Back in March I blogged about cleaning out my Dad’s house in preparation for his down-sizing move (you can read that blog here if you missed it). That process is nearly complete now, with settlement for both his current house and the new house happening next week. We’re in the final stages of clearing out and packing. On Saturday, we helped sort through the kitchen and the linen closet, deciding which items he will be taking to the new (smaller!) house, and which will be given away. Unsurprisingly, Dad agreed that he didn’t need to keep 45 tablecloths and nearly 100 hand towels. He was a little harder to persuade about culling the kitchen gadgets, cookware and crockery, but we managed to whittle the collection down somewhat!
In the process I came across the egg cup plates we used as children. Instantly, warm, familiar memories came flooding back. Saturday nights, 3 little kids in our jammies, scrubbed and fresh from the bath, beautiful whole brown eggs tipped gently from the boiling water with a large spoon into your egg cup, Mum tapping the tops and carefully taking off the lids, a sprinkle of salt, scooping out the white from the top with a teaspoon, then that first wonderful plunge into the soft, oozy yolk with one of the strips of buttered toast we called props*, cleaning out the last of the white with your spoon, being extra careful not to crack the shell, then turning the empty shell over in the cup and drawing a funny face on it. The stuff childhood memories are made of!
I recently discovered that many of my North American friends are unfamiliar with the egg cup – indeed with soft boiled eggs in general – and I have to say, I was a little sad for them! In case that’s you, and you don’t know what you’re missing, here is ‘The Soft Boiled Egg: How to cook, serve and eat it’. (Click the image below to open the page in full view.)
Soft boiled eggs are a breakfast staple in the UK and Commonwealth nations. Experts disagree on the optimal method and cooking time for producing the perfect boiled egg. Mrs Beeton, the Victorian authority on all matters domestic, insisted they be boiled for no more than three and a quarter minutes. TV chef Delia Smith prompted some controversy by advocating leaving eggs in gently boiling water for six minutes. Chef Heston Blumenthal, after “relentless trials”, published a formula for “the perfect boiled egg” detailing how much water to use, how long to cook and how much time to rest the egg.
Soft-boiled eggs are commonly served in egg cups. The top of the egg is cut off with a knife, spoon, spring-loaded egg topper, or egg scissors. Other methods include breaking the eggshell by tapping gently around the top of the shell with a spoon. Soft-boiled eggs can be eaten with toast cut into strips, which are then dipped into the runny yolk. In the United Kingdom and Australia, these strips of toast are known as “soldiers”. A teaspoon is often used to scoop the cooked yolk and white out of the shell so it can be eaten.
“The usual time allotted for boiling eggs in the shell is three to 3.25 minutes: less time will not be sufficient to solidify the white, whereas longer will make the yolk less digestible. Great care should be employed in putting them into the water, to prevent cracking the shell.” Isabella Beeton, ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management’, 1861
*The usual name for toast fingers you dip in soft boiled eggs in Britain and Australia is “soldiers”. My family always called them props, which I believe is because my Great Grandfather worked in the bush as a wood cutter, cutting props for the coal mines. (Props are slabs of wood used to prop up the roof of the mine so it doesn’t cave in on the miners.)