Eggs Florentine (Authentic)

Eggs Florentine (Traditional)

This recipe, like Eggs Benedict, is constantly being bastardised. Eggs Florentine, or more correctly, Oeufs poches florentine, is a creation of Auguste Escoffier, the father of modern French cuisine. It does not use hollandaise sauce, but bechamel sauce to coat the poached eggs. Escoffier did his Eggs Florentine as a sort of communal dish, containing up to 8 poached eggs. I think everybody nowadays would prefer their Eggs Florentine served in individual ramekins, or perhaps two poached eggs in cocotte dishes. The quantities here are Escoffier’s and, are very vague as all his receipts (yes, receipts) are.

250g spinach
6 – 8 poached eggs
Bechamel sauce
1 – 2 egg yolks
Grated cheese (I would use Gruyere or Parmesan)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (presumably)

Cook the spinach in boiling salted water and drain thoroughly. Chop and return to the pan with a little butter. Cook for a few minutes, then turn into a fireproof dish. (I think I would wilt the spinach in a little butter, drain off the water released by the spinach, then transfer the spinach to a fine sieve. Press down on the spinach to release as much water as possible, then divide the spinach among the individual ramekins or cocotte dishes.)

Preheat the griller to hot.

Arrange the eggs on top of the spinach. These can be eggs poached in advance and reheated just before using.

Add 1 or 2 egg yolks to the standard bechamel sauce to prevent it turning under the griller, then coat the reheated and well-drained eggs with the sauce.

Sprinkle with grated cheese, add a little melted butter and brown lightly under the griller before serving.

(You could add the cheese to the white sauce, stirring well to melt it, and then coat the eggs with what would now be a mornay sauce. Brown lightly under the griller before serving.)

Serves 3 – 4 in cocotte dishes, 6 – 8 in ramekins.

(Photo from

Goats cheese, parmesan, leek and thyme tart

I first made this tart (or quiche, though I have noticed that men don’t like eating quiches, though they don’t mind tarts!) for a ‘plein air’ day at my landscape painting class. It was a huge success, and I had to print out twelve copies of the recipe. It appears below exactly as I typed it. The cheese references are for the people who hadn’t a clue what goat’s cheese was and firmly believed that Parmesan was smelly grated cheese that came in a green shaker!

1 x savoury shortcrust pastry base, frozen then baked blind in a 25cm diameter x 3.5cm deep flan tin with a removable base or a pate brisee base.

6 medium sized leeks, well washed and finely sliced (white part only)
A little butter
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 round goats’ cheese (125g) *
150g good Parmesan cheese, grated **
A good handful of fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
6 – 7 eggs
1 ½ cups (375ml) pouring cream
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan until the butter sizzles. Reduce heat and add the finely sliced leeks. Stir so that they don’t catch and continue to cook until leeks are transparent and tender. Remove from heat and place in a colander or sieve to drain well.

Preheat the oven to 200C, or a little hotter.

Sprinkle about one third of the Parmesan cheese evenly onto the tart base, then add the leeks, making sure they cover the base, right to the edges. Add some of the thyme leaves.

Slice or crumble (depending its consistency  – see note below) the goats’ cheese and distribute it evenly, then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining thyme.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Break 6 of the eggs into a bowl and beat until an even consistency. Add a scant 1¼

cups of cream and beat together lightly. (Hold the remaining egg and cream until you know if you need them.) Add a little freshly grated nutmeg, then pour the mixture carefully into the tart, taking care not to overfill. If you don’t have enough egg/cream mixture, beat together the remaining egg and cream and add.

Place the tart tin onto a baking tray. (This will make it easier to remove without accidentally pushing the base of the tin up and so breaking the hot tart. It will also prevent any of the egg and cream mixture that might leak from ending up on the floor of your oven.)

Bake at 200C for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden colour or the quiche is set.

Soft poached eggs


“Good poached eggs are one of the joys of this life, but a properly poached egg is a rare thing. Even after thirty-something years of marriage, I cannot get used to eggs poached in an egg poacher. Nanya poached eggs to perfection, and the only other person I have known since to do this, was Peter Maloney. Not to mention the fact that eggs cooked this way do not leave that impossible-to-get-off albumen deposit on the egg poacher.”

I wrote the above about six years ago, and despite thinking I had the art of egg poaching down to a fine art, I still didn’t really. I have bought egg timers, experimented with eggs poached in cling wrap (!) and usually resorted to the good old egg poacher.

Yesterday, however, Dad returned from a trip to the Whitsundays fishing on South Pacific 11 with Ron Jenyns, Bobby Douglas and numerous other reprobates. Ron’s resident chef, Brett, served perfect soft poached eggs to at least twelve people for breakfast every morning. When everybody except Bobby and Dad went collecting those horrible black-lip oysters that grow in the Whitsundays, they cornered Brett and asked him to teach them to poach the perfect egg. This morning I was presented with two on toast. And they were perfect.   

Brett’s theory is that it is the vinegar that is added to the poaching water that sets the albumen (the white).  The problem with most people is that they simply don’t add enough vinegar so the white floats around in a most unappetizing fashion. He uses 1 part vinegar to 15 parts water. If you think that is a lot, he says that most restaurants use 1 part vinegar to 7 parts water. Use the cheapest vinegar you can buy. The one he uses in the one I use for cleaning windows.

Heat a large saucepan (forget the frying pan – you should have at least 10 cm of water to poach the eggs in. Work out just how much water you have used and do your sums. You’ll soon get used to using the right amount of vinegar.

Bring the water/vinegar to the boil. Break the eggs straight into the water (none of this ‘break it into a cup and slide it into the water first’!) The eggs will sink like stones so slide a spoon under each egg to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Then turn down the heat until the water is barely moving.

Once the eggs are in and not sticking, increase the heat to a gentle simmer. When they rise to the surface of the water, they are done and should be removed immediately to drain.

Note:  Eggs can be poached up to 24 hours in advance. Slip eggs into a bowl of iced water to cool quickly and not cook further.  Cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator. Reheat eggs by carefully lifting them from the water and sliding them into a pot of gently simmering water. Allow 1 minute to heat through, remove and drain well on absorbent paper.