“Egg dishes have a kind of elegance“ wrote Elizabeth David, “a freshness, an allure which sets them quite apart from any other kind of food so it becomes a great pleasure to be able to cook them properly and to serve them in just the right condition.” It’s exactly that quality that makes this simple tartine so very lovely especially in the summer months when French tarragon arrives back on our shores. Tarragon is most commonly used in French cooking where it is considered one of the four great fines herbes – alongside chives, chervil and parsley – for sauces (think the ubiquitous Béarnaise), omelettes and butters. Its unique aniseed flavour makes it a particularly bold lover of silky soft-boiled eggs, one of my favourite summertime combinations. This recipe is named after Saint-Raphaël on the Côte d’Azur in southeastern France where I once idled away a good hour or two devouring an ancient terracotta pot of baked eggs smothered with a voluptuous tarragon cream. Served along a basket of just baked baguette and a crisp green salad, I considered it to be a very elegant dish for a hot summer’s day.
4 medium free-range eggs
100ml good quality mayonnaise
1 large echalion shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
2 slices sourdough bread
Pea shoots or chervil, to garnish (optional)
How I make it
Fill a medium sized pan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Slowly lower in the eggs, turn the heat down and simmer for 6-7 minutes. When done, carefully place the eggs into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking.
Meanwhile, mix together the 80ml of the mayonnaise, the shallot, tarragon and white wine vinegar. Peel the eggs and smash them a little with the back of a fork. Add to the mayonnaise mixture and season to your taste.
Lightly toast the bread and spread with the remaining mayonnaise. Lay the leaves on top and pile on the egg mixture. Garnish with pea shoots or picked chervil.
This mayonnaise sauce is also lovely mixed with warm new potatoes for a lovely summer salad.