For some of us, breakfast is the reason to wake up chirpy. Some breakfasts, like the classic eggs Benedict, have stood the test of time. Many have wanted to claim the much-loved breakfast as their own invention, with the English muffin base, French hollandaise sauce and Canadian bacon all forming part of this decadent dish.
The trick is to get all the elements right, as the dish is based on various textures, such as the crisp English muffin, soft and runny egg yolks, and velvety sauce with just the right acidity to break through all of the buttery goodness.
The secret is to use the freshest eggs available – not only are they richer in flavour but they also retain their shape better when poaching. A drop of acidity in the poaching water also makes poaching a breeze, as the acid helps to coagulate the egg whites. Making the hollandaise is also not as tricky as you might think – just be patient and drizzle in the melted butter at a slow and steady speed, allowing the egg yolks and fat to emulsify.
Canadian bacon is seen as the classic meat element in this breakfast but so is any smoked ham, like gypsy or beech-smoked ham. Crisp streaky bacon can also be used and, for the ultimate gourmet twist, you could use some thinly sliced Parma ham. Lemon juice is classically used to add acidity to the sauce but can also be replaced with white wine vinegar. For a vegetarian alternative, simply replace the ham with sautéed spinach or mushrooms.
Difficulty: A LITTLE EFFORT
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Melt 300g (1⅓ cups/330ml) salted butter over a low heat and set aside in a warm place.
Place 1 or 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring it up to a gentle simmer over a low heat. Add a glass mixing bowl on top that fits snuggly but doesn’t touch the simmering water. Combine 2 large egg yolks and 15ml (1 Tbsp) of lemon juice in the mixing bowl.
Whisk until the eggs are foamy and golden, 1-2 minutes. Ensure that the bowl doesn’t overheat. If the bowl gets too hot, set it on a kitchen towel on a surface and continue the whisking process with the retained heat. Place it back onto the saucepan, if needed.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, but keep the bowl set on top. Drizzle in a few drops of butter while continuously whisking.
Continue adding the melted butter very slowly until fully incorporated and thick. Season it with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice, if preferred, and thin it out with a splash of warm water, if needed. To keep it warm, you can heat a flask with boiling water. Discard the water and fill the flask with the hollandaise to keep it warm while you prepare the remaining elements.
Bring a saucepan filled with water up to a boil and add 15ml (1 Tbsp) of white wine vinegar. Break 2 large eggs into separate teacups, keeping the yolks whole.
Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and stir the water briskly with a spoon to create a whirlpool.
Hold the teacup with the egg over the whirlpool, then gently slide the egg into the centre of the whirlpool.
Poach the egg for 2-3 minutes for a soft poached egg. Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining eggs so that you have 8 poached eggs in total.
A perfectly soft poached egg has a soft, runny yolk surrounded by a firm egg white with a tender texture when lightly pressed. 3-4 minutes of poaching will result in a medium poached egg; leaving it longer than 5 minutes will result in a firm poached egg.
Cut 4 readymade English muffins in half, then spread each with some butter. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and toast the buttered sides in the pan until golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add a (20g) slice of ham to each toasted English muffin half.
Top the ham with a poached egg.
Drizzle hollandaise sauce over each egg and scatter some chopped chives on top, if preferred.
TIP: If you’d like to try the cheat’s version of hollandaise, use the same amount of ingredients but place the egg yolks and lemon juice in a blender and blend for 30 seconds. Keep the blender running while you slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Season to taste. Add more lemon juice, if you like, and thin it out with a splash of warm water, if needed.
TIP: If you want to cook the soft poached eggs in advance and reheat them before serving, simply place the poached eggs in some simmering water for 10-15 seconds before draining on kitchen paper and serving straight away.
TIP: In the event that your hollandaise sauce splits (separates) while whisking in the butter, simply correct it by starting off with a new egg yolk in a clean bowl. Whisk this new egg yolk for 20 seconds, then drip the broken sauce in while continuously whisking until thick.