Saturday 16 April 2016

Scottish Cuisine: Stovies

Stovies look a bit like scouse or potato hash, but they have one secret ingredient which makes them very different and utterly divine. They are cooked with genuine beef dripping, and it is regarded as an insult to the Scottish nation if anyone makes them with any polyunsaturated piss-oil. I had forgotten just how great food cooked in dripping tastes until I moved up here and discovered that the only cooks who don't use dripping are those who prefer lard instead.

Yes, yes, I know how veggie oil took over in the 1960s down in England, but it never did in Scotland. My mother bought it as well, much to my father's disgust, because it was so much cheaper than proper dripping back then, but today an eight ounce block of beef dripping can be had in your local Tesco for just 60p, so there is no longer any excuse to eat badly.

Right, settle back 'cos here's Uncle Ken's recipe for stovies:

You will need:

1 ounce best beef dripping
1 pound mince
1.5 pounds potatoes
2 onions
Salt and pepper - and in my case chilli powder, 'cos of all those years in Mexico.

Now then, pay attention as I'll only say this once:

1. Slap the dripping into a saucepan that is big enough to hold everything, and set it on a medium-high heat.

2. Toss the onions in. I buy mine frozen and ready chopped: you know it makes sense, don't you? So a couple of good handfuls will do. Otherwise chop up a couple of onions if you want to make work for yourself.

3. When the onions are nice and soft, throw the mincemeat in and let it brown.

4. Chop your potatoes into 1/4 inch scallops.

5. Put the potatoes into a bowl and half fill with boiling water. Put that in the microwave and cover with a plate, then zap it on full power for five minutes.

6. Take the potatoes out of the water and add them to the saucepan that has the mince in it.

7. Give it all a good stir, and add your salt and pepper. Trust me, you cannot have too much salt and pepper so go to town with it.

8. Turn the heat down to low-medium, cover the saucepan with a lid, and leave it all to bubble away for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, if you can remember. Don't worry if you forget, as the burnt bits on the bottom only add to the taste of the final dish. 

Some people add a half cup of water with a beef stock cube in it, but I don't, since I prefer my stovies dry. In any event, if you buy cheap mince it tends to have water in it, anyway, which saves you the bother of adding it yourself. I sometimes do add a handful of chopped mushrooms, if I think on, as well as a similar handful of chopped carrots, if there are any to hand in the freezer, since they all add to the bulk, but they are not essential to the dish.

The nice thing about this quintessentially Scottish dish as that if  friends arrive unexpectedly all you need to do is slap some more spuds, carrots and mushrooms into yesterday's pan to bulk it out a bit more and feed 'em on the cheap.

Just remember: never, ever use anything other than beef dripping for your stovies!

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