It’s corny, it’s obvious, but it has to be asked: “How do you like your eggs, Neil Rankin?” I can hear chuckling on the other end of the phone line. Then, in broad Edinburgh tones, “I’m big into scrambled eggs at the moment – really loose, almost not cooked at all.” Thanks Neil, and you know, sorry about that.
Neil Rankin is a chef who has come full circle, or full oval if you like (there’s more where that came from). Having started off as a sandwich entrepreneur, he then moved into fine dining, training under two Michelin star chef Michael Wignall at The Latymer in Surrey, with stints at The French Table and Rhodes 24 in London. Now his thing is elevating simple dishes and ingredients: as executive chef at an all day diner called Bad Egg in the city of London he has been doing great things with eggs, incorporating his influences from his travels, particularly his love of Korean food and BBQ.
“Eggs are more luxurious for us [in the West], more of an ingredient. But if you go to any poorer country, they take on a special significance – they become quite a big staple,” he says. So what’s the strangest egg–based dish he’s tried? “Embryo egg in Vietnam,” – I think I can hear him wincing – “it had quite a crunch ... I can’t see it catching on here [in the UK].”
Neil is such an eggspert (told you) that he’s now an ambassador for British Lion eggs and has created 12 international #EggCentric recipes for them that put the egg centre stage (see bottom of the page). He must be perfectly placed then to tell us about any upcoming egg trends? (This also raises a laugh when I ask). “Cured eggs and pickled and fermented eggs – but I’m not much of a pickled eggs fan. I was force–fed pickled eggs by my dad on trips to Edinburgh, as a child.” And what about omelettes? Everybody likes there’s done differently: “I like colour and texture – not the French way.”
Chaat masala with fried eggs (left) and crab frittata (right)
Rankin is perhaps best known as a meat chef (see his recent book Low and Slow for top tips on slow cooking meat), particularly BBQ. Having turned his back on fine dining, it was working for BBQ chef and mentor Adam Perry Lang that set him on his current course. Head chef roles at Pitt Cue Co. and Smokehouse followed to much acclaim and now he’s preparing to open a brand new restaurant in London’s Soho in October, entirely his own, having extricated himself completely from both Smokehouse and Bad Egg. The restaurant will have a South American BBQ focus. "I actually don’t eat a lot of meat at home," he says. "I don’t have a stable enough time frame and I don’t like to freeze meat. I eat eggs at home.”
Of course, what else.
Neil Rankin's #EggCentric Recipes
1. Chaat masala fried eggs – swap fried eggs on toast for this Indian inspired dish packed full of flavour; potato, chickpeas, lime sour cream, puffed rice with Indian spices with runny fried eggs.
2. Egg hoppers – a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of a runny egg served in the middle of a coconut rice flour pancake.
3. Sambal Telur – Malaysian crispy coated poached eggs with oriental hot sauce and fresh tomatoes. An exciting and exotic meal.
4. Breakfast tacos – delicious homemade corn tortillas with scrambled eggs, green salsa, sour cream and crispy onions.
5. Eggs and guacamole on toast – the modern breakfast classic of poached eggs and fresh guacamole on sourdough toast.
6. Shakshuka – quick to prepare baked eggs with an exciting combination of flavours, including harissa, garlic, tomatoes and a lemon and parsley dressing – perfect for sharing.
7. Turkish scrambled eggs – exotic comfort food at its best; Turkish style eggs on homemade flatbread with a cucumber and yogurt salad.
8. Crab frittata – a light and satisfying meal; crab meat and potato frittata with crab flavoured mayonnaise and a fresh herb salad.
9. Fried egg naan with masala beans – naan with a fried egg and spiced baked beans – beans on toast with a difference!
10. Huevos rancheros – baked eggs with jalapeños, chilli, avocado, cheese and pico de gallo. A meal that can be thrown together in minutes and packs a flavour punch.
11. Potato, anchovy and kale tortilla – a Spanish-style oven baked tortilla with blanched kale, new potatoes, red peppers and anchovies. A quick meal with plenty of vitamins and protein.
12. Mackerel, greens and special scrambled eggs – a nutrient packed dinner with bags of flavour and different textures. Grilled mackerel is topped with eggs, slow cooked with white wine vinegar and butter, and pan fried vegetables.