Jugged Kipper, Poached Eggs
"I am the egg man, They are the egg men, I am the walrus, Goo goo g'joob"
John Lennon (1967)
This is hardly a recipe, more a celebration of the very happy marriage of a traditional British artisan smoked fish product and spanking fresh top quality farm eggs. For whatever reason, smoked fish and eggs have long been a truly successful partnership - think Kedgeree for one, or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for another, just to get going.
Well before I first visited Yorwarth's stall at the recently-launched High Street Kensington Farmers' Market I was aware that as a family not only had they been fishing the south-east coast of England for 200 years in small-scale, environmentally-conscious ways but also for the last 15 years been running a smoke house in East Sussex creating products from salmon, haddock, mackerel, herring, sprats, and the list goes on. So when I visited the stall for the first time I couldn't resist buying one of Yorwarth's home-smoked kippers with every intention of subjecting it to the most subtle of cooking to really appreciate a fine product in its purest. Suffice it to say I have bought more Yorwarth's home-smoked kippers since! Martin invited me to visit the smoke house in Seaford and, as soon as the opportunity avails itself, believe me I'm going! Can't wait.
The idea of a "Jugged Kipper" has always held a certain appeal to me and it doesn't take too much a stretch of the imagination to understand the name comes from the traditional technique of poaching a smoked herring in a jug of freshly-boiled water. Of course the shape of the vessel is not essential but either way, when looking for some guidance on the cooking method, I turned to someone who I had no doubt would have a simple, traditional method: Delia Smith. Her advice is to fold the kipper closed, put in a jug and pour over boiling water, cover and leave for 6 minutes then drain and serve with butter. I've done more or less that, but just used an oven dish instead of the jug (I don't have one the right shape) and melted some butter into a bit of the kipper liquor for a suggestion of a sauce.
When it comes to a poached egg, there is just one simple rule: use a super-fresh best-quality egg. I almost always buy my eggs from Rookery Farm Organic Eggs who have won the award of "favourite stall" at the Bute Street market, as voted for by the market-goers, for six out of the eight years the competition has been running. "The Egg Man", as I call him (I'm a huge Beatles fan), has always conveyed so much confidence in the shelf-life of their outstanding fresh eggs, far greater than anything you would find printed on a supermarket eggbox. "Dick the Egg", as he's known by many of the other market-goers, is also a great advocate of the float test for an egg. Quite simply put an egg in a jug of water and if it floats it's no longer usable. Alternatively if it sinks and lies on its side at the bottom it is fresh enough to poach. And if sits upright at the bottom it is still fresh but better used for something like an omelette or scrambled eggs.
In theory you could, for fun, cook the kipper in the way I suggest and poach the eggs in a jug. Then you could call the dish "Poached Kipper, Jugged Eggs", and it will still be delicious! As a brunch or lunch dish I can't help thinking a class of Sussex ale alongside would be just the thing.
It is really a futile endeavour to suggest that one's method of poaching an egg is the correct method. I am happy to simply present the technique I rely on and encourage everyone to use their preferred approach. The step of giving the egg a 10-second dunk in boiling water, however, I think is quite helpful as it begins the coagulation of the egg white before it is cracked. When it comes to the addition of vinegar in the cooking water, I believe the science is that it prevents the white from thinning, but even if that's not correct, the truth is I quite like the hint of piquancy that the vinegar contributes.
Some toasted and buttered fresh bread will finish off this plate fabulously. Oh, and so would the glass of traditional Sussex ale!
Jugged Kipper, Poached Egg
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2-4 large, super-fresh, best quality eggs
2 knobs of butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges or slices, to serve
Preheat the oven to 150°C and put an oven dish large enough to take the kippers in to warm up. Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to the boil with the 2 tbsp vinegar in which to poach the eggs. As soon as the water comes to boil, gently drop the whole eggs into the saucepan, leave for 10 seconds, then lift out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
Boil the kettle and put sufficient water into the oven dish that will cover the kippers. Slide the kippers in, cover tightly with foil and leave to poach, out of the oven, for 6 mins. When the time is up remove the kippers from the water with a fish slice, place on a warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest. Reserve 4 tbsp of the cooking liquor in a small jug.
While the kippers are poaching cook the eggs one at a time. Make sure the water and vinegar in the saucepan is boiling rapidly and crack an egg into a ramekin. With a whisk, stir the water in the saucepan rapidly to create a whirlpool then drop the egg into the centre of the pan. Let the egg swirl into a ball and then poach it for 3 minutes without letting the water heat to anything more than a gentle boil. Lift the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with a double thickness of kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Just before serving bring the reserved cooking liquor from the kippers to the boil in a small saucepan and melt the 2 knobs of butter in it. At the same time, the eggs can be brought back up to temperature by dropping them into the saucepan of boiling water in which they were poached for a few seconds.
Put a kipper on each of 2 serving plates, divide the eggs among the plates and spoon over the buttery liquor. Grind some pepper over the eggs and serve each plate with the wedges or slices of lemon.
"Kippers", Delia Online, website accessed 18 December 2020