“Phaedre! Have you seen Mr. Innes this morning?” Jocasta’s body servant was flying past, her arms full of table cloths, but came abruptly to a halt at my call.
“Ain’t seen Mister Duncan since breakfast, ma’am,” she said, with a shake of her neatly capped head.
“How did he seem then? Did he eat well?” Breakfast was an ongoing affair of several hours, the resident guests serving themselves from the sideboard and eating as they chose. It was more likely nerves than food poisoning that was troubling Duncan’s bowels, but some of the sausage I had seen on the sideboard struck me as highly suspect.
“No, ma’am, nary a bite.” Phaedre’s smooth brow puckered; she was fond of Duncan. “Cook tried to tempt him with a nice coddled egg, but he just shook his head and looked peaked. He did take a cup of rum punch, though,” she said, seeming somewhat cheered at the thought.
“Aye, that’ll settle him,” Ninian remareked, overhearing. “Dinna trouble yourself, Mrs. Claire; Duncan will be well enough.”
Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross (Chapter 39 – In Cupid’s Grove)
Duncan’s a good egg. I can see why Phaedre is “fond” of him.
As for his coddled egg, it would have looked a little different than mine. For one thing, Cook would have coddled it in the shell. (Egg coddlers were first made at the end of the 19th C.) Secondly, it would have been a lot less cooked than the one you see above.
Traditionally defined as having a barely solid outer white, a milky inner white, and a warm yolk, most people today would think coddled eggs were under cooked and unsafe. Instead, I cooked my eggs a little longer, to a firm outer white and semi-liquid yolk — technically called mollet eggs — to answer the food safety concerns many of us have around the factory-produced eggs of this century.
I used a coddler because it’s one of my favourite breakfasts of all time. My Dad and I used to make coddled eggs almost every Sunday while Mom put her feet up one morning a week. And I still eat start my day with them once or twice a week.
So, although Duncan wasn’t up to his that day, (could you eat breakfast if you were marrying a MacKenzie in a few hours?) I can tell you, from extensive experience, that they’re delicious.
How to Cook a Coddled Egg
Bring a saucepan of water to a low boil. Meanwhile, brush your egg coddler with butter, then add the egg(s). Season with salt and pepper, herbs, cheese, diced tomato, ham, whatever takes your fancy, but remember that sometimes less is more. Screw the lid on the coddler (do not over tighten) and place in the pan of gently boiling water. The water should come just above the level of the egg in the coddler.
Reduce the heat to medium, so that the water is at a low boil, and cook to your desired doneness, about 5-7 minutes for soft (coddled), and 8-10 min. for medium (mollet). A double coddler, like the one you see here, will take longer, about 10 min. for soft and 12-15 min. for medium.
In addition to the butter used to brush the coddler, on this morning I flavoured my eggs with a dusting of parmesan cheese, a little chopped dill & green onion and plenty of salt and pepper. They were cooked in 14 minutes.
Served with a couple of rashers and one of Claire’s Nettle-Kissed Buns, it was a breakfast worthy of a wedding day at River Run. (And what a day that was.)
Ith do leòr! (Eat Plenty)