I learnt the art of marbling paper as a bookbinder many years ago. An art apparently first used in Japan in the 12th century and called, rather eloquently, “cloud art” or “ebru”.
But now this Easter I find myself marbling in a completely different way…with eggs. Marbled eggs are an oriental speciality involving gently cracking the shells of hard-boiled eggs then marinating them in tea and spices to give an exotic, almost smoky flavour.
Our trip to Badalucco last Easter inspired me to make these marbled egg starters for Easter lunch this year. We had found ourselves by chance in the small Ligurian ‘paese’ of Badalucco, inland from the romantic sounding Riviera dei Fiori. Flowers and festivity were everywhere – the town’s outer walls covered in wisteria and the main piazza decked out with trees full of decorated eggs waving in the breeze – and an egg-cracking festival in full swing.
For us uninitiated the trick was to find out how on earth we could join in the game. On tables and benches around the piazza were trays of eggs for sale and people huddled tightly together in pairs doing something strange with their hands. We managed to huddle round the huddled pairs and finally figure out a strategy.
First get yourself an egg – making sure it’s not already cracked!
Then, cradling your egg carefully in your hands approach another person who’s doing the same thing. Make sure they’re willing to play the game with you – honestly it was beginning to feel like a strange dating game…..but of course for us uninitiated, perhaps it was!
Then…..well I think these rules explain it more clearly and which amazingly enough I found on an Indian website (www.iloveindia.com) for an “Easter Egg-Cracking Party Game”:
You must agree beforehand on how much of the egg is to covered by the your hands, as revealing a large part of the egg’s shell is much more risky.
The game begins with trying to crack the pointed ends of each other’s eggs.
The person who loses must then turn his or her egg upside down. If a player cracks both ends of someone’s egg, then he/she wins the egg.
And then you find another person…and another…until there were no more eggs left. It’s obviously taken very seriously as adults and kids alike were totally engrossed in their eggs – and for once, not the chocolate ones!
Hope you manage to have a go …..and have an ‘egg-cellent’ Easter!
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Water to boil
1 litre water
3 Tbsp loose Indian tea (or 3 teabags)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fresh rucola (or rocket), washed
2 Tbsp fresh ricotta
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (Badalucco produces a much prized olive oil)
Salt & pepper
Put the eggs in a pan with water to cover them and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and run the eggs under cold running water. Put aside.
When cool enough to handle. Gently roll each hard-boiled egg along a hard surface until the shells are cracked all over or gently tap with a spoon.
Put 1 litre of water in a medium sized saucepan, add the tea and spices and bring to a boil. Add the eggs, lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Cover and allow to sit until cool. When cool you could then put into the fridge overnight or use straight away.
Whilst the eggs are ‘marbling’ you can make the dip.
Put the rucola, ricotta and oil into a small blender, blitz until a smooth paste and season with salt and pepper.
Remove the eggs from the marinade and as carefully as you can, peel the shells, keeping as many as you can for the dip or decoration.
Halve the eggs and place on a plate. Spoon some dip into a shell and add along with rucola leaves and edible flowers. Here I’ve used forget-me-nots, bladderwort, dandelion stems and daisies (all unsprayed with chemicals).
As illustrated here you could also just serve as a simple hard-boiled egg for an Easter breakfast…..sprinkle a little salt in the shell to serve with it.