One of the foodstuffs that will be available in heaven will be perfectly cooked soft boiled eggs, served with lightly browned (with a flame) turkish bread soldiers, buttered. Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
But why wait? Why not make some now? Recently a number of people have been asking how to make soft boiled eggs. Here’s my technique, honed over many years including one year of obsessive behaviour when I had soft boiled eggs every morning for breakfast. I was determined to master what appears to be an easy dish. But it’s not, in my opinion, easy. Simple, yes. Easy, no. If it was easy I would be able to consistently turn out optimal eggs – they often are, but sometimes they’re only very good.
First, let me define what is the perfect soft boiled egg. The yolk should be runny, but the white set. Very good is when the last millimetre or two of white hasn’t set yet, or the first couple of millimetres of yolk has set. A couple more millimetres into the yolk and the egg is being overcooked, and if the white is very runny, well, frankly that should be blogged under bad sights.
To achieve the optimum egg – or at least to go in pursuit of the noble soft boiled egg, start with good eggs. Very fresh is hard to cook perfectly, more than a few days old and they go hard quickly. When you buy eggs it’s hard to know how old they are – if they float then they may well be past their best. I don’t like eggs kept in the refrigerator – extends the cooking time – so we keep them at room temperature.
If you’re beginning to think we take our soft boiled eggs seriously, you’re right.
I normally boil water and then add it to the pot – it seems faster. I bring the pot of water up to a good rolling boil. In terms of the size of the pot/volume of water etc, I like to have the space of one extra egg – i.e. if I’m cooking four eggs I like to have enough space to cook eight eggs. There’s no need to add salt, vinegar, or eleven secret herbs and spices to the water. Just good clean water, boiling hot and enough to generously cover the eggs.
Take a pointed object and push a hole into the fat end of each egg. I now have a classy egg hole puncher, but before today I’ve used a small nail and a push pin. This is to make a small hole in the shell so the gas can escape and not crack the shell. There is no need to push the pin in more than a couple of millimetres.
I use a spoon to ease the eggs into the water. If you frighten them by dropping them in it might crack the shells. This should be avoided. Do try to get the eggs in as soon as possible so they’ll be ready at the same time.
I time them to boil for 3 minutes, take them off the heat, but leave them in the water for one more minute, and then serve them. I mentioned soldier toasts (cut the toast into finger width slices) for dipping into the yolk. A little salt and freshly ground pepper. Bliss.
The great thing is – soft boiled eggs are pretty much the food equivalent to making a cocktail – served go-to-whoa in less than five minutes. Brilliant. I am uncertain what wine to serve with soft boiled eggs. I usually go for orange juice and a latte, but you might want to go down the champagne and orange juice path.