Gastrono-me’s Gemma Simmonite urges us to embrace our devilish side to make some wickedly moreish morsels
Picture this, it’s December 1970-something and it’s the evening of our big family Boxing Day night party. It’s in full swing and I’m nestled under a long trestle table with a white tablecloth providing my perfect den, whilst I snaffle a small(ish) plate of devilled eggs. I have those irresistible little half spheres of creamy fabulousness in my possession, my new ballerina Sindy by my side and I’m listening to the tipsy laughter and the sound of Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, life was pretty much perfect.
Even now, that feeling when I hold this perfect egg mayonnaise vessel and sink my teeth into it, gives me a feeling of utter joy, and a heavy dose of beautiful nostalgia. Plus, there’s no polite way to eat one. Well not sans cutlery anyways. You can’t nibble, it’s a ‘cram it in’ situation, which I think only adds to it’s devilishness.
Probably because of this devilled egg obsession we trialled them on on our first menu when we opened on Abbeygate Street just over a year ago. Sadly,they didn’t quite take. I think maybe UK diners were not quite used to seeing them on a restaurant table – too entrenched were they in their memories of being part of a traditional buffet spread. But I was determined to try after having spent hours fan-girling on so many of favourite US restaurant websites. I couldn’t help noticing that devilled eggs were a huge seller on menus. Maybe I removed them too fast? Maybe in time I’d have persuaded Bury St Edmunds into this egg-filled delight at dinner, but quite frankly when there were leftovers they predictably made their way in to my mouth. Had it gone on any longer, I’d have been waddling around the restaurant in no time!
So what do we know about devilled eggs and how did they earn their thoroughly wicked name? The term ‘devilled’ in reference to food was first used in the 18th century, with the first mention recorded in 1786, but apparently they can be traced back even further to ancient Rome – man those Romans knew how to live it up. The term devilled simply came to describe any food that was prepared with a certain spiciness, be it seasoned with chilli, pepper or mustard.
I’ve also discovered that many countries as well as the UK and US enjoy a devilled egg. Some very fabulous names abound, including the Mimosa Egg in France (I SO would want a Mimosa cocktail to accompany. C’mon, what could possibly be better?). Casino eggs hail from Hungary, which gives them a rather a racy feel, and they’re just as popular in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Malta, and Romania too. But it seems wherever they’re enjoyed the basic recipe and method doesn’t really deviate. Of course, in my beloved restaurants and drinking joints in America they have created some wonderful variations. . . wasabi flavoured, hummus blended, even a carbonara version, the world is clearly your egg when it comes to devilling one.
In my recipe I have given the basic version of the devilled egg we regularly enjoy, and then some fun ideas to mix it up a little bit. I also encourage you to not save these joys for special occasions. They are the perfect brunch appetiser, or as a starter. They will keep for a day or two splendidly in the fridge. In fact, in our household we prefer them ultra chilled – something about that leftover naughtiness enhances the joy. And before you start saying, “Ooh no, they look ultra fiddly, and I don’t think I want to be attempting any pretty piping”, I want to stress that a piping bag is not a thing to be feared. Fill it up, snip the end off and squeeze, I promise you it’s way easier than a teaspoon. Go on, be a devil, have a go. I warn you though, you will get addicted.
12 large free range eggs
1-2 tsp of English mustard
1 tsp of salt
1 small pinch of white pepper
A dash of chipotle tabasco to taste
Smoked paprika for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Reduce the heat and lower the eggs gently, increase the heat back to high and boil the eggs for 14 minutes.
Prepare an ice bath for when they’re boiled, this I assure you will help them slip their shells neatly.
Drain the eggs and remove their shells carefully, once they’re cool enough, pop out the yolks carefully and put in a bowl.
Mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and seasonings. You can give a quick blitz in the food processor with a dash of oil to loosen, but proceed with caution as you don’t want to end up with a super-smooth egg purée. A small texture of egg ‘knubble’ is preferable. It’s important to taste at this stage, if you fancy it creamier spicier adjust with your ingredients – devil it the way you will.
Pile the mixture into the piping bag if using, snip the end when ready and squeeze into the the little egg white hollows. If not using a piping bag, use two teaspoons, to ease the mixture in.
Finish with a delicate sprinkle of smoked paprika.
Pour a Mimosa and enjoy!
Try some variations:
Bacon & Chive
Slices of bacon, cooked until crispy then simply snip with scissors
A sprinkle of chives
Two thick slices of cooked chorizo cut into small cubes, sizzle in a frying pan until glistening
Tear into thin strips and decorate
A sprinkle of chives
Red Hot Buffalo Style
Add 1 tablespoon of Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce when mixing your yolks up
Top with crumbled blue cheese – Danish blue or Stilton, a small celery slice
Gemma is executive chef and co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds