I love scotch eggs. Never heard of them, let alone tried one before coming to London and now I am happy to publicly declare love. Obviously, like all objects of affection they vary from the utterly disgusting to the thoroughly sublime. The former can be illustrated by those sold in most supermarkets - especially the 'mini' variety and most definitely the bizarre 'egg roll' version where some unspecified ground bits from a pig encase 'egg' that is simply one long tube of yellow inside another tube of white to create a metre length roll encased in crumb to be bought by the slice. Wrong.
Then there are the ones I buy sometimes from Ginger Pig with a proper tasty egg in the centre of well spiced minced pork in a lovely crispy crumby coating. Sliced into quarters it makes for an intensely savoury snack after shopping at Borough Market. They remained my favourite until an evening spent courtesy of the Sherry Institute of Spain where I learned a lot about sherry and the pairing was done by the incomparable Heston Blumenthal. He served up quail's eggs wrapped in pork mince to go with, I think, amontillado, and they came out warm with the yolk still runny and they stayed in my mind as a truly lovely thing to eat.
Last night I progressed further on my journey of the scotch egg. Qype organised a sort of masterclass in the finer arts of this peculiarly British treat at the Coach & Horses in Clerkenwell, led by their talented and charming young chef, Henry Herbert. With sixteen of us gathered in a back room of this charming pub he gave an intro to the egg - and the generally accepted anecdote that the first scotch egg was made by Fortnum & Mason for one of their clients looking for a handheld snack to sup on as they travelled. They were presented with an egg wrapped in haggis before crumbing and deep frying, hence the 'scotch' connection. There are other stories, that they are from a Scottish breakfast, or that 'scotch' is meant as a verb in relation to the egg, the hiding of it being I guess like the use of scotch in relation to rumour. Who knows.
Moving swiftly on Henry demonstrated his mix. Pork shoulder and belly minced together for optimum flavour is the base. Add, in quantities that seem right, mace - preferably freshly ground, cayenne - the hotter the better, chopped sage because pork and sage are lovely together, caremalised shallots because the only thing nicer than pork and sage is pork with sage and onion, some Colemans mustard because this is an English dish, a generous grinding of black pepper and lastly a serious quantity of salt.
Henry posited the theory that the key to well cooked food is simply the addition of the appropriate amount of salt, it is what will make the dish work, and that it is simply fallacy to add none or not much on the basis that salt can be added after serving and it will achieve the same effect. Makes a lot of sense to me.
After that lot was thoroughly mixed we got to join in the fun. We peeled hardboiled eggs and got ourselves a lump of mince mix - approximately 50g each - while Henry went round and gave each of us a sheet of clingfilm. This is chef secret time. In the middle of the sheet of film flatten the meat into a vague circle/oval and put the egg in the middle of that. Using the clingfilm a bit like a sushi mat guide the meat around the outside of the egg till it is fully encased (scotched perhaps!).
Then for the coating. Try to remember to use both hands but only one at a time keeping one dry and using the other for dipping in milky egg ( a process that is harder than it sounds!). With what will be the dry hand first roll your egg in seasoned flour. Take it out with your other hand - soon to be the wet one - and dip it in a bowl of milk and eggs whisked together. Still using the wet hand, take the egg from that bowl and put it into a bowl of finely ground breadcrumbs. Swap hands (!) and roll the egg round till its coated in crumbs with the dry hand. Take the egg from the bowl with the wet hand and put it into the beaten egg again. Roll it round till it is once again covered in a film of liquid take it out - still the wet hand - and drop it into a bowl of coarse breadcrumbs. With the dry hand make sure the egg is thoroughly covered. Use whichever hand you have spare to remove the crumbed egg - unless you're making more than one, in which case keep repeating the process till you're done.
At this point all the eggs, an interesting collection of shapes and sizes, were collected up on a tray and whisked away to the kitchen to be deep fried in groundnut oil at 180C for about 5 minutes, then finished in the oven for about 7 minutes.
They reappeared crisp, golden and hot. The perfect ones had a slightly runny yolk when cut open. Eat immediately with fingers licked at the end.
Brilliant. My new equal favourite.