All other ways of eating eggs are fine I’m sure, some of them are even quite nice, but tackling a perfectly poached egg with vibrant orange, runny yolk oozing out and mingling with the unctuous sauce, flowing like exquisite lava over the toast and on to the plate when you cut into it, is a small moment of bliss in this world.
Eggs Benedict is famously done with ham (glorious, microwave your ham slice for 10 seconds, on a plate, under cling-film), Florentine with spinach (can be a triumph or a shambles depending on execution – get all the excess water out of that spinach, squeeze and squeeze, please), Albermarle with smoked salmon (not a success in my mind, too much oil and richness, blinging the lily) and you can probably guess the guest in eggs Marmitine.
Anyone raised in Britain will know Marmite, the legendarily loved or loathed yeast spread. Famous on toast, bagels, and in grilled cheese, but it is also a triumph with a poached egg. This isn’t really a recipe, more of a little assembly line. Steps 1 to 3 have to happen more or less simultaneously:
1. Toast your toast, muffins are classic, soda bread wonderful, and any other good bread is just dandy.
2. Poach your egg. Deep, shallow, swirl, don’t swirl, vinegar, don’t vinegar, do whatever makes you happy, if you believe it works, go with it. Just don’t over-cook it, and get it dry – pop it on kitchen towel after picking it out of the water with a slotted spoon. (For the record, I’m a deep, vinegar free, swirling, fairly vigorous boiler, then immediately off the heat whilst I try not to stuff up the hollandaise type person.)
3. Deal with your hollandaise. If you are happy to do so, make it, using the recipe from a good classic cookery book. (Larousse Gastronomique is my tome of choice, but whatever you have to hand, on paper or online will probably be fine.) Just do not attempt a diet version. If you need / choose to be careful in such matters, eat less, less often. Bliss less often is still bliss.
Personally I cheat most of the time. A really good brand (I use Crustarmor) of hollandaise sauce in a jar is no shame, and thoroughly enjoyable. Just make sure there’s some tartness in there, not just bland gloop.
If you have made your hollandaise, you will have it keeping warm on the hob in its double boiler, with the heat off. If you have gone the way of the jar, you will need to spoon the required quantity into a small pan, and warm it through, gently.
4. Spread Marmite on your toast. Butter is not needed. You have egg and hollandaise, trust me this is enough. I like a thick layer of the XO (Extra Old) variety of Marmite. (Aren’t their marketing people brilliant? I think their greatest moment was the Jubilee issue Ma’amite with Union Jack. I still have a jar on the shelf in the kitchen, that no-one may open on pain of having to endure a whopping great big shouty tantrum from me.)
5. Put the really well drained poached egg on top of the toast.
6. Pour the hollandaise sauce over the egg.
7. Sit down with your meal at a table, with a knife and fork, because this meal deserves it, and savour the perfection that is eggs Marmatine.
8. When you have finished, pick up the plate and lick it. This is best done when your children aren’t looking or you will have to revoke your own TV privileges for being bad-mannered at table. It’s worth it though.