The secret of a good egg? Freshly laid by your own hens

By Keith Allan

Michel Roux, in his excellent book Eggs, admits to being fascinated by the humble egg. ‘Faithful kitchen companions’, he calls them, and his book manages to offer 130 recipes and ideas for using eggs.

Ever the perfectionist, he requires the freshest of eggs for his cooking. I recall a day at the Cipriani in Venice a few years ago where he experimented with his students on the best way to poach an egg. Boiling water or simmering water? Salted water or a dash of vinegar in it?

Of course, he had learned over many years how to achieve the perfect poached egg, but it was interesting to see the results that came from the various methods.

A kitchen without eggs would quickly grind to a halt. Simple and easy to cook, they are nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.

An egg is a wondrous thing, especially if it is freshly laid by one of your own hens.

To walk along a row of straw-lined nest boxes, collecting still-warm eggs, is a strangely satisfying experience, and like home-grown vegetables the taste and look of your own eggs is incomparable.

Crack one open and the yolk should be a deep, daffodil yellow, for that is a sign of a true free-range hen foraging in woodland and fields where it finds everything it needs.

Throw them a little grain now and again, and a few kitchen scraps if you want to, and they’ll reward you with eggs that no supermarket can compete with, even if they are labelled organic and free range.

The daily walk to the hen house is a much looked-forward-to ritual. I leave it until the afternoon, when most of the hens have had a chance to lay. I talk to them and whistle them in if I’ve got a little treat to give them, and they come running like faithful puppies.

And when I click the door open and catch my first glimpse of the brown eggs lying in the golden straw it’s like witnessing a tiny miracle, except this miracle keeps happening every day.

• Keith Allan is a freelance travel and radio journalist. Together with his wife Lynne, he runs a country concept store and Coffee Shop at the Old Dairy in Ford (opposite Ford Castle) where they specialise in artisan roast coffee and freshly baked scones, bread, and cakes. They also serve high tea.

Call 01890 820325/01289 302658.