Sunday, June 13, 2010
Scotch Quail's Eggs
Figuring resistance to the World Cup is futile I started planning dinners in front of the tele for England matches as I know that's where the man will be. Finger food but more substantial than nuts. Plenty of napkins.
In my mind's eye I laid out a fabulous feast for Saturday night, eclectic, interesting with guaranteed delight in every bite. In much the same way that England went in expecting a win and ended grateful for a draw I fumbled the final result and created a meal that was less than the sum of its parts. More miscellaneous mishmash than desirable diversity.
Desperate for more summer rolls but this time with prawns and using vietnamese basil from a plant in the garden. Variations on this theme are becoming a motif for the summer. Had to have asparagus because the season is too short to waste a single opportunity, but decided I would make aioli with some spring garlic rather than hollandaise. These two dishes are not natural companions but I didn't really think of that. I also really really wanted to make some mini scotch eggs using quail's eggs which, when they existed only in my mind's eye, were tiny things that were no more than a single mouthful of lightly spiced pork encasing the egg with a warm runny yolk. How hard could it be? Figuring they could also be dipped into the aioli, thereby tying all the elements together, all would be well.
The rice paper rolls were lovely and prawny but the dipping sauce - a mix of soy, chilli and sesame sauces lacked the delicacy to match them. The asparagus was fabulous and the aioli, though strong, was really good. But it belonged to a different meal to the rolls.
The quails eggs were way too difficult to peel with runny centres, the smallest pressure had yolk squirting everywhere. Four of them ended so empty there was no point taking it further. I was determined to have them, so I rolled the rest in pork and crumbs and, as you can see, they ended up the size of tennis balls not golf balls. They were not really runny in the centre and they were a little underseasoned. Balls! Slathered with aioli they were pretty yummy. Did they make a good match with the rest of dinner? No. But on the basis that things won't be perfect on the first attempt I will definitely make them again.
The recipe comes from Heston Blumenthal, is easy to follow and should make a dozen scotch eggs, barring disaster.
12 quail eggs
A couple of cocktail sticks
480g best-quality pork sausage meat
Salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper, to taste
150g Japanese breadcrumbs or white home-made ones
3 medium eggs, beaten
Plain flour for coating
1.5 litres groundnut or corn oil, for deep-frying
Heat a pan of water to boiling point, prick the tops of the quail eggs with a cocktail stick and cook the eggs — one minute if you want a softer set, or 2 minutes and 15 seconds exactly if you prefer them hard. As soon as your timer goes off, remove the eggs from the boiling water and plunge them into a bowl of iced water as quickly as possible.
While the eggs are cooling, season the sausage meat with salt, a small pinch of cayenne pepper and black pepper, then check the seasoning either by frying a little in a pan or microwaving for 20-30 seconds and tasting. The meat will need to be well seasoned.
Shell the eggs under water in a small bowl and wrap each one in 40g (a golf ball) of sausage meat. The easiest way to do this is by first making a ball of sausage meat, then flattening into a shape big enough to go around the egg. Press the edges together to seal, taking care not to squash the egg inside.
Put the plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. If using Japanese breadcrumbs (try Mount Fuji; www.mountfuji.co.uk), break them up slightly with your fingers to make it easier to coat the sausage meat.
Roll the scotch eggs in the flour, gently tap off any excess, then roll them in the beaten egg and, finally, the breadcrumbs.
Put them in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden the breadcrumb coating, then dip again into the egg and breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry — you can use an ordinary wide frying pan, but make sure the oil covers the eggs — for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, then finish in a hot oven for a further 2-3 minutes.