I like to think I can turn my hand to most basic cooking techniques after a few minutes research. I learn quickly and most techniques tend to work as described. But there’s one that has always failed me every single time I’ve tried it. Not just me either. This supposedly simple cooking method has ended in wails of frustration and an empty stomach for millions of us. Of course the technique in question is poaching an egg.
It’s gently cooking an egg in water. How hard can it be!? Yet every time I’ve tried it in the past I end up with an unpleasant pan full of eggy soup. Bits of cooked white floating all over the place while a single ball of yolk hides in a corner, doing its own thing. Even more frustrating is the fact that those people who have master this technique appear to be able to turn then out at will. Their number includes my brother. Frankly that was the final straw. I had to get back on the horse.
I bought a box of eggs and decided that as it was the start of asparagus season that would be along for the ride with my perfectly poached protein (thinking positive!). This leads on to a slight digression so bear with me. Tesco have a huge section in their veg aisle dedicated to asparagus. It’s being pushed hard and I assume that’s because it’s asparagus season here and everyone now wants to buy and eat some excellent British asparagus. So why are Tesco’s (or at least Tesco’s in Banchory) only stocking asparagus from Peru and Italy? They did exactly the same last year so it’s not a one-off or a short term supply issue. I can only assume that it’s cheaper to buy in the Peruvian spears and they’re banking on the average punter seeing them at the front of the aisle and thinking “Oh asparagus. In May. It must be British” and buying it without checking. After all, the press each year is full of articles telling us how great our asparagus is so that must be what Tesco are selling. Shoddy.
But let’s get back to the poaching. The general consensus from my brother Dave to the Guardian’s Felicity Cloake is that salted water with a bit of vinegar and a whirlpool action is the way to go. I’m nervous as that’s the method I’ve always tried and failed with before. But I was reassured by seeing it in action on Saturday Kitchen the other week (I seem to only read cooking websites or watch cooking programs).
I got everything ready. I boiled the water, added some salt and a drop of vinegar then cooked the asparagus so it was ready to serve and I didn’t have to worry about it at the same time as I was stressing over the egg. I cracked an egg into a ramekin and while the water was boiling I stirred it frantically with a whisk to get the precious whirlpool effect. With a feeling of great dread I slipped the egg into the water and turned the water down to a simmer. Start the stopwatch. 3 minutes.
It only bloody worked first time!
After 3 minutes I fished out the egg, placed it on a kitchen towel to dry then plated it up with the asparagus. It looked sexy as hell. I took some photos.
I should have stopped there.
Buoyed by success and foolishly over-confident I pushed my luck and poached a second one. This time it was less successful. I suspect the water didn’t start at a high enough temperature. You can see the result in the pics below. It looks like the yolk and the white parted ways when they hit the water leaving me with a nicely cooked white and a bizarre yolk football floating around on its own. It was cooked fine and when I opened up the yolk lots of lovely yellow goo leaked out but it wasn’t quite right.
8 asparagus spears, trimmed
2 large free range eggs (very fresh)
White wine vinegar (or other white vinegar)
Cook the asparagus in salted, boiling water for 4 minutes until tender.
Drain and add a small knob of butter to the asparagus.
Stir the asparagus around the pot to coat in the melting butter.
Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and a small dash of vinegar.
Crack one egg into a small ramekin.
Using a balloon whisk stir the water quickly to create a whirlpool.
Gently slide the egg into the water and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Cook for 3 minutes.
Fish out the egg with a slotted spoon and leave on kitchen paper to dry.
Bring the water to a boil again and repeat for the second egg.
Serve on top of the asparagus with some pepper and a little dijonnaise or hollandaise sauce.