Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sensational Scotch Eggs - originally from London... Gasp!

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Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented the Scotch egg, and have been selling it since 1738. However they may have been inspired by Nargisi kofta – a dish from the much earlier and more exotic setting of the Mogul Empire. Whatever their origins, Scotch Eggs were one of the few nice eggy things I got to cook at school and I have been addicted to them ever since. They are best consumed on the day they are made, otherwise the crust loses its crunchiness – and then, what’s the point?! These contain bacon to make them extra delicious and succulent. 

For 4 sensational Scotch eggs, you will need...
... a deep fat fryer

6 eggs (4 to boil, 2 to use in the coating)
400g good quality plain sausage meat

1 small onion, finely chopped
100g bacon lardons, (or rashers) finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp whole grain mustard (or strong Dijon / English mustard if you prefer)
60g flour
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

a little butter or sunflower oil for frying the onion and bacon
Sunflower oil for deep frying

Place 4 of the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 6 minutes (for a just-set egg - or longer if you prefer them done a bit more), then carefully drain away the boiling water and cover the eggs with cold water, changing it once as it becomes warm with the heat of the eggs. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, gently fry the onion in a little butter or sunflower oil until softened (about 12 minutes) and beginning to turn golden around the edges. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool completely. Next fry the bacon, and add to the cooling onion.

Bacon makes everything better
When the onion and bacon have cooled, place the meat, cumin, herbs, and mustard in a bowl and mix well – hands are best (I keep a box of disposable food-quality gloves handy for jobs like this). Divide the mixture into four equal portions – approximately 120g each if you want to weigh them out.

Shell the eggs – my preferred way is to crack the shell, then slip a teaspoon beneath the shell and carefully work it off.

Line up 3 bowls or shallow dishes (I find pie dishes are great for this job). Put the flour into the first dish with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. In the second dish, beat the remaining two eggs together with a pinch of salt. Tip the breadcrumbs into the third dish. Lay a sheet of cling film over a chopping board and place one of the sausage meat portions on top. Cover with another sheet of cling film, then either pat with your hands or roll with a rolling pin until the meat forms a patty big enough to wrap an egg. Repeat with the remaining portions of sausage meat until you have four more or less identical patties. This helps keep the blanket of sausage meat an even consistency.
Coax the meat around the egg, thinking Rugby! not football for the shape
Now, take one of the hard-boiled eggs, dust it with the seasoned flour, then place it in the centre of a patty. Encase the egg in the sausage meat, coaxing it around the egg until it covers it evenly. (Think  rugby rather than football for the shape). Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Now begins the ‘sheep dip’ (Tip: If you use just one hand to do the dipping, it makes life a bit easier).


Dust the sausage-covered eggs with flour, drench them with beaten egg, then cover them with breadcrumbs, pressing gently to ensure maximum coverage. Return the breadcrumbed eggs to the egg bath, completely drenching them again, then return them to the breadcrumb dish, and once again, give them a generous coating, pressing gently to ensure maximum adherence. Every crumb you can manage to stick to the eggs is one more morsel of crunchiness.

Fill your deep fat fryer to the recommended level with sunflower oil. Heat the oil to 170°C and carefully add the eggs. Cook until deep golden brown, approaching the colour of David Dickenson (about 7 minutes) turning occasionally. Remove from the hot oil and rest them on kitchen towel for a few minutes before serving. Piccalilli is a good accompaniment.

Piccalilli is a good accompaniment.
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cider Can Chicken with roasted onions – undignified, but delicious!

Pin It First published 21/8/12
On the booze - literally!
If you are a fan of roast chicken but haven’t yet tried this method, you are in for a real treat.

It is probably one of the most undignified ways of cooking a chicken but it’s a stunner - and perfect in the oven or on the BBQ.  As the cider evaporates, fragrant steam permeates the flesh, keeping it juicy and flavouring it with garlic and whatever herbs you decide to use. I’ve used thyme today but rosemary is good too. Any cider that is left in the can after roasting gets tipped into the roasting tin to blend with the chicken juices for a lazy gravy. Couldn’t be simpler.  

Cider seems only to come in cans of 500mls in Ireland. Use a clean empty 330ml soda or beer can for this dish as they are the ideal size.

To feed four, you will need…
… to preheat the oven to 180˚C (see BBQ note at the end)

100mls of cider
a generous bunch of fresh thyme (or about 6 sprigs of rosemary)
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 x 1.5kg oven-ready chicken (free-range if your budget allows)
1 teaspoon sea salt
25g butter, melted and cooled
3 onions, peeled, keeping as much of the root intact as possible.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt

1.                  First, make sure the oven shelves are arranged to accommodate a chicken being cooked upright. Using a tin opener, cut the top off a 330ml aluminium beverage can. Handle with care – the cut edge can be very sharp. Pour the cider into the can. Add the sliced garlic and some of the fresh thyme. Place the can in a roasting dish.
2.                  Rub the chicken with the salt, and anoint with the melted butter. Keeping the can upright, insert it into the cavity of the chicken. Use the chicken legs to help balance it upright in the roasting tin. Poke any remaining thyme into the neck of the chicken.

Reminds me of Killiney Beach - brrrrrr
3.                  Place in the preheated oven and roast for an hour (or until cooked through - pierce the thickest part of the thigh and if the juices run clear you are good to go.)
4.                  To prepare the onions, cut each into 6 wedges making sure each wedge has a little bit of root – this helps keep them intact while cooking. Toss them in the olive oil and sprinkle with the pinch of salt. When the chicken has been cooking for half an hour, add the onion wedges to the roasting tin.
5.                  After the cooking time has elapsed, carefully remove the chicken from the oven and cut the skin between the leg joint and the body. If it is still pink, return the chicken to the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until there is no pink remaining.
6.                  Lay the chicken on its back so that any remaining cider spills into the roasting dish and mingles with the chicken juices. Carefully spoon or pour off the liquid into a small saucepan. Cover the chicken and let it ‘relax’ in a warm place for about 10 minutes. This ‘relaxing’ allows the juices which have boiled up to the surface of the meat to redistribute themselves, resulting in a more tender, succulent bird.
7.                  While the chicken is relaxing, gently simmer the saucepan of cider and chicken juices to concentrate the flavour. Transfer to a gravy boat just before serving.

Note: you could substitute beer or white wine for the cider. You could use chicken stock or unsweetened apple juice if you prefer an alcohol-free version.

To BBQ - Prepare the cider can as in step 1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken.  Prepare as in step 2 above but omit the butter and then carefully place the chicken upright on the BBQ and close the lid, taking care not to tip the bird over. Cook for about an hour or until cooked through (as in step 3), checking regularly to make sure it is not burning. Remove very carefully, remembering that there could still be boiling liquid in the cider can, and allow to rest in a warm place before serving.
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