Oeufs Pochés à la Florentine

Today I faced off with the holy trinity of classical French cuisine—butter, cream, eggs. Rich, heavy and not exactly healthy. What have I got to worry about? Colesterol? Tish. The blood's just been flying through my arteries lately. It was an 8am demo and what better way to start the day than with breakfast. So I thought. Then came the eggs. A lot of eggs—served 6 ways: soft boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, coddled and made into an omelette.

A demo kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu, London

For Oeuf à la Coque there’s a big difference between 4 and 5 minutes. The white coagulates between 60 and 65 C and the cold between 65 and 70 C. At 4 minutes the white closest to the yolk has not cooked. This is useful if you want, say, a runny yolk in your scotch egg. For a plain old soft boiled egg go with 5 minutes.

Oeufs au Plat. The French fry eggs in what’s called an eared dish lined with butter. The dish is placed directly on the plancha. Works a treat but I’ll stick with the frying pan and oil at home.

Poached eggs are my favourite but I struggle to produce them consistently. I’ve tried many tricks over the years with varying degrees of failure. After today I know there’s really no secret. Put vinegar in the water. No news there. Don’t put salt in. But put a lot of vinegar in. Bring it to the boil and stir a vortex. That old trick! Yep. But critically the egg must be tipped quickly and confidently into the centre from a ramekin. It’s a quick twist of the wrist. Turn the water down to a few bubbles and leave for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The 20 seconds make a difference so don’t skimp.

I did coddled eggs not long ago and they were rubbish. The recipe said to cook them in the oven. Chef cooked Oeufs en Cocotte in a Bain Marie and only added the reduced double cream towards the end. I must have another go at these.

When it comes to scrambled eggs I have this fond memory of Andorra. When I learned to snowboard some 20 years ago, we stayed in a posh hotel and the Oeufs Brouillés for breakfast were fantastic. Never since have I tasted such scrambled eggs. Until today. The secret? Butter and double cream of course. Enough to fell a horse. If that wasn’t enough, chef served it with bread fried in clarified butter.

Chef chuckled every time he added copious amounts of butter or double cream or both, as if to say, “what do you expect—it’s French”.

Fried eggs French-style

Scrambled eggs

Coddled eggs

We had to prepare and serve 2 egg dishes. Oeufs Pochés à la Florentine, which is a poached egg on blanched spinach and encased in gratinated Sauce Mornay. Then Omelette Roulées or rolled omelettes served baveuse. Baveuse is a cooking term meaning just a bit runny or undercooked. Apparently it comes from the verb baver meaning to drool or slobber, which is quite fitting given the ever-so-slightly-undercooked gloop actually looks a bit like slobber.

Poached egg on spinach in Mornay sauce

Rolled omelette cooked baveuse

Chef advised me to trim my beard or start wearing a face net. Knew that was coming.