Something always went wrong. It was like the red thread running through all their different cooking adventures; was the one rule that seemed to be followed whenever Charlotte and Louis Eggleton stepped into the kitchen together. And this time was no different. They had only just started to prepare the dough for their English Muffin – the base to the Eggs Benedict they wanted to make – when Louis discovered the absence of one essential ingredient: “What do you mean you don’t have yeast?”, the way he said it, one could almost believe he had just discovered a federal offense.
“I just don’t bake very often, I guess”, Barley sounded truly apologetic, his voice signaling that he, too, had realized how unexcusable this shortcoming was. Later he would refer to the whole ordeal as yeast-gate, a term always followed by his trademark laugh: “Hold on, though, I have something else you could use!”
“Instead of yeast?”
“No, for the bun … or whatever it is you need”, he rummaged through his kitchen cabinets for a while, finally withdrawing a pack of bread rolls: “Now, these are special, okay”, he held up his hands in response to the sceptical look Louis was giving him. As a chef he was an advocate for using self made ingredients only.
“This is a roll made out of spinach – as well as a couple of other ingredients – and made by a small company in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha. The owner does a great job of promoting a meat-free, healthy diet to his peers and has had the biggest success with this bread, which he first started producing in 2011 using his neighbor’s oven. It is even called Spinach King*, so you know he knows what he does“, and just like that Louis abandoned his look of disbelief and create a new idea of what exactly to cook with his little daughter this morning. After rearranging and replacing some of the ingredients, he looked up again, rubbed his hands together and declared: “All right, now we are ready!” Besides the eggs, fresh baby spinach, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese, mustard, chia seeds and butter had found their way onto the countertop.
Spinach bread Eggs Benedict
Ingredients for two servings:
2 English Muffin or Spinach King spinach bun
2 large free range eggs, poached
1 1/2 tbsp of self-made hollandaise per bun
1 tsp of mustard per bun
a handful of fresh baby spinach per bun
a couple fresh pomegranate seeds to taste
a couple fresh slices of feta cheese to taste
Chia seeds to decorate
“Okay, so the way I see it, there are three essential parts to Eggs Benedict. Number one would be the Eggs”, Louis shot her an ‘obviously’-look, laughing at himself before continuing: “We are going to poach them, which is going to be your first methodical challenge of our cooking adventure today. Then we have the hollandaise sauce, which we are also going to make from scratch and, which is definitely a good skill to learn. And lastly, there is the base, which in our case today is going to be that spinach bread. How about we start by cutting open the buns and putting them in the oven so that they can get nice and brown and crunchy on the outside?”, Charlotte kept nodding along, trying her best to memorize the three points her papa had just explained to her. A moment later she had finally joined him on the kitchen counter – she had always loved sitting on the workbench, carefully looking at what her papa did and performing her little tasks there too. For now, however, he was busy cutting the bread, leaving her some time to investigate the different colourful ingredients.
“Actually, do you remember how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate?”, her papa’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts. Charlotte nodded and made her way to the sink to fill a bowl with some water and took the two halves of pomegranate her papa was holding out to her: “Remind me: why do we take the seeds out under water?”, he asked.
“Because that way it is much quicker and the juice doesn’t go everywhere”, she answered, delicately separating the red seeds from the outer layer of the fruit. The best thing about the method – besides it’s juice preventing abilities – was the fact that the seeds themselves where heavy enough to sink down to the bottom, while the rest of the fruit swam on the water’s surface making it really easy to skim the top to get rid of them. In a matter of minutes, Charlotte’s first task was done. At the same time the spinach bread was ready to go into the oven.
“Okay, so you have the pomegranate ready and I cut our baby spinach and feta cheese into smaller pieces. As soon as the buns come out of the oven you can help me apply about one teaspoon of mustard on the bottom side of each of the buns, followed by a handful of spinach, a couple of pomegranate seeds and feta pieces. Until then we have to prepare the sauce and our eggs, right?”, once again Charlotte nodded, feeling the excitement rising within her: “As for the sauce, we need two egg yolks – so just the yellow of the egg, if you want to separate them – a teaspoon of mustard and about a tablespoon of lemon juice … perfect, now mix it all together. Then, we place this bowl on a pot with simmering water and wisk, wisk, wisk all the time so the eggs don’t get a chance to get too hot and curdle. And then little by little – you can do that, while I continue whisking – we add this melted butter until everything is incorporated”. Charlotte, who had once again reclaimed her spot on the counter, did her best to slowly pour in the melted butter and was fascinated by seeing the consistency slowly changing. It looked more and more like the sauce she had liked so much on her eggs yesterday.
“Finally, I think a little teeny-tiny bit of back pepper would work well with the other ingredients. Great, so we can leave this to the side and go over to do the eggs. Actually, we can use this water here so as not to waste it. And what I want to do is this: Let’s add a little bit of white vinegar into the water alongside some salt. This makes the egg cook quicker, but is not strictly necessary if you take really, really fresh eggs. We are going to put some today, because once again I think the flavour will work nicely with the dish. Then, when the water is just about ready to boil, we can crack our egg into a seperate little bowl and make a little swirl in the water. Just take the spoon and swish it around a couple of times until it looks like a mini tornado in the middle – perfect – and now, we throw in our egg in one swift motion. The swirl will help it to stay together and we will have the perfect poached egg in just a couple of minutes”, Louis voice had taken on the same excitement that had been gleaming in Charlotte’s eyes for the past couple of minutes. And just like that it was done: all that remained was to assemble to egg on top of the spinach, pomegranate and feta mix, to spoon some hollandaise over it – “we will also add a tiny bit of vinegar into here to make it more liquidy and to give it a nice acidity” – and top it all of with a sprinkle of chia seeds.
“Ready for breakfast?”, Charlotte called into the dining room a moment later, where Barley and her father had spent the time setting the table.
“Never been more ready, chef”, her father yelled back, giving her that proud kind of smile, Charlotte thought she could live of.