Storing Eggs

What is the best way to keep your eggs? Well, everybody seems to know the optimum way to store its eggs, in the fridge or at room temperature, on their side, blunt end up or down or I even heard of people washing their eggs before putting them in the fridge. But even myself, using an average of 900 eggs a week in my kitchen, was surprised when I read about storing recommendations about the safe keeping of fresh eggs. So I decided to summarise all this information here in these few commandments.

First commandment, only buy eggs that stored on a refrigerated shelving and bring them back as quickly as possible in your own fridge. This will have for effect to minimise the risk of spoilage of your eggs with salmonella and listeria, which can have devastating effects on children, pregnant women, elderly people and immuno-depressed people.

The second commandment is to avoid shaking your eggs during transportation. Then DO NOT use the egg rack that nearly all home fridges have on their doors as it is the place of your fridge that get most of the shocks and vibrations. Instead, place them on an egg rack on one of the fridge shelf. Why these precautionary measures? Well, it is not to avoid to break your eggs, agitation thins the whites of the eggs therefore decreasing its nutritional values as well their cooking qualities especially in pastry making.

Third commandment, keep your eggs in an airtight container and not the carton they come in. These carton boxes are quite handy, I agree, but they do not protect the eggs from losing moisture, CO2 alike and absorb odours from other food in the fridge. Also, they cannot slow down the inevitable development of the stale flavour into the eggs. I remind you that an egg shell is porous, so that the future chick can breathe through during its development.

The fourth one is to keep your eggs on their side as it seems, after numerous studies done in the 50's, 60's and 70's, that it give a better centered yolk when hard cooked. There are no real answers to why this happen. Harold McGee thinks that perhaps the fact that both yolk cords fight equally against gravity.

And finally the fifth commandment, but maybe the most important of all DO NOT WASH the shell of raw eggs of any kind. As I said earlier, the shell of an egg isn't smooth or airtight or waterproof. In doing so you will dramatically increase the risk of bacteria that is on the shell, going through the shell and spoiling the inside of the egg. This applies too when you're cooking hard boiled eggs, do not start cooking your eggs in cold water, as the same process can happen.

In conclusion, bought fresh and handled with care, eggs should keep for several weeks in the shell.

To finish this post I would like to give some information on EU regulations about what should appear on boxes of eggs and grading. Awareness is knowledge.

Egg labelling

Eggs have separate rules. They are graded according to their class; A, B or C. Grading is done by an automated process known as 'candling' - looking through the egg against a bright background light. Grade A is the one you'll see in the shops; Grade B is 2nd quality or preserved eggs; and Grade C is for the food industry use only. Then they're weight graded into one of four sizes; very large or XL: large or L; medium or M; and Small or S. If they're sold in boxes the following information must appear:

- Packer's name and address
- Packing centre number
- Quality (A or A class)
- Weight (XL etc)
- Number
- Best before date
- Advice to keep refrigerated after purchase
- Optional information includes a 'sell by' date and the method of production.

Egg freshness

Under EU law eggs must carry a 'best before' date of no more than 28 days after laying and they must be sold within 21 days of being laid, so they've got at least a week to be eaten before their 'best before' date expires.
If they're marked as 'extra fresh' they must be sold within nine days of being laid. 'Sell by' dates are permitted as optional extras.


Croustade of Watercress and baby Spinach with Mozarella

About two weeks ago, as I was doing my grocery shopping I came across a couple of bunches of nice fresh watercress. Then I remembered a kind of pie that I had in Crete which was made with nettles and spinach. Then I thought why not try to mix spinach and this cress and create a croustade type dish and top it with some buffalo mozzarella. I have to say that I was surprised with the result.

For four you will need :

  • 400g of Fresh Puff Pastry.

  • 250g Baby Spinach.

  • 200g Watercress.

  • 6 Leaves of Fresh Mint.

  • 200g of Buffalo Mozzarella.

  • 1 Egg.

  • 100 ml Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

  • Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg.
So, this is how it goes. First wash very thoroughly the spinach and the watercress in lots of water with a dash of vinegar and a pinch of rock salt. Then dry them very well. Cook them, for 3-4 minutes in a very hot pan, stirring at all time, with a bit of olive oil in small loads. Reserve in a sieve to allow them to drain of their excess water. When they cool down a little bit squeeze the wilted leaves with your hand to get the rest of the excess water out.

The second operation is to dice up half of the mozzarella and get 4 thick slices with the rest of it.
Take the puff pastry, roll it down into a square of about 8 inches a side. Divide it in 4 equal parts that you will roll down to a half centimeter thick. Let them rest for half an hour.

The next step is to mix well the leaves, the coarsely chopped mint, the dices of mozzarella and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Now, lets form our croustade. First brush the pastry squares with some egg wash, place some of the watercress mix in the center and top it with a slice of mozzarella. Then bring each corner of the pastry to the middle of the croustade and squeeze the excess of dough created until it stick well. Then press it with a fork to obtain a nice lined corner like on the picture. Repeat for each angles of the square. The last step is to brush our croustade with some egg wash.

Place delicately our croustade onto a greased oven tray and place them into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 to 40 minutes depending on your oven.

Et Voila! So if you try this recipe please let me know how you enjoyed it (or not).

Anybody who believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography.
Robert Byrne

Nut free, Vegetarian, replace the mozzarella by some tofu to make it dairy free and suitable for vegan.