We awoke today with the realization that today may be the last day the United Kingdom will be all that united. Scotland goes to the polls, and all the EU nations are holding their breath. For over 300 years Scotland has been part of the union of Great Britain, and now it all seems like it’s going to end in a day. So today, whether or not Scotland remains part of #TeamGB, we shall commemorate it by tucking in to a hearty English fry-up. In case you haven’t noticed, we are kinda leaning towards keeping the union intact.
I haven’t had scotch eggs since I was in kindergarten. Mom used to make them as a very rare treat, since it was difficult to obtain good quality English breakfast sausages where we lived at the time. Being as young as I was, it always amazed me how she got the egg to sit within the ball of sausage meat. To crumb the sausage, Mum always used Paxo breadcrumbs; ahhh … the memories. There was even a scotch egg recipe on the back of the box.
All my life I always looked at scotch eggs as an English creation. Indeed, when I asked Mum how she came to know of this recipe, she said grandma used to cook it all the time for my step-grandfather, who was an Englishman. Despite living for so long in Malaysia, he was a man who liked his English food, and grandma had to learn all of it. My late grandmother was of Indonesian origin, yet there would be decadent English treats on the supper table (step-grandad always insisted on dessert at the end of the evening meal) … bread & butter pudding with custard sauce, layered fruit and jelly trifle, custard flan … etc. My grandmother was a great great cook, I only wish I had the opportunity to know her during her lifetime. All I have are these black and white pictures of her.
Anyway, after some reading up, I have since discovered that scotch eggs are neither Scottish nor English in origin. It comes from the north of India, which in turn got its influence from the Persians and north Africans (during the Muslim conquests of India). The Muslim conquerors, the Nawabs and the Mughals, brought with them highly refined cuisine that was served in the imperial palaces. And one such dish was the nargisi kofta ~ a meatball of spiced meat wrapped around a boiled egg, served in delicate gravy. A few centuries later, when England made India part of the Empire, circa 1858 – 1947, many Indian influenced dishes made their way back to the motherland, albeit with a few alterations to suit the Anglo-Saxon palate.
This is the first time in over twenty years I will be eating another scotch egg … and the first time I will be making it from scratch. Very excited about it. To begin, you will need to get your hands on some good quality English breakfast sausages … pork, of course. Simply snip off the casing and dump out the sausage meat into a bowl. I used regular chicken eggs here, but that means you will end up with fairly large scotch eggs. If you want smaller portions, either use small chicken eggs or quail eggs.
Before you begin, allow me to share two top tips. Use wet hands to handle the sausage meat so it won’t stick to your hands and make a big mess. Number two, use cling film to help shape the meat around the eggs without hassles. It is little techniques like this that help keep frustrations low in the kitchen.
Spread the cling film on the bench top. Stick it down by smearing a bit of water on the bottom first. Then take a handful of the meat and press into a disc shape on top of the plastic. No need to be precise here, just smoosh it down with wet fingers, about 1 cm thick. Next, lift off the plastic and cup it in the palm of your hand. Place the boiled egg in the center of the meat disc, bring up the sides of the plastic and twist the edges tightly until you have a ball. Squeeze out any access meat that bunches to the top. Place on a plate and chill in the fridge to firm up — an hour will do.
After chilling, it is time to dredge. Fill one plate with plain flour, the next with a beaten egg, and the final plate with dry breadcrumbs. As I said in the beginning, I would have liked to be old school and use Paxo breadcrumbs but I did not have any, so I used panko.
Unwrap the meatball, roll it in between your palms to even out the surface, then dip it in flour first, followed by egg, and then breadcrumbs. It is always easier to crumb these while they are still cold coz they won’t lose their shape so easily. It pays to do a second dredge in egg and breadcrumbs to get a nice crust going. Once you have done all the meatballs, place them on a tray lined with baking paper and chill them again for an hour or overnight.
The next day, take them out of the fridge about fifteen minutes before frying. Pour enough vegetable or peanut oil into a pot to cover the meatballs … I used about 700 mls. Once the oil is hot drop one meatball in. I am not very good at gauging frying temperatures … sometimes I burn things and at other times the insides are undercooked. So what I did today was plonk the scotch eggs into the hot oil long enough to get a nice golden crust, then I baked them the rest of the way in a moderate oven for about 10 – 15 minutes. They came out cooked all the way through and they kept their golden crispy shell as well. Nobody likes to cut into a scotch egg with raw centers.
Place them aside to cool, while you get the other components of your breakfast ready. I chose to serve mine up with roasted tomatoes, rashers of bacon, sauteed mushrooms and crispy fried bread and beans. It was an unusually large breakfast for me, so I kinda struggled with it a little … then I didn’t feel hungry again until dinner! But having scotch eggs again was trully a blast from the past. It tasted exactly like how I’ve always remembered it all these years, and inspite its gargantuan portions I felt very comforted by this meal today. I even showed a picture of it to my sister in Shanghai, and she said she wants to make some of her own too now.
So there you have it, my referendum breakfast fry up! I even went so far as to print out and make my own British flags on toothpicks. I thought of baking cupcakes as well, but then as the day progressed so did the heat. The cupcake idea promptly disintegrated.
In any case, whether or not Great Britain stays united or not, you should still consider making these delectable scotch eggs. If you make mini ones using quail eggs, they can be good as an hors d’oeuvre or as a fun snack at a kids’ party. Whilst I would not recommend you eat this every week, you should definitely give this a go.
~ Enjoy! ~
Are Scotch Eggs Really Scottish? http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-1188,00.html
Mughlai Cuisine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughlai_cuisine
Koftas & Variations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kofta
India, 1900 – 1947 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/india_1900_to_1947.htm