Most of us look on eggs as culinary wallpaper – always there in the background, ready when needed, regardless of season. As a result we have become used to year-round availability, but it’s worth taking on board that eggs have seasons just like any other fresh produce, and now is a good time to enjoy them. Once sampled, you will appreciate that eggs can be a luxury item with a fabulous fresh flavour, gloriously golden yolks and a dense texture – a direct result of a diet of greenery, grains and edible grubs rather than commercial feed additives.
Eggs are certainly a cook’s best friend. They can be boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, baked or made into omelettes. They provide cakes with bounce, soufflés with height and sauces with thickness and gloss. They make pasta silky, pastry shiny and they help breadcrumbs stick to food. Beaten with oil, the yolks emulsify into mayonnaise; whisked with air, the whites transmute to the miraculous foam that gives meringues and mousses their lightness.
Particularly sought-after are eggs from special breed hens. Maran eggs and Burford Browns have striking brown shells the colour of builders’ tea, while those from the Old Cotswold Legbar are a pretty pastel blue, and Leghorn Whites are a pristine white, as the name suggests.
These contain slightly more fat than hen’s eggs and consequently have a richer flavour. They make unctuously creamy scrambled eggs and are superb in pastry and cakes.
Available from April to June, turkey eggs are a rare seasonal treat. Notably larger than a hen’s egg, they have beautiful brown speckled shells and a large creamy yolk. They are good scrambled, and even better in my Turkey Egg Frittata with Roasted Red Peppers. Bear in mind that turkey eggs can be elusive since most eggs are used for breeding Christmas birds. The best hunting grounds are farm shops but check out specialist egg producer Clarence Court for other stockists.
Another springtime treat, goose eggs are at least three times the size of a hen’s egg. They are rich and intensely eggy with an enormous yolk kept aloft by a viscous white. Their flavour is strong, but excellent for enriching cakes.
Flecked with random splashes of brown, these beautiful child-sized eggs can be hard-boiled and dipped in celery salt to make a tasty bite-sized canapé. They also make a pretty addition to a salad tumbled with watercress sprigs or radicchio, pale green frisée, purple radish sprouts and a few chopped toasted hazelnuts. Anoint with the merest splash of hazelnut oil, a drop of wine vinegar, crumbled sea salt flakes and cracked black peppercorns and you have a stunning starter.
Game bird eggs
Guinea fowl, pheasant and partridge eggs are all edible, though only sporadically on sale as they are usually kept for breeding purposes. Guinea fowl eggs are slightly smaller than a hen’s egg and have a similar mild flavour. They have beautiful brown-speckled shells that need an extra-firm tap to break them. Walnut-sized pheasant eggs come in a military khaki without any speckling. They have a powerful flavour best tamed by hard-boiling. Dumpy little partridge eggs are the most exquisite with tasteful coffee-coloured speckles on a pale beige shell. You’ll find these eggs in good farm shops and from specialist egg producer Clarence Court
© Christine McFadden, May 2022