The Humble Egg
words by Susan Egarle & photography by Edana Isobel Jamora
'A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.'
Egg consumption has been part of the human diet for many years. It is one of the most indispensable ingredient in the kitchen. Its versatility is incomparable when it comes to human consumption. The uses of an egg range from being a main dish, an integral part of food preparation, a key ingredient, food colour and a medium for making vaccines.
In food preparation, eggs are used (aside from its nutritional value), for taste. The flavour in the yoke adds colour to food - attained by showing a yellowish tint to batter and dough. It is also used as a rising agent, a thickening agent and an useful component to add moisture. Nutrition wise, eggs are high in protein, minerals (iron, calcium, phosphorous), fats, vitamins (A, D, B1, B2, B12).
Jacques Pepin, a culinary expert states- “I can’t live without eggs,” he further says, “eggs have the unique ability to be transformed into almost anything." With several cooking variations, eggs can be boiled, fried, baked, poached and made as base for certain deserts such as pavlovas and meringues, or used as glazing to many pastries and breads. They also are used as binders for many baked recipes such as meatloaf and many many others.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE HUMBLE EGG
Once your eggs have reached your kitchen, it is best to maintain its quality to preserve its freshness and longevity:
1. The contents of an egg are neatly packaged by mother hen in a shell made of calcium carbonate. A very thin coating of protein called cuticle covers the shell. The cuticle however is not the only barrier in protecting the egg from microbial insult. Just within the shell are two other membranes that block contaminants.
2. The eggshell is not a solid structure. It contains 7000 to 17,000 pores. Under normal conditions, the cuticle prevents bacteria from entering.
3. It is recommended that eggs should be placed in an enclosed carton or container and kept in the refrigerator compartment with temperature ranging from 7.2 °C – 12.8°C.
4. If stored in an open container, eggs can pick up unwanted flavours from other foods.
5. Without the protection of the carton or container, it can lose moisture and gas at a rapid rate, which leads to the decline in the eggs functional properties such as coagulation and foaming.
6. Improper washing of eggs can introduce contaminants into the eggs. If you collect a recently laid egg, naturally the egg is quite warm and placing it in a bucket of cold water will create a temperature differential causing contaminants to be sucked into the eggs through the pores in the shell. The safest way to clean it is to brush off any excess adhering dirt.
7. Greyish green yoke colour happens when eggs are boiled far longer than the recommended boiling time. Iron and sulphur two of the minerals in egg form an iron-sulphur complex with protein. To avoid this, it is recommended that eggs are placed in cold water before bringing to boil and when the water boils for a couple of minutes, cover pot and turn off heat. Let the eggs cook in hot water for another 15 to 20 minutes and cool eggs quickly in cold running water.
8. Eggs with yellow straw-coloured albumin are more wholesome. It indicates the presence of riboflavin (vitamin B2). More than half of the eggs riboflavin content is in the albumen.
9. Common Spoilage Test: Drop egg in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks, it is still good. If it floats, it is old and must be discarded.
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids. Many nutritionists routinely compare other food proteins to egg, and many agree that the egg is the standard for perfect protein. Eggs are among the most complete and least expensive protein food.
Eggs versatility is also proven due to the population segment it crosses. From babies to senior citizens, it is something that can be served. It is important also to recognise the fact that many people are concerned about the cholesterol in egg. Cholesterol is a sterol that is manufactured and needed in our bodies. Contrary to information in the media, research has shown that the amount of cholesterol a person eat has a variable and small effect on the amount of cholesterol in that persons blood. Reducing saturated fats in the diet are important. Eggs have a desirable unsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid ratio of 2:1. A large egg contains 80 calories and therefore can be well utilised by the nutrition conscious dieter. If one is worried about cholesterol, you may be happy to know that eggs contain mostly the “good” HDL cholesterol. Its abundance in protein, choline and lutein, and low calorie characteristics may not really be as bad as people once thought they were.