The best laid plans and eggs

I’d laid slightly rose-tinted plans to go to Testaccio market extremely early on Saturday morning with a wicker shopping basket tucked under one arm – I don’t actually own a wicker shopping basket but you get the idea. I’d go to the bar for breakfast and then I’d join the earnest calm of the market as it stirred to life. I’d bussle with discerning Roman housewives and trattoria owners sniffing lemons, tasting bitter leaves, demanding the nicest rib of beef, the pinkest veal ossobuco and the brightest eyed fish. I would thoughtfully gather the items on my carefully written list. It would be charming! The best laid plans, serves me right.

At about 1 50 on Friday, just as I was about to start teaching until tediously late, my neighbour reminded me that Saturday was a national holiday ‘la festa di lavoratori’ and that everything, including our faithful market would be closed. I had no option but to tear desperately around the seriously depleted market as it was closing. I got extremely hot and bothered, cursed, grabbed, shoved old ladies out of my way trying to gather our contributions for a picnic, ingredients for Saturday’s supper for 6, a Sunday roast with all the trimmings for 7 and a motley crew of household basics organised people never run out of. Not a pleasant way to shop.

All things considered I didn’t do that badly. Actually, as far as the meat was concerned I did pretty well! Fortunately for me, someone had neglected to collect the beef they’d ordered, Sunday Lunch was saved! I was also just in time to procure the last four sausages. I wanted eight, but four was better than nothing, because as far as I’m concerned, a picnic isn’t a picnic without proper Scotch eggs.

Supermarkets and the villanous manufacturers of nasty food have tried to blacken the good name and reputation of Scotch eggs with their shameful offerings. They’d have you believe that Scotch eggs are slightly sweaty, oversized orange balls that come in individual plastic bags and consist of suspicious, rubbery grey meat loosely enveloping a slightly shriveled green tinged hard-boiled egg – we know better.

A well made Scotch egg is a delicious thing; a peeled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in very good sausage meat, dipped in beaten egg, rolled in fine breadcrumbs and then deep-fried until dark golden brown.

Made properly with good ingredients, a Scotch egg is a perfectly formed savory delight; a crisp, dark crust, the succulent seasoned sausage meat and then the egg, the surprise, in the middle. My friend calls Scotch eggs a ball of breakfast. What’s more, they are neat, compact and will travel beautifully to your favourite picnic spot or table.

I made Scotch eggs a couple of times last week, dusting off my Scotch egg skills to speak, in time for picnic season. They are nice and simple to make, but you do need to be diligent about wrapping the sausage meat around the eggs. This task is made easier by using cling film, which I explain below and is pictured here, a cunning trick picked up from one of my new favourite London based blogs Food stories. When you have pulled away the clingfilm, double-check there are no holes and that the seams are really closed, if not, you might find the sausage coat bursts open in the pan – a scotch egg flasher. You may also need to be flexible and experiment with the cooking times to make sure the meat is cooked through but the crust is not too dark. Fortunately Scotch eggs are delicious enough to warrant experimentation.

Scotch egg with lemon chutney

I have to say that even though I adore Scotch eggs for picnics, there is nothing like a freshly fried one, just wait about 10 minutes, it will still be crisp, and then eat it with your hands and maybe a blob of chutney. Once cooked they will keep brilliantly for up to 8 hours – even though they will lose their crisp crunch – time for you to get to the picnic. They also keep until the next day, some say for two days, but they fade in my opinion.

Scotch eggs

  • 4 medium-sized eggs – very fresh and very organic/free range obviously
  • 350g good sausage meat (about 4 fat sausages squeezed out of casing)
  • 75g plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • another egg – beaten
  • breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Put the eggs in a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for exactly nine minutes. Drain and cool the eggs under cold running water and then peel them.

Tear off 4 squares of cling film and lay them out on the work surface. Divide the sausage meat into quarters and put each quarter on one of the four squares. Now flatten each ball of sausage meat into an ovals about 12.5cm/5in long and 7.5cm/3in at its widest point.

Place the seasoned flour onto a plate, then dredge each boiled egg in the flour.

One by one, place the peeled, floured eggs on the sausage meat oval, then bringing the clingfilm up round the sides squash, mould and wrap the sausage meat around each egg. Once the eggs is covered ease pull away the cling film and continue to mould the sausage meat until it is compact and completely covers each egg – make sure the seams are well sealed.

Dip and roll each sausage meat-coated egg in the beaten egg, then dip and roll into the breadcrumbs..

Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan – it should be at least 4 ” deep as you are going to deep fry – until a bread crumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.

Using a slotted spoon gently lower each scotch egg into the hot oil and deep-fry for about 8 – 11 minutes until deep golden and crisp and the sausage meat is completely cooked. Carefully remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Wait at least 10 minutes (and up to 8 hours) before eating. Pack in a greaseproof paper lined box to take on your picnic or if you are staying at home have one with a dab of strong mustard, optional green leaves, bread and a beer.

It seems that Scotch eggs are not Scottish at all, but English, created by the high-class London food shop Fortnum & Mason in 1738 as a portable snack for coach travellers heading west from London along Piccadilly.

37 Comments

Filed under Eggs, food, meat, picnics, recipes

37 responses to “The best laid plans and eggs

  1. I think I’d like the “wait about 10 minutes” version.

  2. Rachel,
    I just stumbled onto your blog today. I just love your writing style and your recipes look fabulous.
    I been to Rome twice and loved it each time. I can’t imagine living (and eating!) there.
    Glad I found you!

  3. i’m vegetarian but this post has given me a great idea for dinner this week. yours looks simple and perfect!

    • caroline

      Yasmin, I had the same thought (making this vegetarian), but I don’t think one would be able to mold fake meat around the eggs. Or do you plan on using something else? A falafel-type mixture might be good!

