(And a vegan Scouse version.)
This is the first recipe that I am posting and it is one that is dear to my heart. I want to share with you the recipe for an authentic pan of Scouse.
I’ve seen some horrific recipes on the internet that bear no resemblance whatsoever to genuine Scouse. This is the real deal!
Liverpudlians are known the world over as ‘Scousers’, named after the traditional stew of meat and vegetables, which we are famous for. Liverpool is a seaport in the North West of England in the UK. The word ‘Scouse’ originated with the word ‘lobscouse’ which was a stew made by Scandinavian sailors who visited the port, possibly as early as the 17th century.
It has always been a poor person’s dish. It is very similar to Irish Stew, which is unsurprising due to the large population of Irish people who emigrated to Liverpool, particularly during the 18th century at the time of the Irish Potato Famine, which started in 1845.
At times of hardship, people would make Scouse without any meat in it. In fact, there has always been a specific name for Scouse that does not have meat in it. It was traditionally called ‘Blind Scouse’. For our times I think it is more appropriate to rename this as ‘V Scouse’ as it is a dish of vegetables, herbs and water and is therefore both vegetarian and vegan. It is a very warm and comforting dish for Veganuary.
The recipe for Scouse is probably the most controversial recipe that I will ever post, as everyone in Liverpool has their own recipe and method. The city has two football teams (Liverpool and Everton), two cathedrals (the Anglican Cathedral and the Metropolitan Cathedral) and a very lively political scene, but nothing causes more debate than the best way to cook a pan of Scouse!
Key points of debate include: the type of meat, the type of vegetables, the cooking liquid, the method of cooking.
My recipe is an amalgamation of my mum Alice’s recipe and my mum-in-law Audrey’s recipe. With my own personal addition of beer.
The first issue is what type of meat to use, lamb or beef. Our mums both always used lamb, so in our house it’s lamb. I know that lamb can be quite fatty, but you can always skim off any fat in the cooking liquid. I don’t because I think it adds to the flavour. Cheap cuts of meat are the best to use. I always use a boned shoulder of lamb and cut the lamb into large chunks.
If you are using beef, you need to use a cut with some fat in it, as that adds to the flavour and keeps the meat tender. The best cut of beef for stewing is chuck steak. Supermarkets will usually sell these cuts labelled as ‘braising steak’ or ‘stewing steak’.
Secondly, what type of vegetables to use? For me there is only one Holy Trinity of vegetables for Scouse: carrots, onions and potatoes. Some people add swede or turnip but I think they have too strong a taste, especially if you are using lamb. Never, ever use celery. I also use fresh parsley and thyme. When I made the recipe to photograph for this post, I was lucky that my home grown herbs had survived the winter weather. However, dried herbs work just as well.
If you are using fresh herbs I would use the leaves from 3 stalks of thyme and a small bunch of parsley. If using dried herbs I would use ½ teaspoon of dried thyme and 1 teaspoon of dried parsley. However, these are just estimates as the amount that you choose to use will depend on your personal taste and also the size of your pan.
There is also a great deal of contention about which type of potato to use. I use an equal amount of King Edwards and Maris Piper. The King Edwards are very floury potatoes that disintegrate. I choose these as they fall to bits and thicken the Scouse. I also use Maris Pipers as these are firmer and hold their shape and give you a good chunk of spud to bite into. So you get the best of both worlds.
The cooking liquid. I have seen some horrors on the internet with recipes that add various ingredients to the cooking liquid such as graving browning (God forbid) or Worcester Sauce (the clue is in the name – it has nothing to do with Liverpool and should never be added to Scouse) or various forms of stock. All I can say is ‘No’! Scouse should cooked in good old tap water. Though I also add a bottle of beer which gives a depth of flavour to the finished dish.
Ideally, I would prefer to choose a locally brewed beer. Liverpool has a great tradition of brewing local beer since 1858 when the famous Cain’s Brewery was founded by Robert Cain. However, when I came to do this blog post I realised I’d drunk all of my local brews. So I had to use what was in the supermarket.
