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A scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage, covered with bread crumbs, and deep-fried. Contrary to its name, it is not a Scottish dish, but was a picnic item created in 1738 by Fortnum and Mason, a London-based retailer. Traditionally, it has been a food that is eaten on the go, such as for lunches and outdoor events, and it is usually served cold. It is sometimes called a snack egg, party egg, or picnic egg. The scotch egg has become a popular pub item in the United States.
Fortnum and Mason is a London department store that was established in 1707, and it is credited with the creation of the scotch egg dish. The store originally focused on groceries and became renowned in the Victorian era — 1837 to 1901 — for their quality goods and, in particular, for their picnic foods. The store developed the dish in order to offer travelers passing through the city a portable and tasty product that could be easily packed and eaten on the road. The meat that was used for the sausage in the 18th century version was probably gamier-tasting, and the eggs were much smaller compared to modern ones. It was not a food that everyone could afford because meat was usually very expensive.
As meat became more affordable for consumers, inexpensive cuts were used and the scotch egg was available to more people. It started to become a staple item in some English shops, restaurants, and cafeterias. Today, pubs in England also serve the dish, although they tend to serve it warm, fresh out of the deep fryer. Home cooks can bake the dish in the oven rather than deep-frying it, which creates the same flavor, but does not create the outer crust that frying does.
The type of sausage used to encase the egg is usually a country or herb type. To make a simple herb sausage, combine some ground pork with dried and ground sage, marjoram, and thyme. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper. A few recipes also use a raw egg or two in the meat mixture, because this binds it together and helps ensure that it holds together when it is wrapped around a hard-boiled egg.
To assemble a scotch egg, have shelled hard-boiled eggs, sausage, and seasoned breadcrumbs ready. A thin patty of sausage is flattened out on some plastic wrap and the egg is placed in the middle. Using the plastic wrap, the sausage is carefully wrapped around the egg until a ball is formed. It is then rolled in the breadcrumb mixture. This is generally dried crumbs seasoned with dried parsley flakes, salt, and pepper. The scotch eggs are then deep-fried until the sausage is cooked and the coating is a golden brown.
The scotch egg has become quite popular in the United States, especially in English-style pubs. The dish is also sometimes found at local fairs, where it may be served on a stick. It can also be served hot, with various dipping sauces or ranch dressing.
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