Easter is always a bit lost on me. The only think I recognised about Easter was that it was an easy way to earn extra money if you worked not one, but TWO bank holidays offered and that most shops were closed on Easter Sunday. Yes, I know there is the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus for Easter in the same way there is the Nativity for Christmas, but let’s face it; Thanks to commercialisation, Easter these days is about chocolate eggs just like Christmas is about what pressies to buy people. In my youth, we never really had egg hunts. (Actually, the only egg hunt I went on was ruined by some local kids who helped themselves to the eggs so there wasn’t really anything left but cracked shells and empty foil wrappers by the time we got there). Whilst still unemployed and well, being diabetic, I didn’t really want to buy chocolate eggs for my family so with the extra free time, I decided to make Scotch Eggs for my family (and some friends) for Easter instead. I did buy some Scotch Eggs from The Handmade Scotch Eggs Company a few years back but yunno, they’re a bit expensive when you’re trying to survive on Jobseeker’s Allowance. Plus, I thought they would have more meaning if they were homemade by my very own hands and as it turned out, they were pretty easy to make.
Scotch eggs went out of fashion for a long time, mainly because you could only get them from the supermarket where they had been refrigerated for so long that they were closer in texture to something made of rubber, rather than egg, sausage meat and breadcrumbs. However, Scotch Eggs are now undergoing something of a renaissance; partly because people started to get creative and add flavourings to them so you could get black pudding encasing the egg, or flavour the sausage meat with some chilli etc. But most of all, Scotch Eggs became gourmet when gastropubs started offering Scotch Eggs as bar snacks – complete with runny egg yolks to send foodies off into a bit of a frenzy once they cut the Scotch Eggs open. Now, I like the idea of a runny yolk, but I’ll be honest; I wasn’t too convinced that I would be able to safely serve a Scotch Egg with a runny egg yolk more than 24hrs after deep frying them. More to the point, I have fat fingers and clumsy hands which ruled out any lightness of touch required to peel a soft boiled egg. If I had thought it through a bit more, I could have done some more research into methods of safely peeling a soft boiled egg but I didn’t. So hard boiled eggs it would have to be.
As for what meat to coat the eggs with, I made a decision that I would get some of the best ingredients I could afford – Which meant a trip to Rossiters, the first organic butchers in Birmingham. A quick phonecall to them a couple of days beforehand meant I could order some sausage meat in especially to be delivered with their standard sausage delivery from Lashford’s. I opted to get some Cumberland sausage meat because it was slightly coarser but couldn’t resist getting some extra bits when I was there (including their own sausage meat mixed with chorizo and a really fantastic organic pork pie which genuinely was one of the best pork pies I’ve eaten in recent years – including any award-winning ones). Ingredients all bought, time to head home and make the Scotch Eggs.
Making Scotch Eggs are very simple: You boil and peel the eggs, cover the eggs with sausage meat, coat in breadcrumbs and deep fry. I am more than sure you are all very capable of boiling eggs and you certainly don’t need to be told how to do so by the likes of me, so I’m going to move onto the next stage: Coating the egg with sausage meat.
Initially, I went old school and just got a ball of sausage meat (mixed with black pudding) of a size barely bigger than the egg then pressed into the meatball to make a dimple in which you placed the egg (which was lightly dipped in flour to help the sausage meat stick to the egg) and then carefully wrapped the meat around the egg until it was completely sealed. From there, I rolled the egg and sausage meat ball in some beaten egg and then into some panko breadcrumbs. All good right? Well yes, if you don’t mind the fact that you had a LOT more sausage meat to egg because you can’t actually get the sausage meat to a thin enough layer resulting in some rather large Scotch Eggs. Actually, the Scotch Eggs were so big that when I went to deep fry them, they weren’t completely submerged by all the oil and I didn’t think to turn them over soon enough so rather than creating a seal for the outer shell, a massive crack formed. Oh dear, these Scotch Eggs did not look very good aesthetically at least (I mean, they looked.. rustic until you cut them open and they had a bit of a comedy value to them because the meat and egg ratio was so wrong) and more than anything, they used up a lot more sausage meat than I planned, so I needed to think of a different way of coating the eggs.
It then came to me: why not press out the sausage meat between 2 layers of clingfilm and THEN coat the egg? At least then the thickness of the meat around the egg would be more consistent and only then, could I get the eggs moulded into more of a spherical shape (as compared to a fat gherkin). I tried it out and SUCCESS! Not only could I get the thickness of the sausage meat around the egg in a consistent layer which meant that these new Scotch Eggs are more the size you would expect (slightly bigger than a tennis ball), rather than the larger, oversized specimens I made the night before. But most of all, I managed to achieve that much-desired spherical shape. In short, these actually looked like proper Scotch Eggs. What’s more, rather than traditional breadcrumbs, I opted to use panko breadcrumbs because I think they give that bit more of a textural crunch compared to conventional breadcrumbs (plus I had a bag which needed using up). What’s more, I also opted to double-dip them during the pané process to help in the crunchy factor.
When it came to deep frying, the oil had to be had enough to obviously cook the meat, but also seal the outer layer of the Scotch Egg to help create a crust of breadcrumbs but also to seal the heat inside so that it cooks without absorbing too much grease – Which is also why the oil can’t be too hot otherwise it will burn the breadcrumbs and not cook the meat on the inside. If you use a deep fat fryer then it should be around 170C but since I don’t have a deep fat fryer, I poured oil into the deepest saucepan I own to about a third full. To check that the oil was the right temperature, I dropped in a breadcrumb – If it bubbled immediately and burned, then the oil was too hot. If it didn’t bubble at all and sank to the bottom of the pan, the oil wasn’t hot enough. What I was looking for was for the breadcrumb to bubble when dropped into the oil but then took a bit of time to turn golden. Once the eggs are dropped into the oil, if the oil doesn’t cover the top of the egg like some of mines, turn the egg over after no more than 10 seconds so that the exposed part of the egg is now submerged in the oil so that the whole egg has been deep fried. You can either then keep basting the exposed part of the egg, or just keep rotating the egg in the oil so that the cooking is distributed evenly around the egg. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you fill the pan no more than a third full because once you drop the eggs in, the oil will bubble up and rise in the pan so if the pan is too full, the oil will overflow with the potential for all sorts of accidents. So please, take extra care when deep frying at home.
The later batch of Scotch Eggs where the sausage meat was pressed between 2 pieces of clingfilm were much better – spherical in shape and the ration of sausage meat to egg was just right. Fried until golden brown, they certainly looked the business and I was very proud of them. Cut open, my only gripe was that you could tell the difference in eggs used (organic vs Free range) but that’s a pretty minor gripe, really.
You could see how my attempts to make them progressed as the days went past from being really rustic looking and oddly shaped, to the near-perfect spherical shape with good meat: egg ratio. I know, these eggs are deep fried so aren’t exactly the healthiest thing to eat out there. But they are ideal to offer as presents when it’s not Easter and (I think) a much better idea for an Easter gift rather than chocolate. Eaten whilst warm, Scotch Eggs are a thing of wonder and I think everyone was happy with their gifts. I’ll probably make them again next year for Easter now that I know how easy they are to make, there may be a chance that I’ll be making a few more of them before Easter next year..