OKTOBERFEST is a big celebration of beer that happens in Munich every year.
It’s one of the world’s largest food and drink festivals and, with a huge revival in local, artisan brewers filtering through Europe and the UK, it seems a fitting time to raise a pint. What better accompaniment than a classic bar snack?
Bar snacks, which can vary hugely from crisps and salted or spiced nuts to pork scratchings and Scotch eggs – have experienced a huge revival over recent years. The premise is that foods that are a little salty make you more thirsty, therefore you reach for another beer or drink to wash them down – keeping both publican and customer happy.
Certainly, there’s nothing nicer than whetting your appetite with a little taste of something and salty foods certainly tantalise the palate. Whether you’re eating out at a pub or a restaurant, or even entertaining friends at home over a few fine ales, there’s something almost exciting about those first small bites that pave the way for a wonderful meal.
I often find when it comes to bar snacks, the classics are the best. There’s a certain amount of pleasure in reviving traditional recipes.
Pork scratchings and crispy pig’s ears are two of my all-time favourites. While pork scratchings are renowned as a bit of a classic British pub snack, they are, in fact, enjoyed all over the world in various different guises, from grattons in France to khaep mu in Thailand.
I love to make fresh, home-made pork scratchings – the taste always takes me back to being a child, when we used to visit my grandparents’ favourite pub in the Midlands.
In fact, that’s where the snack is said to originate, in the 1800s. Back then, many families would have kept their own pigs as a food source. Making their own scratchings or crispy pig’s ears would have been a great way for them to use up every part of the pig so there was nothing going to waste.
It’s an ethos I am fanatical about in my own restaurants and at home, which is another reason I relish these snacks so much. Whenever I make pork scratchings and crispy pig’s ears at the restaurant, I have to try hard to stop myself eating them all – they’re just so tempting.
Makes 12 small eggs
½ pint milk
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
cracked black pepper
2 fillets smoked haddock
12 quail’s eggs
500g potatoes, peeled
2-3 sprigs dill, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
100g plain flour
1 egg (for egg wash)
pinch of salt
To poach the haddock fillets
Put the milk, thyme, bay leaf and cracked black pepper in a pot and place over a medium heat. Once it is smoking, add the haddock fillets and poach gently. Once cooked, remove the haddock from the liquid. You can keep the milk aside and use it to make Cullen skink another night as it will have a delicious smoky flavour.
To make the Scotch eggs
Fill a pan of water and bring to the boil. Add the quail’s eggs and boil for exactly two minutes and 25 seconds.
Take the eggs from the boiling water and peel off their shells, then set aside.
Chop the peeled potatoes, then bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook for ten to 15 minutes, or until tender enough to mash.
Once cooked, drain the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher or a fork. Add the haddock to the mash and mix together.
Add cracked black pepper to season, then add the chopped dill and lemon zest and mix together.
Carefully take a large spoonful of the potato and haddock mix in your hand and place a quail’s egg in the middle, then wrap the potato mix around in a ball. You have to be very careful and delicate at this stage.
Once you’ve rolled all of your eggs, place the flour, breadcrumbs and egg wash in three separate bowls. Coat each egg by rolling it in the flour, egg wash and then the breadcrumbs. Then carefully with your hands roll each egg so it forms a perfect round shape.
Pre-heat your fryer to 180C/gas mark 4 and place the eggs in gently. Fry until golden. Carefully remove each egg and place on kitchen paper. Season with a pinch of salt.
The secret is to cook your quail’s eggs for just the right time, so when you cut into each egg the yolk spills out.
200g pork skin (ensure there is no fat left on the skin)
cracked black pepper
Salt the pork skin lightly and leave for 15 to 20 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Brush the pork skin gently with oil and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
Cover a baking tray in greaseproof paper and place the pork skin on to the tray. Place into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the skin is very crispy.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool, before cracking into portions.
Crispy Pig’s Ears
2 pig’s ears
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, chopped,
1 white onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of thyme
Remove all the hair from the ears with a blowtorch and wrap them in muslin. Add the ears to a pot with carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, thyme and two litres of water, and cook for four hours. Top up with boiling water to ensure the ears remain covered. Remove the cooked pig’s ears from the muslin and trim off the muscles. Wrap the ears in cling film and put in the fridge under a heavy weight for 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Shred the ears very finely with a sharp knife. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan and add the shredded ears, spreading evenly. Fry for a minute or two then place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until ears are crispy. Keep warm until needed.