One week, two disappointing brunches and something about meringues

I was extremely excited about making my hollandaise Sunday brunch, not least because I’d already had one rather disappointing eggs benedict earlier in the week, and desperately wanted to make up for it.
Nigella’s recipe calls for three egg yolks, 200g unsalted butter and the juice of half a lemon.

This is not a complex or extensive list of ingredients, but for some reason I completely blanked out on picking up any butter while I was out shopping.

Luckily, we had some spreadable in the fridge and after flicking away a few rogue breadcrumbs I managed to scrape together enough to make a reasonable substitute.

The first job was to separate the eggs, then I whisked the yolks in a bowl over a pan of boiling water – a rickety set up that left me in desperately searching Amazon for a bain-marie.

My spreadable substitute butter was much too soft to fashion it into the 1cm cubes specified in the recipe. I added the butter bit by bit and I whisked my Sunday morning away.

Adding 200g of butter in small amounts is a slow process. It’s the type of thing that would normally frustrate the hell out of me, but for some reason I actually found it quite relaxing.

There were times when the water was boiling much too viciously, even on the lowest heat, so I turned it off for fear of accidentally having a bowl full of scrambled eggs.

If the hollandaise was too hot, the whole thing could curdle so, following Nigella’s advice, I kept a couple of ice cubes on hand in case of sudden separation.

Thankfully, no curdle occurred (occurredled?!) in the making of this hollandaise.

With the sauce done, I flapped about the kitchen grilling bacon and toasting muffins and generally panicking about getting everything else cooked before the sauce went cold (there’s a pattern emerging here).

And then I had to poach the eggs.

Remember when I started this blog and was all ‘of course I know how to boil an egg’? Well, the truth is, I do know how to boil an egg, but I sure as hell don’t know how to successfully poach one.

I’ve had very little success with poaching eggs the old-fashioned way – i.e. plopping the egg into boiling water – which is why I’ve resigned myself to using silicone poach pods. Even so, I still seem to end up with either runny, uncooked eggs or solid, jelly-mounded eggs.

But it was too late to fret about it. Extremely firm poached eggs would have to do.

There was some deliberation over the order of structure, but in the end I simply piled high and finished with a big dollop of hollandaise.

It looked fairly realistic, but sadly my efforts did not pay off (and I can’t even blame it on using the wrong type of butter). There was too much lemon in the sauce, which meant my eggs benedict was a bit like eating bacon and eggs and the filling of a lemon meringue pie.

On reflection, I’m wondering if perhaps the hollandaise for eggs benedict requires a slightly adapted recipe? The hollandaise I ended up making would have been, I’m guessing, ideal to serve with asparagus – which is what is suggested in HtE.

I feel like it was some sort of kitchen karma for being so triumphant about the fact I didn’t curdle the sauce.

I’m determined to give eggs benedict another shot at some point, perhaps when I’ve actually bought the right butter, and I’ve learned how to poach eggs… properly.

In a rather unexpected move, I ended up flicking the pages to make meringues using the leftover egg whites. My mum is masterful in the art of meringues and makes a mean pavlova.

So I whacked the the egg whites into the bowl, tossed in 100g caster sugar and whisked using my mum’s old Kenwood Chefette electric handwhisk until I had stiff meringuey peaks. Then added the rest of the sugar and stirred with a metal spoon.

I opted to make little meringues, which would have been a wise choice if I’d had a piping bag to sculpt them with, but I didn’t, so just had to make do with unartistic tablespoons of the mixture on my baking trays.

Did I also mention I didn’t have any baking parchment? If this whole cooking my way through a cookbook has taught me anything, three recipes in, it’s that I am continually unprepared. That, or I’m really good at improvising.

My misshapen meringues sat in the oven for just over an hour. They looked a lot like sugary white cow pats, but that didn’t matter because I smashed them up and ate them with vanilla ice cream and raspberries – Eton Mess (ish) style.

So, my unexpected meringues turned out to be an unexpected success and my much anticipated eggs benedict was really quite horrible.


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