Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cookbook: Egg Salad Chronos

Ingredients come in many kinds, dear reader. Some are so exotic and exclusive that they are barely ever used. Take truffles. Forsooth a most wonderful mushroom, but its taste is so dominant and particular that the recipes calling for truffles can be counted on one hand. Then there are staples that are frequently used, but just as often get replaced by their peers. Think lettuce, or white beans, or flour, and all kinds of meat. Finally there are those that you can barely ever do without, that occupy a place on pretty much every cookbook page ever printed, that you always keep stored in the cupboards, the fridge or the pantry, particularly if you don’t get along too well with your noisy nerdy neighbours. Salt, eggs, water and/or oil, onions and peppers for most of us, sugar for many, Mayonnaise for me.

There is, however, one ingredient which is essential to countless gourmet dishes, but rarely gets recognized as such. Time. And no, I’m not thinking here of the ‘flat’ time it takes to prepare the fare, but of the ‘irreplaceable’ time necessary to enrich and ripen a dish once produced, the period that must pass to bring out the deeper aromas, the dormant flavours, the soul of your culinary creation. Surely you all know what I mean. Think grand cru wine. Think old Dutch cheese.  

That this ‘maturing time’ is so rarely remembered is a little odd, since it does not allow for any short-cuts. Where ‘flat time’ may be reduced by the furious use of kitchen appliances that cut and mix and pressure-cook, by prefab cans and satchels, or supermarket bags of ‘mixed soup vegetables’ and the like, ripening time cannot be bought, cannot be replaced and cannot be done without if you want things to come out the right way. There is no choice here. We are its slaves, our wrists mercilessly shackled to its hands. The length of time must be heeded, accepted, humbly bowed to. The only saving grace is patience. Yes: old Chronos is an excellent chef and a famous glutton, but also a god deadly jealous of his prerogatives.

So, just as there are dishes that the passage of time will destroy – the famous green salad once tossed with the vinaigrette, or the open bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau foolishly left in the door of the fridge – there are others that only come into their own after a 24-hour maturing period. One of those is my favourite egg salad, whose secret I will share with you today. Of course, you may eat this fine mixture immediately after stirring it together. But that is like looking at black & white reproductions of Picasso’s Blue Period: an absurdity, a shame and an insult to your own intelligence. What you should do is make it a day in advance, and postpone your yearning for instant satisfaction. Both your egg salad and your life will be so much the richer!

But enough said! To work. Here is what you need to gather and need to do:

Essential ingredients
3 hard-boiled eggs for every two diners
¼ medium sized onion, chopped small or even pounded in a mortar
2 slices of luncheon meat or – preferably – mortadella 
Mayonnaise, as much as you like (but at least two hefty spoonfuls)


Black pepper, freshly ground
Curry, a teaspoon
Mustard, a spoonful
Sesame oil, a dash
Chives, chopped
Parley, preferably fresh, chopped
Dill, preferably fresh, chopped
A teaspoonful of capers, chopped

Now, I am aware that this looks like a whole lengthy lot and therefore goes horridly against the grain of my cookblog’s ironclad motto: ‘Impress Through Simplicity and Please Through Ease’. The sin is, however, modest, dear reader, since I gladly grant all of you the privilege to leave out whatever you wish or do not have readily at hand. It speaks for itself that egg salad can not possibly do without egg or mayo. But whether or not you include the other ingredients – and in what proportion – is completely up to you.  In fact, as always, I summon you to experiment and find your own way to bliss, particularly when it comes to the amount of mustard, salt, curry etc that you appreciate.

Lastly, there are a few ingredients which you may wish to throw in - or not - according to your personal taste. These are:

Olive oil, a dash, for that vaunted ‘Mediterranean’ flavour and diet…
Lemon, a dash
Yoghurt, to replace the Mayo
A leaf of lettuce, chopped up, for a ‘green’ taste and look
Half a boiled potato, for volume

Once you have decided what to use, toss everything into a bowl. Mix with love. Put the ready mixture into any sort of jar and close the lid. Put the jar in the fridge for at least 22 hours. Take it out two hours before dinner, remove the egg salad to a more presentable bowl, and let it reach room temperature. Sprinkle with a little dill and some paprika powder, and serve with buttered bread or toast.  


  1. Hmmm... I never really liked this kind of messy stuff, but reading this watered my mouth. Methinks the supermercado-variants of this made me feel against. And alas, the Spouse still doesn't like boiled eggs...
    Some remarks:
    What is parley? Parsley, perhaps?
    Luncheon meat, aka as Spam?? Why not quality boiled ham?
    I hate Curry because of its ubiquitousness; bakers use it abundantly in sausage rolls (saucijzenbroodjes), which spoils everything. But a little cumin and coentros probably will be tasty, indeed...
    Lemon is a good idea.


    Je R

  2. Dear Jerry,

    Pre-fab supermarket egg salads are awful enough to turn a man of taste and sophistication against FOOD! Such junk ought to be forbidden by law, but that would go against the European rules for fair competition, I guess.

    Parley - you guessed right - should read parsley.

    The luncheon meat you use should preferably be one step up the quality ladder from spam. I checked Mortadela (Spanish) and Mortadella (Italian) against the Google translator and it comes out as 'Booterhamworst' in your native language. Which sounds awful, like the 'baddest' sort of ham one can possibly produce. But I guess it will do the trick. If you want to use boiled ham, be my guest. I think it does not have the same effect, but to each his own.

    The curry in this recipe really only serves to underline the taste, not to dominate it. Put in very little, or by all means leave it out altogether.

    'Coentros' (Portuguese) is 'Coriander' in English.

    Lemon: be very careful and go slow on that. Particularly if you also put in (pickled) capers and / or mustard. Both already have an acid effect, and you do not wish to overdo that side of the taste spectrum.

    I say it again: if your wife does not like eggs, trade her in for a less demanding model!


  3. Dear Alf,

    Thanks for the one on Coriander. Life can be simpler than the imagination sometimes. And, now you mention the capers, you automatically answer a question I had but forgot to ask: which kind of capers? The most common ones (pickled)? Or the smoother, really delicious kind in oil? Or the not so subtle ones in salt? Apparently you ment the pickled.


    Je R

  4. Dear Jerry

    Sadly, here where I live only pickled capers are available. By all means: use the better sort! It can only improve the egg salad which your wife won't eat...


  5. The only truffles I eat are the chocolate variety. That said, this egg salad sounds delicious - I will be sure to try it. My favourite herb is Coriander. I put it in (almost) everything... even baked beans. It adds a certain flavour to the food.

  6. Dear Ms Azra,

    Of course chocolate truffles and 'mushroom' truffles have nothing in common except their looks (and not even that, really...). You ought to try the real thing some day. Quite a distinct and interesting taste, in the same exceptional league as sesame oil, horse radish and - indeed - fresh coriander. Did you ever notice, by the way, how very different coriander leaves are from ground coriander seeds? And yet both are marvelous.

    Yours, Alfred.