Enter stage left, our favourite Dane. Prince Hamlet (dressed in black). Hamlet is a play in which – 400-year-old spoiler alert – everyone dies.
Welcome to Elsinore, the Danish castle in which our story takes place. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark and to cut a 33,000-word story short, Prince Hamlet- our unwitting protagonist and the play’s namesake- is busy brooding over the fact that his mother, Queen Gertrude, has not grieved for her recently departed husband (Hamlet’s father) and has instead quickly remarried, to no less than Hamlet’s uncle Claudius. Frailty, thy name is woman!
His old university friend, Horatio, arrives- but he’s pretty baffled at the state he finds Hamlet in. Hamlet’s confused because he reckons Claudius killed his father so that he would get to marry the queen, and therefore take over from his brother as King of Denmark. Hamlet is then visited by the ghost of his dead father who confirms his suspicion that yes, he was indeed poisoned by his brother, Claudius! Dear Hamlet, he tells him, won’t you avenge my death?
But Hamlet’s a sensitive, tortured soul, you see, and he ain’t cut out for this sort of stuff. The rest of the world thinks he’s slowly sinking into madness, his girlfriend Ophelia’s worried about him, his mother is too, and his pals Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are called to find out what’s up with him. Hamlet, meanwhile, is too busy lamenting his predicament- can he seek the revenge his father wants?- and with this terrible pressure bearing down on him and his hesitation to do the act and he doesn’t know if he can do it, and it’s all too much and he asks himself in the immortal scene, what would be easier for him- to live, or to die? To be, or not to be?
He decides he needs to confirm what really happened between his father and Cladius and so, the play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King! Hamlet stages a play where a King is poisoned by his brother, and Hamlet hopes that Claudius, seeing the similarities, will crack and reveal all.
During the scene of the King’s murder, King Claudius runs from the room- proof that Hamlet’s suspicions were correct. His mother wants an explanation and calls Hamlet to her room to speak to her. On his way, he spots Claudius praying alone, but he won’t kill him since Hamlet thinks killing him whilst praying will send him straight to heaven. He visits his mother, and when Hamlet hears a noise behind a tapestry, and suspecting it to be King Claudius, he stabs through it with his dagger- killing Polonius, the King’s adviser, and the father of Ophelia and Laertes.
Claudius hears about what happened and fears for his life. He packs Hamlet off to England with a letter telling the English king to kill Hamlet, but Hamlet reads the letter, switches his name for that of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, and never makes it to England. Instead, he returns to Elsinore to hear that Ophelia has killed herself after her father’s death, and Laertes is furious over the loss of both his father and his sister.
It culminates in a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes that ends very, very badly. Claudius- intent on killing Hamlet- douses Laertes’ rapier in poison, and in case that doesn’t work, he sets aside a goblet of poison for Hamlet to toast with. Instead, Gertrude drinks the poison, Laertes slashes Hamlet with the poisoned blade, they somehow switch weapons and Laertes is impaled upon his own sword, Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the remaining poison, before Hamlet, too, collapses. Oh, I die, Horatio.
There’s zero omelettes featured in Hamlet and this recipe (as well as most of the recipes in Bakespeare) come from pun and pun alone. But hey, you can’t make a Hamlet without making gags…
An omelette is a hugely underrated dish- so easy to cook, yet so easy to get wrong. A sub-standard omelette is flat, unsatisfying, and a little disappointing- like a poorly executed revenge murder. Naturally, the filling of this omelette is ham, not only because it sounds like our protagonist’s name, but also, as we know, those Danes at Elsinore are fans of a few frugal cold cuts- thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage table! This one also has potato in, which I suppose makes it a bit more of a Spanish omelette (perhaps that should be Danish Hamlette). And it’s the easiest Spanish omelette recipe you’ll ever find- seriously.
So if you’re throwing a fencing match where you plan to douse your rapier in poison and use it to stab a Danish prince, and if you’re unsure of what to serve at the after-party buffet, why not try an old favourite, pea and ham Spanish omelette? And who knows, if you’re lucky, the entire party won’t end up dead. Unlike the royal court at Elsinore.
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MAKES 1 Spanish omelette
PREP 15 mins
COOK 10 mins
▪ Best eaten on day of preparation
1 medium potato
About ¼ medium onion (or whatever you have left in your fridge!)
2 tsp rapeseed oil
2 eggs, beaten
Handful of peas (about 30g)
Small slice of ham
Salt and pepper, to season
1 Peel and slice the potato into thin slices. Cut the larger pieces in half lengthways. Finely chop the onion.
2 Heat the oil in a small frying pan, then add the onion and potato. Turn the heat to medium, and cover with a lid. Let sweat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potato is translucent and soft.
3 Drain off some of the oil, then add the beaten eggs, peas, ham, and a little salt and pepper. Stir vigorously to evenly distribute all the ingredients, then scrape any of the mixtures from the sides of the frying pan and shape the egg into a round omelette shape. Allow the omelette to cook, uncovered, for about six minutes over a medium heat, or until golden brown on the bottom and the egg almost cooked on top.
4 Next, you need to flip the omelette over to cook the top. Run a spatula around and underneath to loosen it, then carefully flip it over. You can try putting a plate over the top, inverting it, then sliding it off the plate and back into frying pan to make it easier (but my advice would be to just abandon all pretence and just go for it). Cook for a further two-three minutes. Slide onto a plate and enjoy! ▪