ODE to the EGG
By Susanne E. Wilder
capers grace a sauce vermilion
Whose fragrant odours to the soul are blown
Here pungent garlic meets the eager sight
And whets with savour sharp the appetite,
While olives turn to shadowed night the day,
And seasoned egg in slices rims the tray.
Century Caliph Mustakfi's Dinner Party
perfect package in the dynamic symmetry of the egg is
the symbol of a new beginning. Legends about eggs have
proliferated throughout the eons. Early Phoenicians thought
that a primeval egg split open to form heaven and earth;
Native Americans believed that the Great Spirit burst
forth from a giant golden egg to create the world. In
all of the early legends the chicken is never mentioned,
making the answer to the question of which came first
the chicken or the egg-obvious. From appetizers to desserts
and around the world in every cuisine, eggs feature as
a delicious and nutritious ingredient. What other single
natural food item has such a plethora of uses, enriching,
thickening, glazing, leavening, lightening, binding and
emulsifying? Every day part from breakfast to a late night
supper often utilises the egg it's simply up to the cooks
In the past, the cholesterol in eggs
has been their Achilles heel, forcing them onto diet 'Avoid'
lists. Coupled to the demise of the cooked breakfast,
this has seen egg consumption here in Australia plummet
from a hearty 5 eggs per person per week in the 1940s
to only just over two eggs today. Eggs in moderation are
also good source of protein without a major problem of
figures from the 1960s had once pegged their cholesterol
at 250-300 mg per egg, so one egg took you close to the
National Heart Foundation's recommended limit of 300 mg
a day. But more recent analyses place their cholesterol
at only around 150- 200mg, much lower than earlier thought
and much lower than other high-cholesterol items like
brains, kidney, liver, prawns and calamari.
you are one of those people genetically 'sensitive' to
cholesterol, cholesterol from food does not automatically
become cholesterol in the bloodstream. The main influences
on blood cholesterol are heredity and saturated fats in
eggs are not high in saturates. A medium 60gram egg has
only 6 grams of fat. Of this, roughly less than 2 grams
is saturated fat, with the remaining 4 grams being the
healthy mono-unsaturates and polyunsaturates.
For a very modest 355 kilojoules
(85 calories), an egg gives you every vitamin except vitamin
C and a host of essential minerals. Worth mentioning is
vitamin B12, which is hard to obtain on vegetarian diets,
and folate, a B vitamin which can help minimise birth
are also a surprising source of two carotenoids, lutein
and zeaxanthin, natural compounds related to the beta-carotene
of carrots and usually found only in vegetables and fruits.
These two anti-oxidants are now under study for their
role in preventing macular degeneration of the eye, a
common cause of blindness in people over 60, as well as
other health ailments.
of Eggs The new feeds used with fish oils, flax or linseed
add Omega 3's and reduce cholesterol by 300 mg to 150-200.
Even sodium may be reduced to 50 from 70 milligrams in
a regular egg by the feed alone. Hens fed on alfalfa,
greens and corn produce a darker yolk. White or brown
eggs are a byproduct of the breed, with no difference
in nutritive value or taste.
is a list of the newest types of eggs available now for
even greater health benefits and flavour. Side by side
in a competitive taste test the rich flavour of the free-range
Margaret River Eggs won hands down. Every recipe is thus
enriched with greater flavour. Jan and Kim Harwood, report,
Our 8 thousand free-range birds are happy hens and thus
there is also a big difference in egg production.
Anything labelled as just 'eggs' comes from hens kept
in small wire cages holding up to five birds (see label,
right). Each bird has a minimum floor space of about 500
square centimetres the minimum height of the cage is 40
cm; just high enough for hens to stand up. Hens in cages
have their beaks trimmed when in sheer frustration they
peck at each other.
eggs come from chickens housed in large barns (below right),
divided into pens, with each containing up to 1000 birds.
