Monday, July 19, 2010

Eggs any Size.

I have been considering eggs lately. They surely come closest to being the quintessential all-purpose ingredient in the kitchen - capable of forming a perfectly adequate meal all by themselves, as well as being indispensible in many dishes from soups to salads to desserts.

I have featured eggs in many posts in the past, and they have even had their own week in which we looked at a brief selection egg recipes through the centuries (see the links at the end of this post.) It is going to be Egg Week again folks, for I have been looking at historical cookery books specialising in egg recipes.

Firstly, I want to remind you of the marvellous medieval tradition of ‘Illusion Foods’ – that is, foods made to fool the eater in some way, either as a symbolic message, as a demonstration of skill (which required wealth and power) or purely for fun. One of my favourite examples was the giant egg, made from thirty or more ordinary eggs, recipes for which appear in several medieval manuscripts. Another was a ‘Lenten’ egg (real eggs being forbidden at this time) made from almond milk.

I was delighted to find that the tradition had not completely died out at the end of the nineteenth century. In Egg Dainties; how to cook eggs in 150 ways English and Foreign (1899) there are instructions for a ‘monster egg’. True, it is a mere shadow of the fifteenth century version, as it is made from only half dozen ordinary eggs, but it is fun nonetheless. I do not, however, suggest you try it yourself at home, as there are serious safety issues with the method - unless you can come by the ‘specially designed appliance in metal’ mentioned in the recipe.

As a bonus, the author of the book also offers instructions for miniature eggs – which would, methinks, be perfect for ‘Mock Quail Eggs.’

Monster Egg.
Ingredients. – Six eggs.
Break the eggs,and separate the yolks carefully from the whites. Beat the yolks, and pour them into a bottle sufficiently large just to hold them. Cork and suspend it in boiling water until they are set. Then break the bottle, taking care than no fragments of glass adhere to the egg. Take a larger bottle with a wide moty, place the yolk in the centre, pour the whites around it, an boil until they are set. Break away the bottle, and take out the egg, which can be served in a roll, or in slices, with a rich sauce.
NOTE: The risk in breaking the bottles may be avoided by the use of a specially designed appliance in metal, which can be obtained at the SCHOOL OF COOKERY, Mortimer Street.

Little Eggs.
Ingredients.- Ten eggs, one ounce of butter, one tea-spoonful of vinegar one salt-spoonful of sugar, two tablespoonfuls of cream, one dessert-spoonful of flour.
Boil six of the eggs for ten minutes, throw them into cold water, shell them, and take out the yolks; mix them in a basin with three raw yolks, salt and pepper. Turn the mixture onto a board well covered with flour, and roll into the shape of thin sausages; cut them into equal parts, and form them in the hands to little eggs. Throw them into boiling water for three minutes, drain and serve with the following sauce:- Mix the flour smoothly in half a teacupful of water; add the butter, cream, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and a little nutmeg, and stir it over the fire till it boils. Thicken with the yolk of an egg, but do not let it boil after it is added. Pour the sauce over the little eggs, and serve.

Eggs Through the Ages.
Eggs 16thC style
Eggs 17thC style
Eggs 18thC style
Eggs 19thC style
Eggs 20thC style

Quotation for the Day.
It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

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