3 August 2015

Home-made Hollandaise Sauce and Eggs Benedict

Sometimes you want to treat yourself with a special meal.  In our family treats often comprise bacon sandwiches (bacon is expensive here).  Salmon, on the other hand is quite easily available and I buy the odd pack of smoked salmon for salads and so on. 

We have just started our summer holidays and, as a treat on the first weekend my husband and children requested a home cooked brunch of Eggs Benedict.  In the UK this is easy to rustle up as you can buy ready made Hollandaise sauce in the supermarket.  Ok, not as authentic as the stuff you get in the upmarket hotels but good enough for a quick brunch.   Hollandaise is something that is quite hard to find in many expat postings, however, and I have got used to making it at home.  It is not exactly easy to make but the difficulty comes from the hard work required to mix it rather than the recipe being complex.   I like using toasted focaccia or sourdough buns as the base for the food but, in a pinch some wholewheat bread will do.

Eggs Benedict, not restaurant pretty but made
at home tasty!
Hollandaise at its most basic takes just three ingredients, egg yolks, butter and lemon juice.  You might see recipes that call for a vinegar and shallot reduction to be whisked into the yolks before the butter.  These are the ‘proper’ recipes but they are not necessary ingredients and my family never complain if I leave them out.

Recipe for Hollandaise Sauce:

Take some unsalted butter and cut into small cubes.  Put one egg yolk per person in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  It should probably be a stainless steel bowl but most of the time I don’t have proper cooking equipment and I have never had any problems.  Whisk the egg yolks and, a small piece at a time, add the butter.  Make sure that each piece has been fully incorporated and formed an emulsion with the eggs before adding the next one.  If you add the butter too quickly the sauce will not thicken and, if you are not careful, will separate.  There are ways to remedy this (plunge into ice water, take teaspoonfuls and start again etc but they never seem to work for me).  The only thing that does work is to add the butter slowly and whisk hard.  Once the emulsion is carrying as much butter as it possibly can (you will be able to tell by the way it looks), slowly squeeze a lemon into the mix, half a lemon per egg yolk, give or take.  Keep whisking and the sauce will turn a satiny lemony yellow.  I then transfer it to a jug or cup and place that in some tepid water, when it is time to serve add some pepper and whisk vigorously once more before spooning over the eggs.

Hollandaise is hard work but not difficult
Poaching Eggs

Poaching eggs is one of those culinary skills that should be easy but ends up being horrendously messy.  The idea is to swirl the water and crack the egg in, it should hold together and poach gently.  It always ends up breaking apart on me so the only time I poach eggs in anything is in a chicken broth for when I am serving poached egg soup.  If I am trying to serve up poached eggs whole I use my silicone egg moulds, these sit in the pan of water and allow the egg to poach with no mess.  They tend to mean the eggs cook through a little more than when they are cooked in the water but my husband and children actually prefer their yolks a little firmer so to me it is worth the sacrifice.

My poached egg cheat!
Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is a heavenly confection of eggs and smoked salmon.  Take the bread base (I use wheatbran bread if I cannot get anything better) top with slices of smoked salmon, a poached egg and the hollandaise sauce.  Garnish with rocket and serve with a side salad, heavenly.  I can never get mine to look as good as the products you get at the fancy hotel brunches but the taste is pretty close.


You can use ham instead of salmon in the Eggs Benedict which is useful if Salmon is difficult to source.  If you add orange to the Hollandaise Sauce in place of Lemon it is called Maltaise and if you flavour it with Tarragon you have made Bernaise sauce. 

Given that we live in the land of Pomelo I might make a variation with Pomelo juice and call it Tambunaise!  

Click on the picture for more posts on the challenges of the expat kitchen

Ersatz Expat


  1. Hello.
    I'm originally from Singapore, now living in England. My mother was from Ipoh, and I have an aunt and cousin living there, in fact. I thought you might be interested in easier ways to make Hollandaise sauce. Not quite the same as the real thing, but nice nevertheless, in my opinion. http://leepenghui.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/experiments-with-simplified-bearnaise.html

    1. Hello - small world isn't it! Thanks for the tips, might have to try them some time.