The Nargisi Kofta: A Culinary Puzzle Ensconced In An Egg (Recipe Inside)
Food & Health  

Nargisi Kofta: This decadent dish with mutton keema gravy and eggs kofta is indulgence overload.


The First Encounter:
It was 2014, perhaps the month of March. At Southern Kolkata's Oudh:1590, my afternoon lunch scene looked delectable with galauti kebabs and biryani, but the marauding gaze of mine rested upon a dish, yet undiscovered, and stayed there for a few seconds more than it should have. A brief chat with the server further piqued my interest. "It's an egg coated in minced meat, then fried, then we put it in a Korma-style gravy".
"Sounds like a Dimer Devil curry," my companion had sniggered under his breath, but by then it was too late for me. Therefore, the Nargisi Kofta was duly ordered and consumed, and interest in its origin story grew exponentially over the next few years. It was found in the weekly menu of another Mughlai restaurant, Royal Indian Restaurant, a restaurant in Kolkata that served Lucknow-style food, and so ingrained was its roots to the 'City of Nawabs' that till very recently, the potato was not added to the biryani for the longest period of time, until one black day in 2017 when they introduced the potato, and all was lost. However, Royal does serve Nargisi Kofta twice a week, as part of their weekly changing menu, and though the kofta itself is more or less the same, the gravy it is served in is rather soupy, like a Qaliya.  
Curious to know more, a query about the same to Shiladitya Chaudhury, Director of Oudh:1590, revealed a rather interesting story. "I first encountered the Nargisi Kofta in a dawat at a friend's home in Lucknow. The lady of the house had explained to me that the nargisi kofta was a delicacy not easily available in the restaurants of Lucknow, but is a popular and rather impressive dish that contains egg and minced meat. When I was conceptualizing Oudh:1590 I had to keep it in the menu to commemorate that unforgettable meal."  
In present-day Lucknow, the Nargisi Kofta remains missing from restaurant menus, but home chefs and experiential kitchen owners are adding it to their menus. Sheeba Iqbal Jairajpuri, the owner of Aab o Dana, organises pop-up dinners and lunches for small groups at her heritage 119-year-old house. The extensive menus planned by her often includes the Nargisi Kofta. "I make Nargisi Kofta by ensconcing boiled eggs with minced meat. Then, I fry it briefly, and then I put it in gravy. My mother-in-law would always make a qaliya gravy for it, with onion, ginger and garlic, but my children prefer a qorma gravy for it, with nuts and yogurt in it. Since this dish has a good bit of gravy, I like offsetting it with a dry meat dish and it is a big hit with my clients and family both." 
Inspired by the "nargis" or narcissus flower, the nargisi kofta falls under the generic label of kofta which has its roots in the Arab world, but the interesting part is its progress into the West. Though Fortnum & Mason, a department store in London, claims to make the scotch eggs in 1738 for travellers to carry with them in their long carriage rides, it can be assumed that this 'discovery' was a result of returning officers from India who may have introduced the generic idea of the dish after their stint in the country.
However, what Scotch eggs did was rather interesting - it returned to India, more specifically, to Bengal, with the British, and became what we know today as the Dimer Devil, or what Bengal considered to be an Egg Devil. Now, quite unlike the devilled eggs, which is a cold canapé, the Egg Devil was a whole egg coated with minced meat, crumbed and deep-fried. The Egg Devil at Dilkhusha Cabin in College Street was a rather tempting affair for young college goers and office-goers alike, and a cup of tea with a couple of them languishing on the plate would be a rich evening repast for many. It is alleged that this was a recipe that was imported to Kolkata by the British who would serve it in their clubs, and it gained popularity by bringing together two perennial favourites - meat and egg - together.  
Nargisi Kofta is best made with duck eggs. The rich golden hue of the duck egg offsets the mutton very well, and it is advised to make a fine mince with 80% meat and 20% caul fat for the kofta.  


How To Make Nargisi Kofta | Nargisi Kofta Recipe
Ingredients For the Kofta: 
6 duck eggs, boiled for 8 minutes, then quickly put in ice water to stop the cooking process 
600 gram finely minced mutton  
150 gram finely minced mutton caul fat  
1 teaspoon ginger paste  
1 teaspoon garlic paste  
1 teaspoon cumin powder  
1 teaspoon coriander powder  
1 teaspoon garam masala powder  
1/4th teaspoon red chilli powder  
1 tablespoon roasted gram flour (besan) 
Salt to taste  
Oil to fry  
For the Gravy 
1 cup minced onion  
1 tablespoon minced ginger 
1 teaspoon minced garlic 
1/2 cup ghee or vegetable oil  
1 teaspoon turmeric powder  
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder  
1 teaspoon garam masala powder  
1 teaspoon coriander powder  
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder  
1/4th cup yogurt, whisked  
Salt to taste  
Coriander leaves to garnish 
Mix the minced meat with salt, caul fat, all ground spices, ginger garlic paste, and mince it one more time. Let this rest for half an hour. Then add roasted gram flour.  
Mix the yogurt with the masala powders and whisk them thoroughly. Set aside. 
Form 6 balls from the meat. Place a ball in your palm, flatten it, then place an egg on it. Carefully shape the mince to coat the egg completely and then put the coated meatball in a flat tray. Do this with the remaining eggs, then put the tray in the fridge for 30-40 minutes for the meatballs to firm up. Heat enough oil to fry the kofta, then put the kofta very gently in the hot oil, fry for 3-5 minutes each side, or until the meatballs are fried on the outside. Be very gentle, because the meatballs may disintegrate if you're not careful.  
For the gravy,
heat oil or ghee in a pan and add the ginger-garlic first and sauté for a minute. Then, add the onion and stir fry till the onions are light brown. Remove the pan from heat, add the yogurt, stir fry briskly to ensure the yogurt doesn't get curdled. Then return the pan to simmering heat, cook till oil starts separating from the mixture. At this point, add 2-2.5 cups hot water, stir that in, add the meatballs, cover and cook the meatballs for 20-30 minutes over simmering heat. Check the meatballs every 3-4 minutes, but ensure not to stir them too much, because they may break otherwise. When the gravy thickens and the meatballs are cooked through, adjust salt, check gravy (you can keep it as runny or dry it up), and garnish with some coriander leaves before serving.  



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