Scotch eggs.

I wish I was in a place where we could talk warm yellow heirloom tomatoes, or crisp radishes drizzled with olive oil and speckled with flecks of ashy black salt, or fat red berries dipped in vanilla sugar. But I am in Vancouver, with wet socks because my galoshes both now have holes in the soles, half wondering what the hell I’m still doing here.

When we talk about our respective cultures, those muddled European backgrounds we cling tenuously to, what is important to Nick and I is less about the place – his heritage is roughly Dutch in the same way that mine is vaguely British – than it is about the food. When people talk about where they’re “from,” often they talk about a somewhere else, as if they really came from there, as if they identify more strongly with some other place than the place they are now. And maybe they do.

In the ongoing (and tedious) pursuit of a novel, I have been writing about the idea of reclaiming my culinary heritage. Mine, I guess, but to be honest the further I go with it the less sense it makes. Are the meals I grew up eating the only thing that counts? Are my grandmother’s recipes more significant than the dim sum I have eaten almost every weekend for more than half my life? Is the influence of Nick’s family recipes worth mentioning, or are they too new to count? I don’t know.

When I started writing about my grandmother’s shortbread, I had a direction in mind, but the further I go, the more I realize that culture is fluid, and I am Canadian which means nothing and everything all at once. Meatballs and maple syrup and smoked salmon and Szechuan green beans and Southern Barbeque are equally weighted here. And I loathe ketchup chips.

Being from the west coast of Canada, my food is everyone’s food – this is the meltiest melting pot I’ve ever seen. Way to add confusion, Emily. Never finish that culinary memoir, you feeb. So as much as I’d like to be able to write a simple book of recipes that speak to a simple culinary heritage, I can’t. My grandparents never ate tofu.

Do you claim a cultural heritage different from the one in the place you grew up? How do you self-identify, and is it more complicated than simply “the place you grew up is where you’re from?”

On days like these, after weeks of rain, the food that comforts Nick and I the most is the kind of food that goes with a lot of cold cheap beer. Food that is fried and rich and bad for us. Maybe the culture we most subscribe to is pub culture, as we are creatures of deep-fried habit. Tonight we ate a dish that has its origin in Scotland, where my grandmother’s family emigrated from. No relative of mine ever made it for me, but I make it whenever it’s rained too long, and whenever the pantry runs low and payday is still a long way off.

For Scotch eggs, I recommend starting with soft-boiled eggs. You will not overcook the yolks this way, but they will be set and cooked through by the time you’re done. Peel the eggs carefully.

Scotch eggs

  • 4 soft-boiled eggs*, shells removed
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs, divided
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. ground yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Combine ground beef, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, onion, carrot, parsley, garlic, oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, ground mustard, oregano, and black pepper in a large bowl, and mix with your hands until thoroughly blended.

Divide meat mixture into four even portions. Spread meat across your palm – about twice the width of your egg – and press to an even thickness. Carefully wrap your egg in the meat mixture, pressing the meat to ensure the egg is completely sealed within.

Dip each meat-wrapped egg in the beaten egg, and dredge through bread crumbs until coated on all sides.

Fry in 1/2″ of oil over medium high heat, about four minutes per side, making quarter turns until each side is golden and meat is cooked through.

Remove to a plate lined with paper towel. Salt to taste.

Serve hot, with mustard as an accompaniment.


* I have never had any trouble using soft-boiled eggs, but my sister-in-law made these and found soft-boiled eggs hard to work with. Feel free to hard-boil the eggs; they might be easier to work with.

17 thoughts on “Scotch eggs.

  1. Mmmm…scotch eggs. I dunno, we might need to have a cook off for these, my mom might win 😉 In all seriousness, this is pretty much her recipe except she makes it with sausage instead of beef. Think I’ll see if she’ll try beef next time 😉


    1. I will happily eat the spoils of the cook-off! I make it with sausage sometimes, but this is a real “clean out the fridge” dinner. Sausage requires a trip to the store 😉


  2. My culinary cultural heritage, hmmm – just remember we are a mosiac in Canada. I like deep fried clams, ukrainian cabbage rolls, icelandic vina torte and bbq corn on the cob which is soaked in beer and water before hand (a trick I learned from a German neighbor). And the only one of those I can claim as heritage might be the clams coz I was born on the East coast. Take a look at any of the church/community service club (Lioness) cookbook and you’ll be reminded that our Canadian culinary cultural heritage contains a wealth of flavors.


  3. I don’t claim a culinary heritage, because my dad is a hamburgers-and-spaghetti guy and my mom is a microwave cook. Beyond that, my family isn’t really into food, and both sides have been in the U.S. so long that whatever traditions they had have been lost.

    Because of that I think I’ve felt free to explore what I like to eat, and what I like most is the current American melting pot – Eastern cuisine (Thai, Japanese, Indian, Afghani), Italian, Mexican, French, and all the actually-American stuff like hamburgers and chicken-fried steak and cornbread and fried green tomatoes. If pressed, I would say the stuff that attracts me most is street food – fresh and hot and totally unfancy. But that’s not a heritage so much as a menu for my life that I’ve built myself. Or is that how you define a new heritage?


