My brother has a plan he mentions occasionally, to open a late night food cart selling stovies to drunk people. He thinks he’d make a fortune. Around here he probably would as well.
Stovies are another one of those dishes, like mince and tatties, which seems to define Scottish food for some people. They originated as a way of using up leftovers and making the most of what you had. The classic version that you find most often consists of tatties, onions and beef (usually boiled or leftover roast). There are of course regional and generational variations and you can swap the beef for lamb, mince, pork, even duck on one Aberdeen restaurant menu. Never corned beef though. That’s just wrong.
Strangely I have two recipes for stovies in books, one by Nick Nairn and one by Jamie Oliver. Neither of these contain any meat, assigning it to the status of a side dish. Almost forgivable for Jamie but a bit of a sin in Nairn’s book entitled New Scottish Cookery.
I’m not sure if the dish is as popular in the west of Scotland as it is over here in the north-east. I know I’ve heard people from Glasgow say they’ve never encountered it before, which is hard to believe when you consider how ubiquitous it is around these parts. Most weddings will serve stovies during the evening reception along with the wedding cake (helps soak up the alcohol) and it’s a staple takeaway option at bakers and cafe’s in the area.
They’re best served with oatcakes and a slice of beetroot if you like. The ones pictured ended up a little bit of a mush, probably due to too much stock/not enough tatties and the slice width being balanced too much in favour of thin slices.
5 or 6 medium tatties
1 large onion, sliced
Beef stock (500ml)
Leftover roast beef, torn into small pieces.
In a large pan heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in and gently fry the onions until soft.
Meanwhile slice the tatties so you have a variety of large chunks and thin slices.
Layer the tatties into the pan and stir to coat in the oil and onions.
Pour in the stock and a good splash of Worcestershire sauce.
Add the bits of beef into the pan, season and stir it all together.
Cook on a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the pan.
The small pieces of tattie will break up eventually and thicken the stovies. Once it gets to this stage you can turn the heat up a bit and stir it more regularly to finish it off.
Once it’s become a thick, chunky stew, stir in the parsley and serve with oatcakes.