Eggs conjure all kinds of culinary magic

f you have an egg you have a meal. Eggs allow us to conjure all kinds of culinary magic. Eggs make a meal of something that otherwise might seem too slim or too simple. Whether it’s dipping a buttered soldier into a runny yolk or crowning a simple plate of roasted ratatouille or humble lentils with a crisp edged, cheery yolked fried egg. Eggs make a meal.

I once cooked for Prince Charles who, I was told, takes an egg with almost every meal – a wise man. I carefully poached one and sat it on top of his plate of spring risotto. I think of that meal every time I poach an egg, which actually isn’t that often as John, my husband-to-be, is the head poacher in our house.

I keep a little bowl of eggs next to our cooker. They come in all shades of blue, cream, brown and ivory but mostly I find myself reaching for the blue-shelled ones. They remind me of a still-life painting, most of all the Cedric Morris cover of Elizabeth David’s classic, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.

The bowl gets emptied a couple of times a week when we haven’t planned a meal or made it to the shops. We make French-style curdy herb omelettes, we softly scramble them, we spike them with chilli and wrap them in tortillas with spicy black beans for a hearty brunch and we fry them until crisp-edged for quick suppers with leftover fried potatoes and veg and a couple of spoonfuls of good chutney. It goes without saying that organic, free-range eggs should be used whenever possible. The sunnier the egg, the happier the eater.

Roast shallots and greens with baked eggs

This is a light, bright, late-spring brunch of baked eggs, courgettes, artichokes, sweet caramelised shallots and bright greens, all doused in the sunshine-mellow yellow of saffron.

Serves 4
8 banana shallots
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
4 small or 2 large courgettes, cut into 1cm coins
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 heads of spring greens, washed and finely sliced
4 cooked artichoke hearts, halved
A pinch of saffron, soaked in 50ml boiling water
4 eggs


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