Playing favourites can be a strange and confusing game. Ask me what my favourite way to do potatoes, and that's fairly easy. "Mash. No, Dauphinoise. No, wait, definitely mash. If I could marry a food, it would be mash". But ask me, for instance, what my favourite vegetable is and it gets tricky. " Spinach. No, broccoli. No, wait, mushrooms. Mushrooms were my first love. Or was that Brussel Sprouts? ALL THE VEGETABLES." Meat follows the same path. "Beef. Lamb. Pork. Too hard. TOO HARD".
Eggs I find similarly tricky.
That rare beast, perfectly cooked scrambled eggs. Silky, plumptuous, buttery. Poached eggs. As I am missing the poached egg gene (Andy has it and can poach an egg perfectly, much to my annoyance slash delight) so appreciate a poached egg so much. Omelettes. The fried egg, an absolute necessity on a bacon butty. Crisp around the edges, yielding and dripping within. Spicy Huevos Rancheros. I think I would refuse to choose. Eggs are very much a mood food, and if you can find the perfect egg to suit your mood, you are in ovoid heaven.
I do, however, have a particular affinity with coddled eggs and its sister dish, baked eggs. Same results, different methods - both cooked in vessels, in a water bath, one on the hob, the other in the oven. My kitchen didn't feel complete (who am I kidding? It still doesn't. Never will) until I had an egg coddler, spotted in one of the antique shops on Tinakori Road and clutched in my mitts. Today I wanted something luxurious and creamy, and so turned to the delights of the baked egg. Both coddled and baked are incredibly versatile dishes - try mixing up the herbs used, add some chilli, use different cheese or other protein (ham and smoked salmon work particularly well), add your favourite veg, if you can decide what that is.
2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon Emmental, grated
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f
Season the cream with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Be generous. Put one tablespoon in the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle over half the tarragon.
Break the egg on top. Pour over the remaining cream, remaining tarragon and cheese.
Put the dish inside a larger oven-proof dish. Pour lukewarm water in the larger dish to come half way up the side of the small dish.
Bake for 15 minutes. This will give you a runny yolk, so bake for longer if you prefer.