The Greatest Egg of All
THE STORY OF THE SCOTCH EGG
The first and the best, we created the Scotch Egg in 1738 as a snack for travellers heading west from Piccadilly. No one knows if there was a certain recipe that inspired the Scotch Egg, but there are traditional dishes mixing meat and a boiled egg across the world. It is possible that nargisi kofta, an Indian dish made from a hard-boiled egg encased in minced meat, fried and served in a gravy, was brought back by employees of the East India Company. The Low Countries had their own version, described as ‘bird’s nest’ or ‘peekaboo meatball’, and there are versions (mostly served with gravy) found in Indonesia, Poland and Brazil.
Back then ours consisted of a pullet’s egg – so rather smaller than a chicken’s egg – surrounded by forcemeat, dipped in egg wash and then in breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt, pepper and mace, and deep fried. At the time, we referred to it as a ‘scotched’ egg because of anchovies added to the meat to give it a stronger flavour, and to cut through the fattiness of the meat.Then came the dark days. A shortage of meat during the Second World War meant that the quality of the Scotch Egg suffered, and we lost our confidence somewhat. Food manufacturing embraced technology more and more, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, our breadcrumbed hero lost its superpowers thanks to less-than-satisfactory rivals who were using inferior, over-processed meat and the wrong kind of breadcrumbs. As a result it became perceived by many to be rather naff and unfashionable.Through these turbulent times it’s been up to us to keep the standard going and maintaining its position as a desirable product – at least when Fortnum’s produces it. Always made with care and love, ours is the real thing.Despite these challenges its appeal comes down to the fact that it has remained an astonishingly simple dish to make and, even using the highest quality of ingredients, relatively economical too.It is also supremely adaptable, and over the years we have not been afraid to experiment with new kinds of flavours and ingredients, from black pudding to vegetarian. The egg has changed over the years too. Hen eggs are most commonly used as the centre of a Scotch Egg today, although we have also used quail, duck and goose eggs, elevating it to finger food at cocktail parties. The meat is nearly always pork sausage meat, with no anchovy.Recently we have taken the Scotch Egg into the realm of confectionery, with an Easter Scotch Egg, made from a simnel milk chocolate praline with an orange ganache centre, coated in roasted hazelnuts and cocoa nibs. Simnel is a cake that has been made at Easter in England for many centuries. It is appropriate that a season that celebrates the egg, and is now associated with chocolate, should have its own sweet Scotch Egg.