I believe it was the celebrated food critic, the late AA Gill who said; “The single greatest invention of the twentieth century? Easy. There is no contest. Eggs Benedict.”
The simplest combination of a toasted English muffin topped with a tangy, creamy sauce with the slight give of a perfectly poached egg, all layered over salmon peeking pinkly out from underneath is something akin to heaven. And then that luxurious ooze of silky golden yolk as the knife bites gently into the egg, it’s molten glow cutting through the lemony acidity of the Hollandaise to rest gently in a small pool on your plate, waiting to be mopped up with a measured mouthful of salmon and muffin.
I’m pretty sure that by now you realise how Benedict-barmy I am…
Hollandaise is usually the component that gets most hot under the collar at the thought of homemade Eggs Benedict, but I’m happy to say that I’m living proof that its not as tricky as it sounds. My secret is consistency, and not falling for those “cheat” methods. After experiencing many flops, I can say with certainty that the old way is the best way.
That is, to whisk until one’s biceps burn and the kitchen air is blue with cursing. But the resulting sauce, a smooth pale gold in colour and carrying a subtle hint of acidity is entirely worth the effort. Below is my fail-safe recipe for perfect Hollandaise. Get that whisking arm ready!
Prep time: 3 mins / Cook time: 10 mins / Serves: 2
You will need:
- 3 large organic egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 50g of salted Lurpak butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of water
- pinch of salt
In a bain marie or double-boiler (glass bowl set just above simmering water), add the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Using a small whisk, beat the yolks and lemon together until they form a sabayon. This happens when the lemon juice emulsifies the egg yolks and they thicken and take on a lighter hue. To know when you’ve reached this point, the mixture should cling to the whisk and you should be able to see the bottom of the glass bowl when you drag your whisk through it. The mixture should still be amorphous but if it gets too thick, add a little more lemon juice and whisk.
Once you have reached your sabayon stage, add in your butter, a small amount at a time, and continue whisking until it has melted and combined into the egg yolks. Whisk in all the butter, adding the white vinegar – this gives the Hollandaise a lovely light colour and a tangy flavour. Remember to keep the water under your bain marie gently warmed but not boiling or simmering to ensure that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. If your sauce is getting too hot and clumping, simply remove from the heat and add a touch of water to dilute. The trick with Hollandaise is timing, but to keep the finished sauce fresh, remove from the heat and place a piece of clingfilm directly onto the top of the sauce to prevent it from forming a skin. To reheat, simply place back over the simmering water (I use the leftover water from the poaching pan – see below) and whisk until smooth and silky again.
Perfectly poached eggs
Prep time: 0 mins / Cook time: 3 mins / Serves: 2
You will need:
- 4 large organic eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
- 2 bagels or English muffins, halved and toasted
- 100g smoked salmon trout
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Meanwhile, set a small pot of water boiling and add a good glug of white spirit vinegar. Crack each egg into a small cup and when the water is boiling, stir to create a whirlpool then gently lower the eggs into the swirling water. Cook on medium to high heat for about 3 minutes for a runny yolk and remove from the water using a slotted spoon. This allows the egg to drain without losing its beautiful round shape. Butter the English muffins and top with a swirl of smoked salmon trout, making a small well in the middle for the poached egg to rest in. Slide the egg into the well and top with a generous dollop of that flawless Hollandaise and sprinkling of finely chopped chives.
Of course, the world is your egg when it comes to this dish, but remember to partner complementary flavours so as not to detract from the delicate nuances that are unique to Eggs Benedict. When salmon is out of the budget, a few slices of crispy bacon or Black Forest ham work just as well – so do spring onions, grilled mushrooms and roasted cherry tomatoes for a vegetarian version.