I always have eggs in the fridge. If you’ve got eggs you’ve got an instant meal. Now I only used to like my eggs scrambled or in omelettes/frittatas/tortillas – egg grand tours! I didn’t eat them boiled, poached, coddled or fried.
I did, however, love omelettes and, if I was on my own, would often rustle one up for breakfast or lunch after my morning ride with whatever was lurking in the fridge: cheese and ham, mushrooms, grilled vegetables, herbs. I was very particular about my omelettes, I liked them baveuse, that is golden, pillowy and still soft in the middle. I’m deliberately using the past tense here as I can no longer eat eggs but I still use them to conjure up a meal or a feast for friends and my beloved.
It’s amazing how few people know how to properly cook an omelette, I’ve been served some horrors over the years, even in France. However, if it wasn’t done to my liking, I was unafraid to send it back and offer to show the ‘cook’ how to properly prepare one.
1. Mix room temperature eggs in a bowl with a fork. Do not whisk – you don’t need to add air, just break the eggs and then season. Do not under any circumstances add water, milk or cream!
2. Heat a small non-stick or cast-iron frying pan (skillet) over a high flame, add the butter and when it melts swirl to coat the whole pan and sides. When the foam begins to subside, pour in the eggs. They should sizzle.
3. Shake the pan to distribute the eggs evenly, then leave for 20 seconds until they begin to bubble at the edges. Now add the filling. Don’t add too much, just a handful is enough.
4. Using a spatula, draw the sides of the eggs into the centre of the pan while shaking the pan to redistribute the liquid to the edges. Keep doing this so that you form layers of soft pillowy omelette. IMHO it’s ready when it’s still slightly runny in the middle and there’s no colour on the underside.
5. Take the pan off the heat and, using the spatula, fold two edges into the middle. Shake the pan so they roll together, then tilt it and turn your omelette on to a warm plate. You’re aiming for a fluffy, neat looking but gently oozing parcel. Devour straight away!
If I’m cooking for more than one, it’s often easier to make an open omelette: an Italian frittata which has a rather more substantial filling and topping. Here I have used baby courgettes (zucchini) and their flowers, basil and a handful (½ cup) of freshly grated parmesan cheese which I sprinkled on the top before popping it into the oven.
1. Prepare as per above, using two large organic eggs per person and cook in an oven-proof frying pan (skillet) to stage three above. Now add your rather more substantial filling, a sprinkling of herbs and a dusting of cheese.
2. Then pop the pan into a pre-heated oven 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan) for around 20 minutes – just enough time to shower and change after a ride – until it’s puffed up, golden and bubbling on top.
3. Remove from the oven – the frittata will subside – and allow to cool slightly before serving with salad and crusty bread. This one made with four large organic eggs serves two hungry cyclists as a main meal or four as a starter.
1. Alternatively if I’m serving it for breakfast, or as pre-dinner nibbles, I might just make a Spanish tortilla, which is much thicker, easier to cut into wedges and is cooked on top of the stove. The small one pictured below served four hungry cyclists as a starter and was made as above but with slices of cooked potato and fat coins of spicy chorizo sausage.
2. Here you cook the more substantial filling first and then add the eggs ensuring that the mixture comes up to the top of the pan. Cook on a medium heat and after 1-2 minutes, when the mixture looks to be setting on the bottom, put a plate over the top of the pan and (quickly and smoothly) invert the tortilla onto the plate: with the top side cooked and the bottom side uncooked.
3. Slide the tortilla back into the pan so that the uncooked side is now on the bottom. Cook for another minute or so and then slide back onto the plate. Allow it to cool for a few minutes. It will continue to cook so that it’s firm all the way through.
1. It’s all about the eggs so do use large fresh organic ones, you really can taste the difference.
2. Be creative with your fillings and toppings. Use whatever you find lying around in the fridge which you know goes well together.
3. Don’t be afraid to experiment. One of my favourite breakfast omelettes is plain but with a teaspoonful of runny organic honey which I mix into the eggs. Try it, it’s delicious.
4. Frittatas and tortillas can both be eaten at room temperature or cold and will happily sit in the fridge for a day or two.
5. All three make excellent sandwich fillings, either hot or cold.