Sorrel has a fresh, clean, lemony bite which cuts the richness in this dish. Use spinach as an alternative.
4 rashers pancetta (or free-range streaky bacon) Olive oil 4 very fresh medium (size 6) free-range eggs, at room temperature 1 Tbsp white vinegar for poaching eggs 8 slices toast or 1/2 baguette (French bread) Butter 4 small handfuls of baby sorrel leaves 100g hot-smoked salmon Black pepper
1 Have ingredients ready to go (eggs in ramekins ready to poach, a deepish saucepan of water for eggs just at boiling point, bread ready to toast, butter softened, hot-smoked salmon with skin removed, mopped dry and flaked, sorrel washed, dried and trimmed).
2 Sizzle pancetta or bacon in a small frying pan in a smidgin of hot oil. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
3 Poach eggs as described below. Butter toast and put it on warm plates.
4 Heat 1 large tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan and add sorrel leaves. Toss sorrel in butter for 10–15 seconds; any longer and it will turn khaki in colour (it’ll still taste great). Spoon onto toast, then divide salmon among plates. Reheat eggs if necessary, trim and mop with paper towels. Put 1 egg on each toast stack, grind over black pepper, then top with crisp pancetta or a bacon rasher. Serve immediately.
Fresh eggs are imperative for poaching. A fresh egg is one which has just been laid, or that has been laid in the past day or two. As an egg ages, the white thins down and becomes more watery, causing the white to shred and separate when poached. If you don’t keep hens, farmers’ markets may be your best source. If buying them from the supermarket, check the use-by date and choose eggs with at least 3 weeks’ shelf-life but bear in mind that you’ll never successfully poach an old egg.
Here’s how to do it. Lower eggs into a wide, but not deep, saucepan of simmering water. A good splash of white vinegar (not white wine) is helpful. Make a little swirl in the water with the end of a wooden spoon, the movement of the water will help the egg white wash over the yolk as it spins around, forming a neat little shroud, and lower in eggs, encouraging the egg white to fold over the yolks. Lower the heat immediately and poach until the whites are firmish and feel like a ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella – sort of soft and spongy. Lift the eggs out of the water with a large slotted spatula and mop the underside with paper towels, then serve immediately. If you want to poach eggs ahead, here is the trick: poach as described, but transfer to a container filled with very cold water which will stop them cooking and hold them perfectly for a few hours, then, just before serving, transfer to a container of just-boiled water for less than a minute to warm them up. Trim any ragged edges with a small cookie cutter or sharp knife.
Recipe from Julie Biuso At Home, published by New Holland (NZ) Ltd
Photography by Aaron McLean