ITALIANS call the egg yolk the "rosso d'uovo''.

Its literal translation - "the red of the egg" - gives a revealing insight into the fabulous richness of Italian eggs.

When it comes to eggs, I am extra lucky: mine come from a small local producer, who also delivers duck eggs. Physically larger than hens' eggs, with porcelain-smooth shells as white as downy feathers, there is something attractively tactile about them. Cupping one in your hand, it feels reassuringly familiar, yet different. Being larger and heavier, they are famously good for desserts: their extra volume demands additional whisking, creating fluffier bases for cakes and batters; their natural richness is outstanding in custards and ice creams.

Savoury dishes are equally transformed. A hollandaise sauce based on duck yolk is unbeatable. Gently poached or fried to an oozy creaminess, a duck egg lends aristocratic pedigree atop a rustic corned beef hash or anoints a simple salad of young spinach leaves, bacon and croutons with golden luxuriousness. That's my kind of Easter egg.

Warm salad of poached duck eggs, young spinach, bacon and croutons

Recipes serve 4

8 fresh duck eggs

10 rashers of pancetta or streaky bacon

200g washed, dried baby spinach leaves, stalks picked off

2 slices good quality white bread

Knob of butter

2-3 dsstsp white wine vinegar


1. Chop the bacon into thin strips and place in a cold frying pan. Set over a moderate heat and warm the pan. As it heats up, the fat will begin to render out of the bacon and the meat will fry in its own fat. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly until golden brown then tip the meat out into a bowl for now, reserving the fat in the pan.

2. Cut the bread into cubes, a bit smaller than 1cm square. Depending on the amount of bacon fat in the pan, add a little butter if needed and then add the cubed bread and fry, stirring all the time so it fries evenly and the croutons grow gold and crisp. Once cooked, season with sea salt then tip into a colander set over a bowl and leave to drain.

3. To finish and serve: heat a large pan of (unsalted) water. Break each egg into a small ramekin or coffee cup. When the water has come to the boil, add vinegar so the water tastes a little acidulated. Stir briskly with a slotted spoon to create a whirlpool effect then swiftly lower each cup into the centre so the water swirls the egg out of the cup into the water, creating a neat egg shape as it does so. If necessary, swirl the water once or twice more as you lower the eggs in. Allow the water to return almost to the boil then adjust the heat level so the temperature remains at a stable "trembling" level. Poach for 3-4 minutes depending on egg size, so that the white sets but the yolk remains very soft.

4. Meanwhile, heat a wide frying pan, add some butter (you can use reserved bacon fat) and add all the spinach, or, if necessary, cook it in two batches. Add the bacon and croutons to the spinach and toss to combine, season lightly with salt and a little fresh ground black pepper, then allow the spinach to wilt slightly. Divide between four serving plates.

5. When the eggs are done, lift out with a slotted spoon onto a towel to dab dry briefly, then arrange two eggs per person in the middle of each bed of spinach. Crack a little pepper over the eggs and serve at once.

Duck Egg Victoria Sponge Cake

3 duck eggs weighed

180g butter softened

180g self raising flour

180g caster sugar

Vanilla butter cream

225g icing sugar

115g softened butter

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C/350F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy.

2. Break the eggs into a separate small bowl; beat lightly with a fork. Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing all the time on a low setting. Do not over-beat the eggs. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a couple of tablespoons of flour and beat until smooth.

3. When the eggs have all been used up, fold in the flour carefully.

4. Divide the mix into two 18cm loose-based sandwich cake tins. Place one tin in the middle shelf and one on the top of the oven and bake for 30 minutes, switching shelf positions halfway through. To test if nearly done press lightly with your finger on the top of the sponge; if it bounces back it's done. You can insert a skewer as well to test it comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

5. In the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer, beat the butter until pale and fluffy, add the icing sugar a bit at a time, beating on low. Add milk and vanilla extract and beat for a couple of minutes until smooth and creamy. Spread onto one layer of the cake then sandwich together with the other layer. To finish, sprinkle some icing sugar over the top.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206