The egg - a universal symbol of spring

by Daphne Lambert

The egg is a universal symbol of spring, Easter and rebirth. Eggs have been dyed, painted, adorned, embellished and eaten in celebration of new life. Pagan festivals were held every year to honour the ancient Greek goddess Eostre, celebrated at the Vernal Equinox, the festival marked the return of longer days. At this time of year the god of light won a victory over his twin, the god of darkness. The Christian church changed the pagan holiday in a celebration of the victory of the god of light (Jesus) over darkness (death) and it occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. From pagan celebrations of fertility through to modern day Easter the egg has been central to rebirth celebrations.

A staggering 80 million chocolate eggs are sold annually in the UK, they are integral to our modern day Easter celebrations. Worldwide the most popular chocolate egg is the Cadbury’s crème egg. The factory at Bournville can make a rather alarming 1.5 million crème eggs a day!

Chicken eggs have long been recognised as a nutrient dense food and the UK consumes 12.9 billion eggs a year from an estimated laying flock of 38 million.

Many egg laying hens are kept in sheds in large flocks of anything up to 16,000 hens. Sometimes the hens may have access to the outside but the reality is that few are likely to pick their way through the flock to reach the doors that take them to the fresh air, terms such as ‘barn’ & ‘free range’ can be very misleading.

Chickens are natural omnivores that have evolved to eat insects, grubs, seeds and worms. Chickens that are allowed to roam freely outside will strut over the ground unearthing food using their powerful feet, peck fresh grass, rest in the shade of a tree and bathe in dust.

Organic or bio-dynamic pasture fed chickens are without a doubt best for the egg, the chicken & you.

All egg yolks contain some of the beneficial omega 3 fats however , how much, is dependent on the food the chicken has eaten. Whilst some approaches enrich processed chicken meal with omega oils to feed chickens, studies show chickens allowed to roam and feed from natural pasture naturally have increased amounts of omega-3 fats in their eggs. In addition pasture feeding of hens has been shown to significantly increase the vitamin E content of their eggs.

Eggs provide high quality protein as well as choline, which is important for the nervous system; biotin, which supports healthy skin, hair & nerves and also helps with blood sugar balance; vitamin B12, essential for red blood cell production and vitamin D which has many functions including bone formation.

Eggs are hugely versatile here are a few spring recipes…...

Baked eggs with nettles & mushrooms

serves 4

4 handfuls nettle tops (top 5 leaves)

110g chestnut mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon snipped chives

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs

50g butter

4 large bio-dynamic eggs

4 individual ramekin dishes

Oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas 5.

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Pick over and wash the nettles. Tip into the water, cook for 1 minute. Strain through a colander placed over a bowl then plunge the nettles into cold water. Save the cooking water to drink as a nourishing tea. Drain the nettles from the cold water squeeze out any excess water, chop and set aside.

Slice the mushrooms and cook in the oil until the edges are beginning to crisp, stir in the nettles and season with salt and pepper.

Butter the ramekin dishes well and divide the mixture between them, making a slight well in the centre. Break an egg into each well. Melt the remaining butter and stir in the breadcrumbs and herbs, cover the eggs with this mixture.

Place the dishes in a shallow baking tray. Pour in enough hot water to come two thirds of the way up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 12 minutes or until the eggs are lightly set.

Sorrel frittata

Serves 4

250g sorrel, any tough stalks removed

30g butter

50g strong hard cheese, grated

8 bio dynamic eggs

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 5.

Shred the sorrel, melt half the butter in a pan, tip in the sorrel and cook until it wilts. Beat the eggs and stir in the sorrel and grated cheese. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and, when foaming, pour in the egg mixture.

Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, or until the sides begin to set. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 – 12 minutes or until set and golden.

Muffins with asparagus & poached egg

serves 4 (with a few extra muffins)

450g wholemeal spelt flour

½ teaspoon salt

15g yeast

275ml milk

25g butter

12 tender asparagus spears

1 tsp white wine vinegar

4 bio-dynamic eggs

extra butter

Place the flour and salt into a bowl. Warm the milk slightly. Cream the yeast with a little of the milk. Melt the butter. Add the creamed yeast, butter, milk and egg to the flour, adding more flour or water as necessary to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead well then put into a clean bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until double in size. Turn out onto a floured board give a short knead then roll out to ½” thick and cut out 2½”circles. Oil a fry pan or griddle and cook the muffins for five minutes over a low heat on either side. Remove and cool.

Bring a large sauté pan of salted water to the boil. Break any woody bits off the asparagus then plunge into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus using a slotted spoon transfer to a plate and keep warm. Add the vinegar to the water in the pan and gently simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl. Use a spoon to stir the water to make a whirlpool. Carefully pour the egg into the centre of the whirlpool, and repeat using another egg. Poach for 3 minutes carefully transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining 2 eggs.

Pull 4 muffins in two toast lightly and butter and divide between 4 plates.

Pile the asparagus on top of the muffins and top with an egg.