs Royale. I’ve always loved baked smoked haddock with a mornay cheesy leek and cauliflower sauce and a poached egg, alongside bubble’n’squeak cakes and crisp streaky rashers. It’s easily adapted to top a muffin.
(serves 4 generously)
4 free range egg yolks; Aspall cyder vinegar; sea salt mill; Iced water; 250g butter, melted; Lemon, halved; 8 free range eggs for poaching; 4 muffins, halved; Softened unsalted butter; 4 large thick slices smoked Suffolk ham
Find a glass bowl to fit over a large saucepan of hot water. In the bowl, whisk the yolks with a teaspoon of vinegar, pinch of salt and splash of water. Simmer the saucepan of water gently with the bowl on top, and whisk slowly until thickened and pale in colour (up to five minutes). Remove the bowl and while whisking, pour in a thin drizzle of melted butter, a little at a time. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of warm water. Whisk in a little lemon juice. Keep the sauce warm. Put the eggs on to poach. Toast the muffins and butter well. Cut the ham slices in two and top each muffin half, followed by a drained, well-seasoned poached egg, a draping of warm hollandaise and chives to garnish.