In which I am Torn

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

We were sitting around a large communal table, laden with glossy food and travel magazines. I was sipping a flat white of locally-roasted beans, trying not to ruin the delicate latte-art fronds. In front of us: a huge bowl of bircher muesli, adorned with slivers of apple and dates; a plate of orange-hued, creamy scrambled eggs atop thick-cut sourdough; a hunk of apple and cherry loaf, aside a honeyed bowl of ricotta for smearing. This is how we holiday: ambling from meal to meal, trying to walk enough in between to recoup some hunger for the next round. Walking off breakfast at bills, in Sydney, takes some miles.

In between mouthfuls, I flicked through a magazine and came upon an article from the ever-acerbic AA Gill about the differences between the Australians and British. The musings about the British obsession with past glories and consequent pessimistic approach to life rang true enough, if not especially originally so, but then we Brits form pretty easy targets for that kind of analysis. Instead, what stuck with me afterwards from the article, and through the entirety of September which saw me mostly on a plane, in a spare bed, in a hotel, but rarely at home, was the idea that travel isn’t really about where you are there and then, but about the perspective it gives you on where you are not: on your desk, your house, your street, your city, your country of residence.

And so I come back from the most recent set of travels and try to cling to the fresh eyes – even when rimmed red with jet-lag – with which I see life. Mostly I am able to admit for the first time in a long while that in an ideal world I would live both in San Francisco and in London. San Francisco nourishes my soul and my heart and London fires my mind and creativity. But it’s the travel between the two that makes both work, setting into relief the other. On the road or at home, it’s so often the food that gives me access to whatever is not there. So when I cart home the pile of cookbooks from London, leaving my weary suitcase-dragging shoulders set as concrete for the following week, I am transporting lazy, bantering afternoons in the pub, and the desire to be overdressed even on a Tuesday, and the crisp afternoons of early autumn, strewn with a light much thinner than the one that sets the California sun.

The Scotch Egg is quintessentially British to me, channeling a worn seat by the pub fire after a crisp walk through October leaves, or a picnic in the park cherished for a rare day of summer sun. But it travels well – literally and figuratively – a palm-sized portable token of the retro food revival. Fried chicken in San Francisco, buttery crumpets in Sydney, scotch eggs in London: all part of a search in our modern urban settings for the simplicity of times past, for pockets of community, for something with a comfortable back-story. We carted off a bag of the whopper-sized eggs, split in half for slightly more delicate access, to a music festival in the Golden Gate Park. Sexagenarian silver hippies in tie-died t-shirts stumbled, stoned, among teenagers with matted waist-length blonde hair, dancing with iPhones waved aloft. Elbow, “from Manchester”, a mere 30 miles from my place of birth, played out one of the main stages as the sun drifted towards the Pacific. The eggs were as gloriously hybrid as that moment, both utterly out of place and yet a perfect fit all the same.

Scotch Eggs
Adapted from The Ginger Pig Meat Book

Makes 4 eggs, which really is 8 servings unless you are a) incredibly hungry or b) a giant

4 eggs plus 1-2 extra beaten for the coating
50g/2oz plain flour
800g/2lb pork or sausages (see note below)
2 tbsp sage, chopped
salt and pepper
175g/6oz panko breadcrumbs
1 litre/2 US pints vegetable oil for frying

The original recipe calls for a mix of pork meat and pork fat. I used ground pork shoulder, which seemed plenty fatty to me. You could also take some sausages or sausage meat and use that instead in which case make sure they are of the highest quality and omit the stage of seasoning with sage and salt/pepper.

Place the eggs in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 6 minutes then remove to a bowl of ice water. Once cool, crack and peel the eggs. Dry them on paper towels and dust lightly with flour to help the meat mixture adhere.

Mix the pork meat with the sage and season generously. Use your hands to distribute the seasonings well through the meat.

Put the breadcrumbs, flour and egg on separate plates or in bowls. Take a quarter of the meat mix and form into a ball. Press into the ball to make a hole for the egg. Place the egg in the gap and gently form the meat until it covers the egg all round. Roll the meat in the flour, then in the egg wash and finally in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with the egg wash and breadcrumbs to form a thicker crust. Set to one side and repeat with the other eggs.

Heat the oil in a large pan until it reaches 175C/350F. Carefully place the balls in the oil and deep fry for 13 minutes, turning periodically to get an even golden brown colour. Be very careful and attentive with the pan and oil – do not leave it unattended and do not allow it to overheat. The oil temperature will dip when you first add the balls so you will need to increase the heat until it returns to the right temperature and then return the heat source to around medium.

Remove the balls from the oil with a slotted spoon and place to one side on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. The eggs can be enjoyed warm or cold and they keep well in the fridge, wrapped.

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