Ah, the omelette.
Done well, it is a thing of exquisitely simple beauty – a wobbly, barely cooked blanket of eggy goodness enfolding a delicious surprise of a filling. It’s cheap, it is easy to master, and together with a salad and a glass of wine, you need little else for an elegant and satisfyng meal. Of course, done badly, it’s a rubbery monstrosity providing a hiding place for cheap luncheon meat and processed cheese – but let’s not go there!!
One of my earliest culinary memories comes from a trip to France that my family took in the early 1980s. My father had to attend a medical conference in Bordeaux, and thought that this was as a good a reason as any to take the family on a roadtrip through France, which took in Nice, Brive-a-Gaillarde, Bordeaux, Rennes, Mont St Michel, Paris and Chamonix. We hit Mont St Michel about halfway through the trip, and I remember my sense of wonder at this improbable fortress rising out of the muddy coastal plain. I was even more entranced when we made our way into the ancient walled city – I had never seen a walled city and could not believe how narrow the streets were, or how higgeldy-piggeldy the houses were. After we had explored to our hearts’ content, it was time for lunch and my parents had decided there was only one place to go: La Mère Poulard.
This restaurant has been operating since 1879 and has welcomed many famous diners, including Ernest Hemingway Yves Saint Laurent. But it is most famous for its omelettes, and I recall watching the ladies in the kitchen beating the eggs to within an inch of their lives with hand whisks in beautiful copper bowls, before the omelettes were cooked over an open fire. The resulting huge, fluffy omelettes (more soufflé that omelette!) are the restaurant’s signature dish, and one of the most memorable meals of my short life up to that point.
The truth is that I grew up with omelettes as one of the fixed stars in the firmament of my mother’s weekly dining rota. In the summer, lunch on a Saturday would be a selection of fish – sardines, salty little anchovies wrapped around capers, pickled fish, and my father’s beloved rollmops. But when the weather turned colder, Saturday lunch would be for omelettes. Sometimes my mom would make a filling, but more often than not the filling consisted of whatever leftovers were in the fridge, re-heated and gussied up with some spice or sauce.
Now a lot of things have changed in my life since those days: I left home, I got married, my mom passed away, I moved countries… but some things have not changed. Saturday afternoons still often find me trawling the fridge for leftovers to use in lunchtime omelettes or frittatas – and last weekend was no exception. When I did a quick recce of the fridge situation, I discovered some of the Gorgonzola spring greens that I made previously. Toss in some eggs and some more cheese and voila – you have the makings of a perfect frittata. Served with a salad and a glass of wine, it’s a great wa to start your Saturday afternoon
GORGONZOLA SPRING GREENS FRITTATA (serves 2-3)
about a cup of cooked spring greens (or use spinach instead)
50ml milk or cream
salt and pepper
25g crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
50g Cheddar (or feta cheese, if using spinach)
Heat the greens gently in a small saucepan. Beat the eggs together with the milk/cream and season with salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the grill in your over. Heat a knob of butter in your favourite omelette pan (must be oven proof – no plastic handles or non-stick coatings- so a cast-iron skillet is ideal). When the butter it is bubbling, add the greens and Gorgonzola, then pour in the egg mix. Leave to cook without stirring until the frittata bubbles and is beginning to turn brown at the edges. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle with grated Cheddar and pop under the grill for a minute or two until the top is just set and the cheese starts to bubble. Serve with wine and salad.