THE restaurant opposite my gym has been distracting me for months with a poster of Eggs Benedict — the Hollandaise sauce melting over a beautifully soft poached egg, on a pink mattress (ham or smoked salmon?), which rests in turn on a freshly toasted muffin.
This dish is too much bother for breakfast, but ideal for lunch, with plenty of sauce for four people. But I don’t want the muffin; so I substitute a nest of chopped, buttered spinach for myself. And I don’t want three egg whites sitting in the fridge, accusing me of not making meringues; so I make my sauce with whole eggs: less rich, more protein. Here is the classic recipe.
4 slices of ham or smoked salmon
450g (1 lb) spinach (or 2 muffins), and a little butter
125g (4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 egg yolks
Things have to be prepared and kept warm; so, if you prefer spinach, cook that first, in the water on the leaves from washing it. Chop it, and put it back in the pan. Warm four plates. Then make the sauce. Reduce the vinegar by half by boiling it in a small saucepan. (You may like to infuse a bayleaf and a few peppercorns in it. If so, strain them out.) Add the yolks and a little seasoning, and whisk together. Turn down the heat, and add the chopped butter, melting it and whisking it in slowly. (If it starts to curdle, take it off the heat and add an ice-cube.)
Cover the pan to keep it warm. Poach the eggs. They should be set nicely. As they are setting to perfection, split the muffins and toast them. Butter them, or the spinach, and put on the warmed plates. Top with a slice of good ham or smoked salmon. Top that with one egg, and cover the egg with a quilt of sauce.
In my childhood, a peach was a luscious treat, available only rarely and for a short season; but now the best deals are supermarket punnets of sometimes rather flavourless peaches and nectarines. They make good fillings for a turnover, though: ideal for taking to the beach.
1 punnet of peaches or nectarines
3 tablespoons butter
85g (3 oz) sugar or a little less honey
450g (1 lb) puff pastry
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Skin the peaches by dropping them into a bowl of boiling water for up to a minute, and stone and slice them. Gently cook them in a frying pan with the butter and sugar or honey.
Roll out the pastry, and cut it into eight circles. (You could just cover a baking sheet with it, to make an open tart.) Place the peach filling on one half of each, and moisten the edge of each circle with a little water. Fold the pastry over, and crimp the edges firmly to seal them. Cut a cross in the top of each pasty, place them on a baking sheet, and bake till risen and golden. If you like, you can glaze the pasties with a little beaten egg or milk.