Thursday, 8 April 2010

Scotch Eggs - The agony and the ecstasy

When I was a child, I just couldn’t stand Scotch Eggs. The horrible supermarket bought, uniform, mass-produced examples, sporting an obligatory grey sheen around the egg, like a convicted prisoners newly shaved head, about as unappetising as it gets visually, and then when paired with the accompanying aroma of cheap battery farmed cold egg. Hideous. I have no good memories of them at all.

But, in recent years, with the rise of the gastro-pub and a re-awakened interest in British food and its heritage, the Scotch egg is back on the menu, and it’s a million miles away from the supermarket versions of our youth. I guess what has made me re-consider my view is sampling Scotch eggs in a couple of London gastro-pubs which, are rightly famous for their versions. The Michelin starred
Harwood Arms in Fulham serves up a Venison Scotch egg, the bar snack to trump all bar snacks it’s incredible, and deserves all the praise that’s been heaped upon it, and more. Across town in Farringdon, the also rather excellent Coach & Horses serves up a more traditional Pork version, which is utterly gorgeous. I’ve noticed that there are a couple of important similarities between these supreme examples of Scotch eggy’ness, and it’s what holds them head and shoulders above the rest. Both pubs Scotch eggs are the size of cricket balls, and more importantly – they’re served warm with the egg yolk just set, so as you cut into it…the silky, golden yellow yolk oozes gently out…

Is it getting hot in here, or is just me?

As you’ve probably deduced, I’m sold. I now love Scotch eggs, and wanted to try making them at home. Casting my mind back, I remembered that
Gourmet Chick has a recipe on her blog, which she learnt from the head chef at the Coach and Horses himself and theirs are superb. What could go wrong?

Well, quite a bit actually.
After a moderately successful attempt the previous week where everything went right, except that the eggs weren’t soft and the amount of cayenne pepper used made them far too spicy for me (despite putting less in than specified in the recipe), I decided to have another attempt.

This time, I decided to make 4 Scotch eggs and I went ‘off piste’ a bit from the original recipe.

For the soft boiled eggs I decided to use a ‘Delia Method’ – which involves lowering the eggs into salted, simmering water – boil for 1 min…then turn the heat off with the lid on for 7 mins. Then plunging into cold water (This step stops the cooking, and also the grey ring forming).

So far so good, leaving the as yet unshelled eggs aside – In a bowl, I assembled the sausage ingredients:-

250g Pork Mince
½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper. (Still too much I think…1/4 tsp?).
1 Tsp Mace
8 Sage Leaves finely chopped
4 shallots, sliced and fried in butter.
3 Tbs English Mustard
Salt and Pepper

And for the coating:-

1 Egg
Splash of milk
Panko breadcrumbs

Ready to begin assembly – I started to shell my eggs, and here’s where disaster struck…the wobbly soft boiled egg, perhaps slightly too underdone was like a thing alive as I struggled to get all of the shell off…. and then it happened, a fissure opened in the white, and the whole thing started to collapse…. But it’s ok, I have another three…. and then the same thing happened to the next one, and in between howling in pained frustration, swearing and spitting like a man possessed…the next one ruptured as well. At this point I was almost having an apoplectic fit…. and then what’s this? Against the odds, one perfect shining beacon of soft boiled eggyness emerges from the wreckage, the sweat and the tears….Hallafuckingeulah! I feel like I’ve just given birth to it myself, and a smile breaks out on my tear streaked face.

Surveying the wreckage of the three ugly mutilated brethren, compared to my one perfect, adonesque like super egg…. I decide that I may be able to carefully reconstruct them.
Setting up a triage system on my worktop, I identify the most seriously injured egg and begin work quickly and silently, piecing it slowly back together…. luckily, the injuries sustained are not fatal; the yolks on all three are intact.

After a tense few mins where I flatten a lump of the Pork mixture, onto a piece of Clingfilm – lay the egg in the middle and use the Clingfilm to help wrap it…before shaping into a sphere with my hands. I eventually have before me 4 Pork mix wrapped eggs, and they look beautiful, the outer layer belying the hideous injuries that lurk within.

Rolling first in the flour, then the egg (beaten with the milk) and then finally the Panko, I coat all 4 Scotch Eggs ready to be deep-fried.
I have a deep fat fryer, but I can’t be bothered to get it out…. so I decide to cook them individually in sunflower oil on the hob. They need to be deep fried at 180C for 2 mins, and I’ve read somewhere that if you drop a stale piece of bread in the oil – it will fry golden brown in 30 seconds when the correct temperature is reached. Not very scientific, but lacking any way to measure the temperature – I go with that.

Judging the oil to be hot enough, I lower the first one in. And it’s instantly consumed by ferociously bubbling oil. 2 mins later, I carefully lift it out…. a deep golden brown.
Into the oil goes the next, and I return my attention to the first one….I cut it in half, and – it appears to be cooked, and the yolk is still runny…it doesn’t look tidy, this being one of the casualties – but it tastes superb and looks right.

