Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Freshest Eggs in Town

The freshest eggs in town are also the cheapest, at £2.50 a dozen for large free range eggs.

They are available from the egg lady in Bracknell Market (under the old 3M building,open Fridays and Saturdays), who also has a line in cake decorations of all descriptions. To get on her good side, bring your own empty egg boxes.

The eggs' provenance is Bottle Lane, at the north west extreme of Bracknell. They come in large or extra large, which is lucky because a tip for successful cake baking is to always use large eggs.

A fresh egg can be identified by placing it unopened in a glass of water - if it lies horizontally it is fresh, if it stands in a vertical position it is greater than a week old, and if it floats, well, it's not in the first flush of youth. This is because the shell is porous - moisture will evaporate from the egg and an air pocket will form between the outer membrane of the egg and its shell.

Upon opening you will see that the yolk of a fresh egg stands proud, much of the white has a thick consistency and forms a raised circle on the plate, surrounded by a layer of more liquid white. As an egg ages, its yolk will be flat and there will be no distinct circle of white - the yolk will be lolling in a thin liquid.

The Bottle Lane eggs are the freshest I have seen - they haven't spent any time on the road or loitering in a supermarket warehouse - and their white is so thick that the thing practically stays egg shaped when you crack it into a bowl.

For this reason they are superb for poaching or frying - no need for cheaty chef's rings as the egg will retain a good shape in the pan. Scrambling and omelettes also benefit from a fresh egg. To improve your scrambled eggs, add more yolks than whites, say three yolks and two whites per person, and freeze the remaining whites for meringues.

When eggs are a week or so old they are good for hard boiling - the air between the shell and the egg's membrane makes them easier to peel.

Eggs old and young can be used for baking and quiches, however all eggs should be used before they are three weeks old. I don't refrigerate my eggs as many recipes require them at room temperature, and I'm just not organised and patient enough to wait.

Recipe: Spanish Omelette (Tortilla)

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