On very cold days at this time of year I like to brace myself with poached egg for breakfast, on half a toasted muffin. The perfect poached egg is one of the Holy Grails of the home cook (along with the perfect roast chicken, the perfect mashed potato and the perfect martini). The white should be firm but not rubbery, the yolk still viscous, the shape pleasing but free form, the flavour of the egg pure and not tainted.
Everyone has their own method. This is mine. I make no claims for originality. I simply say it works for me every time. Having an egg still warm from being laid always helps, but that is the counsel of perfection. This method will turn an egg with the most watery albumin into a neat and tidy
You need a small pan with about 250 ml water in it; 1/2 dsp salt; an egg; a ramekin (or some such container to hold the egg before immersion; a wooden spoon; a slotted spoon; one piece of kitchen towel; a plate with half a toasted muffin (optional). As you will see, there’s no vinegar as vinegar always leaves a shadow of flavour on the egg. I prefer to salt the water quite heavily. As with pasta, if you get the salting right, there’s no need to season the egg afterwards (or maybe just a little for crunch).
Break the egg into a ramekin or other container.
Add the salt to the water and bring to the boil. When the water is boiling, use the handle of the wooden spoon to whirl the water round and round, to create a whirlpool or vortex.
Slip the egg into the centre of the whirlpool or vortex and immediately turn the heat down so that the water is just simmering. Leave for 2 minutes or so, until you judge the white to be firm and the yolk still runny. Don’t worry if the egg looks a shapeless, raggedy affair.
Take out the egg with a slotted spoon and strain off the water.
Place the egg onto the piece of kitchen towel to finish draining. This is the clever bit because it allows you to gently shape the poached egg into a neat and orderly form.
When you’re ready, pick up the kitchen towel and flip the egg over onto the muffin (or whatever else you want to eat your egg on). You will find that the kitchen towel does a marvellous job of shaping the poached egg, so that it looks tidy but still hand crafted.
Now your poached egg is ready to be dusted with any additional salt if necessary (or if you like the crunch of crystals) and pepper or any other flavourings that take your fancy.