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Eggs Benedict, perhaps one of the most sublime breakfast/brunch foods. Generally consisting of ham or back bacon (Canadian bacon to the Americans reading), served on top of a muffin, covered with poached eggs and smothered in hollandaise sauce.

Recipies vary, for the example below I have added shallots. Generally this is served with some type of potato side dish.

On the rare occasions I manage to con a member of the opposite sex back to mine, this is an impressive dish for that late breakfast in bed.

Serves 2

Here are a couple of points that will help make your hollandaise stable: the egg yolk must be whisked to a pale yellow colour and a creamy thickness. The whisk should leave tracks in the mix that take a couple of seconds to disappear. When the time comes to combine all the parts, the whole operation will go a lot more smoothly if everything is at the same temperature, just above blood temperature - i.e. it should be slightly warm when you stick your finger in it. Don't season until everything is together - the salt enhances all the flavours but can cause ructions if added at the beginning.

2 good eggs
2 muffins
2 large slices of Parma ham
salt and pepper
small pinch cayenne pepper or paprika

For the hollandaise:
140ml white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 shallot, peeled and chopped
5 black peppercorns, crushed with a knife
110g unsalted butter
1 egg yolk

  1. Put the vinegar (except 2 dsp) in your smallest saucepan, then throw in the bay leaf, shallot and peppercorns. Slowly reduce it down to 1 tbsp liquid, allowing time for flavours to infuse.
  2. In a separate pan, melt the butter.
  3. Put another pan on the heat with 5cm water in it and allow it to simmer gently.
  4. Put the egg yolk and 1 tbsp warm water in a round-bottomed metal bowl. Put the bowl over the pan so the steam heats the bottom of the bowl and whisk continuously until the yolk reaches the stage outlined in the intro.
  5. Remove the bowl from the pan and, slowly at first, pour in the melted butter, whisking all the time. Do not add the milky bit at the bottom as this upsets the consistency. When all the butter is in, strain the vinegar through a sieve directly into the bowl, pushing all the flavour out of the chopped shallot with the back of a spoon. Season with salt but not pepper, because the pepper flavour has already been infused into the vinegar.
  6. Cover surface of sauce with cling film to prevent a skin forming and keep somewhere warm but not hot.
  7. Meanwhile, put on a small saucepan with 10cm water in it. Season water with 1 tsp salt and remaining vinegar. As the water is just coming to the boil, crack in the eggs and cover with a lid.
  8. Toast the muffin and lay the Parma ham on it. Poach eggs for 3 minutes, depending on size, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll. Sit the eggs on top of the ham and spoon the hollandaise over. Season and finish with a pinch of red spice.

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