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I woke up last Sunday morning (post-Peckham) with a mild to average Pimms hangover and a strong desire to cook something. However, with a full bread basket and the remnants of the cake still knocking around, baking seemed like a decadent option. Instead, in what can probably be notched up as one of my more whimsical hangover purchases, I hopped on the 37 to Clapham Junction, destination Debenhams. £26 lighter and 12 Kendall jam jars heavier I hobbled back home, alco-sweating mint and strawberries all my merry way.
Being much more a Branston boy in my youth, my early memories of the enormous Piccalilli jar at the back of our fridge are not fond ones. Garish, pungent and, more often than not, accompanied by the sweet stinging smell of pickled onions, it rarely broached the top 10 on my condiment list. That being said, surely it must be better homemade. I insert the links above as I noticed a few ‘likes’ from across the pond on the last post and I’m not entirely sure what the US equivalent of the above would be. Needless to say, you’re missing out. I actually got this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain but I’ve just noticed he’s actually published it online here too. Amazing TV series that went along with this too.
It was actually pretty easy and cheap to make this. The recipe claims to make 12 jam jars but it only filled 6 for me. Maybe Debenhams just produce unusually large jars. I’d hope so at £3 a pop. The only two things this recipe requires is a mammoth amount of veg dicing, particularly the 300g shallots, and also time. Its bloody tasty when you first cook it but Oliver recommends letting it mature for a month once sealed. And who are we mere mortals to argue with Oliver? Just a small tip on the shallots that you might already know; if you put them in boiling water for 30-60 secs and then douse them in cold water, the skins peel straight off and it saves a lot of faff.
I wanted to give mine a bit of extra spice so I whacked in 6 red chilles (instead of 4) and then a pretty generous handful of dried chilli flakes too. Looking forward to cracking into these bad boys in earnest in mid-June with a Melton Mowbray and pint of Doom Bar.
But until then, I just had to have a taste with something of due diligence. And what better than…
Quail Scotch Eggs
Scotch Eggs are easily one of my favourite all time snacks. Perhaps even my favourite. I recently had a passionate (albeit inebriated) debate with a good friend of mine about the Holy Trinity of humble British snacks; the scotch egg, the sausage roll and the pork pie. He was championing the pork pie, I the scotch egg as we fenced and riposted nimbly among the various attributes of both. We reached no conclusion other than that they are all delicious which seemed a fair settlement at the time. Perhaps worthy of further investigation though.
Again this recipe is from Oliver’s Great Britain and again (what a trooper) he has popped a shortened version of the recipe online.
I thought given the short number of steps involved that making these little Elysium nuggets would be a relatively simple process. My main concern before starting off was heating 2 litres of vegetable oil in a casserole pot in our small kitchen to 180 degrees. Especially given my girlfriend’s conviction that any oil heated beyond about 100 will ignite. Fortunately at this point she had inbibed half a bottle of Merlot and dozed off to the Big Bang Theory.
Alas! Oh, if that had been my main concern! For an entire hour I was bent double over our kitchen sink, attempting to peel the shells off half-boiled (key to having a runny yolk upon cooking) quail eggs with very limited success. Those of you with an acute eye may notice only six scotch eggs in the initial photo at the top of the page. That’s because half of these little f*ckers broke, either squashed entirely in my over-zealous ‘tap and roll’ technique or torn asunder and left bleeding yolk out of their sides. I went through a spectrum of frustrated insanity during that hour, meandering between pondering chucking the whole lot in the bin and talking to myself, pretending to be a WWI surgeon.
Once this stage was over though, it was a doddle. There’s even an online how to video here for assembly. In fairness, towards the end it did get easier too (I nailed the final 3 eggs perfectly in a row). Then it was into the oil as per below.
Produced a stonking scotch egg. The slight spice from the paprika and the herb mix combined perfectly. A slather of the Piccalilli and we were well away. Sausage rolls/pork pies eat your heart out.