I have a confession: I’ve had this for dinner at least six of the last nine or ten nights. It started one night when I bought some smoked mackerel to make fish pie but got preoccupied doing other things, and bam! It was nine o’clock, I was ravenous, no fish pie anywhere in sight. So I did what I often do when I get into that night-time so-hungry-so-tired state: popped some bread in the toaster and cooked up some scrambled eggs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself flaking a bit of smoked mackerel into the eggs.
I have no idea what was going through my head in that brief moment between sitting down and digging in, but I don’t think I was prepared for the overwhelming, eye-widening oh-my-god-why-haven’t-I-done-this before feeling that hit me with the first bite. You know, that stunned, amazed feeling you get when you’re at a restaurant or a friend’s house and have something cooked just a little differently to how you normally do it at home, and you kind of half-squeal with delight. Except I was eating this at home, alone, and is there really a point of squealing if you’re just doing it for yourself, for something you’ve cooked? It’s kind of smug, if you think about it. (I did go and have a bit of a squeal to my flatmates, excitedly offering them forkfuls of eggs. They were less than enthusiastic, something about having just-brushed teeth. Pshh, weak.)
I’m not going to get all spring-is-upon-us yet, because it’s still August and there’s till plenty of time for soups and stews and braises and warm puddings and hot drinks, but there’s no denying the days are getting longer and maybe, just maybe, this is a dish that starts to creep into spring territory. Okay, scrambled eggs can be enjoyed year-round. As can smoked fish and chives. But there’s something just so cheerful about pillows of bright yellow, flecked with grass-green chives.
Like porridge, scrambled eggs are one of those things people get pretty particular about: everyone I’ve talked to has their own method. So, like with the porridge, I’ll share my method in the hopes of winning one or two people over – but really, cook your scrambled eggs how you like. Just try adding smoked fish and chives. It may blow your mind. It did mine.
SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH SMOKED MACKEREL & CHIVES:
Crack an egg or two into a small saucepan, add a splash of cream and a little knob of butter. Heat gently over low to medium-low heat, using a heatproof spatula or flat-bottomed wooden spoon to stir it together, but not too much, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. If it starts to cook too quickly, take it off the heat and give it a stir. Keep repeating this until it’s almost-but-not-quite set. Remove from the heat – the eggs should continue to cook from the residual heat in the pan. If they don’t firm up as much as you’d like, heat gently a little bit more. But be careful! Nobody likes rubbery scrambled eggs.* Once they’re at your desired consistency, stir in a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoonful or so of chopped chives (to taste), a couple of tablespoonsful of smoked fish (use whatever you like – for me, it was mackerel), flaked or shredded with a fork.
Last night, nine-o’clock again and hungry and tired from packing for a weekend away** I had this with a pungent spoonful of homemade sauerkraut on the side, and a tall glass of stout. Aside from the fact that I felt a little like I was eating a breakfast fit for a North Sea fisherman*** it took the whole thing to a completely new level. Of “oh-my-god-this-works-perfectly” triumph, and a little bit of anguish and insecurity that no one else was there to share this revelation. Which is why I’m sharing this little tidbit with you.
*I had some the other week at a cafe I usually like very much. I was so sad, kept thinking longingly of my home-cooked eggs. But that’s another story.
**I’m off to the mountain (yippee!) so this was more involved packing than my usual throw-some-underwear-in-a-bag-and-hope-for-the-best routine: climbing on chairs, pulling boxes out of storage, looking for snowboarding gear, etc.
***and here you discover my complete ignorance ofNorth Seafisherman and their typical breakfast choices. But, if I was some swarthy European fisherman in the cold, bleak sea (again, this is totally theNorth Seaof my imagination), this is what I’d be having for breakfast.