  4. I really haven’t thought about a culinary heritage too much. Now you’ve got me trying to piece one together in my mind. Also, I’ve never had Scotch eggs, but have Scottish heritage … now I’m confused.


  5. Lisa – what does the beer and water do to the corn? I am going to try that – the Germans know what’s what. I think the mosaic is what makes things so confusing – the more options there are, the harder it is to sift through the recipes that make up a single family history. I love the diversity though. Here on the west coast, we have every kind of food … I’m spoiled.

    Katharine – I really like the idea of defining a new heritage, and a menu for your own life. I might steal that.

    Ultimatedivorceparty – is it jinxing my own marriage if I buy your book? Go get you some of these eggs.


    1. RE: Corn and beer – It just adds a bit of flavour. Frankly I never noticed a big difference. You take your standard family size picnic cooler, put no more than a couple dozen ears of corn in it STILL IN THEIR HUSKS, soak for at least a couple hours, then put on the BBQ but still in their husks. Leave them there til the outside chars, turn them about four times for four sides. The water/beer in the husks basically steams them on the BBQ.


      1. Rootie – THAT TOTALLY COUNTS! Grandmother recipes are essential. And it’s awesome that you got yours with notes!

        Lisa – Ah, okay. I kind of figured that was it, but was hoping for a magically beery flavour. I’m still going to try it though!


  6. The closest thing I have to culinary heritage are my grandmother’s cookbooks. She has a degree in home economics (unusual for a woman who turns 100 in 2 months) and gave me her handwritten cookbooks when she moved into a nursing home. I also got her 1940’s era Betty Crocker and Better Home and Gardens cookbooks, with margin notes and everything. My mother is a microwave cook. My husband’s family is from the deep valleys of West Virginia, and their style of cooking is completely different from the one I’ve learned, so he adds his own special blend to the culinary though processes at our house.
    and we LOVE scotch eggs!


  7. Emily — I am entertained that some people think they may be jinxing their marriages by being associated with divorce parties, but I think the controversy over that may be good for sales? I can hope. So no, I don’t think it’ll hurt your situation, unless you purchase it and leave it on the coffee table all marked up with notes, for your husband to come home and find.


  8. Scotch eggs bring back great memories for me, but not of home. I was introduced to Scotch eggs, among other heavy, Northern delicacies, when I stayed with friends in London. Their families come from Lancashire, so our lovely hosts made a list of all the traditional foods they needed to expose us to while we were there. We were treated to Lancashire hotpot, Scotch eggs, fish & chips, some sort of meat pie & Monster Munch (I think).

    If I think about my culinary heritage growing up in BC, what comes to mind is things like casseroles made with Campbell’s soup as sauce, Turkey dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas AND Easter, Kraft dinner or Betty Crocker birthday cakes. I don’t really see food as a big part of my cultural identity really.

    Though, come to think of it, the baking that was part of our Christmas traditions was fairly English–scones, mincemeat tarts, butter tarts, sugar cookies, shortbread, fruitcake.


    1. We always had mince tarts and shortbread too! And definitely Campbell’s soup casseroles. Do you think you would pass those things on to your kids? Are you teaching them about foods that are different from what you grew up with? This culture business when you live where we do is perplexing stuff.


  9. I came for the scapes, but read on! In terms of writing about mixed culinary heritage, the here and the now and the what came before, check out ‘Falling Cloudberries’. A culinary memoir/cookbook with some SERIOUSLY diverse recipes (Nordic, South African, Italian…), it might give you an idea of how seemingly disparate recipes/traditions ‘fit’.


  10. When thinking about scotch eggs, I have to put in the link to a hilarious London food blogger and his scotch egg of massive proportions, using an ostrich egg:

    And, moving on. I think culinary heritage is an interesting one – my father was Jamaican, and my mum is Canadian. Those two are my primary sources. When I first went to university and lived in residence, it was my knowledge of guava jelly which gained me access to a circle of friends filled with Caribbean girls, something that was completely new to me having spent my high school years in 1990s Vancouver. It shapes you in the way you get rejected for what’s in your lunch box in elementary school (‘what are THOSE?’ ‘Kippers stink! Get away from me!’, etc) – in those tender, formative years.

    Did you read Nigel Slater’s Toast? Fascinating coming of age through knowledge of food – I’ll lend it to you if not. x


  11. Oh my, that looks amazing! And completely bad for you. I am going to try it as soon as I can get one of those …

    I had kippers too! They did smell horrible, though no one ever thought to send them for lunch. Your mom must have a wicked sense of humour.

    Not yet, but I am interested!


  12. For the confused out there, Scotch Eggs are nothing to do with Scotland. They were invented at Fortnum and Mason store, in London.


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