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 whey 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.
How to scramble eggs perfectly
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
- 2 eggs
- ½ a red onion
- 30 g soft goat's cheese
- A handful of fresh spinach leaves
- 1 tsp butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of white pepper if you have it (use sparingly!)
- Buttered toast and sweet chilli jam to serve
- 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. Make sure the heat is as low as possible.
- 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, removing the pan from 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.