One of my all time favourite snacks…
On our wedding day, just over four years ago now, The Grumpy Chef and I had a minor disagreement, most likely about something trivial (neither of us can remember what unfortunately), and placed a bet, as we often do, on who would turn out to be right when we looked up the answer. Having recently discovered a mutual love of pickled eggs, we decided that the loser’s forfeit would be to prepare a batch for the winner. As has been the case with around 70 per cent of the bets that we’ve placed over the years, it was me who ended up losing, much to the delight of my husband I’m sure. However, being completely preoccupied with impending coursework deadlines for university at the time, I neglected to fulfil my egg pickling duties and, to my shame, proceeded to forget all about it thereafter.
As well as being prone to trivial bickering, The Grumpy Chef and I also have terrible memories, and so every time he reminded me of my failure to deliver the goods I would quickly forget all about it once more, and it would then take several months for him to remember the injustice of it all and be prompted to remind me again… What a palaver! After being reminded for the umpteenth time a few months ago, I pledged to pickle the eggs as soon as possible in a bid to prove once and for all my loyalty and trustworthiness, and even put a reminder in my phone just in case I happened to forget yet again.
As our wedding anniversary was coming up, I set about researching recipes straight away and got cracking (pardon the pun) in time to present the eggs as an anniversary gift. And here’s where the story gets a little more interesting. Having been married on the last day of February on a leap year (29 February 2012), it turns out that this year’s anniversary was technically our first rather than our fourth. This also means (luckily for me) that by presenting the eggs to The Grumpy Chef on the last day of February this year I have technically only kept him waiting for one year rather than four – clever, right?
Any way, the eggs (when they were finally handed over!) went down an absolute treat, so I thought I’d share the recipe on here for the benefit of any fellow pickled egg lovers out there who may want to have a go at making them at home.
Whilst I chose to infuse my vinegar with mustard seed, fennel seed, and red chilli, there are many alternatives that will work very well, including dill, thyme, beetroot, peppercorn and many other herbs and spices – the choice is yours!
Pickled Eggs Infused with Fennel Seed, Mustard Seed, and Red Chilli
8-10 organic free-range eggs (hard-boiled and peeled)
4 large red chillies (3 whole, 1 thinly sliced)
1 tsp. whole fennel seed (lightly toasted)
1 tsp. whole mustard seed (lightly toasted)
500ml cider vinegar (I used Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar)
250ml cold tap water
Equipment: you will need an air-tight jar (1 litre), a frying pan, a large saucepan, and a timer.
1. The first thing to do is prepare the eggs. Rather than completely hard-boiling them, it’s better to leave the yolk slightly soft so that they don’t overcook when you pour the hot pickling liquor over them later. Set the timer to go off after 6 minutes and 30 seconds before gently adding all of the eggs to a pan of boiling water (if you remove the pan from the heat before putting them in then they are less likely to crack. Having said that, it’s a good idea to cook a few more than you will need just in case). Start the timer immediately and boil until the alarm goes off.
2. While you’re waiting you will need to steralise the jar to remove any bacteria that may be lurking and that may ruin your pickles if left alone. To do this you will need to preheat the oven to 100°C and then (after washing in hot soapy water), place the rinsed jar on the middle shelf and leave until completely dry. When the alarm goes off, quickly remove the pan from the heat and drain the hot water, replacing with cold water from the tap to stop the cooking process. You can then leave the eggs to cool in the cold water while you get on with the pickling liquor.
3. Thinly slice one of the chillies and leave to the side, then lightly toast the fennel and mustard seeds in the frying pan over a medium heat until a fragrant aroma is released. A minute or two should be enough. Next, add the water and vinegar to the saucepan along with the toasted seeds and sliced chilli, and bring to the boil. As soon as boiling point is reached, turn down the heat and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
4. When the jar has dried completely in the heat of the oven, use a clean oven glove or tea towel to remove and then leave on the workbench to cool. In the meantime, carefully peel the eggs, making sure not to damage the white beneath the shell. When the jar has cooled sufficiently (it should be warm and not hot) transfer the eggs and then pour over enough hot pickling liquor to completely cover. Insert the remaining 3 chillies wherever there is space between the eggs, then seal and leave in the fridge for at least 2 weeks before eating.