At the Malmaison hotel in Cheltenham I discover the secret to perfect creamy scrambled eggs in my continuing quest for comfort foods.
I’ve only recently come to like scrambled eggs. I suppose a childhood experience with something that resembled cat sick, made from a disgusting yellow powder and inflicted on me at one of the several boarding schools my parents sent me to, would be the reason. I don’t remember which school it was, but it must have been an early prep school, for rationing was still in force during my sub-teen years. In any event, boiled eggs were safer and more enjoyable and that’s what I stuck to as long as I had a choice. My grandfather, who was more like a dad to me, since my own was away suffering as a prisoner of war, loved a soft boiled egg, with the top carefully cut off with a knife, and ‘soldiers’ of buttered toast to dunk into the yolk. He would sit me in his lap and share an egg, hard to come by in wartime Britain.
By the time I went to my last boarding school I had graduated to fried eggs, great greasy platters of them presented at a side table from which we could help ourselves, with fried bread and enough fat to guarantee an outbreak of spots on a teenage boy’s face. At Oundle School, I learned to cut the grease with marmalade — I’d heard it was the way Americans ate their fried eggs—and never suffered as much as a pimple. By the way, in all the many times I’ve visited the US, I’ve never once seen anyone put marmalade on their eggs, so I must have been misinformed by a mischievous friend.
I was thinking about Oundle recently, although it’s been more that 60 years since I left to spend my gap year in Kenya, which shortly led to a career as a writer, and university being skipped over in the face of the joy of having a pay packet in my hand. I’ve kept in touch with a few old school chums through our old boys’ group, which brings us together for reunions from time to time. In Canada there are a few dozen of us who gather once in a while for a friendly dinner, sometimes graced by the current Head of the school. We talk about the good old days, and absent friends, and more recently have been chatting about those of us who have departed.
It was the occasion of one of these sad memorials, that brought me in touch with more old school friends. Though many had changed beyond recognition in the intervening years, some were quite recognisable; some names completely forgotten, others instantly recalled; some nicknames or embarrassing incidents remembered with laughter at our younger, innocent selves. It was during this event in the glorious Wren Chapel at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, where the iconic red-coated Chelsea Pensioners reside and afterwards in the State Apartments, where wine and whisky loosened our tongues, that the idea of another reunion came to a few of us.
How is it when you attend high school reunions, one never knows anyone, or doesn’t recall their names or faces? But if we were to select a group, who had been boys together over a specific time, then surely most of us would know at least half the people. It was on this basis that we had the idea of limiting our reunion group to a short span of years. Furthermore, we decided that those we knew best were the ones we slept, ate and studied with; the ones from our own House. Now, a few weeks later, our reunion is coming together with several dozen old boys contacted and many responding enthusiastically. It will be grand to see all those faces from the past next 6 May when we gather at Oundle School in Northamptonshire, England, for afternoon tea, dinner and fun. I shall attempt to ensure that eggs are not on the menu.
In any event, years pass by and finally I am able to face, but not really enjoy, scrambled eggs. On my recent trip to the UK, we stayed at the boutique Malmaison Cheltenham Hotel. My beloved Diane usually has scrambled eggs with smoked salmon when travelling. I plump for the ‘full English.’ But at Malmaison, she has eggs so deliciously creamy, I take a forkful (at her invitation, of course) and they are simply wonderful. The next morning, I order them for myself and am delighted. I ask the chef for his secret and I share the simple recipe with you below.
CREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS
- Two eggs per person
- 1 TBSP pourable cream per person (in UK double cream, in North American 35 per cent whipping cream)
- Salt and pepper
Preparation and cooking
- Make sure the eggs are at room temperature and very fresh for best results. If possible choose, free-range eggs, which are less cruel to the hens and much better tasting. Brown eggs, with almost orange yolks, make a more colourful dish. Break two eggs for each person into a bowl, beat until the yolks and whites are blended. Add 1 TBSP heavy, pourable cream per person and gently stir into the mixture. Season with a pinch of salt. That’s it. No butter. No milk.
- Make the toast and get out any accompaniments, such as smoked salmon, capers, or grilled halved tomatoes. Some might prefer tomato ketchup or a tomato salsa on the side. (Best not to be a snob about the ketchup.)
- Put a saucepan lined with a non-stick finish onto medium heat and pour in the mixture. Stir gently to prevent it sticking or drying out on the bottom. When the eggs form large soft curds, it is time to serve. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
- Plate on or beside the toast, depending on preference, grind on some black pepper, and serve at once.
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Categories: FOOD FOR THOUGHT