"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

16 March 2021


Fergus Henderson hints at Scotch Woodcock ...
Be gentle with your egg and hopefully it will be gentle to you. Scrambling, for example, should be a slow process, done on low heat with a good knob of butter in the pan. Crack your eggs into the melting butter and gently stir, breaking the yolks. Don't season with salt until the end - it will throw the scrambling out of kilter - and don't lose your nerve and turn the heat up to try to rush things; just stir them occasionally.

When they're cooked to a satisfactory state, you can't do much better than serving your scrambled eggs on buttered toast, but let's go a step further into the world of savouries. Traditionally, savouries were offered at the end of the meal - not a sweet, though, and accompanied by a glass of Port. My favourite savoury is Scotch woodcock. For ours at St John we make an anchovy gunge which is then spread on toast and topped with scrambled eggs. Some prefer the anchovies whole and the eggs poached. This neatly leads us into the world of the poached egg, a very useful culinary bubble on top of smoked haddock and steamed green asparagus and corned beef hash that magically creates its own sauce.

The proper recipe can be found in Fergus' latest, The Book of St. John ...

The "savoury" is a rather old-fashioned course, taken with a glass or port at te end of a meal.  This family grouping includes not only the Scotch Woodcock but Welsh Rarebit and the Buck Rarebit, too, which is a rarebit with a poach egg on top.  It's not often that you fancy such a thing after your dessert.

Throw away the shackles of antiquated convention!  Liberate the Scotch Woodcock from its after-dinner perdition!  Take a well-spread piece of anchovy toast -- a good white bread is preferable -- and cover with creamy, lightly-scrambled eggs.  Your breakfast is ready.
The anchovy gunge.

7 garlic cloves, peeled
a pinch of black pepper
1 tin of anchovies in oil (Ortiz)
225 ml extra virgin olive oil
a splash or red wine vinegar

  1. Place the garlic and pepper into a food processor (or use a pestle and mortar if you have time and energy), and crush to a fine purée, then add the anchovies and allow them to break down. Start to add the oil, then the vinegar to taste. Check flavour for seasoning.
  2. This dressing, depending on how thick you make it, can have many uses.
  3. With less oil and vinegar added you will have a very firm mix - the Anchovy Gunge - which you can use as a dip for vegetables (as here), or spread it on toast with sweet roasted or pickled shallots, or a boiled egg. 
  4. With a little more oil and vinegar added you should have a looser, though still emulsified mixture, which is ideal for dressing boiled greens or broccoli - which can be eaten on their own or with lamb or beef.

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