A boiled egg standing proudly in an egg cup is an inviting breakfast or lunch. Line up some buttered toast sticks (nicknamed soldiers) on the side, and I am in egg-dipping heaven.
Boiled eggs are a staple on any Irish or English household’s menu. A knob of melting butter on top adds a creamy lusciousness to the yolk.
Egg cups line the cupboards and dressers of most Irish homes. Whether made from plain white pottery, or delicately painted china, egg cups display a boiled egg exquisitely.
Yet their design is not just showy, also serving a very functional purpose. By balancing a boiled egg upright, the top of the egg can easily be tapped with a spoon to remove the cap, allowing access to the interior for delicious toast dipping.
Egg cups are not widely available here in America. I confess I only own one egg cup. Next time I visit Ireland I plan to extend my collection. Here in America, I have resorted to using shot glasses to hold my boiled eggs.
“She Can’t Boil An Egg!”
Boiling an egg has traditionally been seen as a very simple task. In the past, a bad cook was often accused of not being able to boil an egg. Today I come to the defense of all those so-called bad cooks, wrongly denounced for their lack of egg boiling skills.
If boiling an egg is so simple, then why on earth were egg timers invented? I love this triple egg timer, with separate hour glass timers for soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs.
Cooking an egg to order takes precision and exact timing. Hard boiling an egg is a little easier than soft boiling, but then you have to contend with the whole issue of preventing a black ring around the yolk if you wish to serve them cold.
Saying a bad cook couldn’t boil water is definitely a more accurate indictment, because egg boiling is truly a skill.
How To Boil Eggs
When boiling an egg in America, the first decision requires choosing the color of your egg. When I first came over here I was surprised by all the white-shelled eggs sold in grocery stores. I grew up eating brown-shelled eggs, so I confess I am a little partial to them. A white boiled egg in an egg cup just looks a little anemic to my Irish eyes.
Use eggs that have come to room temperature. Eggs that are taken straight from the fridge tend to crack. Place the eggs into a saucepan which is just big enough to hold them on the bottom. Never pile the eggs up, but always lay them in a single layer. Completely cover the eggs with cold water.
If you wish to make sure your eggs don’t crack during the boiling process, just prick a tiny hole in the rounder, less pointy end of the egg. There is a little air pocket there, with a membrane separating the inner egg from the shell.
Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately the water starts bubbling and start your timer.
For soft-boiled eggs, simmer for just 3 or 4 minutes (the less time cooking the softer the egg).
For a yolk that is just-set, simmer the egg for 5 to 6 minutes.
For a hard-boiled egg, simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. As a child I was always told 10 minutes for hard boiled, but 8 minutes usually does the trick. If planning to serve hard boiled eggs cold, immediately place them in icy water to stop the cooking process and prevent development of that ugly black ring around the yolk.
As soon as the timer goes off, drain the eggs and serve them immediately. Remember if you leave them sitting in hot water, even with the burner turned off, they will just keep cooking.
I often wonder how the lord of the manor in years gone by ever managed to eat a soft boiled egg. I imagine the poor maid dashing from the kitchen with his egg the moment it came out of the boiling water. If the kitchen was too far away from the breakfast room, the egg would surely keep cooking as she sped to his lordship. That’s why I think egg timers were set for 3 minutes rather than 4, to try to keep that yolk as soft as possible while transporting it through the Big House.
Toast soldiers are just strips of buttered toast. Their slim, rectangular shape makes them perfect for dipping into a boiled egg.
In Ireland I always loved soldiers made with batch bread, a thick textured loaf with a distinctive flavor. Here in America I use sourdough bread. I just cut a thick slice, toast it, remove the crusts and slice it into thin strips.
Boiled egg and soldiers – a perfect combination!
When my triplets were toddlers, boiled egg in a cup was perfect for lunch. Toast soldiers make great finger food for little ones. I just scooped the boiled egg out of the shell with a spoon, mashed it in a cup with a big knob of creamy butter. Of course when they started to feed themselves I served their eggs in plastic bowls.
If you are ever accused of not being able to boil an egg, don’t worry. It’s just a matter of timing anyone can learn.
And so, may all the eggs you boil, be happy eggs. Enjoy!!!
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Here are some other Irish recipes you might enjoy…