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A vampire’s bloodlust for sous vide eggs


The one that got away

It was that egg again. I thought I’d dispensed of it last time, but there it was, wobbling gently like a fat man’s belly in a boat. It was an egg cooked sous vide, which means it is cooked at barely any temperature at all for hours and yet comes out barely cooked. It is quite a feat and not any old chef can pull it off.

I am in two minds about this egg. The end result of the even more endless cooking, which is really meant for the kind of meats which take forever to tenderise, is almost translucent, jellified albumen, which is really not what I want in my albumen. It’s as if it’s cooked and yet not quite cooked. I like a runny yolk. But if you know how to fry or poach an egg, you can have a nice runny yolk in barely minutes. It does seem an inordinate amount of trouble for a runny yolk and wobbly egg white.

But I don’t think you’re supposed to say or even think this sort of heresy. And the wine fundis at the table were far more impressed with the sous vide egg, I should mention in all fairness. There were oohs and aahs and I’m sure that if I had spoken the awful truth of my opinion – that an egg fried lightly in butter just tastes better than one with the texture of something having been immersed in tepid water for hours –  they would have given me that look that the cognoscenti give when they are thinking what they’re thinking but are too polite to say what they’re thinking. You know the look.

The sorbet that came with it – the pea sorbet – was, however, utterly delicious. It was by far the best pea sorbet I’d ever had. There was also bacon with it. I don’t often have pea sorbet with my bacon and eggs, but this is that sort of restaurant, and I like to push the boundaries of my palate. Just don’t try it at home.

What I am not in two minds about any longer is that Roland Gorgosilich is a very fine chef and is easing into his role as executive chef at Bosmans at Paarl’s Grande Roche hotel with something approaching aplomb. This is better measured by Roland’s veal roulade than by his bacon and eggs. The veal was sublime, with astonishing depths of flavour and an insouciant herbiness.

Can you be insouciantly herby? I think people like this can be. When you’re in this kind of company, anything can be insouciant, even an egg. For this was the third of four dishes on Wednesday night, when I had been invited to join the judges of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show for dinner in this restaurant where the chandeliers glower on high while silver tinkles below and crystal taps as a man stands up to speak. He is Alex Hunt, a wine merchant from London, and he is very, very funny.

It is his first time out of the nanny state, it seems, or certainly his first outing to the wilds of Africa. He is suitably admonished by the beauty and sophistication of everything, having been expecting the sort of plebs he knows in his South African borough back in London. Silly boy. We don’t send them abroad for nothing, you know.

Other than Alex, who was elegantly turned out in pink and blue and yellow and oh, I could go on and on, it was easy to tell which ones were the wine judges. They all had teeth stained with the red-black detritis of a thousand wines. It was like being at the closing night dinner of a vampire convention. You flinched if one of them came near.

Thirsty work

I did ask. Couldn’t you have, you know, brushed your teeth before coming down to dinner? I was expecting to be met with the look, the one you give when you know somebody else couldn’t possibly understand.

But actually they were all highly embarrassed at having to bare their fangs like lions fresh from the kill, the terrible evidence of their bloodlust dripping from their incisors. You just can’t brush them too soon, apparently, they told me coyly, because the quantities of wine which you have been tasting and, one hopes, spewing out from 8am till 6pm, takes a mighty toll on plaque and you could lose your teeth a whole lot sooner than you need to. Such are the hazzards of judging wine shows.

For breakfast next morning, I sat out on the stoep overlooking the Paarl valley and examined the menu. No mention of sous vide. Eggs various ways. I gave the menu the look. You know the look.

Published in Weekend Argus 2010

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