My mom never insisted that my brother and I help her cook. Of course, we always had to help with laying the table and doing the dishes, but she was happy to do the actual cooking herself. (I used to think she was just spoiling us, but the older I get and the mor I morph into her, I think the secret reason was probably that she was as much of a control freak in the kitchen as I am…!). But if we were in the kitchen while she was cooking she was always happy to share her knowledge with us, and before we left home she did insist on teaching us two things: how to make a roux and how to make an omelette.
My mom's mother passed away suddenly when she was very young, and as a result she never had happy memories of learning to cook at her mom's side in her childhood kitchen, and she had no heirloom famiy recipes. Thinking back, I guess this had an influence on the way she cooked – as with many other things, she had to make her own way in the world and didn't have a long family tradition to fall back on. But along the way, she picked up diverse bits of culinary knowledge from various sources. As a student, she shared accommodation with a friend studying to be a dietician, from whom she learned the food groups that you should include in a healthy meal as well as how to do this on a budget; from a neighbour, she learned how to make the perfect omelette; and so forth. And seeing that this latter skill had stood her in good stead, she decided it was something my brother and I should both learn. She always said "if you can make a good omelette and pour a glass of wine, you will never have to worry if people drop by unexpectedly for a meal".
4-6 large free-range eggs
100ml milk or single cream
a generous handful of fresh chives, snipped
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 shallots, chopped
a punnet of mushrooms (I used chestnut)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
half a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
Chop the shallots, crush the garlic and wash & slice the mushrooms. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sautee the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the shallots are translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they just start to soften. Set aside and keep warm.
Place a knob of butter into a non-stick frying pan (or a well-seasoned cast iron one) and set over medium high heat. In a small bowl, beat together half the eggs together with half the milk/cream, half the spices and half the chives. When the butter is sizziling and beginning to brown, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Scrape the mixture away from the sides with a non-stick spatula a couple of times, swirling the pan to make sure the bottom of the pan remains evenly covered with the egg mix. Cook, keeping an eye on it, until the egg mix is bubbling and just set on top. (If you are struggling to get the omelette to set on top without burning the bottom, a little shortcut is to pre-heat the grill when you start cooking and place the pan under the grill for 30 seconds to a minute to set the top!)
When the egg is just set and beginning to brown on the bottom, place half the mozzarella cubes and half the mushroom mix on one half of the omelette. Then slide it out of the pan and onto a warmed plate and flip the other half over to close the omelette. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make a second omelette and serve immediately with a green salad and crusty bread.
And, of course, a glass of wine