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Here’s what you need to know about the true Scotch egg: it is a British traditional food, which has no noble antecedents. Or to put it another way, it may once have been a glorious thing, but nobody of my generation in Britain is aware of such a thing. It is a nightmarish food item, the stuff of cheap family weddings, where the irascible scary uncle gets drunk and tries to score with the bridesmaids. The buffet at that sort of wedding would always include a platter of Scotch eggs, which would leave as nasty a taste in the mouth as the party. Think dry, cold, coagulated, cheap quality sausage meat – minced pig eyelids, ground down ears and knee caps; the cheapest of the cheap – with a crust of bright orange breadcrumbs on the outside, and inside an egg boiled to such a degree that if lobbed in a crowded public space it would be regarded as a dangerous weapon. Put said item in deep fat fryer and leave to DIE. Scotch eggs are what you eat at three o’clock in the morning when you pull into a service station off the motorway and are too hungry to make a proper judgment. They are what you eat in British pubs – not the nice oldie worldy, prettified ones; the nasty, sticky floored ones, where the curtains small of nicotine and the air is heavy with the taint of regret and disappointment – when you have drunk ten pints of lager the colour and flavour of something that came out the wrong end of a cat. They are the food of desperation. At Critics' Table I asked Art Smith if he’d ever gone 10 pints in a British pub. He looked at me as if I’d asked him for the late Queen Mother’s bra size, poor love.
Now it’s true that a couple of places in Britain have attempted to do something fancy with the Scotch egg. At a really nice gastropub in West London called the Harwood arms, they serve one made of finest minced venison with, in the middle, a quail's egg, the yolk of which is still runny. And everything you need to know is there in the description: to banish the memory of the real thing, they had to make it without the usual ingredients.
So what of Art Smith’s Scotch egg? Oh dear, oh dear. Undercooked, greasy lamb, around an overcooked egg which was far less than television friendly; it made my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, which is never a good thing when you are expected to say smart, incisive things into microphones. I regarded it less as food than cruel and unusual punishment. What had I done to deserve this? The contrast between it, and Anita’s staggering re-invention of Hubert’s lobster dish also did it no favours. (I used the word genius and I meant it.)
So why did Art Smith not go home? A number of reasons. Firstly, I fully accept that my reaction to his dish was re-enforced by my personal and traumatic memories of Scotch eggs (though I would argue that as the relationship between food and memory is very tight, it’s entirely valid). The point is that neither James nor Gael shared those memories — lucky, lucky people. Secondly the other things on the plate really were rather nice. Whereas poor old Suzanne’s dish just failed on every level, and so she was the one who had to go.
Art Smith got to fight another week. And I got to remind myself exactly why I was being paid.
Jay Rayner is the author of The Man Who Ate The World, published now in paperback by Henry Holt.
It was a shame to see Suzanne go, but it didn't seem her dish really won out on any level, whereas Art's did on at least some.
That whole "egg in lamb" thing scared me from the first moment it was on-screen being prepared, and the sight of the final cooked product just plain caused my drool glands to dry up and invert like when one of those old cartoon characters would eat Alum. Sorry to say, but it was just completely unattractive and unappetizing looking.
Anita Lo. 'Nuff said. Nothing but home runs in every challenge thus far. This woman is primo.
Rotflmao!!! Love the blog, love the show!!! First time I was in London I enjoyed the British sense of humor (or humour). Keep it up, hope we get to see more of you in the weeks to come.
I didn't really understand the brilliance of Anita's dish. I'm not sure the producers conveyed its complexities and brilliant flavor in the show last night. Wish I was there. Thanks for your wonderful writing and good words. It is a pleasure to read and listen to you.
I'd never heard of Scotch Eggs till now. How lucky I was, and didn't realize it.
Wonderfully written blog, by the way.
OMG, I can't stop laughing over this blog. Sooooo glad I did not have any Scottish eggs when I was over there. Very glad they only serve them at Scottish Festivals here and not in the public mainstream.
Although I am personally not fond of Scotch eggs (don't like eggs or sausage), the guests at my Christmas party and just about every other open house gathering we have get rather testy if there aren't any "signature" Scotch eggs - and we use mostly tradional ingredients (a hard boiled egg wrapped in turkey sausage, rolled in bread crumbs and baked, instead of deep fried). So Jay, maybe you just haven't had a good egg - come to Atlanta (maybe for the Stone Mountain Highland Games) and see what makes everyone in our circle of friends love Scotch eggs. I do agree that the traditional ones are very greasy and not very good - especially if allowed to get cold - but dismissing it completely may be a bit much.
Jay you've added wonderful comments and commentary to a really fabulous show! I'm so glad that your Visa came through. I was excited that you were on the show as I was a fan of Cooking For the Enemy in the UK.
