Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cooking In A Kettle: Vegemite Soup

This is the second in a series of blog posts I intend to post about my experimentations with cooking in a kettle. I was put on to the idea by a bloke I met in Cambodia and cooked some fairly decent meals in cheap hotel rooms out there.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting further with cooking times etc. and asking people for suggestions.

This one came from an Australian woman called Sarah I work with. Her mother used to make her this when she was ill. The Jews have chicken soup, the Australians have their own brothy penicillin in Vegemite soup it seems.

It really couldn’t be simpler, and the beauty is of course you can “cook” it in a kettle, which after all is the point of these recipes. I have to say I’ve cooked it twice, and preferred it better the second time.

Perhaps I didn’t pick up on the gastronomic subtleties on first tasting, but it definitely has a moreish quality, and I imagine with the “B vitamins for vitality” so prominently displayed on the rather garishly-coloured Vegemite tube is a good pick-me-up if you’re feeling under the weather Down Under, or anywhere else for that matter.

Sarah’s mother sends her a parcel of Vegemite tubes every couple of months or so to stop her getting homesick, and she was kind enough to give me a tube so I could try out her delicious recipe.

Like all Australians she detests Marmite, and swears this soup should only be made with 100% Australian yeast extract grown on barley and wheat ie. Vegemite. She also recommends coating warm hard-boiled eggs with the stuff so that it melts and gives, I imagine, a 1,000-year-old eggs-style coating.

Vegemite Soup


1 kettle
1 bowl
1 soup spoon


1 slice of bread

Fill the kettle with about half a pint (250ml) of water and boil. While you’re doing this carefully prepare your soup base. Using the spoon, gently spread enough Vegemite so the bread is completely covered.

It’s important to get a consistent covering for aesthetic purposes, and after all, as chefs will continually tell you if you give them half a chance - you eat with your eyes.

The next bit is a tad more tricky. Take your bowl and carefully press the bread into it so it’s evenly centred with the corners poking up into four peaks. The Vegemite side should be facing up.

Pour in enough water to half fill the bowl and let it rest for two minutes to amalgamate the flavours and give the bread a doughy - almost melted cheese - consistency. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cooking In A Kettle: Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs

This is the first in a series of blog posts I intend to post about my experimentations with cooking in a kettle. I was put on to the idea by a bloke I met in Cambodia called Dirty Derek and cooked some fairly decent meals in cheap hotel rooms out there.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting further with cooking times etc. and today nailed what I consider to be the perfect boiled egg, with virtually idiot-proof instructions.

I’ve noticed people get particularly argumentative, territorial even, about what constitutes a good soft-boiled egg. Everyone seems to have their own view on how runny the yolk should be and the firmness of the white.

Indeed, I once witnessed an argument in a waffle bar on the subject. It was in a mountainous region of the US. I forget where. A loud American (are there any others) sporting a lumberjack shirt covered in wood chippings demanded his soft-boiled eggs be cooked for exactly three minutes, with a match thrown in to stop them breaking.

The waitress said something like: “You want soft-boiled?”

“Yes I want soft-boiled!” said the red-bearded lumberjack, repeating his cooking instructions, this time in greater detail.

“You want six minutes.”

“Three!” he said, with rather unnecessary vivacity.

“It’s six here because of the altitude...”

“Fuck the altitude. Three minutes!” he said.

I won’t bore you with the details, but the waitress was right and his eggs were a slime-fest, and he sent them back for further cooking.

I can’t say I fully understand it, but it has something to do with air pressure decreasing at higher altitudes, which means water boils at a lower temperature, which means food takes longer to cook. Anyway, I assume you’ll be cooking at less than 2,000ft or so, so don’t try this on an aeroplane.

The perfect boiled egg is something that has a slight droop of runny white at the tip of the egg, ensuring a golden runny freshness to the yolk as you dip your bread in.

Some people - and I used to work a breakfast section in a hotel for a short while, so I know exactly the sort of people - believe this means the egg is slightly undercooked.

This, you can tell them, is utter nonsense, because if you cook the egg to the point where you don’t have egg white dribble at the egg’s peak, then what you will gain in the firmness of the white, you lose in the runniness of the yolk, which surely is the beauty of a decent boiled egg.

The last point I want to raise is the issue of soldiers, which reminds me of an old joke: “What’s the difference between Italians and a piece of toast? You can make soldiers out of a piece of toast.”

Soldiers are of course made by cutting a piece of buttered toast into strips, thin enough to dip into your runny egg. They should, as the Savoy and others do it, come with a small mound of salt and one of pepper on your plate, so you dip a soldier into the seasoning and then into the egg.

Of course, when cooking in a kettle in a hotel room or bedsitting room or such, you won’t, unless you’re extremely lucky, have access to a toaster - and yes, I have tried toasting bread in a Corby trouser press with rather unsatisfactory results.

So instead, you’ll have to make do with bread, cut into soldiers. Firmer bread like granary is better for this, particularly the crust. You don’t need a knife - you can butter the bread very effectively with the teaspoon. If you don't have an egg cup, you can make one by cutting one of the egg compartments out of the egg box.

In short, this carefully-honed recipe really has taken any guess work out of the runny egg issue and is guaranteed to perform admirably in the breakfast stakes. The beauty of it, unlike my other experiments, is you don’t need an egg timer.

Soft-Boiled Eggs Cooked In A Kettle


1 kettle
1 plate
1 teaspoon
1 wooden spoon


Two eggs
Salt, Pepper

Empty the kettle and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs. In a conventional kettle this will be about one litre of water. Using the wooden spoon, carefully roll the eggs in so they don’t break. Pour a little more cold water in to cover the eggs if there is not enough.

Switch on the kettle and while you’re waiting for it to boil, make your soldiers. When it is boiled, unplug the kettle. Leave for one minute to take the sting out of the water and let the steam reduce.

Open the kettle’s lid and being careful not to burn yourself roll the eggs out with a wooden spoon and put  on your plate. Pour a small mound of pepper and one of salt next to the eggs, then get to work with your soldiers. A cup of tea made with the egg water is the perfect accompaniment.