Up until a few weeks ago, I had never had a devilled egg, let alone tried to make one. I had read about them with fascination in various novels, usually set in the American South or housewifely suburbs, passed around as canapes at fictitious afternoon parties by women who lived the kind of lives I could scarcely imagine, peppered with scandal and boredom, kitten heels and daytime martinis. Devilled eggs represented, to me, something otherworldly, something aspirational, something bordering on the celestially obscene.
Anchoiade, pronounced an-shoy-ard but very quickly, according to a French youtuber with a voice of clipped velvet with a laugh never far behind, was stumbled across on the Instagram feed of my former Daily Kitchen Live colleague, Matt Tebbutt. A passing mention on a restaurant menu, that I scrawled in a notebook, commenting ‘Oh, anchoiade!’ with hearts for eyes, as though I knew what it was. I didn’t, of course, but I loved the word already, and suspected I would love the thing itself.
Weeks later, with a Delia Smith recipe in one hand and a Mireille Johnston in the other, amalgamating the two in an act of culinary treason, my suspicions were confirmed. A perfect maelstrom of salt and sour, suspended in oil with the sharp gasp of raw onion and garlic, and the underpinning ferment of the little salty mink coloured fish, I immediately tripled the recipe I had scrawled on a piece of oil-smudged scrappy paper, knowing I would be using it in a lot of dishes in the immediate future. And that’s where this recipe came from; a sudden flurry of boldness to address the thus-far elusive devilled egg, and a surfeit of anchovy dressing to devil it with.
Should you need any further convincing, I made these three times in the same single week, once at 1am, carrying a plate of half a dozen stil-warm heaped-high halves to bed to devour beneath my duvet with my fingers and an Ian Rankin book. It may well be a coincidence, but every night I went to bed on a plate of these, I slept like a cat, undisturbed and satiated, which regular and long-time readers will be aware, is rarely my natural state.
Makes eight devilled egg halves. I would suggest two per person as a snack, but that would make me a hypocrite, as I generally have the whole lot myself. In my defence, it’s hardly worth devilling fewer than four eggs at a time, and neither my ten year old nor my cat are particularly interested. What can you do, eh, but eat them all yourself?
1/4 of a small white onion, 3p (80p/1kg, Asda)
1 small clove of garlic***, 2p (69p/3 bulbs, Asda)
a small handful of fresh parsley, 5p (50p/living plant, Asda)
Up to four brown anchovies, depending on your taste for them, 14p (55p/50g, Asda)
30ml oil*, 3p (£1.09/1l, Asda)
15ml vinegar**, <1p (29p/568ml clear distilled malt, Asda)
1 tbsp mayonnaise***, 2p (65p/500ml, Asda)
4 medium eggs, 50p (75p/6 free range, Asda)
Plenty of black pepper, <1p (£1.25/100g, East End brand at Asda)
Notes on ingredients and substitutions:
*OIL. Traditionally you would use olive oil here, but I only keep sunflower to hand, and there’s so much else going on here it doesn’t seem to matter in the scheme of things, but if olive oil is something you keep in your cupboard, feel free to use it for a richer and more authentic vibe.
**VINEGAR. Strictures on vinegar seem to vary from recipe to recipe, so I used distilled white vinegar as it is my baseline for almost everything, but it is a touch sharper than say, white wine or cider vinegar. Some recipes use red wine vinegar, which I suspect is also utterly delicious, but I try to keep things to a budget as far as possible without compromising too much on the finished result.
***GARLIC. At the time of writing, three bulbs of organic garlic are the same price as three bulbs of regular garlic online at Asda, so do check out your local store if this is something that interests you.
First peel and finely slice your onion, and place into the small cup of a small but powerful bullet blender. Add the whole garlic clove, a few stems of parsley including the stalks, the anchovies. Pour over the oil, and add the vinegar, and blend to a smooth, emulsified sauce.
If you don’t have a small bullet blender, don’t worry, you can still make a rough anchoiade sauce – it just requires a heavy sharp knife, a grater, and some patience. Peel and finely slice your onion, and finely clice your garlic. Place on a chopping board with the parsley, and chop until minced to smithereens. And then chop some more. You may find it helpful to sprinkle a little salt on the lot, as the coarse grains help to break down the alliums and assist with transforming them into a paste, but be sparing with it, as the anchovies provide a rich salty base as well. Add the anchovies and continue to mince it all together, then transfer to a small bowl. Pour over the oil and vinegar and whisk briskly with a fork to combine and emulsify – the process whereby fats amalgamate with and become suspended in an acid base, turning both from transparent liquids to a cloudy one. Science. It’s great!
However you achieve your anchoiade, taste it to check it balances to your liking, and adjust with a little more fat (oil) or acid (vinegar) as desired. Pop it in the fridge until needed.
Fill a medium pan with cold water, just over halfway full, or enough that it will cover your eggs when they’re in the pan. I admit to being somewhat fastidious about boiling eggs, and dropping them carefully into the pan to reaslise the water is half a centimetre shy of covering them frustrates my meticulous timings (the eggs start cooking on contact with the boiling water, the addition of cold water adjusts the temperature so it has to be brought back up to boiling again, it’s all just but stressful) so I admit to placing the eggs in the pan FIRST, covering with exactly enough water and then a splash to allow for evaporation, and then carefully removing the eggs again. A moment more of effort, but extremely satisfying when it all comes together at the other end.
I almost always absent mindedly salt the water. Nobody ever mentions this, so if you do it too out of habit, don’t be ashamed. It’s an almost impossible one to break! And it’s not going to do your eggs any fear nor foul in the process.
Bring the pan to the boil, sans eggs, which should be luxuriating nearby awaiting their fate. Set a timer for ten minutes, or make a note of the time – I use the clock app on my phone and have preset timers input for soft boiled eggs (3m 40s) and devilled (10m 30s) but as I said, I’m fastidious about these things.
Bring the heat down to a simmer, and carefully lower each egg in with either a spoon or slotted spoon, as quickly as you can without damaging the shells. Start your clock.
While the eggs are cooking, remove your anchoiade from the fridge, and set to one side. Grab four bowls – fill the largest with the coldest water you can muster, and set the smallest aside to make the filling. The remaining two are for shells and naked eggs, to prevent little bits of one sticking to the other. Put a small sharp knife and a fork beside them.
When your timer goes off, quickly remove the eggs from the boiling water and drop them immediately into the bowl of cold. This stops them from cooking any longer, and also makes the shells easier to peel, meaning you’re less likely to end up with raggedy eggs. It’s not foolproof, but it mostly works!
Peel each egg and place it in the designated egg bowl. When they are all peeled, discard the shell and clean the ledge to make sure all stray pieces of shell are disposed of.
Taking each egg one at a time, halve cleanly down the middle, lengthways, and carefully ‘pop’ out the hardened yolk. You may wish to scoop them out with a teaspoon, but I find a gentle but assertive squish at each side, between finger and thumb, usually does the trick. Pop the yolks into the small bowl, and add the anchoiade and mayonnaise, a little at a time. Beat well with a fork to combine to a smooth, spoonable paste. Taste for texture and seasoning and adjust as required.
Place each empty egg white on a plate and carefully spoon in a heaped teaspoon of the filling into each one, dividing it equally between the halves. Season with salt and pepper as liked, and serve.
They will keep in the fridge for 24 hours, but it took a lot of willpower for me to test this theory. Best served at room temperature, although some people do like them fridge-cold.
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