Jay should have stayed to what he knew rather than the whole scotch egg which is rather lost on a sad cocktail party with Pimms.
I hope they use in the new season!
As soon as he started making the dish my wife turned to me and said in an incredulious tone, "He's making a Scotch Egg," whereupon she started laughing out loud.
The lack of edge to show is made up by the absolute professionalism and mastery of the chefs.
I think I prefer British food critics. They tell it like it is.
My dream judges' table would consist of you, Anthony Bourdain, and perhaps the ghost of Oscar Wilde engaging in a Battle of Sardonic Culinary Wordplay during the regular season of Top Chef, whose contestants often deserve a good tongue lashing and ego diuretic. Listening to you talk about food is like reading a film review written by Anthony Lane. I laugh. I wince. I ... However, my favorite part of this episode was witnessing the civility and respect with which the masters approached each other during this competition.
Jay- I have so enjoyed your observations this past season. I tune in just to listen to what you have to say in your drool way. Please keep it up. Also- you are very sexy.
Jay, You're the best writer of any of the BRAVO celebrities. I enjoyed your piece and learned a lot (never heard of Scottish eggs). I'd like to see and hear more from you!
Ooh, I knew the minute Art decided to make "scotch eggs" he was doomed. Let's face it. Lamb is supposed to be cooked "medium" and to put a hard boiled egg inside is ludicrous. If anything, I would have put a soft boiled one instead, but I think that that would still have been over cooked.
Why not make the same lamb patty with quail egg over top? He could have made a great lamb burger with seasonings and topped it with a quail egg and still have been within the guidelines.
I think that Rick Bayless will come out on top. He is such a CLASS ACT.
Oooooh. I never tried the humble Scotch egg and I never want to. Art's dish really looked unappetizing. I had hoped that both he and Suzanne would have been eliminated because they both failed miserably. Regarding Anita's brilliant interpretation of Hubert's dish, is it really safe to eat raw lobster? That sounds nasty.
Love this blog and love the show. Respect the way the chefs have gone about their work with great professionalism, humor and a fun spirit. It really is a completely different show from the TC series...even though I adore the original also.....which brings me to the only whinge I can think of. Sorry about that.
Abruptly telling the non-winning chefs to "return to the kitchen and pack your knives" just doesn't fit in with the good spirit of the competitors. It makes me cringe. They should be thanked and treated with respect.
It might have been a good idea in pre-production. But, surely, once the show was up and running, someone must have realized it would just sound "off" and not fit the spiriti of the show at all.
". . . when you have drunk ten pints of lager the colour and flavour of something that came out the wrong end of a cat."
Is there a right end of the cat to drink from?
Jay you have "NO MERCY". I've seen recipes for scotch eggs and always thought that they would be good, but after hearing your description, I think I'll pass. Maybe if Art had used the beef and a "soft boiled" egg, maybe as someone pointed out, a quail egg, maybe topped it with a bernaise sauce, it wouldn't have been so bad. He would have done better with a takeoff of a Denny's "Grand Slam" with a hash and an egg.
But back to Anita. I don't think I would ever eat a raw lobster. How in the world can you think she is "genius" when her plate consisted of three separate components and one being a "sandwich" with RAW LOBSTER? I'm rooting for Rick Bayless. He seems like such a gentleman.
I love this show, maybe even more than the original, because of the total professionalism and good will of these fantastic chefs. Colin is right--the variation on "pack your knives and go" is just not right for these classy contestants.
I just may plan my next vacation around visiting all of their restaurants!
Sweet Art Smith just carries his emotions on his sleeve. He cries when he wins and is completely devastated when he loses. I hope this wonderful man gets it. Being a chef just happens to be what he DOES - it's not by any stretch of the imagination WHO he is as a person. Art is a man with a heart as big as Texas. Any guy who would spend his precious time on this earth creating his own wonderful charity, Common Threads, has got to be just extraordinarily special. THAT is who Art really is. I hope he remembers that about himself, and doesn't take this cooking thing too seriously.
Scotch eggs sound good to me. What's not to like?
I've never had sea urchin or even seen it on a menu but I'm dying to try it now.
Love this show. And you too.
Having married a Scotsman from Glasgow and having traveled to the UK several times, A Scottish Egg is right up there with Haggis for me.
I have truly enjoyed this show and your blog. Funny, funny and more funny! So much so, in fact, I have just ordered your book.
I do hope that we see more of you on American TV!
Why do americans have to bash british food (and now the british health system) both when done well are some of the best in the world. Scotch eggs are lovely and when on a picnic easy to carry easy to eat and a good source of protein.
They originated as easy carry food, just like the Cornish Pasty for workmen and are best when not messed about with. I find that the reason that most americans don't like british food is 1) you can't get the ingredients here or they mess with the receipe (shepherds pie NOT made with beef).
Pretty cool place you've got here. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I would like to read more soon.