I cook all four Scotch eggs, and we eat three of them. All are OK, they taste lovely but all are a bit ‘untidy’…I’m not pleased with the whole aesthetic element…. I put the last one in the fridge.

Morning, a new day…awaking, and my thoughts stray to breakfast I remember the surviving Scotch egg, and decide to finish it.
Cutting through it, I gasp amazed, choking back tears of joy.....the most perfect Scotch egg this side of Scotchland is cleaved open before me. beautiful soft yolk, pleasing construction. I decide then and there that this shall be the ‘poster boy’ for my Scotch egg endeavours, and that’s why you can see only it illustrating this post. The other 3, despite undoubtedly being delicious, lurk in my culinary nightmares – and it would be too cruel to share that image of horror with you.

Sleep soundly dear reader.


PDH said...

Awesome, from start to finish a joy. Hopefully we'll see a few more Scotch Egg posts coming around sound given the amount of interest that been on the twittersphere recently!

Anonymous said...

I had a bunch do the dirty on me about a month ago, I was utterly heartbroken. The eggs were too soft and squished and splatted all over the place as I tried to peel them. Woe :-(

A neat quick-start to decent sausagemeat is to use the meat from butcher's sausages. They're already seasoned, so you can leave them as they are or add a little of your own magic.

Scotch eggs are a delight though, bravo Fortnum & Mason for coming up with them.


Joshua said...

Nicely done. Following your tweets of these yesterday I had to put some of my egg peeling tips to use (not the blowing one) and gave some a go last night. They worked out pretty well so I'm going to have to jump on your coat tails and blog them myself shortly, although mine differ slightly as I whacked a load of black pudding in the meat.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful blog. Purchased one from Fortnum's just last week and I can attest to how fine your Scotch Egg looks in comparison. Don't know what it is, but a trick for the prep of the runny egg must exist; no commercial op could sustain such losses/frustration.

Dan said...

Paul - Thanks very much. Love a Scotch egg.

Gary - Good tip on the sausagemeat, and interesting that Fortnum and Mason came up with them, I had no idea.

Joshua - hahaha I needed your tips the evening before, I suspect things would have turned out very differently. Black Pudding as well, - sounds fantastic.

Mark - Thanks, lovely of you to say so. I agree- there must be a fairly foolproof method for getting it right. Trickier than it looks to get them 'just right'. I shall appreciate all the decent scotch eggs out there even more.

Graphic Foodie said...

I must give scotch eggs a go. Had a really nice haggis wrapped version once which was amazing. Good work - be good to see how you get on with the next batch. Never seen Panko breadcrumbs - they common to buy? I buy a suitcase full of breadcrumbs when I go back to Italy (yes really) but the Panko ones seem to have more texture.

Dan said...

Hey Fran - Love haggis, that sounds really interesting. Panko breadcrumbs are of Japanese origin I believe - you can pick them up in any Asian supermarket (of which Brighton has loads, as you know)...they are superb - super crispy.

franmouse39 said...

Excellent post and gimme that last egg! btw Dan, you can get some goodies from the Hand Made Scotch Egg company now on sale at that posh food shop at the back of King's Cross, where the new high speed rail link has its entrance.

Kavey said...

I made my first ever scotch eggs a few months ago (there's a post on my blog) but used quail's eggs. I didn't manage to achieve the semi-soft yolk I wanted and the sausage meat was underseasoned but, for a first attempt, I was chuffed to bits!

The Ample Cook said...

I think you've made the perfect scotch egg by the look of that photo Dan.

A warmscotch egg, with hom made potato salad is heavenly.

BTW, I agree with your comments re supermarket scotch eggs. They're disgusting. Devil's testicles ;-)

Ellie said...

Someone MUST sign you for a cookbook. This is a dreamy post.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I wanted to cry with delight.

George@CulinaryTravels said...

Dan they look amazing, absolutely perfect. Last time I made Scotch eggs was in home ec class at school - must rectify that soon.

BTW Have you tried the Scotch eggs from The Handmade Scotch Egg Company? I had some over Christmas and they were really good - so great flavour ideas.

Unknown said...

I'm on the hunt for Scotch Eggs in Cornwall, want one right this minute after reading this blog but none to be found in Watergate Bay, I'm off to have a word with The Hotel chef....

Anonymous said...

Looks great. I went to the same qype event as Gourmet Chick - and have tried making myself - great to get others involved: I had my wife and my mother in law doing it! Did a 7 min hard boil (normal method) and had to shallow fry and turn before finishing for 5 mins in oven. Tasted great with runny yolk but the shallow frying gave them lots of flat edges - so not as pretty as yours. Tasted much better hot - the crumb was crispy. - All in all great fun. Sam

Melanie Heavenly said...

