I have been looking forward to writing this post for a long time!!! I live in Liverpool (born about 8 miles out of it) and my children probably count as Scousers to the rest of the world. I’m not even going into what is or isn’t a Scouser… for a few good thoughts on it, read this Guardian question, Why are people from Liverpool called Scousers. I also know that touching this recipe will bring out a whole load of opinions as to what does, or does not, go into a scouse stew. Let’s not even touch what goes on top of it yet.
Lobscouse, or scouse, is a beef stew served in the old-fashioned homes around Liverpool. It’s probably one of my favourite dishes, as it’s easy to make, easy to eat and good to reheat. The generally agreed history is that it was brought to the Port of Liverpool by Norwegian or Swedish or Danish sailors, or by Irish immigrants and sailors. certainly the name is close enough to the Norwegian Lapskaus, the Swedish lapskojs and the Danish skipperlabskovs, all variants on a beef stew. Originally the sailors used corned beef, because it was storeable, and ship’s biscuit, but modern scouse nowadays can be as fresh… or as canned… as you like.
I was always told by my Nan that Lobbed was a term to use for over-cooked potatoes, you know, like when you boil them and leave them too long and they’re no longer fit to be called boiled potatoes and the only thing you can do with them really is mash them. I figure the mix of lobbed potatoes and chunky potatoes is one of the points about a good scouse.
Again, it’s a cook’s recipe, which is to say nothing is precise and everything is adaptable. You really need to go by taste and keep checking it as it goes along. With that in mind, I’d say aim to make way more than you’ll need, because there might be a lot of people tasting it from the pot, and you really want a good bowlful each left at the end.
Lobscouse, commonly known as Scouse.
- Stewing beef; about 250g each. Exact quantities never matter in scouse. That’s the idea. I’ve used left over yesterday’s roast as well, or minced beef.
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 or 3 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
- About 2 potatoes each, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes when necessary (for 6, that’s about 2lb)
- Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper
- Brown off the meat. The darker the brown, the deeper the taste, but I have made this in times of crisis without browning.
- Add the onions and soften gently, stirring. Put the carrot coins over the meat and onion base.
- Add half the potatoes (keep the rest under water so they don’t brown, or be prepared to peel & dice again later) and enough water to reach the top.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally. You should see the potatoes break up and melt into the stew (lobbing; I’m sure it’s a Lancashire word)
- Add the rest of the potatoes a splash of sauce and seasoning to taste. Simmer again for anything between 1hr and 2 hrs. It’s a very forgiving dish, so the longer it goes, the better. Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch.
Serve with…. well, there’s a case. I love red cabbage, pickled. My husband and daughter love baby beetroots, but the only time one of my sons ate it, he had tomato ketchup with it and my Dad swears by brown sauce. Whatever.
Feeling Nigel Slaterish? Serve with a hunk of good dark bread to mop up the juices. me, I lick the bowl. It’s that good.
All I know is any left over gets stored in the fridge and comes to work with me the next day. A zap in the microwave until piping hot and… yum.
I was interested to read this blog post from Adventurefood about Labskaus in Germany. It’s a completely different take on scouse that I’d never heard of… but sensible, since Hamburg is a port directly below Denmark and cuisine on board ships would be shared around the area. I will probably not be racing to add pickled herring to my scouse… not because I wouldn’t like it, but because my sons, who aren’t scouse fans, would think that really was an abomination. But one day, when I’m alone and seeking a different taste sensation, this may well be what my cook pot produces.
And a visit to Town may be in order. I have often heard about… but never got to… Maggie Mays on Bold Street. They are famous for their scouse, so perhaps I should get down there one weekend and taste the difference!
***Factoid for you: A scouse stew with no meat is called a BLIND scouse. I knew that any way when they asked me it on The Chase. Good job I got it right!***