Boiled eggs have been a mealtime staple probably since boiling anything was invented. In fact, egg cups (you know what these are: those adorable little cups perfect for holding hard or soft boiled eggs) have been found during archaeological explorations of Crete dating to as early as the 18th century BC. An early silver version from 74 BC was even found in the ruins at Pompeii.
Soft boiled eggs were, by Jane Austen’s time, not only served at breakfast, as the broken egg shells on the table at Mansfield Park suggest, but also served throughout the day, as a healthy, plain food for children and invalids. In Emma, they are one of the few foods that even invalid Mr. Woodhouse can recommend with grace:
“Mrs Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you.”
Soft boiled eggs in adorable cups, with, perhaps, little hats or “cosies” on top are a favorite childhood memory for many. Paired with hot, buttered toast “soldiers” (narrow strips of toast for dunking in the runny yolk) they can make the most important meal of the day a comfort food feast.
To make soft boiled eggs, bring 3 inches of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once the water is rolling, turn down the heat to a simmer and add your eggs, allowing them to cook for six minutes (you may wish to set a timer) Remove the eggs to an ice water bath (a bowl of ice water will do) to halt the cooking process while you make and butter your toast. It couldn’t be simpler.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)