for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea: a good mushroom omelette

a simple mushroom omelette
Custom does often reason overrule
But only serves for reason to the fool.

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 

So in thinking about what the notorious Earl of Rochester had to say about reason, custom and fools, I had to ask myself why it is then that I add a splash of water to my eggs before I make an omelette?

I add a smidgen of cold water to my eggs because that is how my mother taught me to make an omelette. Why did she do this? Because her mother taught her to. Is it reasonable?

I can't work out the science of why adding a little water to the egg leads to light, fluffy omelettes. Perhaps it is something to do with having a very hot pan, cooking the omelette very quickly and the water converting to steam . . . suggestions would be welcome!

I do it because Evelyn, my mother, did it and Nana, my Scottish grandmother did it. It's our custom. Does it make us fools? Certainly not, unless you are averse to perfect omelettes every time!

Perhaps I shouldn't be taking advice from John Wilmot, notorious 17th century libertine, rake, wit and debaucher. Although I find it frightening that he wrote that witty little epigram when he was about 18. I could only dream of being that astute at such an age.

I may not have been very astute at 18 (or licentious for that matter) , the one thing I could cook was an omelette. While some seem to find it difficult, or perhaps they like omelettes with the texture of old chammy leather, tasting of burned butter. However, if you don't like them like that and would you like a few tips for the perfect omelette, then carry on reading.

All you need to know is that the pan should be hot, the eggs fresh and the cooking quick. Do not whisk the eggs, but use a fork to break them up. And finally, use the correct size pan. It goes without saying, if the pan is too big, then you will end up with a thin, leathery pancake. If the pan is too small, well it's going to be more like an eggy pudding. While you don't have to use a special omelette pan, you should use one with gently sloping sides, since it is easier to slip it out of the pan. That's it.

This week (20th to 27th January) is Farmhouse Breakfast Week – an annual celebration of the British breakfast and reminding us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day to keep us alert and healthy. If that wasn’t reason enough to Shake Up Their Wake Up and have a good breakfast, the news that people who eat a breakfast are more likely to be slimmer. Though as a breakfast eater myself, I would say there are always exceptions to the rule!

mushroom omelette
Serves 1
Skill level: Easy

100g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced (include the stalks)
50g butter
a grating of fresh nutmeg (optional)
2-3 eggs
a splash of water (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped (to serve)


  1. Slice the mushrooms, including the stalks and gently fry in half the butter. Add a pinch of salt and they should release some of their liquid. When softened, add a little black pepper and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Keep warm while you make the omelette.
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl and then break them up with a fork. Give a couple of beats to combine the yolk and egg, but not so much that the egg is frothy. Add a smidgen of water, lashings of black pepper and a little salt. Stir once.
  3. Warm your frying pan over a medium heat. Add the rest of the butter (or enough to coat the bottom of the pan). The butter should melt immediately and begin to froth (it should smell a little nutty, but not burn!) As it melts, swirl the pan so that the butter coats the sides too. At the moment the butter begins to slightly colour, tip the egg into the pan. After 10 seconds, tip the pan so that the egg swirls around the pan.
  4. Take a wooden spoon and draw the edge of the omelette at the far side of your pan towards you. At the same time, tilt the pan slightly so that the uncooked egg runs into the emptied part of the pan. You may need to do this once again.
  5. While the omelette is still slightly damp in the centre, remove from the pan. Don't carry on cooking until dry because your omelette will be overcooked, tough and leathery. The omelette will carry on cooking even when it has been removed from the pan.
  6. How do you remove from the pan? Anyway you damn well please! But if you are fussy about these things, position your pan above the plate you're going to serve it on. Give the pan a little shake (or loosen the omelette around the edges with your wooden spoon). Tilt the pan and slowly begin to tip the omelette out. As the omelette begins to slip onto the plate, quickly fold the top of the omelette over the bottom part which is on the plate.
  7. Serve with warmed mushrooms on the side.
  8. Sprinkle over a little chopped parsley.


  • Add a little cream to your mushrooms for something even more luxurious.
  • In Spring, a little chopped wild garlic, sorrel, young nettles or baby spinach is delicious in an omelette.
  • A mixture of fresh herbs are fabulous in an omelette - parsley, chives or chervil are delicious.
  • Sprinkle over a little grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and grill for about 1 minute before serving.

No comments: