Comment

A Scotch egg is many things, but substantial it is not

Hailed as a meal in itself, the status of this classic pub-snack staple has been raised. But it's not filling me up...

It’s now commonplace: amid all the loony tier and lockdown diktats come further nuggets of insanity. And we’ve learnt that in these trying times we must simply accept them. 

Yesterday’s piece of nuttiness came from the normally sane Environment Secretary George Eustice, proving that all members of the Cabinet have been rendered incoherent zombies as they administer restrictions and steal our freedoms.

A Scotch egg, he declared on LBC Radio, could count as a substantial meal – but adding that it would only be so if ‘there were table service’.

It begs the question of what kind of restaurants Mr Eustice chooses to dine in. I can picture him now as a fleet of waiters arrive carrying cloches to his table. Once at his side, the besuited waiters lift the cloches, in a synchronised fashion of course, to reveal: a solitary Scotch egg.

But yes, this satirical dystopia is now our actual world.

And since we must acquiesce, for fear of the arrival of Covid marshalls on horseback to haul us off to jail, we find ourselves agreeing. Of course, the Scotch egg is in itself an entire and substantial meal, we have been merely fools not to recognise this sooner! 

Thus every wet-bar publican, grappling with how to survive because they don’t have a  kitchen, is now either charging to the nearest supermarket to stock up on some miserably dry specimens, or calling granny to see if she can rustle up a few fresh ones.

The owners of posh drinking-only taverns should head to Fortnum & Mason. For the smart London department store claims that it was one of their cooks who invented them in the early 18th century. Indeed, Fortnum's CEO Ewan Venters tells me that the Scotch egg ‘was created by chefs here in 1738 for the travelling aristocracy.’

There is another theory that the item was a bastardised version of a snack discovered by British soldiers during the Colonial era in Northern India. A nargisi kofta is a hard-boiled egg covered in mutton and deep fried. Back in the UK, perhaps sausage meat was deemed more palatable, with the whole thing bound in breadcrumbs before frying.

But with its label of ‘Scotch’ others posit that it was simply a Scottish invention by a farmer’s wife looking for a way to give her husband his breakfast as a snack; and it sat better in the pocket than porridge.

In fact, from Poland to Belgium to Indonesia there are versions of Scotch eggs across the world. For a supped-up, deeply rich version I like the idea of mine bound in pork meat and black pudding. And brought to the table on bed of watercress with some Colman’s mustard on the side. Although Mr Venters tells me he prefers to eat his with ‘a generous helping of Fortnum’s piccalilli.’

Better still would be a small version, a quail’s egg in the centre and still just slightly runny. But that might not be quite what Mr Eustice has in mind – so I’ll order half a dozen of the little blighters and a plate of chips.