      • rachel

        Please let me know about vegetarian options too – falafel sounds interesting, We must experiment – as Vincenzo doesn’t eat meat !

      • i live in toronto and am lucky enough to get soy products from a producer who only uses pure products that go through subtle processes (unlike some soy burgers that have many additives and are highly processed). anyway, their okara burger texture reminds me of a meatball, caroline (a moist one with lots of breadcrubs) so when i saw the scotch egg, i thought that it would be great to try to use the burger in the place of meat here.

        i think a falafel or other bean puree/mixture would work well too if it could be bound properly…

        rachel, if you are ever looking for non-meat meal inspiration, i hope you will check out my blog. that’s my specialty!

      • rachel

        Thank you for that Yasmin, unfortunately good soy products are in very short supply here in Rome- I am going to experiment with the falafel/bean idea – I think you are right about good binding being the key. i am looking forward to checking out your blog as we are meat free around here alot of the time
        rach

  4. When all I had experienced of Scotch eggs was the supermarket version I was not a fan but then I had a proper one in A. Gold and it was the size of a cricket ball and so so delicious. I am scared of deep frying but the idea of hot Scotch eggs for dinner might help me get over that… Gx

    • rachel

      Oh gemma we are kindred spirits with our fear of pastry and deep frying…I was afraid too, but I am getting pretty
      good at this whole thing now – doors wide open. I have been experimenting and getting the oil to the boil and then turning the heat down,….like anything it is practice. You can shallow fry scotch eggs too, jsut keep turning. Now where is A gold? – I need to go !

  5. Ah-hah! so this is what proper scotch eggs are….an irish pub in nashville serves them wrapped in bacon!

    (but that is So the way of the South–bacon everything!)

    love your friend’s name for them ” a ball of breakfast”

    • rachel

      Bacon….ummmm interesting, i wonder if you could do a bacon- sausage combo – that would really be a breakfast ball.

  6. mmm scotch eggs – delicious, and I am very glad that you knocked that dear old lady out of the way for them.

    • rachel

      I remember your scotch eggs ! They make me think of the very nicest English picnics. Haha yes, Now everyone will think I am a heartless granny pusher !!

  7. Edan

    Mmm, these look fantastic! I do have an aversion to deep frying – my apartment’s ventilation is such that it ends up smelling like a diner for days afterwards. Do you think I could shallow fry these by turning them gently in less oil for a similar amount of time?

    • rachel

      Hi Edan
      Yes you can shallow fry – i should ammend that – lots of people prefer to actually, the continual turning is a good way to make sure the crust doesn’t get too dark. You probably need to be careful to turn evenly making sure all the meat is cooked through. Please let me know if you try !

  8. What a brilliant idea! I’ve never heard of Scotch eggs before. I’m going to try making these sometime; my brother-in-law is British and a foodie; I’m sure he’d help!
    Your shopping experience sounds like every Sunday I’ve spent at No Frills, a bargain grocer here in Toronto. You almost need protective padding in dealing with the other shoppers!

    • rachel

      Monika – yes ! ask your brother-in-law, he will probaby know about both good and bad Scotch eggs. Do try them, they are very very good.

  9. I love your approach to food. Fresh and not fussy. I’m a big fan you your blog. Erica

  10. I think the first time I had ever heard of such a thing was on Kath’s blog (theordinarycook). Now I’m seeing them again. This must be a sign. I think the Italians would like this very much. I could see them eating this after the pasta. Pushing the last bit of red sauce over to the side to accompany the scotch egg (if one were to have a bit of sauce left on their plate—I never do).

    • rachel

      Tracy
      I made them for the picnic and all the Italians loved them (after they got over the initial disappiontment that they weren’t arancini)
      They are really quite delcious and yes I think they would be wonderful with the last bit of red sauce !

      • Amuse-bouche for Two

        I forgot to ask, are those jumbo eggs? Glad they were a hit. Oh, I want one.

  11. Vincenzo is a vegetarian?!!

  12. I have always wanted to make Scotch eggs! Perfect timing. My vaguely vegetarian and newly fry-phobic husband is scheduled to be out of town. Son and I will dine like a Rome-based UK picnicker!

    • rachel

      Vague vegetarian – brilliant, you have given me the definition for Vincenzo. Do hope you try Molly, they are very tasty.

  13. I have to admit that I’ve always been a bit scared of making scotch eggs. All that wrapping, potential bursting… but you make it sound totally easy! And they look SO tasty. I may have to give these a shot for our first picnic of the year tomorrow!

    • rachel

      I was a bit scared too the first time – but if you wrap carefully and neatly (lots of moulding and pressing) check the seams and holes you should be ok. Two of mine burst and they were still delcious. Practice is the key. Have a good picnic !!

  14. That is such a clever idea! I’ve never even heard of Scotch eggs, until just now. Who knew?

    Oh Italy and its holidays. I was just lamenting to my S.O. that I missed Italy something awful and made him promise after his next “dream trip” we’d take a modest type trip to Italy…maybe rent a house somewhere tucked into a hill where we can make our own meals (sometimes) and take lots of day trips. *sigh*

    • rachel

      I hope you get your house tucked in the hill – Umbria has lots of those, we went last summer and it was pretty perfect.
      As for the scotch eggs, yes, they are rather neat, I made them for an picnic and all the Italians were very excited about them.

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  16. to hell with pushing old ladies around, i’d punch a baby to get my hands on a good scotch egg right now.

  17. Genia

    What size egg did you use? I would like to make these this weekend but don’t want them to be huge.

    • rachel

      hello Genia, I use medium-sized eggs. I’m sure you could use small ones too, probably with a little less sausage meat and then a couple of minutes less cooking time. let me know how you get on! rachel

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