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Omelette with herbs, from an Elizabeth David’s recipe

“As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own”. Elizabeth David

Mayonnaise, carbonara, a quiche, shortpastry, pastry cream, eggnog, sponge cake, rice with egg, clafoutis or drinking them just as they are: a solution better than the other to enhance the freshness of my eggs. But I made an omelette! I reckon that it is just an omelette, four beaten eggs and a little more. What is there of so striking special as to justify a full post here?

 

When I get lost in these questions, two important women come to my mind. The first one is Paola, my elementary school teacher, I kept on calling her Teacher even when I was in college. She’s a great woman, she’s able to give you smart and light-hearted advice on any occasion. I truly appreciate our friendship and surely I owe her my love for reading and writing. One of the most significant events took place during the Italian class. To respond to our complaints about the lack of ideas for a description, she picked up a pen – I still remember that pen, it was one of those long, thin, yellow and black striped pen, with a red cap – and said: you won’t never run short on ideas to describe an object. Take this pen, for example: I could write ten pages about it, telling who gave it to me, what I have written with this pen, what I feel when I keep it in my hand… the possibilities are endless.

The possibilities are endless. This is a concept that in a 8-year-old girl opens unthinkable scenarios, and even now when I lack of inspiration I go back to that red pen. I do not think that at the time she realized the deep sense of invincibility that she had given to a shy child.

The second woman is Elizabeth David. She is one of the most important and inspired food writers of the twentieth century. I started reading her books recently, but her writing captured me instantly: it is extremely sensuous, it involves you with the use of the five senses, it evokes vivid and powerful images in front of the readers’ eyes. You run through her pages, enjoying her delightful memories of Mediterranean afternoons, unexpected lunches in the South of France and picnics in the English meadows. Even a simple omelette becomes important through her words and well deserves two full pages, weaved with humor, practical advice and scents of butter. When I held in my hands the four fresh eggs, I decided to follow Elizabeth’s advice: this is why a simple omelette deserves a whole post!

Since Elizabeth David has a much more enjoyable writing than mine, I will report directly her recipe. Please take a relaxing minute to read her beautiful prose. You will find yourself in the kitchen cracking your eggs open as soon as you will finish reading it!

From Elizabeth David’s Writing Collection – South Wind through the kitchen

As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own. But to anyone still in the experimental stage I submit the few following points, which I fancy are often responsible for failure when that ancient iron omelette pan, for 20 years untouched by water, is brought out of the cupboard.

First, the eggs are very often beaten too savagely. In fact, they should not really be beaten at all, but stirred, and a few firm turns with two forks do the trick. Secondly, the simplicity and freshness evoked by the delicious word ‘omelette’ will be achieved only if it is remembered that it is the eggs which are the essential part of the dish; the filling, being of secondary importance, should be in very small proportion to the eggs. Lying lightly in the centre of the finished omelette, rather than bursting exuberantly out of the seams, it should supply the second of two different tastes and textures; the pure egg and cooked butter taste of the outside and ends of the omelette, then the soft, slightly runny interior, with its second flavouring of cheese or ham, mushrooms or fresh herbs.

As far as the pan is concerned, a 25cm omelette pan will make an omelette of three or four eggs. Beat them only immediately before you make the omelette, lightly as described above, with two forks, adding a light mild seasoning of salt and pepper. Allow about 15g of butter. Warm your pan, don’t make it red hot. Then turn the burner as high as it will go. Put in the butter and when it has melted and is on the point of turning colour, pour in the eggs.

Add the filling, and see that it is well embedded in the eggs. Tip the pan towards you and with a fork or spatula gather up a little of the mixture from the far side. Now tip the pan away from you so that the unset eggs run into the space you have made for them.

When a little of the unset part remains on the surface the omelette is done. Fold it in three with your fork or palette knife, hold the pan at an angle and slip the omelette out on to the waiting dish. This should be warmed, but only a little, or the omelette will go on cooking.

An omelette is nothing to make a fuss about. The chief mistakes are putting in too much of the filling and making this too elaborate. Such rich things as foie gras or lobster in cream sauce are inappropriate. In fact, moderation in every aspect is the best advice where omelettes are concerned. Sauces and other trimmings are superfluous, a little extra butter melted in the warm omelette dish or placed on top of the omelette as you serve it being the only addition which is not out of place.

Omelette with herbs Prepare one tablespoon of mixed finely chopped parsley, tarragon, chives and, if possible, chervil. Mix half of this, with salt and pepper, in the bowl with the eggs, and the other half when the eggs are in the pan. If you like, put a little knob of butter on top of the omelette as it is brought to the table.

We ate this omelette for dinner a few days ago. We couldn’t help but express our astonishment at every bite: the egg was good, a basic and childish good, the butter caressed the yolk and the herbs did not cover the other flavours, but came later, to refresh the palate. Elizabeth was right: an omelette is nothing to make a fuss about. Keep it simple, and nothing can go wrong.

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This Post Has 14 Comments
  1. Love this post, Juls! This is exactly the way my grandmother in Sydney taught me how to make an omelette (one of my first ever cooking experiences!). And am just discovering Elizabeth David now, can’t believe I hadn’t read her work until recently – where has she been all my life?!!

  2. That looks absolutely amazing! I love eggs first off and then throw herbs in them? Diiiivine!

  3. @Giulia – Indian omelet is pretty simple. You cut a smallish onion into fine diced cubes, one thai bird chilly finely chopped, and some cilantro (optional) finely chopped. Just lightly beat it all together and cook as you did above. Season with salt and pepper of course 🙂 You can also add finely diced tomatoes.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for this post. Sometimes I doubt myself because I blog about the simple stuff i.e. the stuff I want to cook and eat. Great timing. Lovely, lovely pics.

  5. An omelette is simple yet can be hard to make right, thanks for sharing the beautiful prose with the invaluable tips and also for introducing Elizabeth David to me 🙂 Your photos are gorgeous and I really feel like making one now 🙂

  6. Simple is so often best. I loved this post – the writing, the evocation of a favourite childhood teacher who left you something important, and of course the delicious omelette. Beautiful pictures too!

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