My mother was an excellent cook and cookery teacher. So naturally I resisted any attempt to learn from her myself. I managed to get through my twenties thanks mostly to restaurants and toast. And when I hit my thirties I began to sense that my mother was becoming concerned about more than just my lack of culinary skills. She found a suitable man, and although I resisted that (him?) too, I slowly and reluctantly discovered that, in fact, her judgement might have been spot on. One attraction of my new beau was that he was an excellent cook too. All was going swimmingly until the day when he declared, “it’s your turn to cook”. At such pivotal moments, all thought of independence flies through the window, and a girl turns to her mother. My mother’s voice directed operations over the telephone, and the following recipe is what she told me to do.
Of course, on that occasion I was cooking the scrambled eggs for dinner, however James Bond preferred them in the morning:
“Room service? I’d like to order breakfast. Half a pint of orange juice, three eggs, lightly scrambled, with bacon, a double portion of café espresso, with cream. Toast. Marmalade. Got it?”
Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die
Couldn’t have put it better myself, hope they also remembered to bring the newspapers. I know that some people add a tablespoon of cream, or crème fraiche, per three eggs after taking the dish off the heat. This makes the scrambled eggs lighter…but they don’t have quite the same richness – it’s also a bit of a waste if you are using Burford Browns. Neither my mother, nor Ian Fleming * do this. The best way to make scrambled eggs is just with butter – and the technically correct term for them is ‘buttered eggs’ and they are also known as ‘rumbled eggs’. In my quest to find lazy ways of doing things I have experimented with trying to microwave scrambled eggs. Take it from me, by the time you have scraped the exploded egg off everywhere it is NOT quicker. And anyway, it is somehow soulless – the traditional way does not take long, and you are in total control.
I think a little truffle oil and some chopped chives might be good additions. Alternatively you can spread the toast with anchovy paste (aka Patum Peperium or Gentleman’s Relish) in which case go easy on adding salt to the eggs and use unsalted butter on the toast. Scrambled eggs also goes wonderfully with Irish wholemeal soda bread.
NB: It is very easy to overcook scrambled eggs. TAKE THEM OFF THE HEAT WELL BEFORE THEY LOOK COOKED.
Recipe for the best ever scrambled eggs
2 knobs (about 20g/2 tbsp/one-fifth of a pack of butter – about the size of a walnut for each egg). Have more available in case it’s needed for the eggs, and you’ll also need it for the toast
- 5 eggs – Burford Browns for choice. They have a rich flavour and the yolks are a deep orangey-sunset colour
- salt and pepper (Indonesian long pepper is wonderful)
- wholemeal toast
- some good streaky bacon if you aren’t vegetarian
- put two plates in to warm, fry the bacon, get the toast going
- melt about three-quarters of the butter in the bottom of a non-stick saucepan over a lowish heat
- beat the eggs**
- add the salt and pepper
- butter the toast and keep it warm (I put mine on the warming plate of the aga)
- add the beaten eggs to the pan and KEEP STIRRING – do not allow the eggs to start sticking to the bottom of the saucepan
- when the eggs start to form into large flakes, remove from the heat, add a knob more butter, keep stirring like mad
- serve on buttered toast, with the bacon
Adaptations are to add in:
- some smoked haddock
- some smoked eel
- some Boursin, or ordinary cream cheese, both mixed with a little cream
- at Le Pain Quotidian they serve their scrambled eggs with crispy pancetta
*Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities
**according to Dorothy Hartley, in her Food in England written in the early ’50s, there are two schools of thought on whether to beat the eggs first. Some people break the eggs directly into the saucepan so that particles of clear white and clear yellow remain in the creamy mass.
Where to get scrambled eggs cooked for you…. and where not to
I recently went on a train journey from London to Lyons. Somewhat to my surprise the scrambled eggs at the beginning of the trip weren’t up to much…. whilst the French scrambled eggs were to die for. An article by Nicholas Lander in the FT recommended Granger & Son, just in front of St Pancras Station. “Granger’s restaurants” he wrote “cook an extraordinary 2.8m eggs annually (for the best scrambled eggs, he advises, add cream and cook over a high heat in a non-stick pan)”. But I’m afraid I found them concrete (see photo to the side) – they should be runny like the featured image above.
By contrast at the Cour des Loges they were as perfect as they could be.
“For instance, if you ask an experienced cook what dish is foolproof, scrambled eggs is often the answer. But the way toward perfect scrambled eggs is full of lumps. It is no easy thing to make perfect scrambled eggs, although almost anyone can turn out fairly decent ones, and with a little work, really disgusting ones can be provided.”
Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin