I love cookbooks, and have been reading them for as long as I remember. The main cookbook I read growing up was what my family called “the brown cookery book”. It had a great collection of British recipes, including roasts and pudding, breads and soups, and just about everything in between. What I did not eat from this book I at least read about, and the one thing I always dreamt of making was the scotch eggs.
Scotch eggs are a classic British picnic food. They’re basically boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat, then crumbed and deep-fried. The main ingredients are pretty standard but there are so many different ways of making them. Some people bake them, some people like their eggs hard boiled and others like the yolk runny, some people eat them hot and others cold, and then there are so many different things you can add to flavour the meat – fresh herbs, mustard, and HP sauce to name a few.
The recipe in the brown cookery book calls for hard boiled eggs, however I decided to try a runny yolk version for this post. Let me tell you, unless you are VERY GOOD, or just VERY LUCKY, this is actually quite hard to master the first one, three and in my case ten times. I ended up with so many batches where either the egg whites or the sausage meat did not cook through.
After a lot of trial and error, here are my top ten tips for perfect scotch eggs:
- Use a timer when cooking the eggs and the sausage meat. 30 seconds difference either way can make the difference between uncooked and burnt.
- As soon as the eggs are done put them in an ice bath to prevent them from cooking further.
- The most annoying thing that can happen when peeling the eggs is to have half the egg white come off with it. The trick is to separate the thin white membrane from the egg white, then use the membrane to lift the shell. Use older eggs, crack the shell before putting them in the ice bath and peel under a running tap. Older eggs are more likely to have air pockets form under the membrane, and seeping slightly cracked eggs in water and peeling under a running tap will force water under the membrane, making it easier to lift off.
- When dividing and shaping the sausage mixture, evenness is key. Use kitchen scales to weigh out the portions, and use a rolling pin when shaping. This will increase the chances of the meat cooking evenly.
- Use cling wrap between the sausage mixture and your work surface/rolling pin to reduce the amount of mess.
- Water will prevent the sausage mixture from sticking. Work with cold wet hands, and sprinkle water on your cling wrap (from note 5 above).
- Panko vs normal breadcrumbs – I’ve made the scotch eggs with both, and I definitely think Panko wins here.
- Single vs double crumbing – double crumbing the eggs definitely produces a crisper, crunchier outer coating. However, I found double crumbing made the eggs significantly bigger, and I just could not get the meat to cook through when they were so large. The double crumbing also created a white/yellow ring around the eggs which I just did not like the look of. In the end I decided to just go with the single crumbing. My recipe uses a relatively long deep-frying time which I think still achieves a crispy outer coating.
- Meat to egg ratio – I started with 500 grams of sausage to 4 eggs which produced fairly large, meaty scotch eggs. I was having so much trouble though with getting the meat to cook through, and after looking at a few other recipes I realised this was a very high meat to egg ratio. I switched to 500 grams of sausage to 5 eggs and found this to be just right.
- To ensure the scotch eggs are cut cleanly:
- Cut the herbs very finely, especially the spring onion. Larger pieces of herbs can catch on the knife as you cut, then drag off bits of sausage meat resulting in an uneven surface.
- Use a see-saw motion with the knife to make the first small, initial cut, then press down in one motion.
- Wipe the knife clean after each cut.
Finally, I know not everyone likes their eggs runny, and there are times where a hard boiled egg just better fits the bill. If that’s the case, boil the eggs for 8 minutes from the time the water comes to the boil, then follow the rest of the recipe in the same way.
So… does my brown cookery book have a name? Why, yes it does. It is the classic Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, first published in the 1970’s. Also, I need to give significant credit to Nerds with Knives. I planned, yes really I did, to do extensive research for this recipe, however I came across their Scotch Eggs with A Perfect Runny Yolk post and found it taught me pretty much everything I needed to know.
Crispy Scotch Egg with Runny Yolk
Soft-boiled eggs wrapped in pork sausage, crumbed then deep-fried until golden and crispy.
- 7 eggs (5 for boiling, 2 for the egg wash) (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
- 2 stalks of spring onion
- 1 sprig of thyme (leaves only)
- 500 gm of pork sausages
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml of plain white flour
- 1.5 cups of panko breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
Sour cream and horseradish sauce
- 4 tbsp / 60 ml of sour cream
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml of horseradish
Place five of the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3.5 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time prepare an ice bath (Note 2).
As soon as the eggs are done crack the shells slightly then put in an ice bath (Note 3)
While the eggs are boiling, finely slice the parsley and spring onion, and remove the thyme leaves. Place in a medium sized bowl.
Squeeze the sausage meat from its casing, and place the meat in the bowl with the herbs.
Use cold wet hands to combine the meat and herbs. Divide into five equal portions (Note 4), then roll out into a round flat shape (Note 5).
Get your breading ingredients ready by placing the flour, remaining two eggs and breadcrumbs into separate bowls (Note 6). Beat the eggs.
Shell the eggs under cold running water (Note 7), then dust with the flour.
Heat the oil over high heat in a deep frying pan. Use enough to come about halfway up the eggs.
While the oil is heating, use cold wet hands to wrap the meat around each egg, smoothing the edges to ensure the egg is fully enclosed.
One by one, dunk into the egg wash, then dip into the breadcrumbs. Ensure each egg is fully coated.
Once the oil is hot (Note 8), place the balls into the frying pan, cook over medium-high heat for 8.5 minutes, turning regularly. Cook in batches if necessary. Remove the cooked scotch eggs from oil and drain on crumpled paper towels.
Make the sauce by mixing the sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl.
To serve, cut the scotch eggs in halves or quarters, then eat with the sour cream and horseradish sauce.
I use the eggs that come in the carton marked 700 grams. If you have a mix of older eggs and fresher eggs, use the older ones for boiling as they will be easier to peel.
This whole step needs to be done fairly precisely if you're intent on getting a runny yolk. Watch the eggs while you're waiting for the water to come to the boil, then once it does set the timer straight away. Prepare the ice bath right before you need to remove the eggs to ensure it's as cold as possible.
Cracking the shells slightly will allow water from the ice bath to seep in and start to lift the membrane off from the egg white. This is to help with peeling the eggs later on.
It's worth weighing the mixture to ensure you end up with five equal portions. If they're too uneven you may end up with uncooked meat.
The best way to roll is to place a bit of cling wrap on a surface, sprinkle with a bit of cold water, place the meat on the cling wrap then use cold wet hands to shape into a flat-ish ball. Cover with another piece of cling wrap, then use a rolling pin to roll into a flat disk. The cling wrap will keep things clean, the cold water will prevent the meat from sticking, and the rolling pin helps ensure an even thickness which reduces the risk of the eggs not cooking evenly. If you're not sure if your mixture is the right size, hold one of your eggs over it - it should be just big enough to wrap around the egg (about 10 cm in diametre).
If you can, use a small, deep mixing bowl for the breadcrumbs, and make a well in the centre. Once you've dunked the eggs in the egg wash things start to get very messy, so you want to minimise the amount of handling when you get to the breadcrumb phase. If you use a deep bowl and make a well, the egg will get a decent coating when you first place it in, so it's just a matter of throwing breadcrumbs over the remaining patches.
Shelling the eggs under cold running water will help the shell come off more easily.
My main tests are: a) the oil surface starts to shimmer; b) a wooden chopstick when inserted releases little bubbles; and c) as I slowly drop the scotch egg the breadcrumbs start to sizzle straight away.