The British insist that the desis of the world were inspired by their delicious food named Scotch egg and created the royal looking and delicious nargisi koftay. However, in essence it’s the other way round; the British sailed from across oceans, loved the look of our Mughlai nargisi koftay and were inspired to create Scotch eggs, a traditional British dish of hard-boiled egg wrapped in meat, and coated in breadcrumb and deep fried until crisp. The Guardian quotes, “A theory asserts that the dish evolved from northern India’s nargisi kofta, an egg covered in minced meat and served with curry, which returning soldiers and others introduced to England.”

How pretty looking are nargisi koftay? Almost as pretty as the actress Nargis, thought I. 

And then I remembered what my nani had told me eons ago: “The name Nargis and the name of the food nargisi koftay come from the same source: the flower named narcissus.” Ah, I thought, how interesting is our food history. And then nani elaborated, “The word nargisi comes from the word Nargis; a winter flower with a yellow centre with white petals around it just like a boiled egg. Nargisi koftay are hard-boiled eggs coated with minced meat and then cooked in gravy. When you cut the kofta it resembles the Nargis flower.”

Named after a flower, nargisi koftay is a dish as tasty as the flower is pretty

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, nargisi kofta is a popular subcontinental dinner dish. Food historian Annie Gray says, “I think you can pin down the Scotch egg’s introduction to Britain of the late 17th or early 18th century, and I suspect it came from India. Its forebear may well have been the nargisi kofta or ‘narcissus kofta’ — named after the flower’s white-and-yellow petals — which came to India from Persia with the Mughal emperors. The Mughals influenced two major regions with their cuisine — Awadh and Hyderabad — the egg is generally wrapped inside meat mince and fried, then served in a brown, yoghurt-based gravy.”

Here is the recipe, from my kitchen to yours.

NARGISI KOFTA

INGREDIENTS FOR KOFTA

2 lbs ground beef
1 ½ small onions
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
2 green chillis
1 egg
½ inch piece ginger
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 egg
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
½ tsp baking powder
Salt to taste

Put the above ingredients in a blender and set aside.

INGREDIENTS FOR GRAVY

1 large onion
1 large tomato
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 green chillies
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp to 1tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp to 1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh garlic
Salt to taste
4 to 6 cloves
8 to 10 peppercorns
1 black cardamom
1 stick cinnamon

METHOD

Boil six eggs till hardboiled. Soak in cold water and peel. Set aside.

Kofta: Blend meat with all ingredients for kofta and mix well. Divide into six equal portions.

Wrap a portion of the meat mix around one egg and smooth with your hands to form an meat shell around the egg till it is fully covered. Repeat for all the remaining hardboiled eggs. Place all in a plate. 

Sprinkle all coated eggs with a fine dusting of rice flour. Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep pan. Whisk an egg in a bowl and dip each meat coated egg in whisked egg, gently shake off excess and deep fry till golden. When done, drain and place on paper towels.

In quarter to half cup oil brown onions, add tomatoes and yoghurt. Stir at high heat for a few minutes, process in the blender, pour back in pot, stir and cook on high heat adding all powder spices, and ginger-garlic. Cook for a few minutes, adding hot water (eyeballing amount of water). Let simmer, add koftay and whole garam masala. Let simmer until kofta is cooked and oil separates. Enjoy with a side of naan.

The writer is a freelance Journalist and author of Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 1st, 2018