The Scotch Egg - A Tale of Three Countries
The Scotch Egg done to perfection at the Oxford Blue Pub
The Scotch Egg is a UK staple, widely found sealed in plastic at petrol stations, pubs and supermarkets to be eaten by hand, and even served plated in high end restaurants to be eaten with knife and fork.
A few decades ago, it was considered the sad snack of last resort but the Scotch Egg is making a classy comeback and has been given a makeover by many a reputable chef. Now that it is in vogue, the question on the minds of curious Foodies is “From where did this tasty treat originate?”. This is actually an age-old question but the answer has been in much dispute for just as long, and depends upon who you ask.
The Scotch Egg is a savoury snack typically consisting of a hard boiled egg encased in ground sausage coated in breadcrumbs and then baked or fried to a golden brown. It has been around for hundreds of years, but its age is not as contentious as where it was first invented - and there are quite a few contenders - but three countries of origin stand out from the crowd as being the likeliest.
If you ask an Englishman where the Scotch Egg was conceived, he will tell you it was invented by the upscale Fortnum & Mason department store in the 18th century, handcrafted with minced venison, juniper berries and dark chocolate to cater to posh travellers stopping in at Piccadilly Square on the way to their country homes.
If you were to visit India, which was colonized by the British East India Company in the 17th century, locals may tell you that the Scotch Egg is a variation of their very own Nargisi Kofta that is typically made with minced lamb, which became a favourite of British soldiers who brought the concept home when they returned to the UK.
Strangely, the most disputed claim comes from Scotland itself. Many people will say that the Scotch Egg isn’t Scottish at all. But if you ask a Scot, he will tell you that the concoction has been in Scotland since farming first began there and is a variation of the Cornish pastie which was packed by farmers to be eaten in the fields at mid-day. It was a poor smallholder’s lunch; easily portable and made with whatever ingredients were leftover from dinner the night before.
Regardless of which of the three countries hold the greatest claim, the Scotch Egg is a delicious and versatile dish. It has endless possible variations to which any chef worth his salt can apply his own signature - and that’s no tale!