This is the dish that inspired, if that is the right term, the Scotch Egg.
It is made from boiled eggs wrapped in spiced lamb and served in a yoghurt and tomato sauce.boiled eggs wrapped in spiced lamb and served in a yoghurt and tomato sauce. It has a history from the royal kitchens of the Awadhi. Further, it can be traced back to several hundred years before the British, which suggests it pre-dates the Scotch egg by a long way. Any records of the British dish show no heritage going back further than the late 18th century CE.
It therefore seems that a Scot took this recipe back home after serving in India. They left out the spices because they were either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. These Scotch eggs became a moderately popular meal, although their resemblance to this dish is passing, at best. The British version typically uses beef mince, coated in breadcrumbs, deep-fried and is usually cooked far more than the delicate koftas in this recipe. It typically has no sauce, other than what comes out of a bottle.
These Indian nargisi koftas are a subtle and elegant dish.
The term nargisi refers to the narcissus family of flowers, of which daffodils are a member. This name comes from the appearance of the halved kofta, with the yellow centre and the white petals.
Traditional presentation has the halved koftas arranged in a radial pattern, like the petals of a flower.
This is not a difficult recipe to prepare, but you must be patient assembling the koftas before cooking. This is a little time-consuming but is the key to the recipe. Get this wrong and the lamb will fall away from the eggs whilst cooking.
You must be careful handling the eggs. You want them just cooked and cooled before peeling. Cook them too much at this stage and they will become very hard after the dish is completed. If they are not cooked enough, they will be impossible to peel.
If you get the eggs right and take your time with coating them with lamb, then the rest of this dish is straight forward.
Serve this dish with plain basmati rice.
for the nargisi koftas
- 4 eggs – large free range
- 3 tsp chickpea flour – (besan)
- 2 tsp white poppy seeds
- 3 cloves
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1 stick cassia
- 1 black cardamom pod
- 750 g lamb leg – minced
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp dried fried shallots – (beresta)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 4 cloves garlic – minced
- 20 g ginger – minced
- ½ tsp pandanus essence – (kewra)
- 125 ml vegetable oil – to fry
for the sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil – use leftover oil from the frying, above
- 2 brown onions – finely sliced
- ½ tsp salt
- 150 ml yoghurt
- 200 g tomatoes – pureed
- 20 g ginger – minced
- 2 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds – toasted and ground
- 1 tsp coriander seeds – toasted and ground
- 125 ml water – hot
- 1 tbsp coriander leaves – chopped
for the koftas
- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat right down and carefully add the eggs. Cover and simmer for six minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water then set aside to cool completely before peeling.
- Heat a frypan over a medium heat. Add the chickpea flour and stir continuously until the flour becomes golden. Remove from the heat, transfer toasted flour onto a plate set aside to cool.
- Place the poppy seeds, cloves, black peppercorns, cassia and black cardamom into the heated pan and return to the heat. Stirring frequently, toast the spices until they become aromatic. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to a spice grinder. Grind spices to a fine powder.
- Place the lamb mince, ground spices, salt, fried shallots, cumin seeds, Kashmiri chilli powder, garlic, ginger and pandanus essence into a food processor. Blend to a smooth velvety texture. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the toasted chickpea flour to the lamb mix and knead until well combined.
- Divide lamb mix into four equal portions. Using wet hands, flatten a portion into a disk, place a peeled egg onto the disk and gently wrap the lamb around the egg. Wet your hands again and roll the kofta in the palm of your hand to make sure it is sealed and smooth. Repeat for the remaining eggs and lamb portions.
- Heat a kadai or wok over a medium heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the koftas. Depending on the size of the size of the pan you may need to do this in two batches as you do want to crowd the pan. Don’t move the koftas too much whilst browning as you do not want them to break up. Instead baste them with the hot oil until browned all over. The lamb does not need to be to be fully cooked at this point, because they will finish cooking when poached in the sauce. Remove from the pan, place onto absorbent paper and continue browning the rest. Set aside.
for the sauce
- Heat a pan that is just large enough to hold the koftas and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced onions and salt then cook over a medium heat until the onions become a deep golden colour. This should take around five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a blender. Add the yoghurt and blend until smooth.
- Add a little more oil to the same pan if necessary. Carefully add the onion paste back to the pan, mix well and return to the heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well, until it is a deep golden brown and the oil is separating.
- Add the pureed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder and the ground cumin and coriander seeds. Stir-fry until the raw tomato smell has gone. This should take around five minutes and the sauce should be very rich and thick. Reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Add enough of the hot water to the sauce to make a thick consistency. Place the koftas into the sauce. Allow the pan to come back to a simmer and spoon the sauce over the koftas. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes, occasionally gently turning the koftas and keeping them covered in sauce.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the koftas to a plate. Pour the sauce into your serving plate. Halve the koftas and place on the plate cut side up. Drizzle over any remaining sauce, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
- Beresta are thinly sliced crispy fried shallots and are available from most Indian grocers. The Chinese variant is a suitable substitute.
- Kewra is an extract that is distilled from pandanus flowers. A good Indian grocer will have this.