If you happen to be a foreigner in Cock Tavern on North End Road in Fulham, London, you will see a curiosity known as the "Scotch egg" on the menu. It’s almost exactly the size of a tennis ball and sits on the bar alongside other British dishes like the sausage roll. Many pubs have some version of it. Cock Tavern serves two kinds, cooked right there: the Cumberland Sausage Scotch Egg and the Wee Black Pudding Scotch Egg.
What exactly is a Scotch egg, though?
Slice it open and you will find a hard- or soft-boiled egg contained in the middle, wrapped in sausage and covered with breadcrumbs. Sometimes black pudding is used; sometimes there is a mix of sausage and black pudding. You can either bake it or deep-fry it. The adjective "Scotch" seems to have little to do with the dish’s origins, however, which could be from an Indian kofta usurped later through English cuisine.
You will see different faster-food versions of the Scotch egg all over Great Britain in supermarkets. Whole Foods in High Street Kensington has them, for example, but so do many petrol stations along the highways. In the end, the homemade pub fare is your best bet.
Sometimes you get stale, doughy, and greasy duds, and you can’t take another bite, especially if they’ve been packaged and sitting for a while. The same is true for ones that have been on the bar all day. "The idea is to make sure that the yolk is still moist and a bit creamy," said Fulham local Matthew Haynes.
If you can find a warm, baked Scotch egg, you have a delectable companion to most ales or lagers. The egg is best when it is right between soft- and hard-boiled, leaning more to the soft side. If it’s overcooked, the egg white and yolk become bland and rubbery. The outer coating of breadcrumbs should be crisp yet moist.
Scotch eggs are popping up all around the globe as well, even in Toronto.
"I had them at a late-night hipster bar that serves oysters and out-of-date foods with a new twist," said Canadian Anna Alexopolous. "They were soft-boiled, wrapped in pork sausage, and once they were cut in half there was a dollop of Hollandaise sauce and then it was put under a broiler for a minute. Insanely good."
Get to the pub early and have them warm it up. Some HP "Brown" sauce or English mustard will work nicely. Or if you are eating it at home, pick up a bottle of Nando’s Medium PERi-PERi Marinade for a sharper flavor that offsets the richness of the egg yolk. This is a food that benefits from about 15 minutes in a real oven.
Recommended pairing drink: Meantime Brewing Company’s Pale Ale.
Mark Damon Puckett has written for Saveur and Greenwich Magazine. He is the author of The Reclusives, YOU with The Ill-usives, and The Killer Detective Novelist (October 2012), all available on amazon.com and bn.com. Please visit him at www.markdamonpuckett.com.