What is Happening to Poached Eggs?

I know this is nothing to do with my new book, Girl on a Golden Pillow– but we have just retired from running a top-notch B&B for the past twenty years, and I trained as a chef in the 70’s. So my question is; what is happening to poached eggs lately?

Who first put the idea that eggs should be poached in a swirl of water and vinegar? Now everybody is serving poached eggs that turn out like a white scrotum with a leathery skin. Worse, some people poach a pile of eggs using this method, plunge them into a bowl of iced water, to refresh in boiling water to order, making the egg even more leathery!

I am a breakfast purest, as many around Padstow and Cornwall will confirm. I wrote about breakfast and, my wife and I had a very successful B&B/Guesthouse, producing what we believed to be a very good breakfast, “Possibly the best breakfast in Britain” according to Gill Charlton of The Telegraph a few years ago.

Now that we have retired, we have lately been out and about visiting B&Bs and small boutique hotels, only to find that everybody is producing these unpleasant ‘scrotal’ poached eggs.

Perfect Poached Eggs …

It may, I am sure, be a matter of personal taste, but most – if not all – of our old guests who ordered a poached egg or two, think they are wonderfully soft, delicate and looking like an egg. We gently drop our fresh eggs – they HAVE to be fresh – previously cracked into a ramekin for ease of pouring, into a shallow (frying) pan, near full of delicately simmering water (NO vinegar or salt). Put on a lid and leave to sit for 3 to 4 minutes. The delicately poached egg, merely tickled with near boiling water, is then removed from the pan with a slotted spatula, to drain the water onto some kitchen paper, served on toast, smoked salmon and/or bacon.

I blame ‘modern’ chefs on TV for this travesty of culinary tastelessness. People like Delia or Mary Berry would never add vinegar or swirl up water, producing sinuous white strings. I have even come across someone recommending poaching (and scrambling) eggs in a microwave! WHY?!

Scrambled Eggs …

Scrambled eggs are another thing. There are too many American breakfast scenes “fixing eggs” on TV. They seem to start with a frying pan – not a saucepan – and then cook until the eggs turn to a hard breadcrumb consistency. We have, as a nation for years, gently stirred whisked eggs, with a drop of milk, in melted (salted) butter – with no black pepper or it turns the eggs grey – taking 3 to 4 minutes – even longer if time permits, turning the eggs into creamy, opulent, scrambled deliciousness.  Rapidly stirring the eggs over a high heat, produces sweaty, gelatinous hard eggs, that can be carved with a knife.

Now these eggs are perfectly poached and scrambled, they should be served with an array of British produce, toast, smoked salmon, along side crispy bacon or on slices of warmed ham, with a potato cake perhaps.

Avocados …

Now, what is going on with avocados? Avocados are unsustainable and should be a summer luxury for lunch or supper. An avocado travels about 5,550 miles to the UK, from Mexico or California, shipped in temperature-controlled storage, which is energy intensive, twice that of a banana*. The London hipster culture has adopted avocados as a good breakfast ingredient for its high fat content – the good type of fat – and is an excellent alternative to meat. However it’s not a proper British breakfast, in my view. If anything, avocados are a summer salad or mushed up to dip your crisps in.

To all B&B and boutique hotel chefs and cooks, let us go back to proper, basic breakfast cooking. Don’t go ‘cheffy’, and keep it local. Make the ‘best meal of the day’ recognisable as a good British breakfast. Forget crushed avocados and rye grass shoots!  

I wrote a book on breakfasts ages ago; I still have some left. It is called, B&B The Book of Breakfast and Brunch. Get a free copy from my website,


*Source: https://sustainablefoodtrust.org

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