This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 17 April 2006
Every now and then, my husband and I go on the egg diet, during which we try our best to eat eggs three times a day. For instance, we may have pancakes for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches for lunch and an omelet for supper. Or, scrambled eggs for breakfast, a spinach salad for lunch and Spaghetti Carbonara (an Italian dish made with eggs and bacon) at the end of the day.
When you think of it, it’s amazing how many different ways there are to eat eggs. Few foods can make the transition from breakfast to dessert as easily as eggs. When we talk about incompetent cooks, we say they can’t even boil an egg. When we talk about gifted cooks, we may think of the perfect, un-deflated soufflé.
My husband and I buy free-range eggs from a farmer, which means the eggs are laid by hens that eat grass and bugs and get their daily exercise. These eggs range in shades from pure white to fawn beige, and range in size from regular to double-yolk big. Every three or four weeks, the farmer arrives at my door in Saskatoon with 20 dozen eggs. I use what I need and resell the rest to my city friends who appreciate this little taste of country. Sometimes my friends don’t need eggs and so we have a couple dozen left in the fridge when the farmer is due to arrive again. Thus, the egg diet. We need to use up what we have before the new batch arrives.
It’s kind of funny that I should turn out to be an Egg Lady because my mother was an Egg Lady when I was growing up on the farm at Craik. We kept a pen of laying hens and mom sold the extra eggs to her friends for 25 cents a dozen. As children, we had to gather the eggs. Twice a day, we would slip into the chicken coop, shoo the chickens off their roosts and scoop up the warm eggs. I didn’t particularly like doing this and would often trade with my brothers – I’d do their dishes if they did my eggs. We all thought we got the best of that deal.
Many people will be eating hardboiled eggs this week, leftovers from the Easter celebration. However, eggs have been associated with spring festivals since long before Easter was inspired 2,000 years ago. The ancient Persians gave out coloured eggs to celebrate spring. The goddess of fertility was known, over time, as Ishtar, Ostara and finally Eastre in old Europe to denote her association with the sun rising in the east on the morning of the spring equinox. Her symbol was an egg.
One of my favourite ways to eat eggs is Clafoutis (kla-foo-tee), a sweet flan from France often served warm for breakfast or brunch. Unlike some French delicacies, it is wonderfully simple and easy to prepare. It is traditionally made with cherries, but I give it a Saskatchewan flavour by using a mix of prairie berries.
PRAIRIE BERRY CLAFOUTIS
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
2 cups mixed berries (sour cherries, raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons)
1 tbsp. flour
Heat the oven to 350 degrees C. In the oven, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or a similar sized baking pan), making sure the butter doesn’t brown. In a blender mix the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. With the blades running, gradually add the flour and mix well. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet. Toss the berries with a tablespoon of flour then scatter the fruit over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the centre of the custard is set (test by inserting a knife). Serve warm, perhaps with a sprinkling of icing sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup.