This recipe is a classic example of necessity being the mother of invention. We were planning a party. What we'd really wanted to serve were soft-boiled quails' eggs, wrapped in spinach and smoked salmon. However, on the trial run, we concluded that shelling two dozen soft-boiled quails' eggs — to be eaten warm — was not practical. Thus evolved Plan B, when LPM suggested substituting soft-boiled quails' eggs with scrambled ducks' eggs, and DEB thought that piling everything on top of baby latkes might work. This was all well and good, until DEB was distracted by a raspberry roulade and forgot to prepare the potatoes. It was LPM's genius that saved the debacle, and slices of roasted potato came into play.
These aren't difficult or fiddly to make. Essentially it's posh scrambled eggs on top of posh hash browns, with some other posh stuff in between them. You need to be a little bit patient and a little bit organised. Scrambling eggs for more than twelve people is perhaps impractical if you want to be enjoying your guests' company, but they were definitely worth it.
Ingrediments as part of a buffet for ten or twelve
- The base (this is for both versions, half will go to the fishy version, half to the non-fishy version)
- 3 large potatoes, sliced to give between 20 and 24 1½ cm- (¾ inch-) thick discs
- oil for roasting
- 1 packet baby spinach leaves
- 7-8 ducks' eggs
- Knob of butter
- 50g (2oz) fresh chives, chopped
- salt and pepper
- For the vegetarians
- 75g (2½oz) cheese — something tasty, a firm goats' cheese, or a ripe brie
Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius.
Place the slices of potato in a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. When they have part-cooked, drain them and allow them to dry off a little. Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a large roasting pan (large enough to hold all your slices of potato, so you might need two) with oil (or a mixture of butter and oil, if you prefer) and heat in the oven. You want the oil very hot, it's what'll make the potatoes crispy. Arrange the slices of potato in the pan, season, and return to the oven. They'll need between 45 minutes and one hour to finish cooking and develop yummy crunchy skins.
Hopefully you've occupied yourself with something else useful whilst the potatoes are roasting, but as soon as they are ready, remove them from the oven, drain off the excess oil on kitchen paper, and arrange on two warmed serving platters. Place three or four leaves of baby spinach on each slice of potato, and then either a sprinkling or a slice of cheese or a slice of smoked salmon on top of that.
On to the eggs. DEB normally scrambles her eggs by cracking directly into a hot pan of butter, seasoning them, and moojing them around until they're just cooked. She can't be bothered with all this breaking into a bowl and beating business. But with ducks' eggs, it's not quite so simple. They have particularly tough shells. Cracking them requires more force than you'd imagine and if you're not careful, you'll find chalky splinters of shell in your food. So break them into a bowl first, please. A bowl to which you can apply quite strenuous force without cracking it, shattering it, or in any other way disabling it. Then throw them into the hot butter and proceed as normal. Don't forget to add the chives.
Eggs cooked? Fabulous. Pile on top of the cheese or salmon and deliver into the mouths of your greedy guests whilst still warm. They will fall at your knees in adoration. Ours did, anyway.
If you're having difficulty locating ducks' eggs, which we sincerely hope that you're not, ten or 12 hens' eggs, depending on size, should do the job.
Want actual meat? How about replacing the salmon or cheese with some crispy bacon, or thick slice of good quality sausage, maybe even black pudding, if you're that way inclined?