Fried egg crumpets

About 20 years ago, when I had just moved into my first flat, my flatmate Geoff specialised in what he called ‘egg windows’ – a fried slice of bread with an egg in the middle of it.

Geoff’s dad, an army major, had showed him how to make them when he was a kid and Geoff was a total pro. Then an architecture student, he cut the ‘window’ out of the bread with exacting precision, and he had the timing down pat. Alas, that was probably the apex of his cooking skills. His other memorable culinary moment was the time he came home drunk, put a tray of oven chips on to cook and fell asleep on the sofa. We were saved by the neighbours calling the fire brigade, but the chips were not so lucky.

I’d forgotten all about Geoff, egg windows and the fire until I saw Maya Adam show how to make what she called ‘Egg in a hole’ as part of the Child Nutrition MOOC run by Stanford University. Here was the egg window, transformed into a fast, nutritious breakfast for a child. It was genius. But even more genius is my fried egg crumpet – a fast, nutritious(ish) and utterly delicious anytime meal for everyone. Here’s how to do it.

Egg In A Hole Using Crumpets

Fried egg crumpets
One of these might do for breakfast, but I think you need two for lunch. The holey nature of the crumpet means it soaks up a) butter and b) egg, so there are lots of textural contrasts – soft, silky egg and crunchy crumpet edges. Add something green on the side and you might even be able to call it dinner.

You need:
An equal number of crumpets and eggs – let’s say two per person
A good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning
A heavy frying pan with a lid
A round cookie cutter or small glass (about five cm in diameter)
Salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce or some other spicy condiment
Grated Parmesan, optional

Cut the middle out of the crumpets with the cookie cutter or glass. You can eat the middle bit as a cook’s perk now, or toast it to eat later, or (sacrilege!) throw it away.
Melt the butter and oil in the heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Put the crumpets in, holey side down, and cook for a couple of minutes, until golden. Flip over and let the smooth side cook for a minute.
Carefully crack an egg into the hole of each crumpet. Don’t worry if some spills over the sides, this is no big deal. Put a lid on the pan and cook, covered, for about three minutes, until the egg white is set and the outer edges are getting nice and crunchy. Carefully flip over to cook the other side until it is just set to ensure a runny yolk (obviously cook it for longer if you prefer egg yolks to be firm).
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese, if using. Dollop on the spicy sauce and enjoy!


How to be a child nutrition expert

For those of you who are anxiously waiting for a view of my new pantry, here’s a shot of my kitchen.

Yep, that’s right, no pantry. Also, no benchtop. That pile of stuff on the floor is the contents of our pantry (plus a roll of insulation). What you can’t see on the other side of the kitchen is the huge hole in the other benchtop from where the old, useless grill and extractor fan have been ripped out. The vast bird’s nest the builder found in the wall lining when he ripped the old pantry out is also, mercifully, out of view.

So, as you might have guessed, there has been very little cooking chez nous this week. First we were out of town unexpectedly for a funeral, then we came back to discover that parts of our house looked like something from Grand Designs (the bit in the middle, where everything is in chaos and Kevin does the ‘oh no, they are running out of time and money’ voiceover).

I’ve gotten used to having my pantry contents in boxes on the floor, but living without a benchtop has been much harder than I imagined. The pantry got halfway in on Thursday before the joiner doing the job had some sort of nervous breakdown and left in a huff. Previously he’d been telling me that he’d been to lots of parties at our house ‘back in the day’. I can only surmise that he had some sort of unpleasant flashback. I’m hoping he will be back on Monday.

But I digress. As well as juggling all my usual roles (plus that of building site manager), I’ve added a new one. Late last week I started studying at the Stanford School of Medicine, via the magic of the internet. The timing isn’t great, but the course – Child Nutrition and Cooking 2.0 – is brilliant. 

The course – which involves video lectures, quizzes and cooking assignments set by the magnetic Maya Adam – highlights home cooking as the simplest way to fight against the tsunami of health problems caused by obesity. 

Of course, if you’re reading this, then there’s a fair chance you are already quite keen on home cooking. But the tone and content in some of the course materials suggests that for many people, cooking at home and eating as a family are rare events.

According to research, nearly a third of all children (aged 4-19) in the US eat fast food every day. Nearly 20 per cent of them are obese. One in three children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. The children of today are on track to be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

This is sickening stuff. It’s terrible that the world seems to swing between the famine-like situations caused by food insecurity (that’s not knowing where your next meal is coming from, not worrying if your buns look big enough) and this kind of low-nutrient, high volume, feasting.

What makes it worse it that it seems to be common sense. I mean, all children go through picky stages (have you found yourself using any of these 44 inducements to get your kids to eat something?), but junk food, every day? Not eating as a family? Not eating any food in its natural, unprocessed state? What is wrong with us?

In my experience eating as a family is the single best thing you can do to encourage better eating habits in a child. Yes, it means you lose the chance to have an uninterrupted adult conversation and there are times when you pray for solitary confinement, but it means you a) only make one meal and b) show your child that food is about sharing and enjoyment and trying new things. 

Anyway. I fear that the lovely Maya is probably preaching to the semi-converted, but I figure the more people who get the message, the better. It’s not too late to sign up – I think you have to do it by Feb 17 – you can do it in the comfort of your own home, it’s completely free and this week one of the assignments is making a cake.

I’m thinking of making one to offer to my temperamental joiner. Hopefully that will induce him to finish the job.

Have a great weekend, everyone!