poached eggs

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 Delicious.co.uk)

Eggs benedict

The recipe for this dish originated in America, I think at the Waldorf Hotel, where it is served on so-called ‘English muffins’. They don’t resemble English muffins at all. I would use sourdough or perhaps ciabatta for this dish, sliced fairly thickly and grilled.

4 generous slices ham from the bone, fat removed
4 thick slices of sourdough bread
Olive oil
8 eggs (these can be poached in advance and reheated as they would be in a restaurant situation)
Hollandaise sauce (see Sauces)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Brush both sides of the sourdough slices with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes each side until crisp and golden.

In a buttered heavy-based frying pan, lightly fry the ham to heat it through.

Top each slice of sourdough with a generous quantity of warm ham, top the ham with 2 reheated and well-drained poached eggs. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs.

Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

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.