One of the earliest memories of being in a pub concerned Scotch Eggs. I was young, probably about ten (so this would be about 1990), and my grandmother was taking me to the Leeds Dental Hospital for some work. My teeth were terrible in those days. Anyway, afterwards, we went for lunch in Whitelocks and my Grandmother plumped for a Scotch Egg. So far, so idyllic – but what remained in my mind was that it was freshly-cooked – and warm. There was tomato sauce. And a little salad. God knows what I had – probably Fish Fingers and pop or something, but that Scotch Egg lodged itself in my mind as the king of all pub snacks. I had never seen anything like it. The eggs in my granddad’s Butcher’s shop were like little golden pool-balls, sitting in rows in white cardboard boxes. They were a little strange and tasted…well, flabby.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and the little egg that could has made an undoubted comeback. Not only is it being served in any self-respecting Gastropub, there are boutique Scotch-Egg makers supplying pubs up and down the country with high-end eggs wrapped in sausage. Or maybe Black Pudding. Or perhaps Braised Pig’s Cheek or even Chickpeas. Because it’s the chameleon-esque nature of it that makes it appeal; whatever flavour you desire, you can probably get, within reason. Pie and Sausages enjoy the same sense of no boundaries.
Anyway, it occurred to me a few months ago that I had never made them. I had read this article by Melissa Cole ages ago, and it remained lodged in my ‘read-later’ file for ages. I mean, how much fun does that look? Anyway, I pay homage to that today and publish the two recipes that we enjoyed at the start of the summer. Scotch Eggs aren’t that easy to make – there’s a certain knack, for sure – but once you pull a perfectly golden, sizzling ball of meat out of the fryer, split it, and get that perfectly oozy egg yolk, you’re the king of the world.
Here’s the base recipe, then. I’ve used Melissa’s base recipe and method, and it worked a treat. First up, Chorizo Scotch Eggs. I tried to approximate the flavour of Chorizo by spicing up my pork mix, and it worked pretty well. Of course, you can just buy flavoured Sausage – but where’s the fun in that?
Firstly, chop one small Onion and lightly fry it oil, along with three cloves of chopped Garlic. Don’t let the Garlic burn, as it turns bitter. Once done, leave to cool.
Take 8 Plain Pork Sausages out of their skins and put in a bowl, then season with a twist of White Pepper, two splashes of Original Tabasco Sauce, A dollop of Honey, a handful of chopped, fresh parsley, and a heaped tablespoon of smoked Paprika. Finally, add a teaspoon of Chilli Powder. Mix well (a plastic-gloved hand is best) and don’t forget to use good-quality sausage.
Once mixed, cover with clingfilm and leave for the flavour to settle into the meat – in the fridge, for about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, take four eggs and place in boiling water for five minutes. Remove from the water, and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Refresh the cold water a couple of times as it warms up. Whilst this is happening, beat two Eggs into a bowl, and sit next to a plate of Plain Flour, and a plate of Breadcrumbs. Make your own, by all means, but I’m a sucker for the ready-made kind. My natural breadcrumbs don’t ever achieve the same crunch. Do as you wish!
Put your oil on to heat – you want to get it to about 170-180 degrees and I used Olivio. Be careful around hot oil, as always.
Now to make the Scotch Eggs. On previous attempts I struggled with this – until I read Melissa’s trick; grease a sheet of cling film, and use it to ‘roll’ the egg. Place a patty of your meat on the sheet, place your ‘peeled’ egg in the middle, and using the sheet, roll it around the egg. Don’t put too thick a Sausage rind on the egg – it won’t cook through.
Roll your egg in the flour, then dip in the egg, then flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. This is how I do it – if you have a preferred breading method, then use that.
Chill your eggs (aim for four) in the fridge for another 15 minutes to firm up. In the meantime, heat your oil to around 170-180 degrees. I used Olivio. Fry for about 7-9 minutes, keeping an eye on the colour, and then drain on Kitchen Roll. When you’re happy to touch them, you’re all set. Serve with Salad, a few chips, some cheese – whatever you want. It’s your Egg. Personally, I like a massive dollop of brightly yellow English Mustard – enough to make your nose throb! For harmony, though, I mixed Tabasco with Paprika into Mayo to make a piquant little sauce.
I enjoyed my Chorizo Egg with a bottle of Adnam’s Sole Star; a real gem for a low – alcohol beer (it weighs in at 2.8% abv), the light feel of it didn’t battle the creamy egg and strongly-spiced meat, and it’s caramel heart gave up enough sweetness to make it a very satsifying combo. In fact, I’d say the egg gave the beer more oomph.
