In Lasse Hallström’s heartwarming film, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Helen Mirren plays Mme Mallory, a Michelin-star restaurant owner with very definite ideas about what cooking should be. Before she decides whether or not to employ a new cook, she sets them a task: to make her an omelette. Just one mouthful and she knows whether the cook has the required talent to become a chef.
One of the best omelettes I’ve ever had was in Paris, in a family restaurant in the Marais district, called Robert et Louise. It was a mushroom omelette: simple yet rich in flavour. But then everything there, even the house red, was a caress to the palate, a pleasurable rub to the belly.
At this stage I must confess something which would no doubt immediately disqualify me in Mme Mallory’s eyes – it certainly disappointed my husband early in our relationship: in general, I don’t like omelette cooked in butter. Olive oil, please. Extra virgin, dark green, deep with a note of bitterness. Oh, and I don’t like my omelette folded while cooking either, to produce that fluffy centre. I prefer it cooked evenly on both sides, enough to for it to be a dark golden-brown.
Despite the current much-covered fresh food shortages in England, something we have so far in abundance in good supermarkets is packets of fresh herbs. I love herbs. My dream is to have a herb garden. I did try starting one on our balcony, but our roof is the Norwich centre for feral pigeons, who dig up anything I sow and crap on the rest. After four years of creative negotiations, trying to persuade them to move their headquarters to a different location, we’ve had to accept cohabitation with the flying creatures. Apparently, we should take their presence as a great compliment, since pigeons roost only where they feel safe.
A herb garden is like a French parfumerie, only much better. It’s like a garden full of fairies, each with its own spirit, its own personality, ready to cast its own individual spell. Next time you walk past a rosemary bush, stroke it then lift your fingers to your nose and breathe in its smell of home, of cosiness, of safety. The leaves of fresh oregano are like velvet, and smell like pizza, like the Trevi Fountain on a spring evening, like a Roman love song sung by a gravelly mezzo-soprano. Basil is brash, bright, uncompromising. Have you ever drunk a glass of cool water after chewing fresh tarragon? It tastes silvery, irridescent, like a glassful of moonlight. I could (and at some point will) go on.
This is one of my favourite omelettes. It’s not Michelin-star standard, but if you like fresh herbs, you may find it to your taste. Howard asked me what it’s called, and I said flippantly –
OMELETTE à la Gregoryan
Your fairy assistants:
(all measurements are approximate, see https://scribedoll.com/2023/01/15/new-blog-feasts-fancies/)
❧ 3 Eggs
❧ Flat leaf parsley
❧ Rosemary (just a tiny amount)
❧ Dried capers
❧ 2 Sundried tomatoes
❧ 1 -2 Cloves of garlic
❧ Olive oil
❧ Salt, pepper
Soak the sundried tomatoes in a cup of boiling water for twenty minutes or so, to soften them a little. Sundried tomatoes lift the overall tone of a meal and, if used very sparingly, do not overwhelm it like fresh tomatoes. Besides, if, like me, you live in a cold climate, sundried tomatoes are at least an assurance of flavour fresh tomatoes can’t always give, since they’re either grown under plastic, picked while still green to be shipped across the Channel or seriously deficient in sunlight.
Chop all the herbs as finely as you can, mix them all together on your board and chop them some more. Allow them to produce a perfume symphony, a togetherness with each individual scent discernable, complementing the others. Add finely chopped or crushed garlic. Garlic is the strong personality you invite to your table to ensure the conversation is bubbly.
Drain the sundried tomatoes and slice them into tiny strips.
Break the eggs into a bowl, then whisk them until slightly frothy. Add all the herbal mixture and the sundried tomatoes, as well as a small tablespoon of dried capers (please note that if these are already salted, you will not need to add salt to the omelette – I learnt that the hard way). If you like, add just a couple of twists of freshly milled black pepper – just a couple of twists, black pepper can be a bully if allowed free rein. Let the concoction rest for five minutes, so the ingredients get acquainted enough to make a good team.
Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and once it’s warm enough to emit its fruity smell, pour in the mixture. Turn down the heat to medium so it cajoles your omelette into frying instead of attacking it. Once one side is a nice golden-brown, turn the omelette over and wait for the other side to cook till golden.
Serve. Eat slowly, with respect and wonder, allowing each ingredient to sing its solo to you, each flavour to whisper something beautiful.
If you have enjoyed this post a little, please leave a comment. If you have enjoyed it more than just a little, please share it. I will appreciate it.
I love the term “fairy assistants” and how you describe the various herbs, Katia. This omelet sounds so tasty.
Thank you. I’m glad you like it. Let me know if you decide to make this omelette.