As most of my posts in the past year have been about fountains, you might be forgiven, if you are not aware that my main passion, also starts with fo… but then ends in ..od. I don’t have a favourite meal, I don’t have a favourite anything. I suspect this is because having moved countries and not being sure what was acceptable to local teens at any given point during my adolescence, it seemed safest to hedge bets and not admit to favourites, perhaps that is how it started, but now in fact I really don’t have any favourites. I do of course have dislikes (processed food, processed music, Muzak in shops) but my likes are as all-encompassing as the ocean is wide. Anyhow, today I am sharing with you a meal that has become a favourite of mine. The main reason I am sharing is because I don’t want to forget it. Often I will create something, jot it on a post-it, forget about it, lose the post-it, remember it vaguely and then be unable to recreate. So here, because I made this once, and then another two times, because it is absolutely delicious, like a hug on a plate, I want to remember, and perhaps you will be inspired to try it. You are looking at a poached egg (in clingfilm, don’t forget to oil the clingfilm), sitting upon a bed of pureed Romanesco, bathed in a saffron scented egg sauce and decorated with little florets of Romanesco and purple cauliflower. The dish is based on something I had at a local restaurant the Boeuf Noir in Alsace. My version contains romanesco and purple cauliflower as well as dill fronds and crunchy bacon bits. The original was based on romanesco, saffron frothy sauce and had some shrimp on there, it worked, but I like my version better.
Romanesco, it must be the worlds most attractive vegetable
Perhaps closely followed by purple cauliflower:
If you start thinking about the choice of vegetables that would be available if we had access to heirloom varieties and then you go to your local supermarket, you might be excused if you burst into tears. Think bananas, 95% of which in the US are Cavendish. Cauliflower: mostly white cauliflower, but you could also get purple and orange cauliflower. How about avocado, which for the most part will be a Haas avocado (for those of you based in Switzerland read comment below post on where to get avocados). Not the most tasty of the bunch. Or indeed mangos, very often you can only get Kent mangos from Florida, or the Thai mango when in season. Now I now, that the world has bigger problems than having access to 20 different types of mango, and that I might be coming across as being very elitist, however, think about it, if you are in a US supermarket you will find aisles and aisles full of pasta shapes by 40 different producers, aisles and aisles of processed foods full of ingredients you cannot pronounce, yet for vegetables, we are not spoiled for choice. And if you know that the veggies in our supermarkets are selected for their excellent qualities regarding transport stability etc. but not for taste, you will, like me make regular forays to the local farmers market, which hopefully will stock some other produce.
Ingredients for 2:
- Dill fronds
- Purple cauliflower – florets
- Romanesco 1 whole
- Eggs 4
- Butter 5 tablespoons unsalted best quality
- Saffron 1 teaspoon fronds
- 1/4 cup organic bio milk (it tastes different, it really does)
I have listed the steps in the order I would do them to maximise reuse of pots and pans and to save you most time.
- Clean the romanesco and the purple cauliflower
- Florets for decoration -I like to cut these off the veg before steaming, to avoid potentially crushing the florets when cutting off after steaming.
- Purple Cauliflower: cut about 10 florets off to use in the dish, reserve the rest of the cauliflower for some other use
- Romanesco: cut about 10 florets off to use for decoration in the dish
Steam the romanesco head and the florets – take the florets out while they are still al dente, but steam the romanesco until soft. I don’t time these steps, but I’d guess around 10 minutes for the florets plunge in ice water if you like to retain colour, although I didn’t., Set florets aside for later decoration. And around 25 minutes for the romanesco. I don’t like boiling vegetables I prefer to steam, so much better all round. Keep the liquid from the bottom of the steamer.
While vegetables are steaming prep the following:
Poached Egg (2): Prepare 2 eggs for poaching. Put clingfilm in a cup, oil, add an egg, twist at the top.
Saffron Egg Sauce (uses 2 eggs)
Grind the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle add some grains of salt to aid you. Separate 2 eggs into whites and yolks. Melt the butter (4 tablespoons) in a small saucepan, once off the heat, add the ground saffron. In the meantime whip the eggs whites. Then beat the egg yolks in another bowl. Add the melted, but not boiling butter, drop by drop to the egg yolks, whipping all the while, as you would to make mayonnaise. The eggs yolks should thicken. Once all the butter (4 tablespoons,unsalted) has been added, put the bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water (bain marie) with the bowl not touching the boiling water. Then slowly using your electric mixer whip in the whipped egg whites dollop by dollop. You need to get this heated through to stabilise the eggs whites and the mix, but obviously not to the point where the eggs curdle. N.B. If you are cooking for pregnant ladies, old individuals or immuno-compromised individuals or generally a very nervous individual, then, take note, the heating isn’t enough to incapacitate the bacteria in the eggs, and so this sauce won’t be ideal for you.
Set the sauce aside in the kitchen. It will happily sit there for about 5 minutes while you finish everything else.
Poach your eggs
Use the bain marie upon which you made your sauce to poach the eggs. Using your own method or the clingfilm method, or read here. Place eggs in clingfilm in boiling water for about 2 minutes in my experience (depends on size of the egg, how runny you like it etc. many website recommend 4 minutes, when I tried that my egg yolk was hard, which is a tragedy for this recipe).
Warm 1/2 cup of milk, ideally full fat organic, add to the romanesco with a nob of butter, puree until very smooth. You can add the water from the steamer too, if needed. Salt to taste. I don’t add pepper to this, I feel it is too harsh for the gentle romanesco.
Bacon bits: Organic bacon – I used some beautiful french smoked bacon. Cut into bits. Fry without oil. Set aside.
To plate up:
Pick a pretty plate, put the puree on the bottom, add the poached egg in the middle and then bathe with the saffron froth, you should have enough for two generous servings. Start your decoration with the purple cauliflower and green romanesco florets, sprinkle over the crunchy bacon bits and dill fronds.
How it makes you feel:
If you imagine silky romanesco, slightly saffrony, smooth and billow egg sauce with a hit of crunchy bacon the brightness of dill and a slick of runny poached egg yolk, all coming together on your tongue, that is what it makes you feel like. To me, it is a hug on a plate, and so perfect I could eat it more than once a week. Also it’s a relatively simple weeknight dinner. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t.
Don’t buy avocados in Basel if you can help it..
Post Blog:(of those of you in Basel, don’t buy avocados at COOP and Migros. I try it regularly, 95% of them are very blemished inside, when you get them home, there are brown threads running through them, but the they cost an arm and a leg. If you want good avocado buy them in France, or Germany, for some reason the quality is better, I don’t know why).