Poached eggs are my favourite. If they’re on the menu when I’m out for breakfast or brunch I’ll order them. Every single time. For me, a perfectly poached egg is lovely and rounded, with a soft, firm white, and a deliciously runny yolk. No stringy tendrils, and definitely not waterlogged. I feel a deep sense of disappointment if the offering on the plate is different to my anticipation. I often make poached eggs at home, but to my dismay I can be a bit hit and miss with my results.
There seem to be a lot of ways to tackle the humble poached egg; for such a simple dish everyone seems to have their own theory. Not so long ago the Sydney Morning Herald devoted an entire article to the art of poaching an egg, road testing a number of popular methods; the whirlpool, the silicon egg poacher, oiled gladwrap, vinegar, lemon, salt…the list went on and on. The only constants appeared to be hot water and eggs. This week, however, I was lucky enough to learn the real secret to perfectly poached eggs is nothing more than FRESH eggs.
It’s school holidays. My son is visiting a school friend near Young in country NSW, not too far from family in Canberra. The perfect excuse for a road trip. The girls and I stop by to say hello and collect him. As everyone knows there is nothing better than good old-fashioned country hospitality. Breakfast in the morning is poached eggs; freshly laid by Pat and Gill’s chooks and cooked by Annabel. Absolutely perfect and simply delicious! What made these eggs even more special is Pat and Gill’s chooks are only about six or seven weeks old and these were the first eggs laid on the property, ever! Those were the best poached eggs I have ever tasted and here are the chooks who laid them. It was a privilege girls.
If you have a fresh egg, poaching it is childs play – the egg white is so firm that it just drops into the water and starts cooking without any fuss. It probably doesn’t even need the dash of vinegar that is traditionally used to set the white. That got me thinking, the problem with supermarket eggs is that you have no idea how long they have been kept in cold storage before you buy them. Even “fresh” eggs bought that day from the supermarket might be weeks old already, and quite frankly that renders them almost useless for poaching.
So the secret to perfectly poached eggs is to grow your own, or get them at the market direct from the producer. From now on if the freshness of the egg is in doubt I’m not even going to bother poaching them – after all there’s always the option of boiled, scrambled or fried.
Annabel’s Perfectly Poached Egg
1 large fresh egg, preferably organic
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
generous pinch of salt
Half fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of white vinegar
Crack the egg onto a small saucer
Stir the boiling water vigorously with a spoon until you have a whirlpool then slide the egg carefully into its centre.
Turn the heat down low, and cook for three minutes – use a timer to prevent overcooking.
Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately