The first lesson at Leiths School of Food and Wine taught us how to scramble eggs. Our tutor was meticulous, regularly repeating, ‘Now, this is VERY important’ which I would immediately scribble down in my notebook margin, ‘very important!’ with lots of aggressive capital letters, and, like the good pupils we were, we all leaned forward with baited breath to watch how she scrambled her eggs so perfectly. Soft-set curds of egg, suspended in a creamy sauce served on buttered toast. One of the things I miss most about Leiths, other than learning, is the samples of food we received in each class.
Learning how to scramble eggs does not sound like a necessity at cookery school. Surely we should be stuffing quail or piping macarons, not stressing over a pan of liquid egg trying to determine how to make it coagulate perfectly as surely everyone, everyone, can make scrambled eggs! It’s the quick-but-naughty breakfast, the weekend treat, the mid-week supper and the hardest part is making sure the toast doesn’t burn. There we were, however, all of us pupils stationed at the stove, our virgin-white aprons and caps gleaming in the light, a spatula nervously clutched in each of our hands as we double- then triple-checked the heat, turning it down even further, before easing the set egg around the pan. Yes, it was stressful as apparently perfect scrambled egg is a thing.
According to Leiths, ‘sloppy’, which involuntarily induces a gag-reflex in some, is ideal with large, tender flakes of egg. No fluffy, rubbery eggs allowed here. My ten-year-old self would not be allowed within twenty yards of the building as she made her scrambled eggs in the microwave until springy like the trampoline she desperately wished she had. I will now divulge the trade secret for the perfect scrambled eggs and that is nothing other than time – lots of time.
Cooking in butter is essential as it contributes a rich depth of flavour to the eggs. Slide a knob of butter into a pan and let it slip around until it’s completely melted and beginning to foam. This will only happen if the heat is low enough, otherwise it will spit and sizzle, the pan will be too hot and your eggs, quite simply, won’t be perfect.
It has long been argued whether you should add milk, or in some cases, cream because you are reckless, to your beaten eggs. Milk only lightens the flavour and loosens the mixture so I prefer to scramble without, only adding a pinch of salt, to highlight the eggy richness.
So, you have your egg mixture, you have your foaming butter. Now, you pour it all in and leave it. Yes, you leave it. If your heat is low it will slowly set so when you see it cooking and begin to gently agitate it with a spatula the thin layer of omelette will break apart into those tender flakes you eagerly covet. Now, simply scrape and stir. When the eggs are nearly cooked take the pan off the flame and the residual heat will gently finish them so they are creamy, glossy and soft. This is when you can add some chives, cheese, more butter because you like butter, or some chopped chorizo or sausage. Or, if you want just pour those perfect eggs over toast and eat.
Scrambled eggs with goat’s cheese, spinach and sweet chilli jam
Adapted from ‘Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights’ by Sophie Dahl
When I read the recipe for ‘Coquette’s Eggs’ I laughed. Sophie Dahl paints a vivid picture of her first brunch date with Jamie Cullum when she nervously cooked him these scrambled eggs, served with ‘some good toast and a saucy smile’.
At first the idea of pungent goat’s cheese, or in Sophie Dahl’s case, feta, folded into scrambled eggs seemed incongruous to me but by stirring in spinach leaves at the end of cooking so they wilt and meld with the eggs the flavour seemed fresher. Served with some buttery toast and a sticky dollop of homemade sweet chilli jam (leftover from Christmas – the recipe I used is from BBC Good Food) your ‘perfect’ scrambled eggs receive a makeover packed with flavour.
Half a red onion
30g soft goat’s cheese
A small handful of spinach leaves
A knob of butter
- Finely dice the onion and fry in a little oil for about 5 to 10 minutes on low heat until soft and lightly caramelised.
- Break the goat’s cheese into chunks and add to the pan so it gently softens.
- Meanwhile whisk your eggs with a pinch of salt. Toss your butter in the pan and allow to melt and foam.
- Pour in your beaten eggs and gently scrape away the set egg on the base of the pan. Repeat this as the egg continues to cook. Once the eggs look nearly done – with a bit of uncooked liquid – throw in the spinach and gently fold into the eggs.
- Immediately take the pan off the heat. The spinach won’t look cooked but the residual heat of the pan will continue to wilt the leaves. In the meantime butter your toast.
- Pour the eggs over the toast and serve with a blob of sweet chilli jam.