The Mysterious Origins of the Scotch Egg

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Back in 1738, Piccadilly was scattered with coaching inns, and served as a starting point for landowners travelling to their country estates. To meet the ever-increasing demand of portable snacks, Fortnum & Mason – a London departmental store, came up with a new delicacy for its most affluent customers: a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried. Lo and behold, the Scotch eggs appeared on the menu for the very first time!

A competing origin story also argues that Scotch eggs are heavily inspired by a Mughlai dish called nargisi kofta, egg was wrapped  that was discovered by the British soldiers during their time in India. Here, the egg was wrapped in lamb mince, fried, and served covered in a yogurt based, brown gravy. After returning  to England, the soldiers introduced the beloved recipe to their cuisine. In the 19th century, Scotch Eggs were put on the plate alongside hot gravy, according to the printed recipes in domestic bibles by Margaret Dods, Maria Rundell and Mrs Beeton.

Another contrary tale suggests that the recipe for the traditional Scotch egg is deeply rooted in the coastal town of Whitby in Yorkshire. Believed to be invented by the establishment William J Scott & Sons, the eggs were originally were covered first in a thick, creamy fish paste (instead of the sausage meat), and then with breadcrumbs. The fish was later replaced by sausage meat once the the concept of Scotch eggs became more commercialized and became available in big food shops. You can still treat yourself to the original delicacy of the fish-covered Scotch eggs on the East Yorkshire coast.

Some evidence also points towards North African recipes that were transported to England through France. The dish was also enjoyed during the Elizabethan times, where it was injected various spices and cloves for a more palatable taste.

Today, they’re usually served with a variety of dipping sauces like mustard or ranch dressing, and have many regional and local variations. While Manchester uses pickled eggs wrapped in pork meat and Lancashire black pudding, Worcester wraps their eggs in white pudding and local sausage meat. A lot of British-style eateries and pubs in  United Kingdom offer Scotch eggs stuffed with shredded bacon and mayonnaise.  From Texas to Maryland, Scotch eggs are served on a stick in various Renaissance Festivals and State Fairs.

In Jakarta, they’re paired with fresh seafood, bok choy and a veal broth, with the egg wrapped in seasoned minced meat. Hungary serves theirs cold with salad or hot with mashed potatoes. The Dutch and Belgians have their own version – jaskółcze gniazda, where egg-stuffed roulade is commonly accompanied with horseradish cream sauce. In Italy, they’re called polpettone, and consist of a meatloaf with egg filling.

Commonly available in supermarkets, motorway service stations and corner shops, Scotch eggs work best as easy appetizers. Sourced from chickens, quails, and even ostriches – the eggs have a slightly runny yolk on cutting, or a hard-boiled one.

A well-made Scotch egg is a crisp, golden orb of wonder, that is conveniently hand-sized, and a culinary treat that should be on your bucket-list!

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