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The quaint simplicity of Nathan Outlaw's egg and soldiers recipe belies the degree of work involved, so have your equipment at the ready when starting this challenging dish. With homemade saffron bread and smoked duck breast, this takes a well-known combination of flavours, deconstructs them, and presents in a delightfully unique sense. Egg and soldiers will never be the same again after you've had this version, which has asparagus which not only adds a nice aesthetic touch but a fabulous flavour.

Method
1.
To make the saffron bread, put the saffron strands and tepid water together in a bowl and leave to infuse for 10 minutes
2.
Combine the bread flour, fermented dough, yeast, butter and bread improver in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir in the saffron liquid
3.
Mix for 5-6 minutes, using the dough hook, then add the salt and mix for 1 more minute, until a smooth dough is formed
4.
Transfer to a floured bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm, dry place for 20 minutes
5.
Tip the dough onto a floured work surface, knock back and place in a loaf tin. Leave to prove again in a warm, dry place until the dough has tripled in size, about an hour
6.
Preheat the oven to 240°C/Gas mark 9, or its highest setting
7.
Shape the risen dough into a round loaf and bake on a tray in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top
Baking bread
When the bread is done, it will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.
8.
Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut four 75g slices from the loaf ready to make the saffron breadcrumbs and reserve the remaining loaf for wrapping the asparagus
9.
To prepare the duck, mix together the sea salt, sugar, orange zest and five spice in a bowl, then rub the mixture all over the duck breasts. Leave to marinate for 2 hours in the fridge
10.
To make the saffron breadcrumbs, tear the sliced bread into small pieces
11.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, then fry the bread pieces for 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown and crisp
12.
Sprinkle over the caster sugar, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the fried bread to a tray and allow to cool
13.
Once the fried bread has cooled, pulse it to rough crumbs in a food processor. Measure out 250g to coat the duck eggs, and reserve the rest for serving
14.
To cook the duck eggs, bring a large pan of water to the boil and get ready a large bowl of ice-cold water
15.
Boil the eggs for 3-4 minutes (for soft-boiled) then drain and plunge into the iced water for 1-2 minutes. Peel the eggs and drain them on kitchen paper
16.
Put the flour and saffron breadcrumbs in separate dishes and beat the hen’s egg and milk together in a bowl
17.
Dredge each duck egg in flour, then dip into the beaten egg and roll in the saffron breadcrumbs. Place on a tray and chill until needed
18.
Wash the marinade off the duck breasts and pat dry with kitchen paper
19.
Head outside to smoke the duck. Put your oak chippings in a large pan or wok and rest a wire rack or trellis on top. Carefully light the chippings with a blowtorch, then allow the fire to burn out
20.
When the chippings are just smouldering, lay the duck breasts on the rack and cover the pan with a large wet tea towel
21.
Leave to smoke for 10-12 minutes, or until the duck is cooked through. Remove the duck, leave it to cool, then wrap in cling film and chill until needed
22.
To cook the asparagus, snap off the woody ends and peel the stalks
23.
Blanch the spears for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness) in a pan of boiling salted water, then drain and refresh in iced water. Drain again then trim the spears so that they are all the same length
24.
Slice the smoked duck breast, on the grain, so you have 12 thin slices, and slice 12 thin pieces from the remaining saffron loaf
Saffron bread
Keep any remaining saffron bread for another occasion – it’s delicious served with good butter and jam
25.
Preheat the grill to high. Wrap each asparagus spear in a slice of smoked duck, then wrap again in a slice of saffron bread
26.
Place on a grill-pan and dot with butter. Grill for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp all over
27.
To deep-fry the duck eggs, heat some vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer to 160C
28.
Working in two batches, fry the breaded duck eggs for 2-3 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper
29.
Pile the last of the saffron breadcrumbs on four serving plates
30.
Slice the base off each fried duck egg and stand it on the breadcrumbs, then slice off the top to reveal the runny egg yolks
31.
Lay the asparagus bundles alongside and serve immediately
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Corney & Barrow matching wine

Find out why Corney & Barrow match this Egg and soldiers recipe with a champagne or sparkling white wine, or a medium and round red wine

Ingredients

Saffron bread

  • 2 pinches of saffron strands
  • 280ml of water
  • 500g of white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 120g of fermented bread dough
  • 30g of fresh yeast
  • 15g of soft butter
  • 1 tsp of organic bread improver
  • 20g of salt

Smoked duck

Saffron breadcrumbs

  • 40ml of olive oil
  • 20g of caster sugar
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Duck eggs

Asparagus

Equipment

  1. Electric mixer with dough hook
  2. 135g oak chippings
  3. Large wet tea towel
  4. Blow torch

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Nathan Outlaw shares a divine egg and soldiers recipe, using smoked duck breast and homemade saffron bread for an unforgettable egg and solders experience

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