Saturday, 4 June 2011

An adventurous Scotch egg

A classic dish given an international slant, now that's what I like. This flavour fusion really tickled my taste buds, I hope it does yours too.

To surround each petite and delicate soft boiled quails egg I've used a single fresh basil leaf, Italian sausage meat - quality pork with lots of fat and fennel seeds, then encased it in a double layer (yeah baby, the double-dip technique) of my beloved Japanese panko breadcrumbs.

These are a lovely naughty little snack and would also make a great canape or pre dinner party nibble - why not serve them inside closed egg boxes for a bit of playful table theatre.

For 10 Scotch eggs:
10 quails eggs, each pierced at one end
250g panko breadcrumbs, given a scrunch of sea salt and generous grind of black pepper
3 chickens eggs, in a bowl and beaten
100g plain flour
10 large basil leaves
400g Italian sausage meat - if you cant get hold of it buy a high pork content quality sausage, remove its skins and mix into the meat by hand a tablespoon of fennel seeds
Around 1.5l oil for frying, groundnut or vegetable
Kitchen paper
Rocket leaves, Parmesan shavings and a little extra virgin olive oil to serve
Sea salt

- Taking a pin carefully pierce the more pointed end of each of the quails eggs - it's easiest to do this with a pin rather than the tip of a knife given the eggs are so small and fragile
- Fill a small pan with a couple of inches of water and bring to a light simmer, then carefully slide the eggs in and leave there for 1.45 minutes - a rather exact times I know, but they are very small and getting them to that softish boiled point means being precise
- Once they're ready remove them and empty the pan, then put them back into the pan and let it sit in the sink with the cold tap running gently into it to cool them down. Leave the eggs cooling like this for around 5 minutes
- One by one peel the eggs now. Do this on kitchen paper and basically using your palm press gently and firmly on the egg that's lying on its side until its shell just cracks (just be careful not to press too hard) now there is a crack in the shell you can peel the shell back on its very thin membrane - it's easy enough. Once you've done them all rinse them too to get rid of any shell bits
- Take your Italian sausage meat and place around a meatball sized amount in the palm of your hand, using the heel of your other hand flatten this sausage meat until you have a thinnish layer of it over your hand, now place on the basil leaf, the egg on top of that
- Now gently close your hand, effectively beginning to wrap the egg and leaf up in the meat, bring the edges together and the sides, totally sealing the egg inside. If there are any holes or gaps patch these in with a little more of the meat, finally, roll them gently between your palms like you would a meatball, making the shape as round and compact as you can. Repeat the process with all 10 and then place them in the fridge for half an hour
- When you're ready to cook them, get your production line ready with the flour in a bowl at one end, panko in a bowl at the other end and the whisked eggs in another bowl in the middle
- Go through the process of coating each first in the flour, then the egg, then the panko, then back to the egg, and into the panko once more. Repeat until all of them have been done
- Place the oil in a deep bottomed saucepan and heat it up for around 10 minutes on a medium heat, you don't want to fry the eggs on too high a heat as they'll cook too fast on the outside and wont cook the meat all the way through. To test the temperature of the oil drop a scrunch of the panko breadcrumbs into it, they should just lightly sizzle
- Cook the eggs in two or three batches so you don't crowd the pan and make them steam, cook them and turn them over if the oil doesn't cover them, cooking them until golden on all sides which should take around 8 minutes or a bit longer
- Remove and drain on kitchen paper, then serve with a simple rocket and Parmesan salad