Another variation that I made was the Smoked Bacon and Cheese Egg; same method as above, but begin by gently frying some chopped, smoked Bacon, and leaving to cool after draining. Chop about 15 pickled Silverskin Onions into little prices, and add them to the pork. When the bacon is cool, add that, along with a twist of Black Pepper and about 150g of sharp Cheddar. Finally, squeeze a swirl of Maple Syrup over it – not too much. Mix well, and away you go – like a little Ploughman’s in each bite.
For that, I’d recommend a no-nonsense Bitter such as Marble’s Manchester Bitter or Hobson’s Town Crier – although, for comparison, I would also like to try something a little snappier such as Dark Star’s Sunburst or Gadd’s No 3, too – something to stand up to those onions!
Overall, I was pleased; certainly with the flavours, and my only criticism would be that the meat pulled away a little from the breadcrumbs. But all sliced up, ready to eat and a pint of beer on the side, it made for a satisfying lunch that took me right back to one of my earliest food memories.
To carry on with the Halloween season-theme, I thought I’d join the ranks of bloggers at making a Pumpkin Pie this weekend. I’d never made one before – and it is slightly more involved, baking-wise – but if you’re into Autumnal flavour (spices, richness, cosy comfort food) then it’s one to attempt. The Streusel-crumb topping is something I saw whilst researching the recipe, and I’m glad I added it – the sweet, candied crunch it provides really rounds the Pumpkin filling off nicely.
Firstly, you need to roast your Pumpkin. Get any size you want – but a decent one. If you can only get small ones, get a couple – after all, it’s better to have too much than not enough. Half the Pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy insides, then roast, face down, on a baking tray in an oven at about 180c. When soft (depends entirely on the size – about 30-50 minutes, I’d say), remove, drain the excess water you’ll get, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash it up and leave to cool.
Now you need to make your sweet pastry. Sift 140g of Plain Flour and 1/4 tsp of Baking Powder together in a bowl. Add (and you can put as much or as little as you want here, but I recommend a heavy couple of pinches) of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger – all powdered, of course. Add a little Salt, and 50g of Caster Sugar. Finally, add 50g of diced, cold unsalted Butter. Rub it together with your fingertips and soon you’ll have breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle, add one beaten Egg, and mix until it becomes a stiff Dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface and line a greased baking tin with it. Crimp up the edges, then cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.
Now to finish off the filling. To the Pumpkin mash, add one whole tin (200ml – ish) of Condensed Milk, a dash of Vanilla Essence, more Cinnamon and Ginger, a pinch of Salt, 1tbsp of Demerara Sugar, and mix up. When the mixture is cool (it should be by now anyway) add two beaten Eggs.
All you need to then is pour the mixture (you’ll hopefully have more than you need) into the pastry case. Bake at 220c for 15 minutes.
Whilst the first stage of baking is happening, make the Streusel topping by putting 2 tbsp of Plain Flour in a bowl, and adding 4tbsp of Demerara Sugar, 1tsp of Cinnamon, a chunk of cold, unlsalted butter (about 5g) and rubbing together to make a crumb like you did with the pastry. Add 60g each of chopped Walnuts and Pecans and mix in – there you go.
Take the pie out, add the topping, and bake at 180g for another 30-35 minutes or so. It’s done when you put a skewer into the centre of the pie and it comes out clean.
Well, there you go. It’s a decent couple of hours all together in the kitchen; but hey – crack open a beer, put some music on and you’re laughing. Beer-wise, I didn’t drink any whilst this was being ‘tested’ whilst warm – but yesterday I had a slice with an old bottle of Mikkeller’s Jackie Brown (6%abv) and it was lush – the coffee-focused finish of the beer just took some of the sweetness away from the Pie in a really balanced way. I’d certainly recommend going for lighter, but dryer, darker beers rather than heavy, sweet ones – the Pie is sweet, spicy and creamy and you don’t want to over-do that. SummerWine’s Barista, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch, Kernel’s Porter, Hardknott’s Aether Blaec and Dark Star Espresso are all beers which immediately spring to mind.
And of course – you can also give this a go with Sweet Potato if you have no Pumpkins!
Brewed in 2009, Coalition Old Ale (7%abv) is the result of a collaboration between the Thornbridge and Mark Tranter from the ever-excellent Dark Star . I first tried this beer a few months back, at one of our fabled bottle-swaps, courtesy of those kind chaps Andy and James of SummerWine Brewery. As I sat and tasted mine, I was very aware of how I’d probably need another chance to try it to really form an opinion of it; I certainly wasn’t expecting the kind of beer that it actually is. Not sure why, I just expected something darker, smokier, and stronger in alcohol.