I was recently watching Masterchef, where a hapless contestant was struggling under pressure to poach an egg. The pompous judge kept telling him about the degree of difficulty, and reminded him of past contestants who’d mucked up.
I scoffed. Give me a break. How can poaching eggs cause this much consternation? All this talk of difficulty was just rubbish for entertainment value.
Come to think of it, I’d never had a poached egg before (I belong to the dark ages). I suppose I’d never even ordered one because it didn’t look particularly enticing. A large white blob of gelatinous goo, like an albino snotball. If the Abominable Snowman had a cold, he’d produce poached eggs.
But I’ll try anything once. How difficult could poaching an egg be? According to Masterchef, it was just a case of cracking it into a pot of boiling water and then flicking around with a spoon and voila, gourmet breakfast is born. Simple.
Clearly, I was meant to learn from my mistake of judging a book by its cover, or in this instance an egg by its shell.
I strode confidently into my kitchen. It took me around 4 minutes to get some water bubbling and then, with the flair of Jaimie, I took out an egg and cracked it into the water.
Ew. Ew. Eeeew. My snotball was looking like mucous from hell. There was nothing artful about the swirling ribbons of goo filling the pot. It looked like exploded pus. Ew.
I tried again. Out came another egg and more water that ended in the same gunky result. My image as a fantastic cook was being questioned by the universe. How dare the egg Gods laugh at me! I would get this right, somehow.
I consulted various cookery books and the internet for tips on poaching. I’d bet no one has ever ventured into this extent of research before. I found there were different opinions on how to produce the perfect poached egg. Martha Stewart suggests just 2 inches of water. Nigella says you should swirl the water before cracking the egg in. One website asked me to dunk the whole egg, sans cracking, into the water first. Another advised the use of a poaching tool.
Trick after trick resulted in the same, if not worse, mess. After one hour and considerable stress, I was down to my last egg and nerve. If this didn’t work, I would give up eating eggs altogether. I tried a combination of techniques- first dunking the egg and then cracking it into pre-swirled water of 2 inches. It worked! Unbelievable.
Joyfully, I fished out a wobbling, perfectly formed, gleaming white poached egg and placed it delicately on a piece of toast before taking about 300 photos. Then, with mixed emotions of pride and marvel, I broke it with a fork and allowed the golden goodness of yolk to run over the toast. I took up a forkful and put it in my mouth.
Tasted like snot.