21st March is St Benedict’s Day – he isn’t normally accredited with a feast day as such, but as Winchester Diocese, the one to which I belong, is reconnecting with Benedict I thought it apt we should mark the day in some way. However Benedict wasn’t a great one for feasting, despite allowing his monks a pound of bread a day. On the subject of Lent he wrote this:
The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6). In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore everything must be done with the abbot’s approval.
I did seek within the Rule of St Benedict for some permission for feasting on a saint’s day, but all I could discover was that you use the Sunday form of worship instead of every day form. Nothing about feasting at all!
So today we brunched on Eggs Benedict!
This is normally served with a slice of ham, or perhaps bacon, and on a toasted breakfast muffin. You will need to seek permission from your ‘abbot’ in order to break from the Lenten fast and indulge in meat – we kept to the vegetarian option. I also served our eggs on slices of Soda Bread left over from St Patrick’s Day which worked really well.
- 175g butter
- 3tbsp water
- 3 egg yolks
- salt and pepper
- lemon juice
- poached eggs (one for each serving)
- slices of Soda Bread
1. Melt the butter and skim off the froth (I do this in the microwave approx 1min 30sec). Leave to cool.
2. In a small heavy bottomed saucepan whisk the water and the egg yolks together (in Lenten Style, keep the egg whites to bulk out scrambled egg for lunch), with a little salt and pepper, for 30 secs until combined and light and frothy.
3. Put the pan on a low heat and whisk for 3 minutes until the mixture leaves ‘a ribbon’ for 5 seconds. DO NOT SCRAMBLE YOUR EGGS.
4. Remove from the heat and whisk the mixture as you dribble in the cool butter. You will discover a whitish ‘whey’ at the bottom of the melted butter, do not add this. I haven’t discovered a use for this other than feeding to the kitchen cat!
5. Once the sauce has thickened, add the lemon juice to taste. You have now made Hollandaise Sauce (which is reputed to be rather tricky – I was quite impressed at my first attempt – I think the key is not to let the eggs cook as you whisk them otherwise they will scramble). I haven’t given instructions to poaching the eggs – surely if you can make Hollandaise sauce you can poach an egg!
6. Serve the eggs on top of the soda bread, and pour over the sauce.