Before we begin to talk about how to poach eggs, I think it is appropriate to clear up a few myths and mysteries that surround the whole subject.
I met someone recently who said they had been to six leading kitchen shops and not one of them sold an egg poacher. My reaction was, 'What a great leap for mankind.' Egg poachers not only came out of the ark, but they never did the job anyway. What they did was to steam and toughen the eggs, not poach them - and did you ever try to clean one afterwards? The dried-on toughened egg white was always hell to remove.
Then came professional chefs, who passed their exams only if they created a strong whirlpool of simmering water using a whisk and then performed a sort of culinary cabaret act by swirling the poached egg back to its original shell shape. At home we can now relax, throw out our egg poachers and poach eggs simply and easily for four or even six people. The method below is not at all frightening or hazardous, but bear in mind that for successful poaching the eggs have to be really fresh.
The Delia Online Cookery School: To make life even easier, you can now watch How to Poach Eggs in our Cookery School Video, just click on the image to play.
This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook.
The key to success here is freshness.
So remember the horizontal position in a glass and the plump yolk with its inner gelatinous circle of white. Fill the pan with no less than 2.5cm of water from a boiling kettle – nothing else is needed, no salt, no vinegar, just water – and have the heat underneath quite gentle. What you need to see is the merest trace of tiny bubbles beginning to form over the base of the pan, no more than that.
Now break in the eggs, one at a time, or I think it helps to break the eggs into little bowls before slip them onto the hot water then set the timer for 2 minutes, and let the water barely simmer. When the time is up, simply remove the pan from the heat and set the timer to 10 minutes. During this time you can baste the top of the eggs with the hot water.
When the time is up, gently and carefully lift each egg out of the water on the draining spoon, letting it drain for a few seconds.
Then place the spoon on the kitchen paper to absorb any water still left.