There are some great local craft brewers in Liverpool who are currently selling their beers on line and I would recommend them all. If you wish to make a ‘V Scouse’, then Liverpool based brewing company, Neptune Brewery, states on their website that ‘Our beers are cask, keg, and can conditioned, unfined, unfiltered, and vegan friendly’. Liverpool breweries and their on-line shops can be found here:
The method of cooking. Scousers refer to ‘a pan of Scouse’, as in: ‘I could just go a pan of Scouse’ or ‘I’m putting a pan of Scouse on’.
This suggests that it should be stewed in a pan on top of the stove. I imagine in years gone by that it would have been made in a cooking pot or pan and put on the fire to cook. You could put it in the oven, but that just doesn’t feel right to me.
Also, my method is probably a bit controversial, as both my mum and mum-in-law use pressure cookers. You don’t have to use a pressure cooker. Choose whatever method is easiest for you: pressure cooker, pan on top of the stove, dish in the oven. I have put instructions for the various methods in the recipe.
In the photos, I’ve used a champagne cork to give some idea of the size for cutting the vegetables. A champagne cork is about 5 cm long. Scouse should be served with beetroot, pickled red cabbage and some crusty bread to mop up the juices.
On this occasion, we served it with a bottle of champagne, appropriately a bottle of Pierre Darcy’s (no relation) champers, as we were celebrating a number of things: cooking for this first blog post and also celebrating because Scouse Mrs D had just typed ‘The End’ on her first romantic novel – two little words I had been waiting to hear for some time!
- 1 kilo Boneless lamb shoulder cut into large chunks or the same amount of chuck steak/stewing steak/braising steak. (Simply omit the meat if you are making a ‘V Scouse’.)
- 5 carrots approximately 300g
- 1 large onion
- 500 g King Edward potatoes
- 500 g Maris Piper potatoes
- Small bunch Fresh (or 1 tsp dried parsley) for amounts see note in the main post
- 3 stalks Fresh (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
- 1 litre Water approximately – depends on the size of your pan
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil of your choice
- 500 ml bottle of beer 500ml optional
- Crusty loaf to serve
- beetroot to serve
- pickled red cabbage to serve
- champagne to serve
- Cut the meat into large chunks if it isn’t already.
- Peel the vegetables. Slice the carrots, cut the potatoes into large chunks and slice the onions.
- Optional: I brown the meat and onions in a little vegetable oil prior to putting in the pressure cooker, but you don’t have to do this.
- If you are using a pressure cooker, put the meat, onions, carrots, herbs, salt and pepper, ½ litre water and 250 ml of beer in the pressure cooker and pressurise for 20 minutes. Allow the pan to de-pressurise, then when it is safe to do so, add the potatoes, the remaining 250 ml beer and another ½ litre of water, or enough liquid to cover everything. Pressure cook for another 20 minutes. The meat should be falling apart and tender whilst the chunks of Maris Pipers should retain their shape. The King Edwards should be falling apart. You can help them on their way by crushing some of them with the back of a wooden spoon and then stirring in the resultant mush, if you want a thicker stew.
- If you wish to cook on top of the stove, just throw everything into your pan, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently until the meat is tender, probably for at least an hour or it could take 2 hours or more.
- You need to add enough liquid to just cover the meat and vegetables, so you may need to adjust the quantity of liquid depending on the size of your pan.
- If you are cooking in the oven, again it will probably take at least an hour until the meat is tender, cooking at Gas 4, 180 °C, 350°F.
- Serve with beetroot, pickled red cabbage and crusty bread. And beverage of your choice.
We were also celebrating Global Scouse Day which is an annual event held on 28 February each year, which celebrates the city of Liverpool and the famous stew ‘Scouse’. There are usually many events held which raise money for charity.
Today we will all be celebrating at home but we can still raise money for this year’s charity The Paper Cup Project, which supports homeless people, by donating at their Go Fund Me Page.
All the best
Scouse Mr Darcy