Food and drink

Stovies


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.

Serves 2

5 or 6 medium tatties
1 large onion, sliced
Beef stock (500ml)
Leftover roast beef, torn into small pieces.
Worcestershire sauce.
Parsley, chopped

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.

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7 thoughts on “Stovies”

  1. Hailing fromg the west coast originally, and only having lived in Aberdeen for 12 years I am a new comer to Stovies. While I do like them, and indeed we had them at the reception of my own wedding, because my husband demanded it, I choose to have bacon rolls and steak pies as well. The one time I did try to make them it was a complete disaster.
    My mum said they are food for paupers which sounds a bit snobby, truth is we never had roast beef left over, we just ate it all.
    Must give these a try again soon. But no to oatcakes, they are the devils work but lots of beetroot too.

    On the side, is it an east coast thing to put tomato sauce in your macaroni and cheese – only ever seen that here and it is truly disgusting!

  2. I never have roast beef left over either, so I cheat and buy in a packet of beef slices to make stovies. Not as good as the real thing but it does the job.

    Not sure about the ketchup on mac and cheese as I’m not a fan of the stuff no matter what you put on it. However, it’s pasta at the end of the day and pasta and tomatoes always go together so it doesn’t sound that bad to me.

  3. Ah Stovies. As I’m originally from Fife, it was part of my growing up, spare roast beef was made into shepherd’s pie, but the dripping was used to make the stovies, as so much beef is really lean now we probably don’t get enough proper dripping off a roast. I guess the corned beef thing was to make them into a meal and I am not ashamed to say I love the corned beef version. My mum always made a huge pan of corned beef stovies for Hogmanay (that stomach lining thing again). I would disagree with you on another thing, you shouldn’t ever stir stovies, you can shake the pan a bit, but it should have tight fitting lid and not be opened.

    They are not the most photogenic of dishes, but the taste is pure heaven on a cold day!

  4. For a variation on the basic stovies – In a pot -put layers of sliced onions, sliced butternut squash, sprinkle layer of leftover pieces of roast(lamb or beef) layer of sliced potato – keep doing this unitl your reach the quantity to feed number of people you want, pour any leftover gravy from the roast or add a bit of stock (not too much or you will make soup!)The addition of layers of butternut is delicous! Cook on stove top – do not stir too much as it will mush up.

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