Glasgow's Forgotten Recipes: Scotch Woodcock

In the first of a new series of features, I attempt to resurrect recipes from The Glasgow Cookery Book, first published in 1910 and oft-revised ever since.

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When is a Scotch woodcock not a Scotch woodcock? When it's cunningly disguised as scrambled eggs on toast, that's when.

With recent calls for Scotland to adopt the golden eagle as its national bird, it feels appropriate that my first attempt at a forgotten recipe should be something ornithological.

I also wanted to start with a simple recipe - and flicking past detailed, step-by-step instructions to make brain cakes, Brussels sprouts puree and fish mould didn't exactly fill me with hope (or hunger pangs).

But Scotch woodcock looked only to have a handful of ingredients, which I assumed would revolve around the bird itself with perhaps some sort of sauce to accompany.

Therein lay the first lesson when making recipes of old: never assume anything - you will be wrong, and when you discover that you are, you'll immediately develop cravings for a delicious meaty feast you never knew you had.

So, on with breakfast. I mean, Scotch woodcock.

The method is extremely brief. It reminds me of the technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off, where contestants have only the bones of a recipe to follow and make a complex dish from, and which is almost 100% guaranteed to have at least one person crying into their Magimix by the end.

I begin by melting the butter and adding milk and seasoning to a saucepan. Except there is no hard and fast definition of what exactly constitutes seasoning anywhere in the book. I could assume it just means basic salt and pepper, but what about my newly-learnt rule? And what if I'm missing an opportunity to douse the dish liberally with ground black pepper, aka the best meal accompaniment in the history of the world?

Playing it safe, I stick to adding regular salt and pepper to the pan and pour in my scrambled egg. Scrambled egg is something I've only recently learned to perfect, after being taught by my little brother, who's a head chef. The key, according to him, is to only let the eggs half-cook - then take them off the heat and allow to rest while you sort the toast. By the time the eggs are ready to be served they'll be just the right level of moistness.

But I'm cooking with only one egg, here - my brother uses about thirty-seven at any given time - and it's looking awfully watery with the addition of the other elements. Should I keep cooking it or leave it to rest? This is too much pressure for a Monday night. I'm also used to adding cheese to my scrambled egg (OK, to every meal), and I'm finding it difficult to step away from the cheddar.

Once it looks cooked, I butter my toast and try to arrange my peely wally egg across it in the daintiest way I can. The pièce de résistance is the final addition of a single anchovy fillet placed jauntily across the top, and some capers. The recipe states in its strangely article-devoid way to "put caper on either side". Well, Sainsbury's was all out of the tins of big ones, so mini capers have to do - and I arrange twoon each side to compensate on size.

My verdict? Salty, certainly. But pleasant. It's sort of like a poor man's Eggs Norwegian, which I suppose it probably was in 1910.

If you fancy giving it a spin, pour yourself a large glass of water for hydration purposes, and follow the recipe below:

 

½ oz butter

1 tablespoon milk

1 egg

Seasoning

Rounds of toast

Anchovy fillets, capers

 

1 Melt butter, beat egg, add milk and seasoning, scramble.

2 butter toast, mound scrambled egg on top

3 Place an anchovy fillet across egg, put caper on either side.

Food and drink

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