Salt cod 'Scotch eggs' with aioli

Serves 4

Mark Hix says: "Richard Corrigan's long-awaited book, The Clatter of Forks and Spoons (published by Fourth Estate, £25) is, I think, my favourite book of the year. I've chosen this recipe because we did a similar dish at the Fish House last year and called it "Cob egg", after Lyme Regis's famous landmark. Both Richard and I like to think we have pushed the boundaries on the Scotch-egg front!"

"I was looking for a salt-cod recipe," Richard says, "and one day I was having a conversation with my agent Mark Wogan, who loves his food. He was talking about bacalao and poached egg, which got me thinking about moulding brandade around quail's eggs, as if you were making a Scotch egg, and deep-frying them.

Having the potato in the mixture helps to bind everything and makes it cling to the egg brilliantly. When you cut into them, you get the crunch of the breadcrumbs, then the flaky fish and mash, and then the soft yolk of the egg oozing out in the centre. The salt cod has to be soaked over three days, so you'll need to plan ahead; however, you can make up the Scotch eggs the night before you need them, keep them in the fridge, and then all you have to do is fry and serve them. Like real Scotch eggs, they are also good cold."

500g dried salt cod
4 large floury potatoes
50ml light olive oil
24 quail's eggs
White-wine vinegar (to help peel the quail's eggs)
4 hen's eggs
100g flour
200g stale breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the aioli

2 slices of stale bread, crusts removed, soaked in a little water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of a lemon
200ml olive oil

Place the cod in a bowl of cold water and leave in the fridge for 3 days, changing the water at least once a day. Remove from the water and pat dry. Cut into cubes.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water, drain and mash. Warm the olive oil in a pan, add the salt cod and cook for 2 minutes over a very low heat. Turn over and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side.

Add the mashed potato to the pan. Flake the fish with the back of a fork. It will fall apart and the potato will soak up the oil, so you end up with a thick paste. Now set aside to cool. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, lower in the quail's eggs and cook for about 3 minutes; they should be just soft. Remove from the boiling water and put into a bowl of white-wine vinegar, which will soften the shell and should make them easier to peel. Leave to cool. Once they are cool, peel immediately. They won't all be perfect; hopefully you will end up with 12 good ones.

Take a little of the salt cod mixture at a time in the palm of your hand, make a dent in the centre, put in a quail's egg, close up your hand so that you cover the egg with the rest of the mixture, and roll it in your hands into an egg shape. Lay on a plate or tray lined with clingfilm or parchment paper; put in the fridge for an hour to firm up.

Meanwhile, make the aioli. Squeeze the water from the bread and put it into a food processor with the garlic, a good pinch of salt and the lemon zest and juice. Blend together and then gradually add the oil a little at a time, as if making mayonnaise. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Keep in the fridge while you finish off the "Scotch eggs".

Beat the hen's eggs in a shallow bowl, and have the flour and breadcrumbs in similar separate bowls. Dip each "Scotch egg" first in the flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Pre-heat the vegetable oil to 175C in a deep-fat fryer or large pan filled no more than one-third full. Lower in the "Scotch eggs" and fry for about 2 minutes until golden brown all over.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the aioli.

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