Thursday, 2 April 2015

Eggs Benjamin


Not a shipboard meal and a treat even on Fiddler's Green, eggs Benjamin is my version of eggs Benedict. The name change may smack of narcissism but honestly, in the world of food nomenclature can get you into hot water. Just to clarify the territory on which I'm about to tread, eggs Benedict feature a toasted English muffin topped with a thick slice of warm ham, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Eggs Florentine exchange the ham for spinach, and eggs Royale use smoked salmon in lieu of ham.

Eggs Benjamin takes a few local ingredients (there are no English muffins in these parts) and marries them with the classic combination of poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I'm helped in this recipe by two important aspects garnered from my sailing experience. The first is energy and enthusiasm, there's no point embarking on eggs Benjamin if you are fuddled and hungover—though if someone else makes it for you and serves it with a Bloody Mary you'll probably find that it's an excellent cure. Energy, enthusiasm and a clear head, the sort of organisational attitude that you need at a busy boat ramp, when you're launching the boat while you mentally tick off all the gear. You don't want to shove off from the shore and discover you've forgotten the centreboard as I once did.

The second concerns the hollandaise. This sauce scares off a few home cooks but all that's required, apart from the correct ingredients, is an air of mild confidence and authority. The same that you might assume when you take your boat right up to the quay or breakwater—onlookers expecting a nasty crash—before smartly tacking, because you know that your boat turns on a penny and are absolutely confident that you won't fluff the manoeuver.

Eggs Benjamin is, or are, (tricky grammar here) warm Catalan tomato bread, (pa amb tomaquet) smoked streaky bacon, spinach, poached egg and hollandaise sauce.


For want of sailing stories I will give the recipe. 

Take a ripe tomato and remove the root of the stalk with a conical cut then draw a sharp knife around the skin. Slice the tomato in half and place in a moderately hot frying pan skin sides down with a few drops of olive oil. Put a small pan of water over a flame, this is the same pan and water in which you will eventually poach the egg but first place a bowl on top of the pan containing 75 grams of unsalted butter. Let it melt.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the frying pan with the tomato halves. Start the hollandaise by separating an egg and putting the yolk in a clean bowl with a couple of spoonfuls of cold water and a pinch of salt, combine with a whisk. (I forego the vinegar that is often used at this point as it brings the flavour too close to béarnaise for my taste.) Remove the melted butter from over the pan of water.



Add the spinach to the bacon with some salt and pepper, turn the tomatoes and cover with the plate that you will be using to serve the meal. Turn the heat right down. Put the bread in the toaster, while it toasts take a minute to assume an air of mild confidence. Put the toasted bread on the plate over the spinach to keep it warm.



Place the bowl containing the egg yolk over the pan of simmering water and continue to whisk. When the bowl is hot to the touch but before the yolk begins to cook add the melted butter little by little, whisking as you go. Keep going until the sauce starts to thicken, it should only be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add a good squeeze of lemon juice, whisk vigorously and remove from the heat. Leave by the hob to keep warm.

Crack the other egg (as fresh possible and at room temperature) into a glass. Stir the simmering water with a wooden spoon to create a vortex and gently tip the egg into the centre. Ensure that the water doesn't come to a rapid boil.



While the egg poaches, remove the plate from over the frying pan, place the tomato halves on the toast and remove the skins—they should come away easily due to the cuts. Using a fork crush and spread the tomato on the toast, salt to taste. Place the bacon and spinach mixture on the toast (all the moisture will have evaporated, if not whack up the heat until it has). Now check your egg, it should have centred itself in the pan and cohered. Lift it gently with a slotted spoon or similar. Let your egg drain. Sloppy, wet eggs are the dearth of this sort of breakfast. Place the egg on the spinach and, with a generous hand, spoon hollandaise over the whole.



Best accompanied with hot, black coffee, the Bloody Mary can wait till cocktail hour, though mine's a Dry Martini.

NB. One egg yolk and 75 grams of butter will make enough hollandaise for two or three people. Put left over sauce in a glass, cover with cling film and store in the fridge. When you've used up the calories accrued at breakfast slowly reheat the hollandaise in a bain-marie and spoon it over a seared fillet of fish and some steamed asparagus. Now you can be sure you've had your ration of butter for day.  

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