Yesterday’s cool, bright weather had me in a yellow beach hut on the South coast making scotch eggs by candle light. Limited to a small gas oven, a packet of real cheap bangers and half a dozen eggs in a bag from the beach cafe, we kept with the 1950s spirit of things and rolled up our sleeves to delve up to our elbows in sausage meat. The back room kitchen feel of the whole process had us in stitches. This is cooking at its least glamorous and most romantic – in this hut, food is about delicious and indulgent basics: too much brie, much more butter and a handful of sweet clementines. Every meal is a table picnic where greasy pâté knives cut through cheese, tea brews in bowls and boiled eggs are spooned onto half-toasted cuts of white bread. It lacks etiquette, but it’s my all time favourite weekend by the sea. There’s a pub in Mayfair that makes the most exquisite scotch eggs fresh every day, and which sell out about an hour after they hit the bar. Their velvety insides and crisp, warm breadcrumbs make for the perfect combination with a pint of dark ale and are the far superior cousin of the petrol station variety.
Makes 4 scotch eggs.
Semi hard boil 4 eggs in water for 4 minutes from cold. Preheat the oven to 150°C and squeeze the sausage meat of 8 bangers from their skins onto a clingfilm covered flat surface. Combine together with your hands and roll out flat with a dry rolling pin or large knife to cover an even surface about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Crumble the crusts and centre of 2 slices of stale bread with your fingertips – brown or white will do. If it’s still fresh, toast it first to dry it out. Cut the sausage meat into 4 strips widthways (each a little wider than egg width), remove the eggs from the heat and replace with cold water. Once cool, carfeully shell them and lay across the middle of the sausage strip. The egg will be tender and still has some cooking to do, so be gentle. Working from the bottom of the strip upwards, peel it away from the clingfilm and wrap it around the egg, binding together to join on all sides. Try to keep an oval or circular shape. Transfer to plate of breadcrumbs and roll to coat evenly. Place gently on a baking tray and bake for up to 20 minutes, turning occasionally to darken the breadcrumbs and ensure even cooking. [We actually tried frying them first as we’d heard something about industrial scale scotch eggs being deep fried. Without a deep fat fryer, we started a little kitchen fire in the pan (remember the hut was made of wood) and with only olive oil at hand, couldn’t heat it sufficiently to stop the breadcrumbs from just soaking it all up. So we finshed them off in the oven, which is probably the best place for most people to put them, and which will help dry them out a bit when using cheaper sausage meat.
They’re not the most beautiful things in the world, but I love their handmade look – there’s something quite Renaissance about a sausage wrapped egg. If Henry VIII had a picnic, he’d have these, I reckon. Next time we’re going to try some variations with quail’s eggs, venison sausage and chorizo – watch this space.