Scotch eggs are one of those picnic/snack items that make me queasy. The first time I tried one (a pre-packaging, commercial brand) it left the indelible thought that eating a cold, wet flannel would have been more delicious by comparison. Soggy breadcrumbs, a thin layer of some mechanically retrieved meat paste and an egg that smelled unpleasant. I’m sure the experience increased my dislike of hardboiled eggs generally, I avoided eating Scotch eggs again for years.
I was a little downcast when my other half came back from a work trip declaring that he’d had the best Scotch eggs ever at a catered buffet and did we have any recipes we could try at home? As I’ve somehow managed to end up with 40 cookery books (and more will come, I’m sure), wobbling piles of recipe cards, a bursting folder of magazine and newspaper cuttings, it looked like there was a fair chance one could be found.
After some searching I came across two recipes; one by the late, great Jennifer Paterson in Two Fat Ladies: Gastronomic Adventures, co-authored with Clarissa Dixon Wright, and one in Sausage and Mash by Fiona Beckett. Both authors give a serious castigation of commercially available Scotch eggs and how different the home-made version is. I wasn’t entirely convinced, not because both these cookbooks aren’t good, but it wasn’t quite enough to undo the damage of that first experience. I handed over cooking duties to the other half, who’s no slouch at cooking when he has the time to do so. He wasn’t too keen on either cooks’ whole recipe but decided to combine elements of both.
Scotch Eggs (for two really hungry people or for three people as a picnic snack)
4 large hen’s eggs
400g/7oz Pork and leek sausages or the same quantity of plain pork sausages
A pinch of mixed spice
Plain white flour
30g/1 and a half ounces of fresh breadcrumbs
Corn or rapeseed oil for frying
Put three of the eggs into a saucepan, cover with cold water and put the lid on. Bring the water to the boil and then simmer for five minutes. Drain the hot water, place the eggs in a bowl of cold water and peel the shells off once cool enough to handle. This method should help ensure that the egg yolk is slightly soft instead of rock hard.
Make a cut in the sausage casings and gently peel them off, placing the sausage meat into a mixing bowl. Add the pinch of mixed spice and then mash the sausages with a fork until they have mixed together. Flour a chopping board, and your hands, and divide the sausage mixture into three portions. Take one portion and flatten it out to a disc shape. Place one of the boiled eggs on top of the flat disc-shape and lift the edges to wrap around it. Gently press the edges together to make sure you cover the egg entirely, leaving no cracks or bare spots. Roll the sausage covered egg in flour and repeat the process with the two other sausage meat portions and eggs.
Break the fourth egg into a shallow dish, add a teaspoon of water and lightly whisk. Pour the breadcrumbs into another shallow dish and then dip the sausage covered eggs first into the whisked egg, then the breadcrumbs. Make sure the breadcrumbs are sticking to the sausage meat before setting them aside. Warm a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat for two minutes. Pour two centimetres (one inch) of oil into your wok or pan and turn up to a medium high heat for two minutes.
Check the temperature by dropping a few leftover breadcrumbs in and see if they start to sizzle and brown, if they do the oil is ready, if not give it a minute longer and test with breadcrumbs again. When the oil is hot enough, gently lower the eggs into the oil. Keep turning them after a minute of cooking so that they brown evenly, to fully cook they will take about eight to ten minutes. Do turn the heat down if the breadcrumbs are browning too quickly.
Once cooked remove the eggs from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. You can now serve them hot, with salad leaves and a little toast, or allow them to cool fully for an hour if you intend to take them on a picnic. Be sure to eat them the same day as they will lose their crunchiness if left in the fridge.
Am I won over to Scotch eggs now? The recipe certainly works for a softer finish to the egg. It’s also true that it bore no resemblance to the commercially standard Scotch egg! I managed to eat egg white without flinching, which is no small achievement. Unfortunately there was only vegetable oil to fry with which isn’t the right thing for this recipe, but the breadcrumbs did turn out to be nicely crunchy. I’d definitely want to use one of the recommended oils if possible. Using the pork and leek sausages did remind me of having a fried breakfast wrapped around an egg, so this is one to try if you love your fried food.
For a future experiment I’d like to try this with quail eggs for a much lighter (if fiddly to make) nibble, using loose sausage meat flavoured with fresh herbs and a spicy breadcrumb coating.