Yes, it is possible to eat too many eggs
I was flattered to get the call up from your editor, Sam, to share with you an utterly pointless part of my level four lockdown experience. However meaningless this was, it was also one of my greatest achievements and perhaps the most commitment I have shown to any concept, ever.
This concept was eggs, or to prepare them in as many different ways as I could every day over four weeks. This is not an original idea – you may be familiar with Bon Appetit’s ‘every way to cook an egg’ – but as I found throughout this journey, the possibilities are endless and not even BA had exhausted the opportunities that come with a white and yolk. Move over Ben Appétit; it’s Stretchfast time. Sorry, not sorry.
When the saga began on the 25th of March, I didn’t embark on this attempt out of spontaneity, more out of necessity. Within my bubble was my mother, father, brother, and his girlfriend; my brother’s girlfriend’s mum owned a bakery that was having to get rid of excess stock due to the impending ceasing of operations in response to the ‘Rona. This left her with an enormous number of eggs, which were kindly shared with us. I knew that in my heart of hearts, these could not go to waste, and with a probable life of four weeks refrigerated, I set myself the task of using as many as possible.
On the first day, it started simple. My favourite traditional way to have eggs is fried. A good tablespoon of olive oil on a medium-high heat for about five minutes, spooning the oil over the yolk as you go. This was served with a kumara hash, not because I’m pretentious, but because gluten is not always my best friend.
It remained simple for the next couple of days while I still had work to do. I’m a writer and sub-editor and was, at the time, gainfully employed – as we got further into lockdown, that became more uncertain. With the extra time on my hands, and because I barely function in the morning, I figured that a few hours in the kitchen in the early hours would do me a world of good. For anyone who loves food, and in turn, loves cooking, will know how therapeutic creating in the scullery can be. For me, this got me through lockdown; unaffected by what could have been a mental health nightmare.
Alas, I digress, back to the topic at hand, eggs. I had begun sharing my creations on Instagram – my mother still thinks I am an influencer – bringing joy to a handful of those who follow me, and I decided because I had nothing better to do, I would get overly creative. This was kicked off with a visit to a publication from the late 1970s, The New Zealand Radio & Television Cookbook edited by Alison Holst; Eggs in Tomato Baskets. These a similar to shirred or baked eggs, which is a very bland way of cooking eggs in a ramekin with a bit of seasoning. Though looking exciting, the eggs in their little tomato cots were far too firm and reminiscent of a bygone era – New Zealand has only recently come into its own in a culinary sense.
Nevertheless, this fired me up and gave me direction for some of the egg dishes to follow. As my army of fans loved it (about six people), I decided to take suggestions of what to create next. This was successful, and my mission for society to finally accept eggs as they are – beautiful, unique, versatile – resonated with my community.
Thanks to these suggestions, I discovered new favourites: Welsh Rarebit, a glazed donut with egg and bacon, tofu scramble, and salt-cured egg yolks. It did, however, unveil some awful creations that one will never go near again. This can be said for cloud eggs; though an Internet sensation, they taste horrific and hardly constitute food at all. All recommendations were supported by at least half an hour’s research each morning before I got cooking.
Sometimes my dishes were inspired by the happenings of the day. One such meal that was born out of current events was West Virginia devilled eggs in honour of Bill Withers. Withers has long been an idol of mine and I was determined to find a dish that reflected him. Thankfully, after about an hour of Googling, I stumbled upon a recipe book entitled Appalachian Home Cooking, in which there was a glorious recipe for the aforementioned devilled eggs. Bill Withers was a WV native and one hopes this befitted his character – as they warmed my soul as much as his music does. I made around two dozen, and they disappeared within minutes, they were otherworldly – the pickle juice and buckets of mayonnaise made sure of this. There is something magical about devilled eggs, and now I think I understand why they are a funeral staple; they’re the ultimate comfort food, yet light enough to be inhaled at a swift rate.
Perhaps my most significant achievement throughout this whole process was my replication of a McDonald’s Bacon and Egg McMuffin, complete with branded wax paper. I really don’t know how I did it, but it tasted the same, and I even felt heavy and lazy post-consumption. The highlight was actually McDonald’s approving of it; I can die happy now.
As level four drew to a close, I set myself a challenge of having eggs with every meal and at this point, I figured it would be rude to not go out on a B12 overdose. This came by way of a stellar pavlova, crème brûlée, salt-cured egg yolks, little baby quiches, a scrambled egg grilled cheese, and as a nod to the start of the series, a fried egg.
All in all, I created 40 dishes and ended with a desire not to touch eggs again. In fact, at the time of writing, I have had my first egg in nearly two weeks.
If you’re at all interested and are still reading at this point, I’d like to share a couple of my favourite recipes.
Mrs Beeton’s Scotch Woodcock
- Four slices of toast
- Four eggs
- Two tablespoon milk
- A good pinch of salt
- A good pinch of pepper
- One small can of anchovy fillets
Cover the hot toast with butter and keep warm. Beat the eggs with the milk and seasoning. Put a good knob of butter into a saucepan, heat gently, then add the eggs and milk. Cook gently until the mixture thickens. Spread on toast and garnish with anchovy fillets—arranged in a lattice design. Then apply a flurry of fresh thyme.
Chinese Style Steamed Eggs
- Three eggs
- A splash of soy sauce
- White Pepper
- 200 mls of stock (vegetable or chicken)
- Sesame oil
- A dazzle of chilli flakes
- A sprinkle of spring onion or chives
Mix the eggs with chopsticks or fork until fully amalgamated, add the stock, white pepper and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a bowl and put a plate on top. Place in a steamer and gently steam for around 12 minutes. Serve with chilli flakes, spring onions and a dash of sesame oil. I recommend soy on the side as well.
NOTE: If you don’t have a steamer, place a colander in a saucepan with a few inches of water. Place tea towel betwixt the pot lip and lid to stop any steam escaping.
By Liam Stretch