Saturday, 28 November 2009


It's 10:20 in the morning. The phone rings.

I leap to answer it. But it is my Big Sister. I hear myself say "Oh, you're not the BBC." Now most people in their right minds would leap at the chance of talking with my big sister. She is witty. She is charming, she has all her own teeth and is fun to be with. But I do not want to be talking to her right at this precise moment.

"Sorry Dil, but you're not the BBC. Can I talk to you later!" And I hang up. God, that's just so bad...

So why were the BBC trying to beat a path to my door this morning? Well, if truth be told, they weren't. And so I will never know the answer to the burning question of the day in the Sloman Household. Angela could have provided the final answer. We would have accepted Angela's wisdom and settled the argument of twenty years. We had agreed that she would settle it once and for all. We would abide by her wisdom. She has a Michelin Star, for goodness sakes.


She should know how to boil an egg.


Do you pop the precious breakfast egg into a pan of gentle, room temperature water and bring it delicately to the boil, wait patiently for the prescribed period of time before dipping your soldiers into the perfect runny yolk or: Do you plunge the beastly think into the frenzy of a boiling cauldron to see it crack with the massive temperature shock differential betwixt the cold eggshell and the boiling inferno of the super-heated cauldron and see your egg white spew violently into the seething water like massive storm clouds leaving you with a watery mess to drown your soldiers in?

(Have you guessed which side I am taking yet?)

As a science based student I can see the relative merits of both methods.

For the "placing the nature's little miracle for a breakfast room temperature method" I can see that you have a greater chance of success of eating an egg with an intact shell encasing the entire contents of the egg, without the soupy mess after the ingress of boiling water. However, this method is fraught with danger. If you were to take a long time bringing the water to the simmer, then perhaps the egg will start to cook more than it would if you brought the egg to boiling more quickly. This would result in difficulty in the subsequent timing of the egg.

With the "plunging the beastly egg bastard thing into the sodding boiling water and who gives a flying feck" method of cooking the egg, well, timings are going to always be more accurate.

So, we rang the BBC this morning; Saturday Kitchen to be precise, to ask the visiting culinary goddess, Angela Hartnett, what the answer should be.

And they didn't ring back. Perhaps they tried but found the line engaged. So we will never know.

Can the congregation help?


  1. well the art to the perfect egg is to remove them from the fridge before hand to allow them to warm slightly.In the old days eggs were kept in the pantry so were never ice cold.You only need the water simmering not boiling like a bastard.
    here are some tips from auntie Delia

    aka mike

  2. Hello Mike (Mr Pitt?)

    You will be pleased to know that we treat our eggs delicatey in this household. They are indeed stored at room temperature in the kitchen, nestling together for friendship in an open china bowl. However, this still does not stop them splitting and spewing in the boiling water bastard method.

    We use only the best little eggs from Waitroseshire whose mother's have the freedom to roam where'ere they desire, eating only the most bountiful of nature's harvests. Indeed, Prince Charles knows each little chicken by name and reads them bedtime stories.

    They are all enrolled on Open University courses on the Environment and Media Studies.

    These are Elite Eggs.

    What can the answer be???

  3. I'm from the 'what the f***' school of egg timing.

    Just make a small pinhole in the big end of the egg and gently place it in the simmering water - stream of bubbles will come out of the hole, relieving the pressure.

    Perfick timing & a perfick egg :-D

  4. I do a Delia to boil my eggs, as described on page 22 of (the original) Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course. In fact, I do a Delia with a lot of my cooking, she's a goddess in our house.
    And my eggs are always perfect...

  5. Readers Digest Cookery Year, page 342. 'Nuff said ...

  6. Hello Alan

    I am sorry I couldn't get back to you over your pressing egg problem - the production company didn't pass on your call to me - we only get to answer three questions between all three of us.

    Thank you for your very sweet comments.

    However, I fear I can no more answer your dilemma than sort out the middle east question and the balance of payment deficit. Of course, you are both right - I have worked with chefs from all over the world who swear by each method.

    Nice blog by the way!


  7. It's to do with the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system (ie. an egg). I think it's called Boils Law. We did it at 'O' level. So you're probably right.

    I'll be in Oxford Street tomorrow so I shall pop into Waitrose in John Lewis where Delia is doing a signing. I'll ask her. She'll no doubt give me some inspirational advice.

  8. Alan, I concur with Phil. I'm told I cook perfect boiled eggs. All you need is a little prick (in the rounded end of the egg and then into boiling water for five minutes).

  9. Alan
    Ihave a wonderful little device that heats up at the same rate as an egg. You pop it in the pan with the egg and it gradually changes colour from the outside inwards. There are gradations for hard medium and soft. It works perfectly whether you start with hot water or cold. You can get them here £6 and you will forever beable tod dip your soldiers in your egg!

  10. Well! What can I say!

    Phil: Thank you - I have now added an 'egg pricker' to my Christmas List. (Children - take note!)

    Louise: Now normally I would rate Aunty Delia - but see my later comments!

    Humph: Page 342 of my now well-thumbed RD Cookery Year does indeed go by my favoured method. I enjoyed reading the different timings for the differing sizes and softness requirements - Quite excellent!

    Angela - You are a minx. You have not answered my question!

    Des: I laughed a lot... ,"Boil's Law..." indeed... However- you may pass on to Great Aunt Delia in Oxford Street that her timings given on her website seem awfully long... I did quite like her method of letting the eggs stand in the water for the six minutes after the one minute of simmering though... Might try that...

    Geoff (Litehiker): "All you need is a little prick..."... Well - My eggs should be fine then....

    Ali: Magnifique! This little baby is now on my Christmas List! I love the way it takes into account altitude, salinity, other eggs in the pan. Quite quite perfect and the perfect gadget for Christmas!

  11. Umm never tried the little prick method ...... maybe i should :-)

  12. Update on the Delia encounter, or not.
    I wasn’t able to talk to the great lady as she was surrounded by an aura of impenetrability, as well as a couple of beefy security guards. And to join the queue of devotees I would have had to buy her latest Christmas book, and I thought that was a bit much just on the off chance that she would give me some inside information on egg boiling. And our bookshelves at home are groaning under the weight of the well-thumbed (by my wife) enumerative Delia bibliography.

    Delia was looking good though and not as old or fat as she does on telly. But then I like her.

  13. So then... Does this mean that you can give up teasing me relentlessly for my eternal struggle as to which of you is right about boiling an egg? It has vexed me for years!

    Love Rach x

  14. Des: There was talk about 'Dame' Delia - sounds like you would back it, then?

    Rachael: Look. I will make it easy for you. Your Mum Is Never Wrong and I am always right.

  15. Alan, I certainly would back any campaign to honour Delia. She is second to none in the world of TV chefs. I love the cheeky way she whisks up soft peaks when making meringue or fluffy omelettes.

    My wife thinks I'm pathetic.

  16. Des: " I love the cheeky way she whisks up soft peaks..."
    Your poor wife is of course correct: All men are pathetic. That's the Law.


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