This article originally appeared in the latest April edition of Foodie: A Woman’s Place. Read it here!
What’s so special about an ostrich egg?
Native to South Africa, the ostrich lays the largest eggs of all birds, measuring 15 centimetres long and weighing a whopping 1.5 kilograms! A single ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 hen’s eggs, so if you plan to cook it, make sure you invite some people over to help you eat it.
What to make with it…
Any dish you can make with hens eggs, you can make with ostrich egg but given the scale, some uses are more practical than others. Who, apart from caterers, really needs 60 plate-sized pancakes or six birthday cakes in one go? Rather than using it as a minor ingredient in a dish try omelettes, frittata and scrambled egg for a big group brunch or you can even present one as a huge boiled, fried or scotch egg to show off its size.
The taste of a cooked ostrich egg is richer than a hen’s egg and the smell is stronger, so they are best suited to savoury dishes. The cooked yolk has a comforting fluffy softness, a pleasing umami taste and is a sunny orange- yellow colour. Due to its volume, the albumin can retain a grey tinged translucence when cooked rather than turn a bright white but the taste is very similar to the whites of other eggs.
Let’s get cracking…
An Ostrich egg needs to survive being sat on by a 300 pound fully grown bird, so how do you go about cracking it open? Using the blunt side of a knife, tap gently around the base until you hear the deeper sound of the air pocket between the shell and the membrane. If you want to keep the yolk whole, use your knife to tap persistently over the air pocket until the shell cracks. Then peel away a large section of the shell before tearing the membrane and gently tipping the egg into a mixing bowl. If you want to preserve the shell to use as decoration, chisel a hole about an inch wide at the base using something like a screwdriver. You’ll need another pair of hands to hold it steady for you. After piercing the membrane, use a straw to break and mix the yolk inside the shell. There’s no need to suck or blow – if you leave the straw in place as you tip the egg over a mixing bowl, this creates an air hole that will help force the gloopy mixture out.
How to cook it…
For omelettes, frittata and scrambled egg, cook in the same way as hens eggs. To avoid gelatinous chunks and make sure it cooks through, take extra care to blend the yolk and milk thoroughly with the white and don’t put too much mix in the pan at once.
A soft boiled egg will take one hour to cook and a hard boiled egg at least two hours. Once you take it out of the pan, pop the egg in a bowl of ice water or run it under cold water in the sink. The shell retains heat and will continue to cook the egg if you don’t immerse it in the cold for 15 minutes.
To fry, use your largest pan on a low heat so it is not too thick and will be able to cook through without burning the base. If you prefer your egg over easy but want to retain the yolk shape, baste the top with hot butter to seal the yolk before turning the whole lot over into a second frying pan.
The collective noun for a group of these big birds is a ‘wobble’
The attractive shells have a solid cream colour and a slightly pitted texture like a golf ball. They are often decorated or used as ornaments but because they retain heat so well they also make good hot water bottles when plugged up with a cork!
If you want to make a decorative feature of the eggshell but accidentally break more than intended, you can still use the biggest part as a serving bowl for scrambled egg.
If you visit…
The Cape Town Ostrich Ranch in South Africa is a 45 minute drive from the city centre. You can see the ostriches around the farm and try their meat and eggs in the restaurant.