Monday, 22 September 2014

Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg & Hollandaise Sauce

I have always absolutely loved poached eggs. Whilst I am fond of scrambled, fried and boiled eggs, poached is the way to do as far as I am concerned. When I was a child, my mother used to make me a poached egg on toast most mornings for my breakfast before I went to school and as such they hold a certain nostalgia for me. If I had to choose, breakfast, or brunch would probably be my favourite meal. As an adult, during the working week, when I am usually dashing out of the house in the morning, so I tend to have something that is quick to prepare, but I love those types of weekends where I can indulge my passions for a proper breakfast, which would tend to include a poached egg on a split muffin and a few slices of bacon (along with plenty of generously buttered hot toast with lashings of homemade marmalade, all washed down with lots of tea. HEAVEN!

The thing about poached eggs is that if you want success to be guaranteed, you really need to use the freshest eggs possible. I am incredibly lucky to have a ready supply of the finest quality fresh eggs from the most fabulous hens reared by my neighbour Paddy. The eggs produced by these hens are free-range in the truest sense of the word and are the best quality that I have ever used in my cooking. Every now and again I toy with the idea of keeping hens but, to be honest, I don’t see the point when I can get such great eggs from Paddy! I am convinced that the reason the eggs are so great is because the hens are so well looked after and because they have such a happy life.
 
The recipe that I present here – a variation of Eggs Benedict, but substituting smoked haddock for the more usual ham, really relies on the quality of the eggs, which in addition to poaching I have also used in a rich, buttery hollandaise sauce. If you really aren’t keen on smoked haddock, you can of course resort to the more commonly used slice of ham or even some grilled bacon. Although there are relatively few ingredients, this dish is an incredibly luxurious breakfast/brunch dish and one that is really worth doing if you feel like spoiling yourself every once in a while.
 
You could sit the smoked fish and poached egg on a split English muffin, but here I have actually used half a homemade potato scone which I feel works perfectly with the smoked fish and poached eggs. If you feel like doing the same, the recipe can be accessed here.

Many people shy away from making their own hollandaise sauce, but it is surprisingly easy and if you approach the task with confidence and make sure that you add the melted butter in a thin stream, you should have no problems.

Of all the recipes that I have posted, this has to be one of my all-time favourites and I would urge you to try it out. This is a seriously sexy dish!
 

Ingredients:

For the poached eggs:
2tblsp white wine vinegar
4 eggs
1 medium sized bowl of iced water
For the smoked haddock:
300g smoked haddock (preferably undyed)
200ml milk or a little more if required
For the hollandaise sauce:
90ml dry white wine
90ml white wine vinegar
1tsp of whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 egg yolks
300g butter, melted
A little freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt & white pepper to taste
To serve:
2 muffins/potato scones split and toasted
1tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
 

Method:

To poach the eggs:
1. Fill a large saucepan with boiling water from the kettle and set over a moderate heat so that the water is steadily simmering. Add the vinegar (NB do NOT add any salt to the water as this will cause the egg whites to disperse rather than set around the yolk as you want).
2. Crack the eggs and individually drop into the water – don’t do this at a great height from the water, but relatively close to the surface. Adjust the temperature so that it is barely simmering and allow the eggs to poach for 2 to 3 minutes depending on size of the eggs. Remove each egg when ready and place directly into the bowl of iced water. Set aside.
To poach the fish:
3. Place the smoked haddock in a small fring pan or shallow saucepan and barely cover with milk. Bring up to the boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from the heat, but allow it to sit in the milk and set aside.
To make the hollandaise sauce:
4. Put the white wine, vinegar into a small saucepan with the peppercorns and bay leaf and bring up to the boil. Let it bubble for about 5 minutes until it has reduced to about 50ml. Remove from heat and allow to cool and then remove the peppercorns and bay leaf and discard.
5. Place the egg yolks into a large metal bowl and place the bowl over a pan of just simmering water making sure that the surface of the bowl is not directly touching the water. Whisk in a tablespoon of the reduced wine/vinegar solution. Continuously whisk until the mixture turns paler in colour and the eggs increase in volume to a point where a ribbon-like trail is left when you remove the whisk.
6. Remove the bowl from the heat and very slowly whisk in the butter, drop by drop at first making sure that it is well incorporated before adding some more. Keep whisking until all the butter is mixed in and the sauce is thick and creamy. Season and add in a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
To serve:
7. Boil some water in a small saucepan and re-heat the eggs for about 1 minute. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and allow to drain briefly making sure that there is no excess water.
8. Remove the fish from the milk and break into large flakes. Divide the fish equally, placing it in large flakes on each toasted halved scone. Place a reheated poached egg on top of each portion of fish.
9. Spoon a generous amount of hollandaise over each egg and sprinkle with some chives. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.