Not So Scottish: Did The British Borrow Their Scotch Eggs From India?
Image Credit: Have you tried Scottish eggs before?

It is but natural that when we first hear the name of a dish that is not familiar to us, we try guessing its origins in our head. If it is present in front of us, that makes the job easier since we can find references from back home, based on the taste and appearance. However, if you’ve just heard of the name then it might need a little bit of digging. Such is the case with Scotch eggs. We’ve come across this word quite a few times and passed it off as a Scottish version of eggs (at least I have) without even tasting it. In that scenario, this would be an eye-opener for you. 

Scotch eggs are not Scottish. While there are several theories around the original creators of the dish, this is surely not the one. So why were they called Scotch? Well, a certain theory claims that the eggs were discovered at a sea-facing eatery in Yorkshire called William Scott & Sons. Back in the 19th century, these eggs covered in fish paste, were called Scotties. Then there is another explanation based on the claims made by Fortnum And Mason, a departmental store in London that boasts of having served several travelers at the Picadilly Square in the latter half of the 18th century. 

Moving on to the most plausible theory that has gained validity of several food historians like Alan Davidson, Scotch eggs originated in India. During the British Raj, there was a curry-based dish that was popular among the Mughal emperors. Koftas, we know, are essentially a Middle-eastern creation but the Nargisi kofta has been attributed to India. Interestingly, the nargisi kofta was prepared as a way of experimentation by a khansama.

For those untouched by the phenomenon, Nargisi kofta is basically a hard-boiled egg coated with minced meat and breadcrumbs, deep-fried and dunked into a tomato gravy. The curry is said to be often associated with Indian food. It is believed that it was these koftas that the British tried in India and fell in love with them. Later, they returned to their homeland and gave the koftas a British touch by eliminating the curry altogether. This was so because the preparation of the curry was a tedious task. They started coating it with the minced meat of pork, as opposed to minced mutton in India, and serving it as a dry snack. In fact, in 1826, the earliest British recipe that appeared for the Scotch eggs was inherently a gravy dish. 

The uncanny resemblance of these eggs with our Nargisi kofta gives it all away. From references in the Sushrut Samhita about the Mughlai dish to its Awadhi connection, it only seems logical to perceive how the Nargisi kofta originated in the royal cities of either Hyderabad or Lucknow and then travelled up north, only to make its place on the British palate.