They have the freedom to spread their wings, stretch and
socialise, as well as dust-bathe, perch and scratch for
food. Barn-laid egg producers are generally accredited
by the RSPA, which endorses this system as a more humane
alternative to the caged system. The RSPCA allows beak
trimming, which is used in both the barn and cage systems
as well as some free-range systems.
Free-range eggs These
eggs come from hens that are free to move over an area
of open ground during the day. In supermarkets you'll
see a number of other eggs labelled as free-range from
larger producers. Usually they're not certified and follow
either their own internal free-range guidelines, or those
of the Australian Egg Industry Association (AEIA). The
AEIA guidelines are curious in that one guideline says
beak trimming is not permitted while the very next says
if the bird's welfare is at risk, minimal beak tipping
is permitted. I reckon their welfare is at risk because
the poor birds are squished into the cages!
eggs come from hens that are fed a diet with no meat or
fish ingredients. Usually, the eggs come from caged birds,
although the RSPCA recently endorsed some barn-laid vegetarian
eggs. Free-range hens can't produce 'vegetarian' eggs
because there's no way to control what they find or pull
out of the ground to eat.
These eggs come from hens that are
fed a special diet containing a higher proportion of omega-3
fatty acids and vitamin E, producing eggs with higher
omega-3 fat content. 'Omega-3' eggs usually come from
caged birds. Hens are fed a special diet based on canola
and linseed to produce eggs that carry about 60 per cent
more omega-3 fats than ordinary eggs. Their cholesterol
is not altered but their type of fat is a healthier one.
Omega-3 fats are important in the diet, but it's not easy
to eat enough of them. They're good for the heart and
can also lower blood pressure. The best source is fish
and fish oil, and now eggs.
these differences, all eggs have approximately the same
amount of protein, total fat and cholesterol.
Eggs must always be refrigerated
and in a closed container. When stored at room temperature,
they lose more quality in a day than in a week in the
refrigerator. The shells are semi-permeable and expose
them to other odours and damage. Some engineer with no
knowledge of good foods designed that ole egg container
in the refrigerator door.
The principles of egg preparation
are often overlooked in books and food service kitchens.
Yet, what I learned at the Cordon Bleu and tested at Sunset
Magazine, near San Francisco, has proved invaluable time
Eggs definitely fit into fast and aesthetic appeal with
imaginative techniques, variations of fillings, toppings
and sauces. For example, a tender properly hard-cooked
should never be boiled or called hard-boiled. A green
sulphur ring around that yolk is a sure sign of overcooking
or boiling. The best was is starting with cold water to
cover eggs by 2-inches. Bring this, uncovered, to a boil
on medium-high heat. Then cover, remove from heat and
let cook 16-19 minutes in this hot water. Even the simple
soft cooked egg can be prepared perfectly resting 3-5
minutes by the above method. Finish cooking process by
running cold water over eggs.
• Australia produces around
200 million dozen eggs per year.
The average Australian eats about 140 eggs a year.
92% of eggs are from battery (caged) hens, including 1%
vegetarian and 2% omega-3 eggs; 2.5% are barn-laid and
5.5% are free-range, including 0.1% organic.
There are about 1000 egg producers in Australia, but of
these, eight producers own 45% of the flock.
• Barn-laid and free-range eggs cost around a dollar
more per dozen than eggs from caged hens.
we eat again!
Susanne E. Wilder, CFE is a Home
Economist (Washington State University), Reformed Cordon
Bleu chef, nutrition consultant, food stylist for print
and film, writer, author of 6 cookbooks, culinary consultant
in the food industry, and web chef at Freemantle Markets
with three decades of experience in the foodservice and
consumer food segments. She will be teaching Culinary
Courses at 19a Kunzea Place in January on Tuesdays, day
Susanne is also a Hatha Yoga instructor, as well as a
roller-blading, biking, kayaking, and fishing bon vivant!
Currently she is working on new formulas and PR for specially
selected clients, a murder food mysteries series, new
cookbook and consulting for a variety of organic food
0407 649 437 08 9756 8502