Mind to menu: Glynn Purnell’s haddock and eggs

Mind to menu: Glynn Purnell’s haddock and eggs

by Great British Chefs 11 February 2016

Many chefs put their culinary awakenings down to helping out in the kitchen as kids, but few have actually honed a spectacular signature dish based on their mum's cooking. Glynn Purnell has done just that – combining haddock, eggs and cornflakes.

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Ask a Brummie where to go for the best food in Birmingham, and most of them will tell you about Glynn Purnell. While the past ten years have seen other Michelin-starred chefs appear in the city, Glynn was one of the first on the scene. His restaurant Purnell’s has won countless awards for its inventive, playful tasting menus, while Glynn’s dedication and love for his hometown has been the inspiration for many of his signature dishes.

His most famous dish combines the flavours of smoked haddock, egg, cornflakes and curry – not your average plate of food. But Glynn manages to balance the contrasting flavours and textures perfectly, recreating a taste of his childhood in a Michelin-starred way. The entire dish is an homage to his mother’s cooking – which by his own admission, wasn’t the best.

‘My mum was an okay cook, but living in a council estate meant sometimes our big treat on a Friday was haddock and eggs,’ explains Glynn. ‘So my mum would take the haddock and cook it in milk – we always knew we were going to have it because we had this big flowery pan. She would poach the haddock to death then take it out of the pan, which she could barely do because it was falling apart. She would then cook the eggs in the smoky, fish-flavoured milk, which I used to drink out of the pan.

‘Halfway through cooking I’d say ‘Mum, can I have a piece?’ – which is the Brummie name for a slice of bread – and she’d say ‘no, wait for your dinner!’ But I’d take a piece anyway and keep asking for more,’ he continues. ‘Eventually she would say ‘no, your dinner’s ready!’ – even so, I would strategically pinch a pocketful of cornflakes.’

Glynn would drink the smoked haddock-infused milk with a spoon while eating the cornflakes – a combination which stuck with him right through to adulthood. He eventually reincarnated that moment as a dish on the menu at his first restaurant, Jessica’s, and it has appeared in one form or another at Purnell’s ever since it opened in 2007. The curry oil is a nod to Birmingham’s Balti Triangle – an area full of curry houses which gave birth to the Balti.

‘We emulsify the milk rather than tipping it away, and we throw away the fish,’ says Glynn. ‘So I’m actually flipping my mum’s recipe upside down. ‘The milk becomes the egg white around the egg yolk, and it’s finished with cornflakes. It’s evolved quite a lot – nowadays we serve it with little fish fingers and make a flavoured cornflake powder. But the nucleus is still my mother’s smoked haddock and eggs.'


Haddock, eggs, cornflakes and curry oil

Without further ado, here's the recipe for the latest incantation of one of Glynn's signature dishes, currently served at his restaurant Purnell's.

Serves 4

For the smoked haddock foam

600ml full-fat milk

250g undyed smoked haddock fillet, skin on

1/2–1 tablespoon xanthan gum (available from health-food shops and online)

For the baked cornflakes

3 tablespoons milk powder

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

60g cornflakes

31/2 tablespoons melted salted butter

To serve

4 large free-range egg yolks

curry oil

1. Pour the milk into a wide, deep pan over a gentle heat. Bring to a slow simmer, add the fish and poach for approximately 15 minutes, until the flavour of the fish has infused into the milk and the fish begins to flake

2. Pass the contents of the pan through a fine sieve into a bowl, pushing the haddock to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the infused milk in a clean pan, and discard the fish (or use it for other dishes, like kedgeree)

3. Add ½ tsp of the xanthan gum to the pan with the milk and whisk while cooking over a gentle heat, until thickened. Add another ½ tsp if needed, until it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise

4. Transfer the milk mix to a siphon, then add the siphon to a bowl of hot water to keep warm

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

6. To prepare the cornflakes, add the milk powder, sugar and salt to a bowl and mix to combine

7. Add the cornflakes to a separate bowl. Sieve the milk powder mix over the cornflakes, then mix in the melted butter

8. Line a baking tray with silicone (or greaseproof) paper and spread the cornflakes over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes

9. Take the cornflakes out of the oven and while still warm, separate any clumps of cornflakes with your hands. Add the cornflakes to a food processor and pulse to break into pieces

10. Bring a pan of water to a slow simmer and add the egg yolks, cooking for 1-2 minutes until warmed through but still runny in the middle

11. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the yolks to kitchen paper to drain. Use the siphon to pipe the egg white mix onto 4 plates or serving bowls

12. Transfer a yolk to the middle of each mound of egg white to create a ‘fried egg’ appearance. Sprinkle the cornflake crumb over the white and drizzle with a little curry oil to serve