A girl from London’s East
Felt her inspiration had ceased.
But she hit some luck
With eggs of duck
And copied Dr Seuss’s feast!
I’ve been reading a lot about food lately – not recipe books, but books about food, its production and its history. First there was Elizabeth David’s delightful An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and more recently I’ve been reading Derek Cooper’s Snail Eggs and Samphire. All this reading about ethical food production and eating local produce has got me slowly developing a reaction against Tesco supermarkets and their ilk. I mean, the reason why they are so successful is that they are a) cheap and b) convenient. Not because we support their ethical food practices or their food is so tasty and delicious, but because we are short of time and short of cash. What a sad way to select your food!!
As as a first step away from supermarket culture, last weekend I dragged Nick off to the Queen’s Market at Upton Park. What was I thinking not to bring my camera?? It’s a feast for the senses!! The area has a high percentage of Asian residents and the market reflects this – chillis of every description, beautiful saris and all manner of strange fruit and vegetables. In the centre of the covered market are stalls selling everything from cleaning materials to toys to pickles to clothes, while towards the outer edges there are fruit and vegetable stalls. Everything looks fresh, the sellers are friendly and it’s a pleasant and vibrant shopping experience. Around the perimeter are a number of shops – loads of Halaal butchers; some grocers selling West African, Indian and other speciality items; and a fishmonger. We ended up heading home laden with Scotch Bonnet chillis, avocados, apples, lettuce, stunning vine tomatoes (about a third of the price of the supermarkets) and some thick, juicy lamb chops.
We also, on a whim, picked up half a dozen duck eggs. Now I’ve had ostrich egg, but I couldn’t recall ever having had duck eggs (that’s what you get for growing up in Africa!!). The stall-holder asked us “white or green?” and for a moment I though I’d heard wrong, but on closer inspection some of the eggs certainly did have a curious green colour, reminding me instantly of the fabulous Dr Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham (understandably, by nephew Sam’s favourite book, starting as it does with the words “I am Sam, Sam I am. Do you like green eggs and ham?”). I had a quick look around the web to try and find out why they are this intriguing shade of green alabaster, but all I can find out is that yes, they vary from white to greenish or bluish and this is quite normal (and that there may be some variation in egg colour linked to different breeds of ducks). Apart from that, duck eggs behave rather a lot like chicken eggs. The main differences (apart from the intriguing colour) are:
- duck eggs have harder, less porous shells than chicken eggs
- duck eggs have a higher ratio of yolk to white than chicken eggs
- because of point 2. above they are higher in cholesterol than chicken eggs (but not as high as goose eggs)
- the yolk tends to be a brighter yellow (but this can vary with diet) and the white less milky (containing more protein too) than chicken eggs
- their rich taste makes them excellent in puddings and cakes
Anyhow, we came home rather late on Sunday night after another hospital visit to Christelle and didn’t feel very hungry. But to be strong you need sustenance and I did have the said green duck eggs some ham and bagels lying around… So I made us a quick snack of scrambled duck eggs on toasted onion bagels with lightly fried Wiltshire ham. Mmmmmm! Extra creamy scrambled eggs – I think I’m sold on duck eggs. They were really delicious and I’m glad we have the rest of the box still to eat. The creamy eggs played well with the slightly salty ham and the crispy-on-the-outside-yet-chewy-within onion bagels – in fact, the perfect midnight snack.
Now if only I can persuade our landlord to dig a little pond at the bottom of the garden and allow us to keep a couple of ducks, we could be having fresh, ethically-produced duck eggs every day!! What a quacking idea 😉