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The great Christmas egg extravaganza

The below article was issued for the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) by Protactic Strategic Communications

Eggs are a nutritious oval of pure delight that are rich in flavour but affordable enough to make a part, or the very centre, of your Christmas table – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or that lovely quiet Day of Goodwill come December 26.

Just like Christmas, the egg dates back to ancient times. When our ancestors were feasting, they were eating eggs, be it hunter-gatherers over an eggy windfall in the Kalahari or ancient Romans gathering for days around a celebration table.

It’s important to remember that not everyone eats turkey at Christmas. The traditional Portuguese Christmas Eve meal, for instance, is bacalhau com todos – codfish, boiled potatoes, cabbage and eggs!

But they’re eating that in the midst of a cold winter, and it just might be a little heavy for sunny South Africa in December.

Here, at Christmas, each family looks to their own cultural heritage and the recipes handed down by grandmas and aunties. It’s the time of year to buy a BIG tray of eggs as there are just so many things to make… spicy eggs masala, vetkoek with chopped egg and bacon filling, chakalaka with eggs poached or deep fried.

Eggs are dawn to dusk eating at Christmas. From scrambled eggs and omelettes for the kids, to family-sized breakfast egg casseroles to feed the crowds staying over at your house during the holiday season, eggs are the best way to welcome Christmas day.

But where eggs really come into their own is the Christmas bake! People wait excitedly all year to whip up a batch of Christmas mince pies, get the family to stir the Christmas pudding and make a wish, or labour over a fruit cake, stollen, milk tart or lemon meringue. There are so many eggy puddings South Africans look forward to at Christmas – Malva, pavlova with fresh fruit, and layered trifle made with vanilla cake. And don’t forget shortbread for Santa!

Then there’s ice cream and custard, both made creamier with the addition of eggs. And really, what’s a Christmas without custard – or ice cream, for that matter? An ice cream cone after a late afternoon Christmas swim in the South African sun, now that’s definitely a local tradition!

But let’s be honest, Christmas is most often a braai day in South Africa! Adding egg to braai sides enhances even the simplest salad. Think classic Caesar salad with a coddled egg dressing, creamy pasta and devilled egg salad, celery and egg fried rice salad. Even traditional Greek salad, tuna salad and panzanella benefit from a couple of eggs. Remember to scatter chopped hardboiled eggs over the potato salad as well!

Don’t forget that egg-enriched mayonnaise for those baked potatoes. Also, did you know that vigorously beating an egg into your vinaigrette makes it beautifully creamy? Perfect for all those leafy greens.

Whether you celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings as a high holiday, or don’t celebrate the day at all, eggs are your companion to the very best holiday eating. After all, the South African Department of Health’s food-based dietary guidelines state that eggs can be eaten every day. This means that eggs are a great way to increase the nutrient and protein intake of the average South African, especially when making Christmas meals on a budget, because eggs remain the lowest cost animal protein available.

 

Classic Caesar salad with a coddled egg dressing

Coddled egg is an egg that is briefly cooked for 2 minutes, both the yolk and white are still runny. For a Caesar dressing it is done to make the yolk slightly thicker. This in turn allows for a slightly thicker dressing.  You can skip the step if you prefer and then use the whole egg, not just the yolk.

Serves 6 – 8

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

For the dressing

  • 2 whole eggs, dunked in boiling water for 2 minutes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 3 whole anchovy fillets, finely chopped (optional)
  • Or replace anchovies with an additional tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup light olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
  • Juice of 1 large lemon

For the salad

  • 4 small gem lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • 6 large eggs, soft boiled for 6 minutes
  • 150g bacon, chopped and cooked
  • 60g parmesan shavings
  • 100g croutons
  • Micro herbs to garnish
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Method:

  1. For the dressing: separate the eggs and place the coddled yolks in a bowl, mix well with the anchovies and the garlic. Slowly whisk in the oil and when thick, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, parmesan cheese and lemon juice.
  2. To assemble the salad, arrange the leaves in a Christmas Wreath pattern on a large, flat platter, leaving a round gap in the centre (may place a round bowl in the centre to ensure an even pattern).
  3. Arrange the soft-boiled eggs on the leaves, sprinkle with the croutons and bacon. Pour the dressing over the salad evenly and top liberally with freshly grated parmesan. Garnish with micro herbs, remove the bowl in the centre if used and serve with lemon wedges.

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