I just poached an egg. I just poached a proper grown up actual poached egg. Now let me tell you something about poached eggs: I can’t cook them. Let me tell you something else: I bloody love poached eggs, me. So much so, that I keep a little league table of bloody brilliant poached eggs. It looks like this:
1. Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, 18th May 2008.It was the second best poached egg I’ve had, taste wise, but it comes out on top because of the mise en scène: I was on honeymoon, it was on room service, there were orangutans just outside. That’s pretty good going, right?
2. Bedford Lodge Hotel, Newmarket, 10th April 2010.The morning after our friends Andy & Claire had got married, so a lovely occasion anyway, but with the added benefit of the best poached eggs I’ve ever tasted.3. My House, Birmingham, 23rd August 2010.Literally just a few minutes ago I made amazing poached eggs, that didn’t split all over the shop, they looked pretty and tasted amazing.You see what I mean? Poached eggs are very me. So why the hell couldn’t I cook them until tonight? Well look, at this point I could tell you how to poach an egg, and take you on a tour of egg poaching disasters. I don’t need to do that for it has been done (very well, actually) by Rob Manuel at b3ta. Instead it got me thinking about what sort of cook I am. I’m not bad at cooking all things told. Corrina always says I do all the fancy things, the big event things, and she’s probably right. That said I’m still, as a cook, the product of my environment, and the forces that have shaped that are my Mum’s kitchen, and the books I’ve collected. When I was a kid, we had a poaching pan. They make pretty nice eggs, but I’ve never bought one because using one feels a bit like cheating and because I’m too tight to buy a pan I can only use to cook one thing in. So I never learned how to poach an egg properly as a child. Now in our own home Corrina and I have built quite the collection of cookery books to expand our repertoire. If you’ve been in the market for cookery books over the past ten years, you’ll have the same collection: a handful of Jamie, a sprinkle of Gordon, a touch of Hugh, a dash of Nigel and a sprinkling of remaindered miscellany from the Works. The books we own, the books that we have chosen to build with upon the foundations of our mothers’ home cooking, are the reason I can’t poach an egg. These wonderful books, full of beautiful photography and dripping with middle-class aspiration and inspiration, are all about provence, flavours, combinations, and “real” food experiences. They tend to offer practical ideas and often speak to the need to eat “real” food, but in a way which fits into a busy lifestyle, or they reverse this into an idealism which speaks of slowness in food – cooking as a leisure pursuit, a few courses you can cook as you while away a weekend – cooking as “quality time”. They never seem to teach or speak of technique, in fact Jamie Oliver’s early “naked” style was all about a “bish-bash-bosh” swaggering cookery that was completely set against precision and technique (actually despite the marketing positioning of the series, some of the recipes in The Naked Chef do need some care, especially the baking recipes).A while ago Corrina really wanted to watch a movie called Julia and Juliet. I’ll be honest, I thought it looked pretty crap, but I watched it and I found it rather charming. It was also, if you can follow this the film of a book of a blog of a book, which is a bit daft, but professionally interesting for me. The latter book is Mastering The Art of French Cooking which we duly bought. It’s changed the way we cook because it’s technical – not difficult but technical. Tonight it taught me how to poach an egg without a poaching pan, and I feel like I’ve just taken my first step into a bigger world.