Soft Boiled Eggs

This morning it’s soft-boiled eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice and rough-hewn toasted baguette with salted butter and John Dennis’s excellent Romford honey.

Taking a cue from Hervé This’s fascinating book Molecular Gastronomy, I tried salting the water to flavour the egg whites. He debunks the myth that salted water prevents the eggs from cracking, saying that piercing the shell is the only viable method, but recommends salted water for flavouring. I didn’t find that it had enough effect to bother wasting the salt – particularly when a sprinkle of fresh salt on the cooked egg brings the flavour so marvelously to life.

I did find, however, that this method quoted from the London Daily Telegraph in The New Yorker of September 13, 2010, works a treat. This snippet appeared under the heading ‘There’ll Always be an England’.

‘Surely of more importance than the correct way to eat a boiled egg is the timing of the cooking in the first place. My own foolproof method involves placing the egg in a pan of cold water, bringing it to the boil and timing the cooking with a leisurely recitation of Henry V’s speech at the siege of Harfleur. If, upon reaching the line “Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!'” the egg is then plunged into cold water, the white will have set while the yolk remains delightfully runny.’

I can vouch for the efficacy of this method, and I will use it from now on. It’s a bracing way to start the day – to ‘Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,/Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit/To his full height.’

Here is the full text for any reader who would like to give it a try:

SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.

Alarum. Enter KING HENRY, EXETER, BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders

KING HENRY V

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off

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About timwaterman

I am a landscape architect, urbanist, writer, and lecturer based in London.

One response to “Soft Boiled Eggs”

  1. Msr. Le Eldrich says :

    Oh dear. Burned by egg. Forgot the text in the middle. *sigh*

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