One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: eggs

While eggs have long been a staple cooking ingredient due to their versatility, they are now beginning to take centre stage on the plate

19 March 2020
dessertpoultryproteiningredients
Bancone's silk handkerchiefs, walnut butter & confit egg yolk
image credit: Jade Nina Sarkhel

The trend

  • Retail sales of eggs rose by 3-4% - the 13th consecutive year of growth, according to data from Kantar.  The versatility and affordability of eggs was said to be partly behind the sales surge.
  • Eggslut, described as a 'chef driven, gourmet food concept', opened its first site in 2011 in the US. Inspired by a 'true love for eggs', it now operates eight sites around the world and is about to open its second site in London.
  • Omelettes, poached and boiled eggs are listed as some of the most difficult dishes to cook at home, according to a study by food box company Gousto.

Let's get this straight from the start, we're not calling the use of eggs in dishes a new trend. As Josh Overington, chef-patron of Le Cochon Aveugle in York puts it: “Eggs have been a staple ingredient throughout the history of cooking,” so it would be foolish to suggest we're uncovering a new foodstuff about to make it big.

Cracked into cake batter, whisked up to make meringues, mixed into flour to make pasta, or fried with bacon for breakfast - the versatility of eggs as an ingredient means they have certainly already earned their place in the culinary hall of fame. 

What can be identifiable as a trend is the fact that eggs are coming out of their shells and are proudly playing the star role on the plate, instead of being the support act. 

Le Cochon Aveugle custard egg
image credit: Le Cochon Aveugle

From starters and sharing plates like devilled eggs, seen at Cora Pearl in London and Gizzi Erskine's St Martin's Lane Kitchen residency The Nitery, or creative Scotch eggs, on the menu at pubs and restaurants around the country, to main dishes like the egg hopper at Hopper's or the Shakshuka - served all day at The Good Egg's London restaurants - there are some cracking examples on display.

The rise in the number of egg-based restaurants opening, such as Eggbreak in Notting Hill and Eggslut, which is due to open its second site in London this year, indicates that restaurant operators are increasingly regarding eggs as a solid investment. 

 

Andrew Dargue, chef-owner of Vanilla Black, London, describes his dish Nutmeg custard, burnt kohlrabi and cured yolk: “The dish was created because one of our chefs loved custard tarts. The idea was then to create a savoury version. The dish consists of an egg yolk which is cured in salt sugar and nutmeg. Along with that there is a baked egg custard which is savoury and flavoured with a touch of nutmeg. To hint at pastry the dish also includes some little mustard shortbread biscuits and to make the dish feel a little more savoury it's finished with some charred and pickled onions."

Stefano Cilia, head chef, Bancone, London describes using egg as a central component in the restaurant's dish Silk handkerchiefs' with walnut butter and confit egg yolk: “When we first opened, we served meringue as one of our desserts, so we’d have lots of spare egg yolks left over. We decided to put them in this dish. Once the confit yolk is broken it emulsifies with the butter to form a rich and velvety sauce for the pasta. To make the confit egg yolk, we drop egg yolks into vegetable oil heated to 65C and leave them to cook for 45 minutes to an hour to reach the consistency of a very soft-boiled egg yolk. The handkerchiefs are made from fresh lasagne sheets cut into 12.5cm squares. They are boiled in water for two to three minutes until al dente. In a pan, we create an emulsion by mixing a few tablespoons of the cooking water, butter and white wine vinegar and add the cooked pasta and chopped walnuts. The mixture is tossed until the pasta is generously coated in the emulsion. To serve, we put a little grated parmesan in the base of the bowl, add six pasta sheets, then put the confit egg yolk in the centre of the pasta, before sprinkling over more parmesan and chopped walnuts.”

Josh Overington, chef-patron of Le Cochon Aveugle in Yorkshire, describes his dessert Baked custard with dark rum and bitter caramel: “Our menus start with a savoury hot and cold egg and so it seemed natural to conclude the menu with a sweet version! When we re-lay the table, guests are surprised; they think we are starting all over again - we surprise them with a different egg dish to before. To make the baked custard dessert we whisk together a whole egg and two egg yolks with 40g caster sugar until white and creamy. In a saucepan, 135ml dark rum is brought to the boil and flambeed, to reduce the alcohol level down, before it's added to the egg mixture. After whisking to combine, 235ml of double cream is added ot the mix and it's combined until the mixture is smooth. The custard is poured into egg shells which have been cleaned out and boiled for 10 minutes, then placed into an old egg carton which goes into a tray filled with boiling water and baked for up to 40 minutes. The custard should still have a slight wobble. The eggs are removed and cooled in the fridge for at least four hours to set. We serve them cold, with a thin layer of bitter caramel made with caster sugar and water, poured on the top while still hot.”

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