Egg carbonara – a twist on breakfast

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We all have our favourite breakfast or brunch treats, whether it’s eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, French toast and bacon or the full English. This is a slightly different poached egg dish with the classic flavours of carbonara without the carbs of pasta.

I was inspired to make this after tasting a similar dish at the market in Altrincham, just outside Manchester. I have no idea how they made their dish but this is my version of it. I tried a number of different methods to produce a sauce that gave the same salty, deep, cheesy flavours as the pasta classic. So here goes…

The starting place for this is a liaison sauce – chef for a sauce thickened with cream and eggs. The danger with liaison sauces is that you may make a rich scrambled egg if you take your eye off the ball, not what we want! We’re looking for a sauce with a similar viscosity to Hollandaise but tastes like a creamy carbonara. So taking the key ingredients of carbonara (eggs, Parmesan, lardons, garlic, black pepper and parsley) I started playing around with the sauce.

Where I got to is: eggs, Parmesan, bacon, black pepper, carrot top (the green fronds) and creme fraiche. I know that carbonara does not have dairy in it, but I didn’t like the result when using butter as it was too close to Hollandaise. The creme fraiche gives a nice acidic hit without needing to add lemon juice or vinegar and gets the creamy consistency I was looking for. Garlic is possibly a step too far for breakfast unless you’ve got a cold!

The sauce is fairly simple – beat the egg yolk and creme fraiche together and heat over a pan of hot water until the egg is cooked and the sauce thickened, then add the rest of the ingredients to taste. The bacon has to be crunchy and the cheese has to melted into the sauce. If you want a smooth sauce (maybe you have a siphon and you want make a foam) once the cheese has melted, that’s it. If you want some texture, add the other ingredients. It will take 15 minutes to make the sauce this way but I think well worth it.

In terms of healthy eating, is this really a good alternative for breakfast? The quality of your eggs are important – eggs from happy hens are better for you than battery layers. Eggs are nutrition bombs and provide a number of vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats. Previously vilified as the cause of increased cholesterol, eggs are now seen as providing us with healthy cholesterol, provided we eat them in moderation.

Good creme fraiche is a fermented product so has probiotics (a bit like yoghurt) so as long as you are not concerned with the full fat content and you are not calorie counting, it is good for you and your gut health. Also, there is very little lactose, if any, left in the creme fraiche after fermentation. I avoid the low fat versions as they do not have the same cooking qualities – you may find your sauce splits when using these poor imitations.

This links in to the Parmesan, it is also very low/negligible lactose content. It is high in protein, low in fat, low in carbs, high in minerals, high in omega 3 fats and high in vitamin K2. Parmesan is also a fermented cheese product so more of those useful probiotics for the gut. And it tastes great!

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 90g creme fraiche
  • Parmesan, grated
  • Carrot tops (the fronds), chopped – parsley or tarragon could be used
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 rasher of bacon (more if you want to serve on the plate)

Method:

  1. Bring a small pan of water to the boil (you need a heat proof bowl that will sit on top); put the bacon on! To get it crispy set the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3. Drop the bacon onto a frying pan on the stove at a medium heat with a little oil. Once the rasher is cooked through, put it in the oven until crisp and brown. Remove and dice.
  2. Put the egg yolk and the creme fraiche into a heat proof bowl and beat together.
  3. Put the bowl over the hot water, note that once boiling take it off the boil and onto a medium heat – if it is too hot you’ll scramble your eggs. Also, make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Now you need to stir the mixture constantly until it thickens and the egg is cooked. This will take a little time so have patience (15 minutes) and a good podcast! The hotter your pan of water the faster the egg will cook but you run the risk of scrambled egg.
  4. Once happy with the thickened sauce, add the grated cheese. For this volume you’ll need about a handful. Melt the cheese into the sauce, add the bacon and some black pepper. Then season to taste with salt.
  5. If the sauce is too thick at this point, you can add a little warm water to loosen it. There is no right or wrong consistency – it’s your food.
  6. Serve!

Notes:

The sauce can be “held” (chef for keeping warm without spoiling) for some time. Just leave the bowl over a pan of warm to hot water (not too hot that it turns it into scrambled egg!) and keep an eye on it. It will need a regular stir and may thicken over time so we can add a little warm water when needed to loosen. This means we can make the sauce whilst everyone is still in bed, make coffee, then focus on poaching eggs and finding the herbs.

If you do end up making scrambled eggs, it will taste really good, so just change the menu and don’t say anything!

I used carrot top instead of parsley – feel free to use parsley, it’s just I had carrot tops which make a nice change.

This would work as a sauce for courgetti if you are looking for a low carb dinner instead.

Nutrition info (this is just for the sauce):

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