Scrambled eggs is probably one of the worst-made dishes that people encounter as they grow up. (The worst of all for me when I was a student was something called ‘Brown Windsor Soup’.) Scrambled eggs is an institutional standby in schools, hospitals, the services, and of course hotels and boarding houses. And on buffets it may have been there for some time, leaking as the minutes go by. But it can be gorgeous, as well as most sustaining. Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking has one recipe for it, which is her own, and one for Piperade, which is a mixture of scrambled eggs and peppers, but more than a dozen recipes for omelette. The French aren’t into scrambled eggs; it is an English delight.
What she says about scrambled eggs is worth remembering: the eggs must be absolutely fresh, and you should start with butter and a low heat, stir the beaten eggs, add some more butter, take the saucepan off the heat, stirring as you go, and serve at once. Some people like their scrambled eggs on toast, and I’m one. Some hate it, and some like the toast neatly poised on either side of the egg mixture.
Eggs, like tomatoes, taste much better to me if they are sprinkled with salt, but I cook for my wife, for whom added salt is a no-no, to her regret. But she likes scrambled eggs too, and they are a useful snack when you’re running late. Chives or spring onions can lift the flavour, and pepper is automatic, but the other things you might like to add, liked smoked salmon or bacon or ham, tend to come with a lot of salt. In one of my books I came across an old French recipe, not for scrambled eggs but for another egg dish, and I adapted it to the new need.
For the two of us, four eggs, beaten with a fork, a couple of tablespoons of chopped spring onions (green as well as white), a big nut of unsalted butter, a big teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and about two tablespoons of finely grated low-salt cheese. We get this latter essential from Tasmania (Pyengana dairies), and while it will do in a toasted sandwich with a strong unsalted tomato relish, or its equivalent, it doesn’t have the bite of cheddar, let alone of blue. Pyengana now makes an unsalted garlic + chives variety, which does have a good, strong taste.
I used half the butter to soften the spring onions, not too much, and added the Dijon mustard to the pan, stirring it around with a wooden spoon until it seemed to be decently amalgamated. I diced the rest of the butter to mix with the beaten eggs and the grated cheese. I poured that mixture into the pan, let the bottom set a little, and then started moving the egg mass around with a wooden spoon, at a low heat. It takes a while to get anything much to congeal, but eventually it does. The trick is not to get any of it hard, but to finish with a cooked sauce of almost creamy egg. While you’re stirring with one hand you make the toast with the other, and ask your diner how he or she would like the mixture — on or to the side of the toast. Unless it’s summer you might have made sure the plates were warm.
The outcome was a tasty simple supper dish, not heavy on the tummy, but decently filling. The cheese added to the texture, while the mustard gave a pleasantly strong tang, not instantly recognisable, to the eggs. I didn’t think salt was necessary, but added a bit halfway through. It rather masked the effect of the mustard. Some recipes suggest that you add milk to the eggs, or even water. I think that makes the mixture wet, and I don’t do it. I would add a little water, about half an eggshell full, if I were making an omelette with two eggs.