EggEggs are available all year, but their natural season is spring and this is a good time to remind ourselves to make the most of them, and to look at how this most versatile of foods works with other seasonal ingredients.

The ultimate natural convenience food, eggs are perfectly packaged and easily stored, and they provide a reasonably priced source of protein so the basics of an easy, quick and nourishing meal are always to hand.

Eggs are high in protein and vitamins A, B, D and E and provide a good source of iron, zinc, selenium and phosphorus – but they have had a bad press in recent years, in relation to cholesterol.

However, consultant nutritionist Paula Mee says that, “Many people will be surprised to learn that two thirds of the fat found in eggs is the healthy unsaturated kind. The main fat found in eggs is monounsaturated which has the capacity to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and raise HDL cholesterol (the protective type). So those on a cholesterol lowering diet can still enjoy 4-6 eggs a week.”

Then, assuming that you’re not one of the growing number of back garden hen keepers with a supply of your own, there is the question of which eggs to buy, as they are not all the same.

Many people prefer to know that the eggs they use have come from happy hens – and anyone who has compared organic, free-range eggs with ordinary intensively produced eggs will know the difference in natural colour, texture and taste (although artificial colouring can be added to battery eggs unfortunately, which is misleading).

Less well known is the fact that the cooking qualities are also different, with free range eggs giving better volume and texture than battery eggs, as well as superior flavour.

It is always wise to choose Quality Assured eggs if possible - Ireland is one of only four EU countries (the other three are Scandinavian) which have an EU approved salmonella plan. This places Ireland in the world premier league in terms of salmonella prevention and control.

Under the plan all egg farms are tested and monitored by the Department of Agriculture and Food. But, contrary to popular perception, buying eggs produced under the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme does not mean that they have to come from very big producers – there are Approved organic and/or free range producers in the scheme, some of which will be smaller producers; names to look out for include:

Ballon Free Range Eggs (059 915 9177) Co Carlow,
Castle Free Range Eggs (071 985 1280) at Ballyshannon, Co Donegal;
Claremorris Free Range Eggs (094 936 2652), Co Mayo;
Connolly's Organic Eggs (047 87859) at Emyvale, Co Monaghan;
Galway Free Range Eggs (091 798 370) Claregalway, Co Galway;
O'Reilly's Free Range Eggs (049 433 6277) at Ballinagh, Co Cavan;
Valley View Free Range Eggs (023 884 1173) at Bandon, Co Cork.

So, choose the type of egg you want, but look out for the Bord Bia Quality Assurance logo on egg packaging - each egg carries the logo, best before date, house code and packing centre code.

Green Frittata with Spinach SaladGREEN FRITTATA WITH SPINACH SALAD

Eggs mix well with a wide range of foods and, for a very quick, well-balanced and healthy meal, you can’t beat a combination of eggs with leafy green vegetables.

This frittata makes the best and quickest meal you can imagine - the greens included can be varied to suit what’s available, and it’s great for any time of the day.

Serves 4

Click for recipe

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