Sunny side up
It is freezing in Dhaka! We're here to warm you up though, with a few hot little secrets about a nutritional super food that we love. It can be eaten at any time of the day, can be integrated into almost every dish, is one of the cheapest form of protein in the world and can be found on every Bangladeshi street corner in winter.
What are we talking about? An epic that started thousands of years ago in the steamy jungles of India, and one that is still taking shape in kitchens all over the world today. The incredible egg! Where did eggs actually come from? We've found a few hints…
The Indian Jungle Fowl was domesticated as early on as 3200 BC and Ancient Egyptians holding eggs in reverence have been found in tomb wall paintings.
The hardy bird was one of the only true breeds of fowl to be domesticated and it has held its place in our backyards and kitchens since then, with its eggs being one of the world's most widely accepted and eaten dishes.
A wild creature more hell bent on picking up a fight with its neighbour, before domestication this fowl was primarily used for entertainment and even training Roman soldiers in combat. Rooster fights are illegal in many countries now but in rural villages all over the Indian subcontinent they still attract huge crowds to this day.
Chicken eggs are just one part of a much bigger picture though
ancient Egyptians collected pelican eggs, Aboriginal Australians consider turtle eggs as a delicacy, in Africa ostrich eggs are popular and there are also of course the more common peahen (the female equivalent of a peacock) eggs, turkey, duck, goose, and even ostrich eggs. The opportunities are endless!
Reasons why eggs are so good for you
That stuff that makes them smell – sulfur! Eggs are high in sulfur, which helps with everything from Vitamin B absorption to liver function, and is vital for producing collagen and keratin – which mean shiny hair, strong nails and glowing skin.
They're full of fat – the good type: Healthy fats are very important for our bodies, while unhealthy fats are dangerous. Eggs are a great source of “good” fat and what you may not know is that it they actually increase the effectiveness of any vitamins you consume, as many nutrients are better absorbed with fat.
They are nature's cheapest protein bar: Eggs are a well-known source of the important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Our bodies need protein to build and repair tissues and make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. What is most important to remember is that our bodies do not store protein (like fat and carbohydrates are stored) and therefore we need to constant be replenishing our supplies.
You could save on torch batteries: One of the major positives of eggs are their levels of Vitamin A. Having trouble seeing a lot on those dark nights and foggy winter mornings? Vitamin A is a component of a protein that absorbs light in your retinas, protects membranes around the cornea and lessens your risk of night blindness. We need a fair bit of it too – it is estimated that women need 700 micrograms of daily vitamin A and men need 900 micrograms. One large hard-boiled egg provides approximately 75 micrograms of vitamin A.
They are a little piece of sunshine: One of the challenges in winter is being able to get enough sunlight, which is how your body naturally produces Vitamin D. If you feel like you're not getting enough sun, turn to eggs for some assistance - the yolks are the colour of the sun, and the benefits they provide to your body are similar. Eggs are a rich source of Vitamin D, which keeps your bones and teeth strong, promotes the absorption of calcium and regulates calcium levels in your blood. It is estimated that our bodies need 600 international units of vitamin D each day, and one large hard-boiled egg provides about 45 international units.
Eggs in the kitchen
The list of ways to use eggs is endless, but we have decided to go beyond boiled, scrambled, poached and fried – here are two recipes you may not have tried:
Deliciously deviled eggs:
Eggs Mimosa, as they are called in the UK, are easy to make and definitely sound a bit exotic as an evening snack. Spice up the next dinner you make for your family with this easy dish that looks good and tastes even better.
Start with hard-boiling four duck or chicken eggs. Duck eggs take almost the same amount of time but to be safer, simmer an extra 5-7 minutes after the water has boiled. Once boiled and cooled, gently peel off the shells and cut the eggs in half, giving you two oval halves. Empty out the middle yolk gently without tearing the white top. Mash up the yolks together with 1 teaspoon kashondi mixture, 1 small tomato (diced finely), the green leafy parts of a spring onion (diced finely), ground jeera or cumin seeds, bell peppers (very finely diced), mint leaves (finely chopped) and salt and pepper to taste.
Once all the ingredients are well mixed, scoop them back into the boiled egg whites carefully so they look like the yolks. Sprinkle some lightly fried cheera or rice crisps or even lightly roasted cheera. You can also use roasted nuts as a topping and serve with a hot tamarind sauce to further tantalise those taste buds.
Funky Friday morning frittata
Frittatas have to be the easiest egg recipe – they can be made with just about anything you have in your house or whatever is in season at the market. They basically only require eggs, vegetables and seasoning, and they are really flexible – a nice touch is to add cooked red rice to them, and then make a homemade spicy salsa to serve on top.
Dice two cups of whichever vegetables are in season and sort them into three groups: dense (for example potatoes or asparagus), lighter (for example mushrooms, capsicum, broccoli) and greens (for example spinach or fresh herbs). Saute two cloves of garlic and a small onion (quantity can be altered depending on your taste) in a pan with two teaspoons of olive oil over low heat. Add in spices to your taste – some suggestions are paprika, cumin, basil, or oregano, or a combination of two different ones.
After about three minutes, turn the stove up to medium heat and add in another two teaspoons of oil and the dense vegetables. If you are using asparagus, you may want to remove it and then add it back in just before the final step. Then add in the lighter vegetables, and finally add in the greens.
The vegetables should be cooked but still crispy after a total of approximately five minutes. If you would like to add in cooked red rice, do it now. Whisk six eggs together and then pour them over the veggies, making sure the eggs settle evenly over the vegetables.
Cover and then let the eggs cook over the stove on medium low heat until the top of the egg is cooked and not runny. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Serve the frittata top with fresh herbs or spicy salsa, or both!
Eggs outside the kitchen
In Elizabethan times eggs had other uses as women used egg white to make themselves look fairer, which seemed naturally more important than they way it would have made them smell! Eggs are still widely used nowadays in bathrooms, as hair treatments and facial treatments. Even earning a place in religious traditions, the Mesopotamian Christians started Easter eggs by painting boiled eggs red to symbolise the blood of Christ.
The Christian church in 1610 AD later officially included this as a tradition, which symbolises the resurrection of Christ to believers. The Lord Brahma in Hinduism is said to have hatched from a floating golden egg.
Whether they are put on your fork, painted as a decoration for your shelf or used to bring shine to your hair, eggs have carved a permanent niche in our everyday lives.
Just remember that if you are going to use them in your hair, that you wash them out using cold water. One of the authors of this article has used hot water and yes, scrambled them completely -- just as she was heading to a job interview. Maybe leave the hair treatment until summer!
Photo: LS Archive