They’re the beating heart of a kitchen, the ideal bed partner for many ingredients, and breed endless possibilities for the curious cook. Yet eggs are strangely undervalued. With the launch of my book, EGG, in the U.S. it feels like the right time to give eggs the praise they deserve.
Eggs are magical things. These beautiful ovoid forms are one of the greatest gifts nature ever gave to the cook. No other ingredient can perform in such a complex way. They are simple and yet protean, indispensable but taken for granted, sometimes treated harshly and misunderstood, and yet continue to be the cornerstone of cookery.
Underneath the shell – that perfect vessel both to store and protect it – the egg gives us not one, but two ingredients: yolk and white. These parts can be separated and used either individually or together, both of which offer unique elements that perform in completely different ways. Yolks can emulsify to make thick, creamy sauces, while egg whites can be whipped into a foam and grow into great clouds. Whole eggs can be poached, fried, boiled, baked; or beaten together to give body and lightness to cakes.
Piedmont in northwest Italy is famous for some of the finest foods – white truffles, buttery pastas enriched with egg yolks, creamy sauces of Fontina cheese, and pedigree red wines such as Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. However, there is another important ingredient that plays a major role in Piedmontese cuisine, which is yet to find the fame outside of Italy of some of these other foods.
Fassone or Razza Piemontese is a breed of cattle used for centuries to provide meat, milk and labour. The pasture-grazing cows provide rich milk, which is used in the local cheeses – Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Tome, and until the introduction of tractors, these useful animals did much of the manual work too. But it is the meat that these cattle produce which sets them apart from other breeds.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good kitchen shop. I could happily spend hours browsing beautiful French casserole pots and handmade serving dishes or aspiring to a set of Japanese knives. Just as enjoyable is seeking out an unusual and extremely useful piece of equipment (a chinoise sieve or pastry scraper) and get the satisfying feeling of having found it.
“Before I liked sleeping and smoking. Now I like making focaccia” Charlotte, teenage Root Camper
We’ve all heard of ‘farm to fork’ eating but at Root Camp, a hands-on cookery course for 15-21 year olds, this is what the students really do. The idea was created by Cassia Kidron when she realised her teenage son and most of his friends, who would soon be leaving home, didn’t know how to cook.
But rather than just teaching teenagers how to feed themselves, Root Camp courses inspire the students to see the wider importance of food.
I don’t usually shop in the supermarket but I found myself in one last week, trying to buy some fruit in a hurry. Apples are my first choice at this time of year, and England has had a good season for them. Scanning the shelves, I struggled to find a single apple that had been grown in the UK.