Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Eggs Daffodil

I first read about this dish in Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table. As the story goes:

We served a late night dinner party at Eleven Madison Park for about a dozen media people who included NBC's Tom Brokaw, the New York Times' R.W. (Johnny) Apply, Maureen Dowd, Todd Purdum, plus Purdum's wife, Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton's former press secretary. Following a marathon evening at the convention, they all finally sat down to a five-course dinner at eleven-forty-five. Before I left at one o'clock in the morning, I said, "If you folks stay long enough, we'll have to serve you scrambled eggs for dessert." And Johnny Apple, who's from Akron, Ohio, said, "I can tell you're a Midwest boy, probably attended a bunch of coming-out parties." I smiled. "In fact," I said, "it was by going to debutante parties as a nineteen year old in St. Louis that I first learned about eating scrambled eggs at two in the morning." "But I bet you've never had 'eggs daffodil'," he said. "That's the real thing."

He had me there. As I was leaving for the night, I said to my team, “You guys need to go online and figure out what ‘eggs daffodil’ are, and I want you to make sure to put a bowl of them on the table by two o'clock in the morning.” After all, if you believe that word of mouth makes the world go around, here were eleven people who had fairly big, powerful mouths. Googling “eggs daffodil” revealed just a vague description, but it was enough to inspire Eleven Madison Park’s chef, Kerry Heffernan, who improvised what he imagined eggs daffodil to be, creating an inspired recipe that included zucchini blossoms and cheese. They were brought out at two o'clock and served in a copper pot to Johnny Apple, right around dessert time, as the journalists were making some toasts. (Brokaw and Apple would soon be retiring and were each covering their last political convention.) The next day Kerry told me the eggs daffodil “blew them away.” 

Kerry loved the recipe - he had cooked the eggs and cream slowly, put them in a blender with some beurre fondue, and then gently heated them up again, stirring in some zucchini blossoms - and said he had decided to put it on our brunch menu. We had served a wonderful dinner as it was. But when Johnny Apple made that remark about "eggs daffodil." it was as if he had presented us with a rock with all kinds of life growing underneath it, and we were then able to tie the right fly to catch the fish.

Two years later, I saw Tom Brokaw at a dinner party, and he told twelve other people the story of eggs daffodil. Ask Johnny Apple or the others what they remember most about that evening's menu. I guarantee it's the eggs daffodil. 
After a bit of digging I discovered there are many variations - and most in fact use courgette blossoms. 

Courgette flowers have been in season for a few weeks in the UK now. They're amazing looking things with a delicate flavour. You can pick them up at farmers markets and good fruit and veg shops. We bought ours from Natoora whose produce is always exceptional.

The basic idea is to make 'a very soft scramble of butter with eggs, zucchini blossoms, scallions and Comte (Gruyere) cheese'. (Louis Rousseau).
After a quick rinse under cold water, take out the stamens, and then with scissors snip them into rough strips. Fold the courgette flowers, heritage tomatoes, radish tops and some gruyere into buttery scrambled eggs just as they are browning. Top them with lots of parsley and chives and serve with homemade caraway rye sourdough toast.
The resulting scramble is elegant and rich  - ideal on a bright summer morning with a glass of juice (or Prosecco!). And we haven't tried them at two in the morning... just yet.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Gefiltefest: sabih, challah and pickle

We had a brilliant time at our favourite Jewish food festival, Gefiltefest, last Sunday. I joined "The Ashkenazi Fightback", a talk chaired by our good friend (and now shareholder!) Felicity Spector, alongside Louis Solley from Jago and Mark of Monty's Deli. 

Conversation centred on the growing influence and rise of Jewish - specifically Ashkenazi - cooking in London restaurants. The talk ranged from our own inspirations, to the Ottolenghi diaspora and the challenges and aims we each bear with our respective projects. 

After that I dashed downstairs to meet Alex who was just setting up in front of a room jam packed with people ready for our demo, which, of course, was focused on bread, eggs and pickles. 

We made, plaited and baked a sweet and light Challah, showed the audience how to knock up their own pickles - and used them to add a bit of zing and crunch to our favourite Tel Aviv street food Sabih (an aubergine and egg pita with spicy zhoug, mango pickle and tahini sauce). 

To finish we used the freshly baked challah to cook up challah French toast - the perfect American-Jewish desert.

Alex and I did a reasonable job of making and plaiting the challah which was no mean feat - a process that Oded, our head pastry chef, usually keeps watchful eye over. The audience were delightful and really involved - which definitely helped.

We proceeded to devour treats outside in the courtyard - from our friends Hansen & Lydersen, new Shakshuka street food stall Shak, and Zest, the restaurant run by Ottolenghi disciple Eran Tibi. Massive thanks to Nicki, Ella and the whole team Gefiltefest for organising such a great celebration.