Breakfast—the most difficult meal of the day. If, like me and my foodie hero Nigel Slater, you find the prospect of a drippy fried egg or a moist omelette a source of nausea, then breakfast can be tricky. How do you like your eggs in the morning? As far away as possible, please.
Now this does not mean, and in direct contradiction to the clickbait title of this piece, that I have a phobia. I’m certainly not allergic or medically intolerant. I have no problem with cakes, pancakes, egg fried rice… Even quiche and a hearty tortilla are meals that I both make and enjoy. As long as the end product isn’t too wet or sloppy I can deal.
This is, of course, a sadness for TLC, who loves her an egg. If she wants one I usually down tools and let her at the pan. She whips up a pretty mean scramble, which she doses with a gory splatter of ketchup. I have to be in a different room while she scoffs it.
This is a sadness for me too, as I believe that Food Is Love and I am therefore remiss in my husbandly duties in not sorting her out with eggy goodness. The problem is I don’t really have the experience in cooking the little blighters. She knows how she likes her eggs in the morning. I’d only mess it up.
Sidebar this whole tragic situation for a moment, and let’s talk fakeaways. With restaurants closed and some only recently opening for delivery, the early days of lockdown featured a lot of online instruction on home brew recreations of favorite fast food feasts. You want a Big Mac, or the classic taste of eleven herbs and spices? you got it. Even IKEA got in the action, releasing the recipe for their iconic meatballs and cream sauce.
My own guilty pleasure is a Mickey D’s breakfast. Double sausage, cheese, no egg of course, and a hash brown or two. Greasy, gooey joy. In the week before McDonald’s closed, TLC and I had a shared breakfast in a retail park on the outskirts of town, which is how all things should be consumed. In the car, groaning with unsuppressed gluttenous ecstasy.
Forward a few weeks, and I took a shopping trip into Caversham. Some veg from Geo Cafe, including the most expensive and ludicrously flavoursome tomato I have ever tasted. The Caversham Butcher for bacon and their frankly pornographic chicken Kievs. Then, ignoring the queues at Waitrose, I slipped into Iceland.
Don’t you judge me, Readership. I like their frozen fish. Stay away from the party food and they do some interesting items. Also, you know, it’s a local supermarket without the queueing. Yeah, sure, every so often I fancy something a bit—you know—dirty. Maybe a Pukka Pie. Maybe a frozen deep-dish pizza. Yes, Papa Gees is round the corner and their ‘za is the greatest. But you tell me, honestly, hand on heart, sometimes you gotta have that thick crust action. I swear, one day I’ll open up a Detroit-style joint. The Motor City Diner. Crust as thick as a baby’s arm, molten brick cheese spider-webbing from a sauce the exact consistency of Heinz Cream of Tomato, the whole thing heavy with sausage and hot pepper…
Sorry, lost myself for a moment.
Anyhow, there’s me in the aisles of Iceland, eyeing up the cheese and bean slices (I SAID DON’T JUDGE ME) when I spotted them. Breakfast-style sausage patties. And in a basket right by the freezer, some genius had stacked a pile of English muffins.
I had to do it. There was no choice. The Universe had spoken. What kind of a fool would I be not to listen?
Which led to a dilemma. What kind of breakfast monster would I be to make sausage McMuffs without offering the eggy option to TLC? Food Is Love, dammit. Research needed.
Thank you, YouTube. A lot of people have been down this road before me, and I felt comforted to be in the hands of experts. Turns out that the egg in an Egg McMuffin undergoes a hybrid fry-poach/steam process which cooks it evenly and thoroughly without drying it out. A covered non-stick pan and a cook’s ring is all you need. I had both. It was game time.
Step one was easy. Sausage and hash browns (because it’s not breakfast without hash browns) went in the oven. Muffins split and ready. Grill on. Egg pan warming.
One problem. The cook’s ring I had was too big for the diameter of the muffin. Quickly, I improvised. I crafted a new ring out of folded foil made to the dimensions of the bread. Clever me, right?
Those of you with more experience than me can perhaps see where this is going. I cracked an egg into the ring only to have it run underneath, spreading to the full width of the pan and almost instantly burning. Did I swear? Fuck yes I swore. Did this deter me? Fuck no it did not. Breakfast was at stake. Food Is Love, and love conquers all.
Egg two went into the thick steel of the cook’s ring, with my hack inside to close down the circumference. Bingo. We have egg puck. I stirred the yolk up into the white a little, put a couple of tablespoons of water into the pan, shut the lid and gave the whole thing a couple of simmering minutes to cook through. Just enough time to toast my muffins and melt some cheddar over the sausage patties.
Then it was just a matter of the build. Butter on the muffins. Egg on, then sausage, a swirl of brown sauce, lid. Hash browns attractively arranged on the side. Breakfast is served.
How was it? Well, the sausage was slightly breadier than I would have liked, and to be honest cheddar just doesn’t cut it in this context. You need le fromage plastique for the fully dirty McMuff experience—it adds an element of goo that is required if you don’t have the egg. TLC however, declared it delicious and thought she could live without cheese. I’d pleased the audience, which was the main thing. And MAN it was filling. We barely needed lunch, even after a long stroll to try and work off the calorie hit.
I will do this again, perhaps with a more bespoke patty and a cheese post-it. But until such time as we can sit outside Argos again and cram the real deal into our face holes, my version will do very nicely indeed.