I don’t think I’d be doing the humble Scotch egg an injustice to suggest that it’s got a bad reputation.
The true horror of the mass produced Scotch egg, mainstay of the wet British picnic, can be found in any supermarket in the land. Dull, grey, under seasoned meat hugging an overcooked egg, the whole lot coated in fluorescent breadcrumbs that suggest some sort of food additive derived from raw nuclear waste.
At their worst, as they so often are, the Scotch egg is an abomination, a wholehearted and shamefaced offence against all that’s good in the world of food. I’ve eaten Scotch eggs that would have been perfectly usable in one of those floodlit cricket matches where they need a ball that can be seen easily.
So, does it always have to be this way? No, you’ve probably guessed by now that it doesn’t. As with many mass produced things, you can either make it in bulk, or you can not bother and make it freshly and properly in small batches.
If you break it down, a Scotch egg is nothing more than a hard boiled egg wrapped in pork, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. There’s very little not to like there.
Wikipedia Extensive research tells us that the Scotch egg was probably invented by posh food shop Fortnum & Mason in 1738 as a novel way of shoehorning both eggs and sausage meat into a luxury picnic hamper. Whether this is true or not is debatable, but the inspiration may have come from a far older Indian dish, where eggs are coated in heavily spiced minced lamb and braised in a yoghurt based sauce.
Eggs coated in heavily spiced minced lamb? That’s my kinda dish. More on that soon.
There’s no real clue out there about why this not particularly Scottish snack is called a Scotch egg. It just is.
To make your own, you need to start in the middle.
Boil four medium sized hens eggs until they’re just set. Don’t overcook them – the centre should be a little wobbly so that it can firm up later in the hot oil.
Making Scotch eggs with quail’s eggs is very popular, but it’s a mere fad, a pointless affectation. Chicken eggs only, please.
Cool the cooked eggs quickly in a pan of cold water and shell them.
Next, the pork overcoat. You need about 400g of good quality sausage meat for this. The best way to get hold of sausage meat is to just buy half a dozen proper butcher’s sausages and skin them.
The success or failure of the finished Scotch egg is almost entirely dependent on how you season the meat. Feel free to go wild with the flavours, but remember that anything you add to the pork should be big and gutsy.
My approach is fairly traditional – a medium-ish handful of sage leaves, finely chopped, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a finely chopped onion that’s been softened for a few minutes in a hot frying pan with some olive oil, a little too much black pepper and salt.
Divide the pork mix into four and, taking a quarter of it, mould it around one of the eggs. Make sure that the sausage coating is even all around the egg. It should end up just a bit smaller than a tennis ball.
Roll the ball in some beaten egg and then in some fine breadcrumbs.
Slide the eggs carefully into a pan of hot oil, heated to 160c, and let them gently fry for about eight minutes. Nudge them with a spoon every now and again to turn them over.
When the Scotch eggs are done, remove from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool.
Slice in half and greedily eat.
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