When boiled perfectly and served with fingers of buttery toast, the everyday egg can be a gourmet experience
A cup of morning joy Boiled egg and toast
Holiday food need not necessarily be fancy or complicated fare. Even the humble boiled egg can turn out to be a tasty treat. As kids our breakfast often comprised of soft boiled egg with fingers of buttery toast – boiled egg and soldiers. A name that is sure to interest the fussy eaters. The name came about perhaps because the thin strips of toast are usually arranged in a soldierly line; or it is a reference to a nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty! The egg being Humpty and the bread, the kings men who are a part of that rhyme. Whatever it may be, it is one of the most delicious ways of eating bread and egg.
My mother in law’s china cabinet recently yielded an egg cup. The egg cup is perfectly made to hold the just-boiled warm egg. Egg cups gained prominence in the early 1900s. They were originally made of wood. In time, the nobles had them made in silver, pewter, porcelain, glass and crystal. With special engravings on them and wrought in many styles, these egg cups became a quintessential part of breakfast. Crockery companies started manufacturing them to match other flatware as a part of their breakfast service.
So how is the egg (boiled perfectly for four minutes) and soldiers consumed? It requires certain deftness. It must be followed correctly otherwise one can end up with a crumble of broken egg shell. First, hold the egg cup along with the egg firmly. Using the side of a breakfast knife, tap the tip of the egg dome firmly but gently. Once it cracks slightly, use the fingers to lift off the top like the cap of a bottle. Scrape off the bit of egg white clinging to the shell and that is how you begin the tasting. The inside will reveal the cloudy soft boiled white with the pool of yellow beneath. Gently push the white aside to season liberally with salt and pepper. Next is to dip and swirl the bread soldiers in it and take a bite of that delicious soaked edge. The spoons, originally made of shell, bone or wood, must be small and slender with a slightly curved edge to help scoop up the egg. It is a simple but sumptuous morning treat.
People began to collect egg cups and the people who do that are called pocillovers. There are any number of egg cups available these days in different shapes. There are ones shaped like crowing cockerels, sitting hens, and other barn animals and cartoon characters. There are cups that are painted to resemble the English countryside, the Cornish seaside as well as several pre and post war depictions. There are those which come with a slot for a spoon. The sizes too vary. One can find big ones for turkey eggs or very tiny cups just perfect for quail eggs.
Boiled egg and soldiers have achieved gourmet status. From pesto and cheese infusions to asparagus and tofu dunking, the tastes have gotten rather sophisticated.
Michelin star chef Martin Blunos even made a replica of this boiled egg and soldiers in the form of a mango dessert complete with sponge fingers, vanilla bean powder and sugar to resemble toast complete with pepper and salt. Truly wonderful.
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