We celebrated a special friend’s birthday this weekend by hosting a brunch (poor fellow was finishing off assignments, so no time for a late night party for him)! I made hollandaise sauce with poached eggs and people could choose to have them Benedict, Florentine or with smoked salmon, and Jess made a delicious chocolate mudcake with strawberry coulis (birthday boy’s favourite).
This hollandaise recipe is Stephanie Alexander’s and it appears to be foolproof – if you have never tried making hollandaise sauce before, may I encourage you to give this recipe a try? It is flavoursome, velvety and creamy. Perfect as a no-fuss starter, served over asparagus (with chopped ham and sweet, slow-cooked leeks, as Stephanie suggests), or with fish and vegetables, or over eggs for the breakfast favourite, eggs Benedict or Florentine.
Before we start, let’s deal with the main potential problem you might face with this dish. The hazard of making hollandaise lays with the eggs overheating, causing the sauce to split. Let me assuage your fears by telling you that this has not ever happened to me with this recipe, particularly because the sauce is not exposed to direct heat as it uses a double-boiler method (a bowl over a simmering saucepan). If you are still worried, Nigella Lawson has some advice I found heartening: just fill up your sink with cold water, and if at any stage you start to worry that the sauce will split, take the bowl off the saucepan and plunge it into the cold water and whisk like mad. If your sauce does curdle, don’t panic – just whisk in another egg yolk.
Serves 4, as a main, with a bit of sauce left over
Ingredients – Hollandaise sauce
3 tbs white wine vinegar
3 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
Method – Hollandaise sauce
Melt butter gently and allow to cool a little (using really hot butter increases the chances of your sauce splitting). Put the vinegar in a small saucepan with a pinch of ground pepper and 2 tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then simmer over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until reduced by half. Transfer this liquid to a small heatproof bowl that fits comfortably over a saucepan half-filled with hot water (don’t let the bowl touch the water).
Add the egg yolks to the vinegar mixture and whisk well over a moderate heat until thick and foamy. Whisk in the melted butter, a little at a time, still over the heat. When all butter has been incorporated you should have a bowl of thick, creamy sauce. Add lemon juice and season with salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat but leave the bowl over the hot water.
Just in case you have never poached eggs before – here is how I do it.
Ingredients – poached eggs
Enough eggs for everyone – I usually serve 2 per person
a splash of white wine vinegar (about 2 tsp)
Put around 2 inches of water in a saucepan and add the white wine vinegar (the vinegar helps the egg white to coagulate). Bring the water up to a simmer.
Crack the first egg into a little bowl or cup.
Using a spoon, swirl the water so that a mini-whirlpool appears. Slip the egg into the centre, and quickly add the others (I find that around 4 eggs in 1 batch works well). Set an egg timer for 3 minutes (this makes eggs with runny centres – for hard centres cook them a little longer).
While the eggs are cooking, lay a couple of sheets of paper towel in a bowl and get out a slotted spoon. Once the eggs have finished cooking, use the slotted spoon to take out the eggs, one at a time, and lay them in the paper towel lined bowl.
I like to serve mine with wilted spinach, toast, smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce, with a twist of cracked pepper – enjoy!