Mmmmmmmmmmm I'd love one for lunch right now. Growing up in South Africa I'd never encountered such a thing until landing upon these shores. I tried a supermarket one and it was horrid. Never tried one since. This has changed my mind. Devils testicles - excellent!

The Wineyard said...

I'm sorely tempted to try making these myself now! Great post, very well written, and love the photo of the "poster child" egg. Chalk up 1 more blog subscriber! :)

azelia said...

Just in case you missed me asking on twitter;

how did you find using the Japanese breadcrumbs? I used some recently but was in two minds in the way I used if it was worth it for my recipe.

Wondered if they really made a big difference here?

Dan said...

Fran - you're the second person who's mentioned Handmade Scotch egg company to me today (George@culinary.travels being the other). I'll have to check them out.

Kavey - will have to check that out on your blog.

Jan - Thanks. The devils testicals indeed! hahahaha :)

CultureHorse - What a fantastic thought, if anyone wants to sign me up for a cookbook - feel free...go on, I dare ya!

Anonymous - Thanks, Exactly how I felt when I managed to get one decent soft boiled egg!

George - Thanks for the link (see reply above to Fran) - I'll have to check them out!

Kate - Hahaha you tell em!

Sam - Wish I'd attened that Qype Scotch egg event, I'm a big fan of the C&H version. Hmmmm 7min hard boil gave a soft yolk? I may have to try again.

MelanieHeavenly - Hahaha yes, the delights of the Scotch Egg, you should have a go at making them. Or get yourself to the Harwood Arms or Coach and Horses to try a really good one.

The Wineyard - Thanks very much. Yes, have a go, would love to hear how they turn out! more power to the Scotch Egg!!

Azelia - just saw your tweet. I thought the Japanese breadcrumbs worked well, really crispy and crunchy. Not sure if they make a big difference, but they seem to be the preference of a lot of Pros.

Rhona said...

Long live scotch eggs! I feel the urge to introduce this to my friends here in Norway. Their looks of baffled horror when I've tried to explain the phenomenen previously have put me off. You have given me the courage to have another go. Hallefuckingeulah!

Food Urchin said...

You ARE the Scotch Egg doctor! Well done for bringing your scotch egg back from the brink. In Scotchland you are bound to get a medal for your efforts.

Or something.

PS Seriously mate, looks lovely.

Kavey said...

Handmade Scotch Egg Company have some very interesting variations, some of which work really well, others less so in my opinion.

I came across them at a food festival back in 2008.

Here's the post on my attempt plus mention of their company:

Unknown said...

I think your final scotch egg looks brilliant and maybe (whisper it) even better than the Coach and Horses. I think getting the eggs soft boiled to the right amount is by far the hardest part of the whole process - very easy to underdo.

azelia said...

thanks for answering and I think you've confirm what I thought they're good but not really sure if they make a huge difference...

yes you're right a lot of pros use it but I have the feeling it's like everything it's New and Different.

I still have a couple of bags of the stuff and one flavoured and will carry on testing but at the moment my impression is they're good for things like prawns where you might want a very light breadcrumb covering.

not so sure if I could say to people they HAVE to go out and buy it especially....erm

by the way it is a very difficult job of making a Scotch egg with a soft yolk..well done..well done indeed!

Anonymous said...

You are a trooper and that Scotch egg looks fantastic. I take my hat off to you for your Scotch egg surgery. Delicious.

Hollow Legs said...

They look properly dribblesome.

Tom said...

Pretty damn impressive. And good to see someone else loves dirty English traditional food.

There is a guy called "Eat my pies" who is at Whitecross on a Thursday and Friday and does good scotch eggs. Go for the Thai variety as that is his best work (if you are in the area or work near it!)

Dan said...

Rhona - Scotch eggs in Norway...has to be done!!!

FoodUrchin - Thanks dude.

Kavey - Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

Gourmet Chick - better than the coach and horses? hahahaha you flatterer you.

Azelia - Interesting thoughts on Panko. Thanks for the Scotch Egg compliment!

Ginandcrumpets - Thanks v.much, somebody get me a job at an egg surgery - STAT!!! (see, I even know the lingo).

Lizzie - cheers :)

Tom - Thanks for the tip, and nice to meet you yesterday.

Cordelia said...

This is probably the funniest recipe blog I've ever seen.(outer layer belying the hideous injuries that lurk within- sounds like my pavlovas). I shall be sharing it around all the scotch egg enthusiasts I know!

On another note, a client of ours has a website which can find ingredients near you and I believe Panko breadcrumbs are a speciality- a free service. check it out at

I'll be adding this blog to our 'daily reads' -always good to find entertaining blogs by Bristolites- even if you're only 'on tour!'

s10marshall said...

Just made these, been trying to get the yolks perfectly soft for a while and failed - today they were perfect so thanks very much - love this post.
twitter: mrsshaunatate

Ashlee Norris said...

Well, I have never had a scotch egg. but I am well up for making one now! @getthriftycouk