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Is there a more perfect picnic food than a scotch egg? Easy to prepare the night before, robustly portable, best eaten with your hands and substantial enough to fuel a walk home, the small but satisfying theatrics of the hidden egg are but a happy bonus. (Vegetarians, go online for a meat-free recipe, or substitute plant-based sausages, adding a beaten egg, if necessary, to bind everything together.)
Prep 25 min
Cook 14 min
200g fairly plain sausagemeat (ie, about 3 sausage’s-worth)
200g pork mince
3 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs – I like chives, sage, parsley and thyme
1 pinch ground mace
1 tbsp English mustard
1 splash milk (or water)
Salt and black pepper
100g panko or dry breadcrumbs
Neutral oil, for deep-frying
1 Soft-boil the eggs
Put four of the eggs in a pan, add enough cold water just to cover, then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, leave to simmer for five minutes, then drain and put the eggs in a large bowl (or sink) filled with iced water to stop them cooking any further.
(Note: this will give you a fudgy yolk; for a liquid one, drop the eggs into boiling water for six minutes, and for harder yolks add another minute to the timings.)
2 Start on the meat casing
Put the sausagemeat and mince in a bowl. If you prefer, you can use all sausage or all meat, but I find the first too greasy and the second too dry. For me, a combination of the two offers the perfect compromise. Swap other meats for pork, too, if that suits you better.
3 Mix in the herbs and mustard
Add the chopped herbs, mace and mustard to the meat bowl, mix well to combine, then divide into four.
If you want a spicier version, consider using mint, coriander or finely chopped lemongrass and choose your spices accordingly – chilli or pepper can be substituted for the mustard, say. Don’t add anything that’s too wet, though, or the casing will fall apart.
4 Peel the eggs and prepare the coating
Crack the boiled eggs on a hard surface and peel carefully (note: in general, older eggs are slightly easier to peel).
Beat the two remaining raw eggs in a small bowl with a splash of water or milk. Put the flour on a small plate and season. Tip the breadcrumbs on to a second plate (ordinary ones will do, but panko are extra-crunchy).
5 Flatten the meat mix
Put a square of clingfilm on a work surface and flour it lightly.
Put one of the meatballs in the centre of the square and flour that lightly, too. Put another square of clingfilm on top, then roll out the meat until it’s large enough to encase an egg, then remove the top piece of clingfilm.
6 Wrap the egg in the casing
Roll a peeled egg in flour, then place it in the centre of the rolled-out meat. Bring up the sides of the bottom clingfilm square, so the meat surrounds the egg, then remove the plastic and use your hands to smooth the meat-wrapped egg into an egg shape.
Put in the fridge to chill, and repeat with the remaining peeled eggs and meat. (Once you’ve got them to this stage, they will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to a couple of days, if need be.)
7 Now for the coating
Roll each egg in the flour plate, then in the beaten egg, shaking off any excess each time, then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat. Repeat the egg and breadcrumb layers.
(Again, this is best done with hands rather than spoons; it’s easier to wash off, too.) You can do this bit in advance, too, if you like – again, they’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of days and still crisp up in the fryer.
8 Time to fry
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to about 170C, or fill a large, heavy-based pan no more than a third full of oil and slowly bring it to the same temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, a crumb of bread dropped in should sizzle and brown, but not burn, almost immediately. Carefully lower in two of the eggs with a heatproof slotted spoon.
9 Finishing touches
Fry the eggs, turning them occasionally so they cook evenly, for about seven minutes, until a deep golden colour. Carefully lift out, again with a slotted spoon, place on a cooling rack or a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain and, while they’re still warm, sprinkle with a little salt. Bring the oil back to temperature, then repeat with the remaining two scotch eggs. If you’re not eating them immediately, keep cool, but not refrigerated, otherwise the crisp coating may go soggy.