Summery steamed eggs
Steamed eggs have been one of my all time favourite comfort foods since I was a little girl. At home a dish of steamed eggs might be one of several that made up dinner, but these days coming home on winter nights I will often have them on their own, with a bowlful of steamed rice and a little soy or oyster sauce.
As with all simple things, the devil is in the detail. Use the best eggs you can find, from chickens raised outdoors on a diet free of hormones and other chemicals. Homemade chicken stock is best but otherwise Swanson chicken broth is a good store-bought substitute. I have a square ceramic dish that is only ever used for steamed eggs. I like the feel of it and I know it will hold exactly two egg's worth of steamed custard. You can use anything though, metal or otherwise, provided it fits into your steamer of course. My dish is 15cm square at the top with sloped sides.
It is vital that you don't whisk any air into your egg and stock mix or your steamed eggs won't have the smooth, almost jelly-like consistency that makes them so delicious. When I stir my eggs I make a point of keeping the tip of my chopsticks touching the bottom of the dish all the times and stirring slowly to make sure no air gets trapped. Patience is key - this is food to satisfy a craving and so there's nothing worse than when it doesn't turn out the way I have been imagining it will, probably for the better part of the day! Finally the eggs must be steamed gently on the lowest flame possible. Again it means they will take longer but they also won't froth and bubble up, producing spongey mess rather than slippery silk.
This version made use of an over-ripe, heavily scented tomato from the market that was so soft I couldn't help thinking how well it would go with delicate egg curds.
You could use tarragon instead of basil - I have recently been loving tarragon's affinity with eggs. Or for a more Asian lean use coriander or shiso leaves, a great match with summer heirloom varieties.
1 soft, ripe tomato
2-4 basil leaves, depending on their size, thinly sliced
Chicken stock or water
Extra virgin olive oil
What to do
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Slice a shallow cross into the skin at the base of the tomato. When the water is boiling drop the tomato in and turn off the heat. Leave for a minute or two and you should see the tomato skin start to curl. Remove and rinse under cold running water - the tomato's skin should slip off. Roughly chop the flesh and add it to your steaming dish. Pour any tomato juice left on your chopping board into a bowl.
Break the eggs into the bowl with the tomato juice. Fill each broken egg shell twice with stock or water and add to the eggs. Add two pinches of salt, a pinch of pepper and a few drops of oil. Using chopsticks or a spoon gently stir the eggs, breaking up the yolk and mixing in the egg white and liquid. It's crucial you don't add any air to the mix so don't whisk. Take your time.
While you mix the eggs fill the pot of your steamer with water and bring to the boil. Put the steamer basket in the pot and your dish with the tomatoes in the basket. When the eggs and liquid are completely combined carefully pour them into the dish and cover the steamer. Turn the flame on your stove down to the lowest heat possible and gently steam for 15-20 minutes. Start checking the eggs occasionally after 10 minutes. The eggs will be done when you give the dish a gentle shake and the centre is wobbly but set.
Carefully retrieve your dish and place it on a heatproof mat. Drizzle a little oil over the eggs, scatter over the basil and serve.
Eat with Chinese soup spoons as soon as the custard is cool enough not to burn your tongue. You could have this over steamed rice, or with toast, or just in a little bowl all on its own.